Riverine wetlands along the Mississippi River provide habitats for migratory waterfowl and many other ecosystem services. However, frequent flooding along the Mississippi River caused flood control infrastructure such as levees and dams to be built to minimize flooding impacts. This strategy caused wetland habitat reduction and altered the flood frequency of the system. In June 2008, a 25-year flood event led to levee breaches in many areas, including Henderson Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (HCSFWA) in Illinois. This breach on the Northern side of HCSFWA allowed water from the Mississippi River to enter and flood a substantial portion of the site, transforming this area from an agricultural field to an improvised wetland. The buildup of water behind the levee created a second breach that allowed water to leave the site uncontrolledly to Henderson Creek and bypass a Lock & Dam system in the Mississippi River. This project aims to take advantage of this levee failure and work with the seasonal flow patterns of the Mississippi River to reduce flooding and maintain (or boost) the ecosystem services. By using tools, we will seek to understand what happens within the site of the site by analyzing the time the water remains within the site to create ideal conditions for wetland development. We will also look at parameters downstream of the site like water levels in Henderson Creek and nearby cities like Burlington, IA, to gain an understanding of how controlled overtopping impacts flooding. By working with the natural flood patterns of the Mississippi rather than against them, flood risk along the river can be reduced, and important wetland habitats can be restored, providing benefits to both society and nature.
Ducks Unlimited: Mike Sertle, Tom Pleumer, Sara Burns