Resurrecting Lost Islands
Students in Joy Zedler’s UW–Madison Adaptive Restoration class are lending a hand in restoring a chain of small islands in southern Green Bay. Known as the Cat Islands, they were washed away in the 1970s by the combined forces of high lake water levels, heavy storms, and mainland shorelines hardened with rip rap.
Victoria Harris, UW Sea Grant’s habitat restoration specialist, has spent nearly a decade working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Brown County Port Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and coastal engineers W.F. Baird & Associates to design a restoration plan for the island chain using navigation channel dredged materials.
With those blueprints nearly completed, Harris and USFWS Green Bay office team leader Janet Smith sought the help of Zedler and her students to draft a habitat restoration plan for the islands.
The students found that the island chain provides an excellent opportunity for adaptive restoration, testing a variety of restoration strategies on one island and using the most effective techniques on others. Because the newly constructed islands will be bare, the students gave highest priority to improving soil quality to support vegetation and using rocks, logs, and trees to reduce erosion and wind.
Harris and Zedler hope future classes can visit the site and continue to refine the restoration plan.