Eagle Bluffs have a special place among these projects, Loveless says. This area's unique combination of specially treated wastewater and wetlands restoration has drawn attention from civil engineers and environmentalists from around the United States and the world. The project has benefited from the cooperation of a variety of players, including the City of Columbia, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ducks Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Eagle Bluffs is managed primarily as a wetland habitat and as a place where the public can learn firsthand about life on the marsh. Limited hunting and fishing are allowed, too.
Loveless spotted the eagle from the deck of a building he calls the junction box. It's a one-of-a-kind building at the heart of what makes this project so unusual. To satisfy a wetland's need for lots of water, the building is designed to combine Missouri River water with a daily supply of 13 million gallons of recycled wastewater from the City of Columbia.
The Columbia water comes to Eagle Bluffs free, after it has been treated at a plant and run through a series of large cattail ponds, where the plants' roots remove even more pollutants. When more water is needed, it is pumped in from the river.
The area has 15 shallow pools totaling about 2,300 acres. Loveless controls their water level with a system of levees and valves. Parts of Eagle Bluffs will remain flooded year-round. But in most of the pools Loveless will mimic the natural rhythm of spring and fall flooding, which will welcome migrating ducks and geese.
At other times, he'll drain the water to encourage the growth of nutritious plants, like smartweed, and to discourage other plants that would choke the pools. During a recent fall and winter, with only a fraction of the pools flooded, Loveless estimates that 15,000 birds splashed, dabbled, dove, courted and fed on the area.
More wet habitat is provided by blew holes, says Devona Weirich, a former fisheries management biologist. These steep-sided holes are formed during floods when scouring water excavates bottomland silt and sand. Eagle Bluffs' blew holes range from 2 to 24 feet in depth and from less than an acre to 5 acres in size. Weirich's research showed that the water is relatively murky and low in oxygen. Even so, the holes contain about 36 fish species. That's about 10 times more species than you'd find on farm