Goodbye, Mississippi?

By Ted Peck - December 1, 2011
When I was a kid pancakes at Grandma's house was a Sunday tradition. I'll never forget the warm maple syrup curling out of the elephant's trunk from that antique ceramic decanter.

Grandma said the elephant decanter used to belong to her grandmother, wife of a man named Shrake who served in the Union army as a civil engineer. When he mustered out of the service great, great grandpa Shrake had a hand in building one of the first bridges across the Upper Mississippi at Prairie du Chien.

I grew up on the River south of there, down on pool 13. Dad used to let me take our home-made pontoon boat out alone on overnight adventures, several years before I was old enough to drive.

The wildness of the River was overwhelming. It was possible to navigate out to the main channel from any one of a half-dozen cuts near the Mississippi Palisades state park.

Now there is just one way to get out to the channel due to years of siltation. My immortal River's arteries were clogging, causing a slow death to the fishing in this grand Old Man.

I live and work as a guide on pool 9 these days, about 50 miles upriver from where great, great grandpa built that first bridge. The water still runs free here. Sometimes the visibility is more than five feet. Fishing and every other aspect of this natural environment makes an adjective like 'awesome' woefully inadequate.

Construction of islands upstream to impede 'wind fetch' , riprap and other improvements have made this River better than its ever been in my 60 years on the planet.

But an evil plan is in the works to drive a big 'green' stake right through this aorta of the heartland at Lock & Dam 8 at the upstream end of pool 9. Big money wants to build a hydroelectric plant at Genoa-a fish grinder which would destroy this natural wonder while proclaiming it is good for the environment!

This plan is working its way through the bureaucracy of the Federal Energy Regulation Commission under the guidance of a former Corps of Engineers employee who is a shill for the French company behind this faux 'green' proposal.

It appears the fix is in. Life in 21st century America: a project which would destroy one of our greatest natural wonders, cost American jobs and send profits overseas.

The tentacles of this story are complex and ever-changing. The constant metamorphosis of facts is bureaucratic guerilla warfare, perpetual spin designed to keep folks in the dark until it's too late.

If you aren't a frequent visitor to pool 9, this may be the first you've read about plans to build a hydroelectric plant at Genoa. Common sense and the actual construction proposal say this project will change the Mississippi's immortal soul for the worse-and forever.

For more information check out www.clementsfishing.com. This website is maintained by the Clements family, which has operated the fishing float at Genoa for almost 70 years.

Some of the logs supporting this venerable fishing platform are cypress-placed as part of the cofferdam which diverted the River's main flow when the big dam went in back in the 1930's.

Capn. Byron Clements grandfather had a mule team which hauled logs to clear a path for the massive concrete and steel structure which is lock & dam #8.

Construction of the lock and dam system made quantum changes to the ecosystem of the Mississippi River basin. Few who are alive today can recall the diverse matrix of trees down in the bottoms before the dams went in.

Oaks and hickories have been replaced by mostly maples. What were once riffles are now running sloughs. It is what it is. But what will it be? Heads up. Things are about to change again. Maybe.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.