A project to restore the Dowagiac River's natural bends and curves is underway on Pokagon land
The tribe says the work will benefit natural habitats and help prevent flooding.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi has made progress on a project that aims to bring back the natural curves of the Dowagiac River, which were straightened by settlers in the early 1900s. More bends mean a slower-moving river, with better natural habitats for both aquatic and non-aquatic wildlife.
The Pokagon Band also wants to restore floodplains removed in the early 20th century. Pokagon Band Director of Natural Resources Jennifer Kanine says the project will not only help wildlife, but also the local community.
“It benefits everybody, it doesn't just benefit the wildlife that's in the water, it benefits the wildlife that's out of the water and benefits the people in the surrounding community,” she said.
The Pokagon Band will relink the river with over 50 acres of wetlands, with the wetlands acting like a sponge, filtering out pollution and sediments.
These changes are expected to increase flood storage, lessening potential damage caused by a flood.
“We could help prevent some of those issues that we see in areas where rivers are disconnected from their floodplains and the floodwaters, when they get to a certain point, they spill out and they're damaging people's homes,” Kanine said.
The restored bends and curves will nearly double the river's total length on Pokagon land. The tribe aims to finish the project by the spring of next year.