Description of Study and Purpose: This 3-year study will examine restoring ecological structure and function along the Mississippi River between River Miles 775 and 736 including side channels and other aquatic habitat; floodplain forests; and several scarce vegetative communities - wetlands, canebrakes, riverfront forests and BLH forests. It will culminate in a Chief’s Report with recommendations that will be delivered to Congress.
The purpose of this study is to investigate the loss of habitat complexity and find opportunities for ecosystem restoration - in harmony with existing mission areas of ensuring navigation and flood risk reduction.
Location: The study area is a 39-mile reach of the Mississippi River and the surrounding batture beginning at the mouth of the Hatchie River, near River Mile 775, and extending south to the mouth of the Wolf River Harbor, near River Mile 736. The reach includes crossings, pools, side channels, bendways, gravel bars, sandbars, and overbank areas between west levee and east bluff (2-9 miles). In addition, there are three tributaries/river mouths in the reach (i.e., Hatchie, Loosahatchie, and Wolf Rivers). Meeman Shelby State Park, Fort Pillow State Park, Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge and J.M. Tulley Wildlife Management area border this reach.
Authority: Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2018, Section 1202 (a) LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER; MISSOURI, KENTUCKY, TENNESSEE, ARKANSAS, MISSISSIPPI, AND LOUISIANA.— (1) General - The Secretary is authorized to carry out studies to determine the feasibility of habitat restoration for each of the eight reaches identified as priorities in the report prepared by the Secretary pursuant to section 402 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, titled ‘‘Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment; Final Assessment In Response to Section 402 of WRDA 2000’’ and dated July 2015.
Background: In Section 402 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, Public Law 106-541, Congress authorized the Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment (LMRRA) to examine information needed for river-related management; the needs of natural habitats and the species they support; and the need for more river-related recreation and public access. Historically, the navigation and flood risk management systems have received most of the attention on the LMR. Habitat and recreation have not been managed as systems on the LMR, but planning for these uses is starting to receive focus from many entities. The Final Assessment, presented as a report to Congress in 2016, included a strategy to meet those information, habitat, and recreation needs. The recommended strategy included the creation of three programs to address the needs on the river: 1) a Data, Information, Science, and Communication (DISC) Program, 2) a Habitat Restoration and Management Program (HRMP), and 3) a Recreation Program (RP). Each of these programs includes multiple studies and projects. The recommendations leverage existing programs and encourage both public and private investment in the river. All recommendations are compatible with navigation and flood risk management.
The recommended Habitat Restoration and Management Program (HRMP) would primarily rely on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee with their cooperating agencies, partners and states – Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The program would benefit a variety of habitats and the species that rely on them, recreational users, local economies, and other river resources.
The LMR is a dynamic freshwater ecosystem changing with the river’s annual hydrologic regime with interactions among the terrestrial and aquatic systems, main channel and side channel areas, mudflats, backwaters, tributaries, and islands. The HRMP included eight priority LMR conservation reach habitat restoration studies, which collectively represent 290 of the 954 river miles in the batture of the LMR. Study emphasis would include project planning, engineering and design within the main channel, secondary channels, floodplain lakes, and other backwater areas within the LMR batture building from the work defined in LMRCC’s Restoring America’s Greatest River Initiative and the LMRRA. These feasibility studies will examine the Mississippi River and batture to determine if there is Federal interest sufficient to justify construction of ecosystem restoration features.
The eight priority reaches include:
Wolf Island to Island 8 Reach RM 946 – 910 (36 mi.)
Hatchie/Loosahatchie Reach RM 775 – 736 (39 mi)
Islands 62/63 RM Reach 650 - 618 (32 mi.)
Arkansas River Reach RM 599 – 556 (43 mi.)
Possum (Worthington-Pittman) Reach RM 524 – 490 (34 mi.)
Palmyra River Reach RM 431 – 398 (33 mi.)
Lake Mary Reach RM 360 -322 (38 mi.)
Raccourci Cutoff Reach RM 300 -265 (35 mi.)
These reaches were chosen because they may provide valuable habitat for rare species; they each contain a channel crossing; the batture is wide in the reach; and there is a concentration of previously identified potential projects. This study is the first of these priority reaches to be investigated. In 2019, the LMRCC submitted a Letter of Intent to Sponsor the Hatchie/Loosahatchie Feasibility Study beginning in the FY 2021 Budget. A Feasibility Cost Share Agreement (FCSA) was signed, and funding was received in 2021 to begin the HATCHIE/LOOSAHATCHIE, MISSISSIPPI RIVER MILE 775–736 HABITAT RESTORATION, TN & AR Feasibility Study.