What you’ll learn from the Upper Mississippi conference in Burlington on Tuesday

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See if you can answer this simple question about the river we live on: Was the system of locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River created for flood control or navigation?

I do not know ? You can find the answer to this question and many more at the Capitol Theater in Burlington on Tuesday, when members of the Army Corps of Engineers speak from Upper Mississippi.

If you want to learn all about how the river works as a mechanism, an engineering project, or an environmental issue, you’ll want to attend this free discussion.

Kelly Thomas, head of natural resources for the Corps’ Rock Island District, and Mississippi River Project Operations Director Aaron Dunlop will speak on a variety of river-centric topics starting with lunch at 11:30 a.m., followed by of the presentation at noon.

“We’re going to come and do a 30-45 minute presentation on who we are as an agency and what our missions are along the river,” Thomas told The Hawk Eye. “We’ll start with an overview of what the Corps is as an agency and what we do nationally and regionally. From there, we’ll reduce it to the Mississippi River project itself, which encompasses the Burlington area. ”

Thomas said they would channel these topics based on their relationship with the city.

“We’re going to talk about what we’re doing here on the river in terms of managing the lock and dam system and the nine foot navigation channel,” he said. “Our mission of recreation and environmental services is something few know the Corps does. We also have a mission of supporting recreation and environmental stewardship.”

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Thomas and Dunlop will talk about three missions – navigation, recreation, environmental stewardship – and what the Mississippi River Project can provide.

The US Army Corps of Engineers was established by Congress in 1779 and was primarily concerned with the construction of fortifications. The Corps has evolved into new roles, including nationwide water resource development and management, more commonly known as the civil works mission.

The Rock Island District has its roots in an 1866 Act of Congress allocating funds for the first sustained attempt to improve navigation on the Upper Mississippi.

The current Rock Island district covers over 73,000 square miles in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri and is responsible for 314 miles of the Mississippi River, 268 miles of the Illinois Waterway and small tributaries that flow into it. More than 900 people work within the district at its headquarters and at 27 field operations sites.

The 9 foot navigation channel built in the 1930s is still operated and maintained by the District. The District is also focusing on flood risk management.

“We have some interesting photos from the 2019 floods,” Thomas said. “We will talk about some misconceptions, like people think that locks and dams are a flood control structure, which is not true,” Thomas said.

You now know the answer to that first question.


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