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Cat Island Chain Restoration Project Has Begun


The long-awaited restoration project involving the Cat Island Chain in lower Green Bay, Wisconsin got underway this week. Project partners, which include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Brown County, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, UW-Sea Grant, UW-Green Bay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Fox River Group of papermills, have worked since the mid-1990s to design a restoration plan for the island chain using navigation channel dredged materials.

The Cat Islands were a chain of small islands that were washed away in the 1970s by high water levels, storm waves, and ice. They historically functioned much like coastal barrier islands – extending 2.5 miles into Green Bay – protecting a large expanse of shallow bay waters and wetlands that provided fish and wildlife safe habitat.

The project site is located just north of the mouth of the Fox River and involved Brown County building 3,900 linear feet of wave barrier and access road to protect the islands. The Corps have now begun the construction of 4.3 miles of stone dike ranging from four to eight feet high on Green Bay lake bed and the installation of concrete culverts for circulation between islands. This will create a dredged material disposal facility (DMDF) with 20 plus years of capacity for the sediments from the lower portion of the navigation channel. Dredged materials deposited in the new DMDF will gradually build three new islands – West, Middle and East – at the location of the former Cat Island chain.

 “The Port of Green Bay has worked closely with the other project partners and is pleased to be part of this important initiative,” said port and solid waste director Dean Haen. “This project is an excellent example of how dredging material can be repurposed for the benefit of the environment and can keep our port economically viable at the same time.”

The goal of restoring the islands is to provide beneficial use for dredged materials removed from Green Bay and strengthen the lower Green Bay ecosystem while fostering the diversity of habitat for migratory birds and various fish species. Additional expected benefits include enhancing spawning grounds for fish, and wildlife viewing opportunities for the public. Long term environmental benefits are expected as well since the near shore habitat of the lower bay will be further protected from erosion caused by storm events.

The total project cost is estimated to be $20 million, with completion of the wave barrier and side dikes expected by fall 2014. A total of 270 acres of upland habitat, protecting 1,400 acres of shallow water behind the islands, will be created.