U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) staff from around the Midwest teamed up to provide
|Damaged cars from the Pool 11 spill. Photo by USFWS|
Refuge management and staff from the McGregor District of the Service’s Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (Refuge) were on site during the response, supporting efforts of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency and local emergency responders. The spill, which released an estimated 55,000 gallons of ethanol from derailed train cars, occurred within several hundred feet of the McGregor District of the Refuge, raising concerns about impacts to fish, freshwater mussels, waterfowl and migratory birds and refuge lands.
Staff from the McGregor District and the Service’s Rock Island Ecological Service Office are working with responders to guide environmental monitoring efforts on the river as impacts from the spill are assessed. Service employees are providing expert technical assistance, participating in surveys of the spill area and have generated maps, collected ice samples, and searched open water areas for dead fish. The Service also provided an airboat to gain access to the river.
In addition, fishery biologists and contaminants experts from the Service’s Midwest Region are working with responders to identify freshwater mussels found in mud collected at the spill site. Two species of federally endangered mussels, the Higgin’s eye pearlymussel and sheepnose mussel, are known to be present near the spill area.
As of February 12, 2015, testing indicated the vast majority of ethanol and gasoline from the spill is no longer in Pool 11. The long term impacts of ethanol on aquatic resources are not well understood, so the Service will continue to participate with partners in monitoring the river to ensure federal trust resources are adequately protected. Monitoring of contaminant levels will continue at the derailment site. The Service expects to conduct and support additional surveys for dead fish and turtles later this spring as ice breaks up.
“The cooperation and collaboration among the agencies responding to this incident have been outstanding,” said Richard King, manager of the McGregor District. “By working together, we can carry out the monitoring and follow-up activities needed to ensure that this region of the Upper Mississippi River remains an important natural area for people and for wildlife.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has trust responsibility for national wildlife refuge lands, migratory birds, federally endangered species and interjurisdictional fish on the Upper Mississippi River. The 261-mile Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, which includes Navigation Pool 11, is one of the most important corridors of fish and wildlife habitat in the Central United States. Up to 40 percent of the continent’s waterfowl use the Mississippi Flyway during migration.
The Refuge was designated a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy due to its national and international importance for migratory birds, and is part of a 300,000-acre complex of Mississippi River floodplain designated as a Wetland of International Importance.
The Refuge is one of the most heavily visited in the National Wildlife Refuge System by the public (3.7 million annual visits), providing year-round outdoor recreational opportunities, including boating, camping, swimming, hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education. The Refuge supports 306 species of birds, 119 species of fish, 51 species of mammals and 42 species of mussels. Up to 50 percent of the world’s canvasback ducks stop on the Refuge during fall migration, and up to 20 percent of the eastern United States population of tundra swans stop during fall migration.