- Associated Press - Monday, November 28, 2016

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - Crews have completed the first phase of a project to move freshwater mussels as part of the construction of the new Interstate 74 bridge across the Mississippi River linking Iowa and Illinois.

The first phase, which began in August, was completed in early November. Teams of divers combed the bed of the Mississippi River for mussels that were identified, and in some cases tagged for future identification, before being returned to another part of the river, the Quad-City Times (https://bit.ly/2gC072V ) reported.

About 140,600 mussels were moved, including 886 that are federally protected, according to Heidi Woeber, a fish and wildlife specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Officials said they initially expected to relocate bout 450,000 mussels, but an Iowa Department of Transportation official said it’s unlikely they will reach that figure.

The second phase of the project will take place before demolition of the existing span, which is expected to happen in four to five years.

Before work began, surveys were conducted to find mussel beds and estimate their density. Officials said that while the surveys accurately found the mussel beds, the density estimates were high.

The mussel relocation has cost about $1.6 million so far, and is estimated to total between $3 million and $3.5 million. State DOT senior environmental specialist Mary Kay Solberg said that even with the figures falling below initial estimates, she thinks the mussel relocation will rank among the largest in U.S. history.

Construction of the new bridge is expected to begin in 2017.

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Information from: Quad-City Times, https://www.qctimes.com

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