The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — Kansas City District (Corps) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) will temporarily close portions of the 1,601-acre Elwood Bottoms Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Site / Wildlife Area for construction of the Corps’ St. Joe Levee Raise Project.
The temporary closure is to ensure the safety of construction workers and the public. Site visitors should expect increased vehicle and heavy equipment traffic, and area hunters should be cautious of what’s down range when hunting. The Elwood Bottoms site is part of the Corps’ Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project (Mitigation Project); onsite management is conducted by KDWPT. The Mitigation Project was developed to offset the approximately 522,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat lost as a result of the Corps’ Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation project (BSNP).
The R471-460 Unit of the St. Joe levee system is located on the right bank running parallel and west of the Missouri River. Unit R471-460 provides flood risk management benefits to the cities of Elwood and Wathena, Kan., as well as the Rosecrans Memorial Airport and Missouri Air National Guard facilities, along with significant agricultural property and unincorporated areas. The Unit also crosses the Elwood Bottoms Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Site / Wildlife Area.
During the Missouri River Flood of 1993, the area’s right bank unit overtopped and breeched, causing flooding to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. At the request of local levee districts, a review of the St. Joe levees was initiated in 1999 to evaluate the existing level of flood damage reduction and determine alternatives for possible improvement.
The feasibility report was published in September 2006 and evaluated improvement alternatives using a risk-based analysis, including the no-action plan. The recommended plan calls for raising approximately 14 miles of Unit R471-460 up to 3.5 feet above the existing elevation, as well as adding earthen berms on the landward side of the levee.
The levee raise will require placing and properly compacting up to 400,000 cubic yards of earthen material on areas South of Highway 36. In the approved 2006 feasibility report/environmental assessment, and 2019 supplemental environmental assessment, a plan was developed to excavate the earthen material from areas riverward of the existing levee system and South of Highway 36; the earthen material will be removed in a manner that will enhance and expand existing wetlands, remove accumulated sediment from the floodplain — improving floodplain connectivity — and eradicate areas of invasive reed canarygrass. While construction will temporarily impact fish and wildlife resources and public use, habitat conditions should improve over the long term and meet mitigation project goals of offsetting impacts of the BSNP.
A construction contract to perform the levee raise — which will take approximately two years – has been awarded to M CON, LLC of Wathena, Kan. The site will be posted, and work is set to begin in spring of 2020.
Additional information about the Elwood Bottoms Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Site / Wildlife Area can be found at the Corps’ Missouri River Recovery Program website, http://moriverrecovery.usace.army.mil/ mrrp/f?p=136:184:1582831 1465699::::MAP_SITE_ID:26 and on KDWPT’s Elwood Bottoms Wildlife Area page, https://ksoutdoors.com/KDWPT-Info/Locations/Wildlife-Areas/Northeast/Elwood.