The West Tennessee River Basin Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District recently held a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement Signing Ceremony to initiate a cost shared feasibility study.
The study aims to identify and evaluate alternatives and the preparation of a decision document that, as appropriate, recommends a coordinated and implementable solution for restoring aquatic and floodplain habitat along a 20-mile corridor from Reelfoot Lake and Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge to the Obion River.
The signing ceremony took place at the Great River Road Visitors Center located on Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tiptonville, Tennessee. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander Col. Zachary Miller and West Tennessee River Basin Authority Executive Director David Blackwood delivered remarks. Following remarks, Miller and Blackwell signed the Running Reelfoot Bayou Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement. The celebratory signing ceremony initiates a joint effort to improve the ecosystem in a unique corridor, connecting the Mississippi to Reelfoot Lake.
Running Reelfoot Bayou is the main outlet of Reelfoot Lake. The Corps and its partners constructed Running Reelfoot Bayou over 50 years ago to provide a reliable water outlet for Reelfoot Lake. The Memphis District and the West Tennessee River Basin Authority are coming together now to add ecosystem features to Running Reelfoot Bayou and restore some of its ecological functions, while ensuring it continues to function as a reliable outlet for the lake.
The project would benefit a variety of native species in adjacent basins, including raptors, migratory waterfowl, songbirds, endangered bats, fish, and other aquatic organisms. Potential restoration options include: meander restoration, instream habitat improvement structures, bottomland hardwood reforestation, moist soil units, and floodplain habitat restoration, using bench cuts, hydraulic modification, and micro-topographic modifications.
The National Park Service lists Reelfoot Lake as a Threatened National Natural Landmark. There are two National Wildlife Refuges adjacent to the proposed study area. The lake is home to a large wintering population of bald eagles and is a significant stopover for many species of waterfowl along the Mississippi Flyway. Without a project, Running Reelfoot Bayou will continue to degrade and habitat will not improve, and downstream flooding will also continue and may increase.
The Memphis District looks forward to working with the following federal, state and local entities that have an interest in this area: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Lake, Obion, and Dyer Counties. Together we can restore and improve habitat for fish, mussels, bald eagles, migratory waterfowl, endangered bats, and many other species in this corridor, connecting Reelfoot Lake to the Obion River and ultimately the Mississippi.