The Rebirth of Cattail Corner: A Missoula Wetland's Renaissance Unfolds

Excitement surrounds the ongoing metamorphosis at Cattail Corner in Missoula, ushering in a new chapter for this wetland habitat. Recent alterations at the Russell Square Shopping Center's Cattail Corner, prompted a viewer to reach out to NBC Montana, curious about the changes observed in this scenic locale situated off 39th Street and Russell Street.

The anonymous observer, intrigued by the visible transformation of the area into a dirt lot, sparked community interest. Jim Edwards, the generous donor of the land to Missoula through Pattee Creek Market roughly two decades ago, shared an initial sentiment of surprise at the changes.

Tracy Campbell, the superintendent of the city's stormwater utility, provided insights into the purpose behind the ongoing work at Cattail Corner. This initiative marks the third phase of a substantial $2.2 million project aimed at enhancing drainage in Missoula's South Hills. Funding for this ambitious endeavor is derived from the American Rescue Plan Act and a water improvement project loan from the state.

The area, prior to intervention, grappled with challenges such as excess sediment, shallow water levels, and extensive dry land. Campbell clarified that the goal is to rejuvenate the wetland's functionality by introducing excavators to redesign the landscape. Emphasis is placed on creating a more open water habitat and fostering a diverse ecosystem beyond the predominant cattails.

The comprehensive project includes the addition of ponds to amplify drainage capacity during high runoff events at the north end of the wetlands. Cattail Corner acts as a pivotal collection point for water from springs, ponds, and stormwater runoff, undergoing purification through surrounding vegetation before reaching the Bitterroot River.

Concerns regarding the environmental impact, notably expressed by Jim Edwards, were addressed by Campbell, who highlighted that an environmental assessment was a prerequisite for securing funding. A wildlife biologist conducted surveys before the commencement of work, ensuring that local fauna, including frogs, turtles, and various insects, had ample warning and the opportunity to relocate.

Campbell conveyed that the current excavation phase is anticipated to conclude within a month, with subsequent revegetation efforts likely extending into the next spring. The post-completion vision for Cattail Corner includes an anticipated resurgence of waterfowl, the return of riparian shrubs, and the iconic cattails, marking the revitalization of a cherished wetland ecosystem.

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