Great Turnout For Friends of Pool 9 Clean Up
It happened again, residents from all over the tri-state area joined the clean up of the 90 square miles of the Mississippi River know as Pool 9, from Genoa, Wisconsin to Lynxville and Lock & Dam 10. Men and women of all ages, and whole families as well descended on the VFW building in Lansing willing to be assigned an area on the river to clean. They walked along the shorelines and searched the backwaters in boats. Volunteers came from Waukon, Decorah, Calmar, Caledonia, and New Albin. They came from Genoa, De Soto, Ferryville, Lynxville and other unknown areas, to take part in the event. Everyone received a free bright green 2016 FOP9 Clean Up T-shirt, water, gloves, garbage bags, and a noon lunch in appreciation for their efforts. Thirty willing walkers (young and old alike) walked the ever difficult Highway 82 dike crossing the river corridor. As usual they removed an assortment of beer containers, plastic trash, car tires, and other items such as an Interstate car battery, and filled 44 garbage bags. It's no easy task to climb down the rock embankment on the shoulder of the road to retrieve a plastic drink cup, but that's what they did, over and over again.
Groups were deployed to the beaches to pick trash and sift through the twenty-five FOP9 fire rings scattered along the river northward to Boot Jack Island across from Black Hawk Park. Sand from the rings was shoveled through metal screens and all the small pieces of debris collected. The fire rings are to be enjoyed by beach users, burning only wood. Plastic and other items are forbidden by the Upper Miss Refuge.
The Brennan Landing in south Lansing was used as a dumpster site, and with the help of a tractor provided by Jim Kerndt, filled the 40 cubic yarder to capacity. Old docks and styrofoam floats were removed from the river and recycled. Metal and plastic barrels were again fairly common, but the trash in the middle part of Pool 9 has definitely lessened.
Another area of concentration for cleaning this year was the upper end of Pool 9, just below Lock & Dam 8 at Genoa, Wisconsin. Six boats were assigned to that area specifically and were able to retrieve a large number of barrels and debris from the islands. The dumpster at Black Hawk Park was filled with trash and 25 barrels and fifteen tires remained along side. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) landing was assisted by Park staff, and offered the 35 FOP9 volunteers to use their facility as a bathroom and lunch site.
Groups of volunteers also cleaned the two-mile stretch along the Army Road east of New Albin, Visigers Landing and Millstone Landing, the County Road entrance to Black Hawk Park and the entrance road and parking area at the Dairyland Power boat landing. Boats also went out from Ferryville and Lynxville, Wisconsin as well as Heytman's Landing along the Iowa shore. It was a great day for the river and gave volunteers a feeling of satisfaction.
Friends of Pool 9 would like to thank the Lansing VFW, Brennan Construction, Waste Management of Allamakee County, Prairie du Chien, and Vernon County, US Fish & Wildlife, Black Hawk Park (USACOE), Jim Kerndt, and more importantly the140 individuals that gave their time and energy on a cool, windy, and wet day to make this event a success. There are few places along the Upper Mississippi River that have this kind of support from organizations and residents. This is a major effort and shows the commitment and concern many have for our little part of the world. We feel that Pool 9 is one of the cleanest and best parts of the Upper Mississippi, thanks to all of you.
Boats also went out from Ferryville and Lynxville, Wisconsin as well as Heytman's Landing along the Iowa shore. The Wisconsin volunteers recovered a record 42 tires, a refrigerator, and window frames that had been discarded into the river. Sad but true. In the end it was a great day for Mother river and gave all the volunteers a feeling of pride and accomplishment for what we just did.
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Largest Debris Field Ever Seen Fills Iowa Big Slough
As a result of the August and September, 2016 record flooding in the drainage basin of the Upper Iowa River the Mississippi River has received unprecedented levels of trash. The Upper Iowa River empties into Minnesota Slough and the Mississippi River corridor a few hundred feet above the opening to Iowa Big Slough. Trash and debris flows downstream from the Upper Iowa, along the west shoreline of the navigation channel and immediately enters Big Slough. Once a deep and fast flowing conduit that pumped fresh water into the backwater 8 miles north of Lansing, it is now clogged with many 1,500 pound round bales, numerous camper fragments, propane tanks, and household items of all sorts and sizes. Animal residue and debris of all types fill the 200 foot wide slough for well over a half a mile.
Originally there were many questions regarding who had jurisdiction over the area and who would be responsible to remove the man made trash embedded in the debris field. The size and scope of the project is beyond the capabilities of volunteers from FOP9. Corey Snitker, Allamakee County Emergency Management (ACEM) called a meeting of federal and state agencies, county officials, and FOP9 members at the Kerndt Brothers Community Center in Lansing on September 30, 2016. The intent of the meeting was to determine ownership of the impacted area and devise a plan for a clean up of the debris field. Sabrina Chandler, Refuge Manager of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (Refuge) stated that the area is jointly owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. It was the feeling of the group that the area should be included as part of the Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration (as in other parts of Allamakee County) and have FEMA funds available to clean up of the area.
Several avenues for debris clean up were discussed by the group, from complete restoration and removal of all debris to removing only the man-made items considered pollutants in the natural environment. A team was established to seek FEMA inclusion and subsequent funds for restoration. The US Fish & Wildlife Service also committed at least $25k dollars to help fund the cleanup effort. Funding from the other government agencies listed above stated that any type of funding from them would be limited in scope ($2,000 - $3,000 per agency). Living Lands and Waters (a non-profit that has worked with FOP9 on other river clean up events) and Chad Pregracke were also contacted in regards to their possible involvement if FEMA inclusion was not attainable. Members from Allamakee County and the State collaborated to complete a FEMA application for the process. Later, both the State and County determined that they had no jurisdiction to pursue FEMA funding. The Refuge continues to pursue an alternative that could provide direct federal assistance without a requirement for a local or state cost share. The Refuge has also requested contaminant funding from FWS Headquarters.
On October 28, 2016 a group of FOP9 members and Cory Snitker (ACEM) along with John Bostrom (representative from Living Lands and Waters) went to the debris field for a review of the challenge before us. The Living Lands and Waters team has since had time to review the results of the eye witness account and came back to us as questioning their decision to help with the situation. They have informed Corey Snitker they will not be available to help with the Big Slough issue at this time.
At the November 7, 2016 FOP9 Board of Directors meeting it was determined that at this time there is not a lot that can be done without an organized plan and FOP9 finding several funding sources to undertake this project. On December 20, 2016 Friends of Pool 9, Iowa DNR, Allamakee County Emergency Management, Iowa Homeland Security, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others will reconvene in Lansing to update the plan of action. By next spring 2017, hopefully some plans will come together to solve the dilemma. In the meantime FOP9 asks that you use caution in the area of the debris field. No one should try to collect debris by walking across the debris field. The Board will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on this project and as decisions are made and plans finalized FOP9 will keep you informed.