Restoring Ups and Downs on the Mississippi
(pg 6 of 11)
Weaver Bottoms was typical of the river's
decline. Backwaters that teemed with life in the
1940s and '50s, when the newly flooded reservoirs
produced a fish and wildlife bonanza, had become
shallow, barren lakes. Ironically, much of this
decline occurred even as cities along the river
cleaned up their sewage plants, improving water
quality in long stretches of the river, such as
downstream from the Twin Cities.
Attempts to engineer solutions on a small scale
have generally failed. In the mid-1980s, the Corps
plugged a dike to isolate Weaver Bottoms from the
main channel. Then it built islands of dredged
riverbed in the midst of the lake to reduce the
wind fetch. The goal: to reduce the influx of muddy
river water, improve water clarity in the Bottoms,
and allow aquatic plants to take root.
The result was something else. After storms, the
Whitewater River gushed into Weaver Bottoms, which
now trapped the silt-laden outflow like dirty water
in a bathtub. "We were unable to stop that process
[of aging and decline] or even affect it at all,"