Mo. bottomland seen as essential to migratory birds, floods


Mar 11, 2001
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Bottomland seen as essential to migratory birds, floods

By Tim Renken, St. Louis Post Dispatch


A conservationist has identified two compelling reasons to stop the development of the bottomland between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in St. Charles and southern Lincoln counties.

No. 1: 60 percent of North America's migrating waterfowl need that flood plain.

No. 2: The area must be allowed to store water to prevent a catastrophe in St. Louis in the next big flood.

"This area is part of the river, and building levees and developing it is absolutely insane," said Wayne Freeman, executive director of the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, an organization of landowners, mostly duck clubs, in the St. Charles bottoms. "Its value as a floodplain is incalculable."

Freeman said the 80,000 acres of bottomland are some of the most important waterfowl habitat in North America.

"Twice a year, 60 percent of the ducks, geese and other migratory waterfowl use those wetlands," he said. "They are at the neck of a funnel in the Mississippi Flyway. They are vital to these birds, and not just ducks and geese, as places to rest and feed. There is simply no other place so important to them.

"They certainly need that flood plain more than we need new shopping malls, offices and parking lots."

Freeman also said the bottoms are essential to St. Louis as a floodwater reservoir.

"In the flood of 1993, some 260 billion gallons of water were stored in the confluence flood plain for weeks," he said. "Had that storage area not been there, all that water would have been forced to go through the narrowest point on the upper Mississippi at St. Louis. It is probable that East St. Louis would have been sacrificed to protect downtown St. Louis. The ensuing catastrophe is unthinkable."

Freeman said that in just the last 10 years more than 12,000 acres of the bottom have been lost to development in Chesterfield, Maryland Heights, St. Charles and Hazelwood, and that more plans are in the works.

He pointed out that about 30,000 acres of the bottom are owned by the 130 or so duck clubs and some 10,000 acres are in public ownership in parks, conservation areas, etc. The remainder of the 80,000 acres is in agriculture.

"We've got to stop the development and do whatever it takes to keep the rest of the bottom as flood plain," he said. "It's a no-brainer. That's part of the river. We absolutely must leave it that way."

End article


This bottomland is where I learned to hunt. Most of the area along the riverfront now is already developed. It really sucks to see areas you have so many memories from being paved over.

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