Flood Came Within Inches of Causing 10-Year Setback for Wetlands

The Wetlands Initiative’s Hennepin and Hopper Lakes site in rural Hennepin narrowly dodged flooding in April which would have had disastrous consequences for the restoration project.

During an emergency conference as the waters were rapidly rising, Al Pyott, TWI co-founder, said if the flood water breached the site the project would need a “complete reboot,” according to TWI executive director Paul Botts.

Letting in Asian carp, sediment and excessive nutrients would have undone the restoration that has taken place over the course of a decade, Botts said.
“It would have been a very big disaster,” he said.

One fortuitous decision spared the site from that fate: Last fall, TWI opted to go ahead with expensive repairs and improvements to the levee. Those repairs, in hindsight, now seem inexpensive, compared to the damage the site would have received if the repairs hadn’t been completed. Even with the repairs, the wetlands was spared by mere inches, Botts said.

“We all had our fingers crossed,” said Vera Leopold, grants manager/development associate for TWI.

Preventative measures also helped stave off damage.

“We moved some sand at one point,” Botts said, adding that some volunteers came out on very short notice to help move sandbags. “We feel so blessed we were able to have people come out (to help).”

With the number of floods Illinois has experienced in recent years, Botts said there does seem to be more people talking about the idea of using wetlands as a way to reduce flooding.

“I’m not sure how much it has moved past rhetoric,” he said. “We need to gain some patience and long-term thinking and not just respond crisis to crisis.”

Source: News Tribune