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What do you think of Steamboat Island restoration plan?
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What do you think of Steamboat Island restoration plan?

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An island in the Mississippi River that includes Princeton Beach is slated for a $38 million ecological restoration project, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to know what the public thinks of their plans.

The beach is actually just a small piece of the 2,620-acre Steamboat Island and backwater complex located in Pool 14 between Princeton and where the Wapsipinicon River enters the Mississippi. The land is federally owned and part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Through the years, the island area has silted in, allowing willows and silver maples to fill in once-aquatic areas, thus reducing fish and mussel habitat, especially in the winter, and reducing diversity of plants and animals.

The restoration project, expected to begin as early as this year and be completed by 2028, would increase diversity by increasing habitat. Through dredging and planting, the timber stand would be improved, pollinator plantings would be installed and habitat would be created. It would be a better place for people, animals and plants.

The Rock Island District of the Corps, along with its partners that include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Iowa and Illinois departments of natural resources, are seeking public comment on the draft feasibility report through June 15.

The plan and a video presentation are available online at go.usa.gov/xnukM. Comments may be made online or by email or regular mail.

At present, Steamboat Island is mostly forested with willows and silver maples, with interior ponds and wetlands, and with the beach that has been created with sand dredged from the river to maintain a nine-foot channel for commercial navigation, Corps staff has said previously.

As with other islands in the Mississippi, the public is allowed to use it, but there are no amenities one would find in a designated park, such as restrooms, picnic tables, trash cans or no-lifeguard signs. People simply use the island and are expected to pack out their refuse when they leave.

In the summer, Princeton Beach is a popular place for boaters to drop anchor and at times, the line of boats can be deep.

Boaters hang out, while other people may sun bathe, play horseshoes or camp overnight.

The island also attracts fishermen and hunters looking for ducks, geese and deer.

With the restoration project, those uses would continue, although boat access could be limited during construction, a Corps representative said.

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