QUINCY — Pointing to the local support and organization developing plans for a $20 million restoration of the Quincy Bay, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said it is vital to restore one of the largest natural bays of the upper Mississippi River.
“We think we have something going for us that other communities don't, and that is a basic organization of interested people, interested entities at the local level and state level that are coming together in a partnership to present a plan that I think really shows great promise for the future of Quincy Bay,” Durbin said.
Durbin met state and federal officials, as well as representatives from the Quincy Bay Area Restoration and Enhancement Association, Wednesday morning at the Quincy Park District administrative office.
QBAREA has developed a plan to dredge 118 acres to a depth of 10 feet, building a dike and weir structure at the Bay Island access channel and creating above-flood elevation islands on Bay Island and northeast of Triangle Lake for reforestation. Money for the project would come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We've seen over the past 80 years that the water volume in the bay has declined dramatically — some 70 percent or more — and we know what that means,” he said.
“It means that if we're not careful and we don't make plans and we don't do something about it, Quincy Bay will soon become Quincy swamp and then it will disappear. That is the reality.”
Depths in the Quincy Bay have shrunk to 1 to 3 feet because of siltation.
Glenn Sanders, president of the Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fishermen's Association and QBAREA representative, said if nothing is done soon, restoration of the bay would not be possible. He pointed to public support for fundraisers for QBAREA, as well as private landowners completing habitat projects around the bay, as well as the partnership between the Quincy Park District and the Hunters and Fishermen's Association to transform a portion of Bob Bangert Park into wetlands.
“We're showing that our commitment here in the Quincy area is to the environment, and we hope to be able to bring the big piece of the puzzle together by bringing the Quincy Bay project forward,” Sanders said.
The project also has the support of U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, who penned a letter with Durbin in February to R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army, calling the project “a top priority.”
Durbin also included language in the Senate FY20 energy and water appropriations bill directing the Corps of Engineers to continue working with Quincy to prioritize the environmental restoration project at Quincy Bay.
The ultimate decision lies with the Corps of Engineers. Stakeholders could learn as early as next month if the project will continue in the application process.
“Even under the best of circumstances, the project would take five or six years,” Durbin said. “We want to get in the first tier of projects. We don't want to wait 10 or 11 years to get it done.”
Marshall Plumey, regional program manager for the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program with the Corps of Engineers, said there are between 20 and 40 different proposals spanning the 1,300 miles the program covers on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
“Any time we have to work with a local partnership — like the folks here in Quincy — to advance ecosystem restoration and improvement of habitat along the river, that's a great opportunity, and I'm encourage by that,” Plumey said.