New Madrid Levee - Wildlife in Jeopardy
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that the New Madrid Levee project “would cause substantial, irretrievable losses of nationally significant fish and wildlife resources, and greatly diminish rare and unique habitats found in southeast Missouri.”
Millions of animals depend on the New Madrid Floodway’s connection to the Mississippi River for food and habitat, including the endangered Least Tern, migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, wading birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and at least 93 different species of fish.
Late winter surveys have counted 40,000 ducks and 10,000 Canada geese in the project area. Wading birds such as the great blue heron, great egret, and yellow-crowned night heron depend on the project area as do thousands of migratory shorebirds. The project would wipe out critical feeding grounds for thousands of shorebirds during their fall migration.
Mammals affected by the project include white-tail deer, eastern gray and fox squirrels, State-listed rare swamp rabbit, eastern cottontail rabbit, mink, beaver, raccoon, muskrat, striped skunk, coyote, red fox, and bats.
The project’s impacts would be particularly damaging for the remarkably rich and distinctive fishery that rely on the New Madrid Floodway for vital spawning and nursery grounds. In all, 93 different fish species have been collected from streams and bayous in the project area, including 10 species that are considered endangered, rare, or on the watch list in the state of Missouri. If the project is constructed, river fishes, such as white bass, will lose 100% of the extensive spawning, rearing, and foraging habitat provided by the New Madrid Floodway.