Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news

July-August 2014

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A Sampling of River News
From July-August 2014 Big River

Damage and Desecration

Harpers Ferry, Iowa — ­National Park Service employees desecrated graves and damaged archaeological sites at Effigy Mounds National Monument, according to a 723-page report released in May.

Much of the damage occurred during construction projects that were carried out without the required archaeological surveys, on land rich with prehistoric sites. Employees also dug holes in burial mounds.

Shortly after the illegal behavior came to light in 2010, Phyllis Ewing, the monument’s superintendent, was transferred to another position. She was fired last February. The monument’s maintenance chief during Ewing’s tenure, Tom Sinclair, has also been accused of misbehavior and no longer works for the Park Service.

The heavily redacted report includes interviews, photos of damaged sites and assessments of the damage by experts. Even the names of interview subjects and their genders are concealed, though it is often possible to identify them by context.

In a separate case, a former superintendent, Tom Munson, admitted to authorities in 2011 that he had been keeping a box of prehistoric human bones in his garage. Initially, Munson claimed that he brought the bones home accidentally when he was removing possessions when he retired in 1994, but federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating evidence that he removed the remains intentionally.

The new superintendent, Jim Nepstad, who started working there in 2011, has his work cut out for him, not only making certain that the rules are followed and damage is repaired, but also repairing damaged relationships with the local community and Indian communities.

The 2,526-acre Effigy Mounds National Monument spans the mouth of the Yellow River between Marquette and Harpers Ferry on the Mississippi River. There are more than 200 Indian mounds in the monument, some as old as 2,500 years. (Associated Press, 5-27-14; North Iowa Times, 5-20-14; National Parks Traveler, 6-11-14) PDF of interviews

New Cat Dock

Moline, Ill. — A new water taxi terminal will be built at 34th Street and River Drive in Moline to provide space for all three Channel Cats. These popular boats ferry people across the river to stops in Moline, Bettendorf and Davenport. The new facility will include a covered waiting area and an electric sign announcing the real-time arrivals and departures of the boats, as well as better accessibility for passengers with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $756,000 grant to the Rock Island County Metropolitan Transit District to construct the new facility just upriver from the old one. The project will begin this summer and be complete in the fall.

A variety of musicians, storytellers and experts will give presentations aboard the Cats this summer. The Channel Cat Talks meet at the Celebration Belle Landing in Moline. They are sponsored by the nonprofit organization River Action, so check its website for up-to-date information.

River Action also sponsors a series of hands-on, river-related experiences called the Riverine Walks. Check its website for information. (Quad-City Times, 5-28-14, 5-27-14)

Channel Cat Talks
July 1, 3 — songs and stories for kids
July 8, 10 — history of Arsenal Island
July 15, 17 — stories about lumber camps and rafting crews
July 22, 25 — historic bridges of the Quad Cities
July 29, 31 — how clean is the Mississippi?
Aug. 5, 7 — update on the I-74 bridge and how it will change the landscape in Moline and Bettendorf
Aug. 12 — environmental issues of the channel and the riverfront
Aug. 19, 21 — how to take better photographs
Aug. 26, 28 — songs and stories of the river

Defining Other Waters

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers have taken on the task to define what are the “waters of the United States” regarding the Clean Water Act.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2006 introduced a lot of uncertainty, especially regarding “other waters.” The confusion arises mainly over wetlands not connected to a lake, river or stream year round, streams that dry up from time to time and wetlands that aren’t always wet.

The EPA and Corps has released a 370-page draft rule aimed at clear definitions of what is and is not considered one of the “waters of the United States.” Much of the sorting out regards how prospective “other waters” might affect a navigable river or other body of water that is clearly one of the “waters of the United States.” For instance, pollution in a wetland may travel underground and contaminate a nearby lake or river, or intermittent streams may make a significant contribution to a river’s flow.

The new rule will be used to determine whether federal agencies can apply the requirements of the Clean Water Act to a body of water. It is hoped that clearer rules will reduce arguments over wetlands, intermittent streams and other waters. The new rule leaves many specific exclusions unchanged, such as exclusions for agriculture and waste treatment systems.

Note: The proposed rule (Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880-0001) was published on April 21. The public has until July 21st to comment on it. Information about the proposed rule here with comment link.    Direct Comment link here.



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