MOMENTUM continues to grow for restoration work on Quincy Bay, and three federal lawmakers added their support last week with a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Even with a growing chorus of supporters, the campaign for a $20 million dredging grant is far from assured, and time is of the essence.
Quincy Bay is one of the largest natural bays along the upper Mississippi River and was one of the natural wonders that helped establish Quincy as a growing port city in the early 1800s.
Mike Klingner, president of Klingner and Associates, told the Corps of Engineers last year how the bay has changed since the lock and dam system went in along the Mississippi River in the 1930s.
"The upper bay is only about a foot deep, where before the lock and dams were built, we had quite a bit of depth -- in some places 10 feet deep," Klingner said.
As a result, aquatic species that require greater depth for wintering habitat are being lost, Klingner said.
Threats to the bay have been recognized for decades. The Illinois State Water Survey did a study in 1987 that found most of the sediment coming into the bay comes from high-water events. Islands to the north of the BNSF railroad bridge, which had long reduced the amount of water entering the bay were shrinking or disappearing entirely as the Corps of Engineers stopped the dredging that replenished those islands.
The Bay Island access channel also has allowed sediment to flow into the bay, and plans call for a dike and weir structures to reduce that problem.
The Quincy Bay Area Restoration and Enhancement Association, QBAREA, was organized in 2010 to support the dredging project that would restore the bay.
Rob Ebbing, a board member and treasurer for QBAREA, said without the project the Quincy Bay eventually will "turn into marshland."
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood recently joined the effort to save the bay. They sent a letter to R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army, calling the Quincy Bay restoration "a top priority." The letter outlined the problems and cited the restoration project as a solution. It concluded: "We look forward to working with you in the coming months in approving full funding for this project."
Ebbing believes it will take up to three years of study and maybe another year to three years of work if the Corps approves the project.
The efforts of a bipartisan group of elected officials are appreciated, but more is needed to assure success.
It will take human intervention to restore one of the Mississippi River's natural wonders before time runs out.