It was the first program of its kind in the country and the Upper Mississippi Restoration Project is spearheaded right here in the Quad Cities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gets down and dirty to save wildlife in this week's edition of "Rock Island Arsenal: Inside the Gates".
From Minneapolis down to St. Louis - the Corps has been working to restore the environment around the Illinois River and the Mississippi to its original beauty, one island at a time.
It all started back in the 1930's - when river levels on the Mississippi started to balance out for boats.
"When the lock and dam system first went in, we had a lot of diversity of depth. You had fairly deep areas, you had shallow areas," said Marvin Hubbell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
But over time, that balance created some new problems: many of the islands located along the river disappeared.
"Because of wind erosion, wind blown, waves and natural erosion from high flows, we've lost a lot of the islands created as a result to that," said Hubbell.
The restoration project began in 1986. And every year, around $16 million is spent to restore those lost islands, and create new homes for all types of critters.
"Those animals and plants that want to be close to water but not in water all the time can thrive there."
Their work isn't just being used here. Across the United States and around the globe, the Corp helps consult with different organizations.
"We spend a lot of time sharing our lessons learned with others. There are a number of other programs that have used this program as a template."
And when their work is finished in a given area - it looks like a whole new world.
"When the fish come back, they get larger. It takes about 3-5 year after a project is constructed."
The Corp has already finished up one island in Dubuque and hopes to get started on Beaver Island in Clinton in the near future.
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