"We looked at opportunities up and down the river to determine which of these backwaters would not only benefit from the restoration but probably most importantly could sustain that type of benefit," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Henry Dehaan said.
And Peoria was the winner.
The $8 million project involved dredging nearly 400,000 cubic yards of sediment, turning that dirt into a 24-acre island.
"Let's face it, the things that we have done on this river in support of navigation, in support of flood control, have done a lot of damage to the natural environment," Col. Mark Deschenes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District commander, said.
But the new island is supposed to reverse some of that damage.
Dredging the sediment has cleared some of the backwaters allowing a place for fish to spawn.
"One of the biggest things it does is create between the island and the land on the other side of the river from where we are, a deep water fish rearing ideal habitat," Deschenes said.
Plus, the island is full of vegetation.
The project manager says wildlife is taking advantage of the space, but humans will have to wait.
At this point in time, no one is allowed on the island, but the project has been handed over to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and they are working on rules and regulations to allow recreational use.
"Things have been discussed as allowing access by boat, so the people can go over. They can bank fish. They can stop with their boats," Debbie Bruce of Illinois DNR said, but Bruce does not expect those rules to be in place until Spring of 2015.
The Army Corps of Engineers has plans for two more islands on the other side of the McClugage Bridge. They are just waiting to get funding for those projects.
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