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Canoes are about to embark on the scenic Big River of southeast Missouri. The trustees for Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration are embarking on a voyage to restore injured resources in the Big River and other areas of the southeast Missouri Ozarks. Photo by John Weber/USFWS.

Canoes are about to embark on the scenic Big River of southeast Missouri. The trustees for Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration are embarking on a voyage to restore injured resources in the Big River and other areas of the southeast Missouri Ozarks. Photo by John Weber/USFWS.

Landscape-Scale Restoration Coming to Southeast Missouri

Southeast Missouri is the largest lead production area in the United States, and was at times the worldwide leader. Directly south of St. Louis, mining at the Big River Mine Tailings site dates from the 19th century through the 1970s. The Madison County Mine site, located 15 to 30 miles south of the Big River Mine Tailings site, is home to some of the oldest mining operations in Missouri, dating to approximately 1740. To the west, mining in the Viburnum Trend began in the 1950s and continues today as the largest producer of lead in the country.

The legacy of heavy-metal mining is large-scale ecological injury to thousands of acres of terrestrial habitat and hundreds of miles of streams. Large portions of the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District are National Priority List Superfund sites due to heavy metal contamination. Other sites, such as the Viburnum Trend, are not covered by this designation, but still cause widespread injury to natural resources and the services they provide.

The trustees for Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration in Missouri have developed a Final Southeast Missouri Ozarks Regional Restoration Plan to address natural resources injured by the release of hazardous substances. Trustees include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The trustees are jointly conducting natural resource damage assessments at different sites throughout the district and have recovered more than $60 million in damages to restore impacted natural resources and their services.

The final plan serves as an environmental assessment as well as a regional restoration plan. The environmental assessment considers alternatives which will restore, rehabilitate, replace and/or acquire the equivalent of natural resources and services potentially injured by the release of hazardous substances into the Southeast Missouri Ozarks. Additionally, this plan facilitates public involvement in the restoration effort and complies with environmental decision-making requirements.

The plan will allow the trustees both the flexibility to work with the public to identify restoration projects, and the precision to locate and determine restoration projects that adequately compensate the public for the loss of natural resources and services in the Southeast Missouri Ozarks. The trustees are gearing up now to use the more than $60 million in damages recovered and have several exciting ideas to benefit the trust resources as well as the citizens of the United States. The very first of these efforts was initiated on October 15, 2014 with the release of $1 million dollars in a request for proposals for riparian (near stream), floodplain, and wetland restoration projects. Responses to the RFP will be evaluated in December and successful projects should begin to be installed in the spring of 2015. Other major restoration efforts in southeast Missouri are still in the works, so look for future exciting updates from Missouri on this landscape-scale restoration effort.

By John Weber
Columbia, Missouri Ecological Services Field Office

Last updated: November 5, 2014