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Illinois hunting and fishing

Rice Lake rehab

January 31, 2010 at 03:04 AM

More info

Public comment on plans for Rice Lake will be accepted through February.

Call (309) 794-5400 or mail comments to: Planning, Programs and Project Management Division (Darron Niles); Department of The Army; Rock Island District Corps of Engineers; Clock Tower Building; P.O. Box 2004; Rock Island, IL 61204-2004.

Click here to see more details about the plan.


BANNER—As a duck hunter I’m almost satisfied with plans to improve Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Same would be true if I was a tree-hugger.

As a taxpayer? Not so much. Seems like all we do in government anymore is spend money.

But lofty price tags are what you get when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers marches into town. And since the state of Illinois shows no sign of addressing the needs of its aging, neglected waterfowl sites, the proposed $11.7 million Rice Lake rehabilitation is the best available option.

For that price tag (an amazing $1.2 million of which has already been spent on studies), Rice Lake gets a new pump, new transmission ditches, new levees and more than 400 acres of tree and prairie plantings.

Work could start in August and would likely stretch over four years according to Marv Hubbell, a regional manager for the Corps who discussed the project at an open house last week in Banner. His comment about project length drew a catcall from Danny David of Mapleton, part of a mostly camo-clad crowd of more than 70.

“I hope I’m still alive,” said David, 83.

Illinois hunting and fishing

That’s a legitimate worry for many associated with this project, since discussion started in 1987. That the plan came to fruition suddenly is cause for concern in the eyes of some observers — as are worries about losing trees, the impact on eagles and osprey and the state’s long-term ability to maintain the 6,800-acre site.

To me the tree argument holds no water. To repair and build levees, the Corps expects to cut down 4.8 acres of silver maples, cottonwoods and green ash trees. In exchange, the project calls for planting 352 acre of mast-producing trees on Duck Island, along with 57 acres of prairie over a Native American burial site.

We’ve got plenty of junky silver maples and cottonwoods along the Illinois River and precious few hardwoods, which once dominated the area and provide food for all sorts of critters.

And don’t get me started on those who squawk about eagle habitat. The river is lined with eagle habitat. More to the point, while eagles and ospreys do nest on or
near Rice Lake, no active nest sites will be impacted.

As to the state’s ability to maintain Rice Lake, who knows? The Department of Natural Resources already has a long list of repairs they can’t handle at state waterfowl sites.

In many cases, those needs hamper a site’s ability to fulfill its mission. That’s certainly true at Rice Lake, where summer floods make managing for waterfowl very difficult.

An inability to keep out even small rises in the Illinois River means moist soil plants seldom gain a foothold. In years the plants do survive, waterfowl and shorebirds flock to Rice Lake in impressive numbers.

The Corps’ plan would increase the odds of that happening by helping managers get water on and off Rice Lake, Big Lake and Goose Lake within two weeks. Fish would also be able to escape into the Illinois River during draw downs, which is not the case right now.

New and improved levees would also hold out water up to 14 feet at Havana, halting about half of the floods that now plague Rice Lake. While some would like to see larger levees and even more protection, the cost and environmental damage required would be too great.

“Is this a perfect plan? No. But from an environmental standpoint it’s a lot better than what we’ve got,” said Bill Douglass, site manager at Rice Lake. “This will help us get the water off in a timely fashion and put the water back on in a timely fashion. That’s the key to management for waterfowl and shorebirds.

“This is the opportunity we have to make a significant difference for a major backwater of the Illinois River. There are very few left and they’re not working as is.”

Illinois hunting and fishing

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Sounds like a nice place…If they need a Site supervisor let me know.

Posted by HawgNSonsTV on 01/31 at 04:56 AM

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