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MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa - Wilson Island State Recreation area will remain closed through 2020 while the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to outline the cleanup and repair plan for the popular public area, north of Council Bluffs.
Wilson Island was closed in March 2019, when Missouri River flood waters covered the area, then stayed for more than nine months. Once the waters receded, state park officials found the area covered under a blanket of silt ranging from inches deep in some locations to more than eight feet in others and the equivalent of hundreds of dump truck loads of debris that had washed in to the park.
Chris Anunson, state park ranger with the Iowa DNR, said while there was some damage to the electrical system, most of the infrastructure survived the flood.
“Following the high waters in 2011, we redesigned much of our park infrastructure based on minimizing flood damage and that paid off,” he said. “Our biggest issue right now is dealing with silt deposits. We hope to get the majority of the work done this fall and winter, then get the area reseeded this spring. This is a tentative timeline, but I believe it is obtainable. We know people want us to reopen – we do too – but we have to do that responsibly, for the resource and for our visitors.”
While Wilson Island is closed, the DNR has been reviewing the layout of the 550-acre area that sits on the inside curve of the Missouri River, for opportunities to further reduce the impacts of flooding from Big Muddy. State park officials are considering different clean up and redevelopment plans based on what FEMA provides as its costs estimates and guidance.
“We are taking a hard look at our campground footprint to determine what should be where, to minimize damage from future flooding. Hopefully what comes out of this is a plan where the campground and the park as a whole, can live with the river,” he said.