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Illinois hunting and fishing

Work continues Thursday on the 21-acre boomerang-shaped island under construction on the Lower Peoria Lakes on the Illinois River. The project is one of three islands proposed for the Peoria Lakes. The project underway is located just north of the McClugage Bridge. Photo by David Zalaznik.

Man-made river island taking shape

April 15, 2012 at 11:56 PM

Peoria Journal-Star

PEORIA — Progress never really stopped during the winter on the construction of a man-made island in the Lower Peoria Lake of the Illinois River.

“They did have to shut down for several weeks due to mechanical issues,” said Marshall Plumley, a regional technical specialist with the Corps of Engineers, but mild temperatures throughout the winter meant that construction could continue for most of the season.

The island being built by the Corps of Engineers is just north of the McClugage Bridge.

It has already taken a distinct shape. Geotextile bags form the outline of the 21 acre soon-to-be landmass. Silt and river soil dredged from the lake bed are filling in the center.

“We already have vegetation coming up through those bags,” Plumley said. “It’s going to look like it belongs there.”

But the purpose of the island’s placement is not cosmetic.

“It’s really critical for the aquatic species that make the Illinois River home,” Plumley said.

The project, one of three islands proposed for the Peoria Lakes, is more than 15 years in the planning, now more than two years in the making. It is being built to restore depth diversity primarily for fish habitats.

Initially, the project’s completion date was to be sometime this year. Delays and flooding pushed the deadline to 2013, but the mild winter allowed some of that time to be made up and the original time frame to be nearly restored.

“If the weather still holds and we don’t have high water,” the island will be completed on schedule, Plumley said, adding that at the moment the risk of flooding doesn’t appear to be any higher than normal.

The project stands at about 60 percent to 65 percent complete between the two stages of construction. Phase 1, putting the perimeter in place, is 90 percent finished. Phase 2, which includes filling in the core of the island, stands at 30 percent complete.

With proposed second and third islands south of the McClugage Bridge, a total of about 200 acres of the Peoria Lakes would be dredged to between 6 and 8 feet deep, creating three islands spanning more than 70 acres.

The other two islands are still in planning stages and have yet to receive the money from Congress to begin construction.

Sarah Garfinkel can be reached at 686-3188 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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