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Quad Cities Project Aims to Save Mussels During I-74 Upgrade

Gary J. Wege/USFWS.

After nearly 20 years of planning, a project has started to save thousands of mussels in the Mississippi River between Moline and Bettendorf. Today, a St. Louis company began re-locating mussels along the route of the new I-74 bridge. 

Heidi Woeber, from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, says it will take about 2 months to gather, sort, and move nearly half a million mussels.

"So we're not moving all of the mussels. There's probably close to a million mussels out there. Some mussels will perish as a result of the construction, but we moved the mussels that we thought were feasible and that we knew would be directly impacted by the project."

She says they'll be moved to already existing mussel beds upstream from the Quad Cities.

Emily Robins is a malacologist, or mussel expert, for the company Ecological Specialists, that's doing the moving. After their divers gather the mussels, they'll be sorted on shore, counted, and then put back in the river within 24 hours.

"They're really an important resource in the river. They're important for filtering the water, and they play a big role in the ecosystem. And so by doing this, we're able to salvage them out of those areas and put them somewhere else where they'll hopefully be able to survive"

Twenty-five species of mussels are affected, including 5 that are considered threatened or endangered by state and federal governments. 

Construction of the new I-74 bridge is now scheduled to start in 2018.