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Quincy leaders hope restoring Quincy Bay will attract wildlife and visitors

A portion of the Quincy Bay in 2019, showing the high levels of silt that have decreased the depth over the past 100 years.
Quincy Bay Restoration Support Group
A portion of the Quincy Bay in 2019, showing the high levels of silt that have decreased the depth over the past 100 years.

The federal government has approved $33 million for restoring Quincy Bay along the Mississippi River in Illinois, a project that has been decades in the making.

The city is hoping the plan will bring more wildlife and visitors to the area and boost economic development efforts. The bay is an 8-square-mile backwater of the Mississippi River just north of the city of Quincy.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to restore some of those original depths which provide a lot of habitat. This will also provide more recreational opportunities,” said Mike Klingner, an engineer who has been advocating for river repair in Quincy for more than 30 years.

Quincy Bay has lost 70% of its depth over the past century, mostly due to erosion and use of the river as a major shipping route.

The plan is to dredge the bay to increase its depth and to build up some of its islands to above flood level to provide stable habitat for wildlife.

Klingner said while wildlife is the top priority, improving recreational opportunities and creating a riverfront dock could mean a significant economic boost for the city.

“Quincy is a little bit behind the ball to do the riverfront development like Memphis, Tennessee, has with their island and reconstruction of the Mississippi River and take advantage of the riverfront,” Klingner said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, met with the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Rock Island District earlier this month, and he urged the corps to accelerate the project and finish it as soon as possible.

“I had a productive discussion today about bringing several projects, including the Quincy Bay Restoration Project, to fruition,” Durbin said in a statement following the meeting.

Quincy river advocates like Klingner have shown they can be patient, but they also want the restoration completed soon.

“When you live in a city that’s on one of the longest rivers in North America, people want to see it, and we want to show it off,” said Klingner. “Restoring the bay will make that a lot easier and a lot better.”

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.