The “new” DNR duck plan, calling for river-basin feeding and resting habitat, is as old as the rivers themselves. Before the Army Corp of Engineers and the well-funded barge industry came onto the scene river bottoms were duck havens.
But when the Corp dredged, diked and wing-dammed the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, they blessed the grain barges but doomed the ducks. Hundreds of thousands of acres of swamp, slough and backwater were drained as the river flow was contained into the all-important navigation channels. Wide river valleys, once intricate laces of waterfowl habitat, shrunk to a single deep trough. Areas that used to hold aquatic food and ducks were plowed flat and black after the soybean harvest.
Pull out your atlas and a ruler. Put one end of the ruler at the Delta Marsh, west of Winnipeg and the other end of the ruler near St. Louis where the Missouri joins the Mississippi. Those old time river bottoms, now gone, were the straight line destination for much of the mass migration of waterfowl across Minnesota.
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find good duck hunting at any of the old, legendary Southern Illinois duck clubs. Those clubs dried up with the backwaters.
The “new” river bottom plan is certainly worth consideration. But a word of warning for the DNR -- beware the Corp of Engineers. They are used to getting their way.