Despite claims during the 2011 flood that chutes, or man-made side channels, were part of the reason for increased flood damage, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to go ahead with another project near Atchison, Kan.

The corps’ Kansas City District announced plans last week to restore shallow water habitat on the Missouri River, just north of Atchison, Kan.

The proposed project, which would involve the construction of two side channel chutes, bench cuts and tiebacks, would be constructed on the corps’ Benedictine Bottoms Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Site, known commonly as Benedictine Bottoms.

The project would assist the corps in meeting its habitat goals. Meanwhile, the agency is waiting for an independent review on the design of chutes. The review is in the scoping phase and has not yet begun, said David Kolarik, a spokesman for the corps.

The chute study will focus on a review of design and project development processes for Missouri River Recovery Program habitat creation projects in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Specific areas of chute review will assess impacts to navigation, flood control and private property, as well as assessing chute flow control and erosion.

The corps estimates that in Kansas alone, 9,100 acres of aquatic habitat and 2,000 acres of terrestrial habitat had been lost in the Missouri River between 1912 and 2003. An additional 44,000 acres of terrestrial habitat was lost within the meander belt. This has led to serious declines in native fish and wildlife populations.

Benedictine Bottoms is located on the right descending bank of the Missouri River, between river miles 424 and 428, just northeast of Atchison.

When fully developed, the corps believes the project would restore 65 acres of shallow water habitat and dynamic river processes which maintain the habitat for the benefit of native fish and wildlife species, including the endangered pallid sturgeon.

“The Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism has completed some restoration at the site and conducts day-to-day operation and maintenance of these resources,” said David Hoover, a biologist with the corps. “It is one of our most popular sites for recreational visitors who enjoy hunting and wildlife viewing.”

The Kansas department has produced a video describing the fish and wildlife resources and related recreational opportunities of Benedictine Bottoms. It is available for viewing on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=frW4Uk1vRrE.

The proposed project has a 30-day public comment period that closes on June 6. The corps will hold a public meeting on the project from 2 to 3 p.m. May 17 at the U.S.D. 409 Atchison Public Schools, community meeting room, 626 Commercial St., Atchison.

Marshall White can be reached at marshall.white@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWhite.

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