Busy as beavers on island

Busy as beavers on island

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Beaver Island rehabilitation

Even in the cold and flooded waters, contractors press forward to rehabilitate Beaver Island back to a highly productive island complex.

Over the past few years, there has been a fair bit of discussion about the Beaver Island Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Project (HREP) near Albany.

The primary goals of the project are the restoration of year-round aquatic habitat within the interior lakes, diversification of the forest community, and improving habitat for fish and mussels.

The project includes 1,678 acres, all owned by the US Fish and Wildlife or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The project is funded by USACE Upper Mississippi River Restoration program, and will cost around $10 million. This program addresses ecological needs on the Upper Mississippi River System to improve its environmental health.

The project was originally scheduled to take up to two years, with the first stage of tree clearing along the interior shoreline already being completed. Tree cutting had to be conducted during the winter due to endangered bat conservation guidelines. Excavated material are then placed in these areas to produce higher land topography. This will allow for the planting of several species of mast producing hardwood trees.

Contractors have been moving dirt, dredging, removing trees, and working on the interior shorelines for nearly a year, even during the nearly uninterrupted high water we have had since March. Anyone driving through Albany last spring could not help but notice the immense piles of logs staged near the Albany boat ramp. Those logs were moved to the ramp before the spring floods took them down the river.

A primary task is to protect Beaver Island’s interior lakes from future sedimentation. The primary source of silt was the Upper Cut Inlet in Beaver Slough. A rock structure now closes off the Upper Cut entrance to ensure long term benefits within the island’s interior continue. Existing sediment is being excavated from the interior access channel and four interior lakes and used to build “natural levees” to continue protecting that newly dredged deeper water. When complete, the areas will be dredged to an average depth of eight feet.

Albany Island is located adjacent to Beaver Island and also is part of the project. Shoreline erosion is a major problem, so a rock chevron and other bank protection has been placed at the head of the island. Rock substrate was added along the northeast bank to enhance the existing mussel bed, and rock protection will be added to the southwest shoreline to help reduce erosion. All rocking activities are fish and wildlife focused, not navigational aids. From what I have heard from area fishermen, the walleye have already taken a liking to those new rocks.

Beaver Island is one of the largest islands on the Upper Mississippi River and once known as a sportsman’s paradise. High water level has drastically altered the natural habitats throughout the Island. The interior lakes silted in over time and their ecological productivity diminished with it. The continued high-water levels significantly impacted forest diversity resulting in most hardwood species disappearing in the lower areas.

Although this project is behind schedule due to the high water, in time we will all get the chance to experience the sportsman’s paradise that Beaver Island once was.

Turkey Tags: The 2020 turkey lottery application process is now open online or you can send in your paper application to the ILDNR. The first lottery application deadline is Dec. 1. If you do choose to apply online, the ILDNR suggests that you use a desktop computer as mobile or tablet platforms may not work on their system.

World Outdoors columnist Jeremiah Haas can be reached at nukefishguy@gmail.com

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