This past fall, work began to remove more than 130,000 cubic yards of sediment from two backwaters and access areas, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to rehabilitate the lower Missouri River.
“Backwaters are huge reproductive areas,” said Luke Wallace, a Corps biologist. “I’ve heard them described as the grocery for the river.”
Many of these prime feeding, spawning and winter refuge areas were lost in 2011, when the swollen river smothered them with tons of dirt and cut off side channels from the main river. That occurred mostly because a year’s worth of rain fell during the second half of May on the upper basin, adding to a melting snow pack that was 212 percent above average in the Rocky Mountains.
Since then, the Corps has spent between $14 and $16 million to restore 17 of these places between Sioux City and the Iowa-Missouri border. As work continues, another $3 million to $5 million likely will be spent.
Most all of the areas are popular for fishing and hunting.
“I think in general, the importance of backwaters has been underemphasized,” said Dave Swanson, director of the Missouri River Institute. “They’re important as nurseries for fish, important for insects. They really need these areas to do what they do.”
In the latest effort, contractors are removing 45,000 cubic yards of sediment from a 9-acre site known as Hole-in-the-Rock, near Macy. Deeping that pool should benefit bass, as well as an additional 59 forage, game, and rough species.
They also are cleaning out 88,000 cubic yards from a side channel at Middle Decatur Bend. That will lower the entrance by two feet to once again allow water to enter the channel.
Scheduled to be completed in June, the two projects will cost an estimated $972,000.
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)