Save Bangert Island! Criticism Grows Over St. Charles’ Riverpointe Development

Photos provided by Scott George,
Environmental Science Consulting.

by Don Corrigan

A multi-million dollar plan for an entertainment and retail district, south of the St. Charles Historic District and along the Missouri River, has stirred up opposition from a number of key constituencies.

Many of the objections come from plans to alter the wooded Missouri River wildlife area known as Bangert Island. Developers hope to make the island more attractive for visitors and to elevate adjacent ground out of the floodplain.

Among the concerns of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are the impacts to the forested wetland. A natural wetland system would be replaced by an engineered system, likely requiring high maintenance.

Missouri River floods have previously deposited huge volumes of sediment and woody debris, which require removal and dredging maintenance, according to the Corps.
Scott George, a naturalist and biologist with Environmental Science Consulting, said floodplain loss will inevitably result in increased damage to property when the Missouri River floods. Taxpayers will be on the hook.

“Any additional floodplain filling and removal of native vegetation is going to increase local flooding,” said George. “The forested wetlands, which slow flood velocities and transpire tons of water, will be filled. It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

In addition to objections over potential flooding increases, other concerns raised include loss of greenspace, harmful impacts to fish and fowl that find a home at Bangert Island, increased traffic and hazards to hikers and bikers on the Katy Trail which must be crossed to get to the development.

The St. Louis Audubon Society has gone on record with detailed complaints about alterations to the Bangert Island area, which runs from south of the Interstate 70, along the Missouri River, to just north of the St. Charles Arena.
Among the Audubon objections:

• The Bangert Memorial Wildlife Area is located within an area of the Missouri River watershed that has been under developmental assault for years and the proposed changes exacerbate the risks to the river ecology, flood control, and wildlife.

• The relocation of the Bangert Slough and the construction of two permanent, recreation lakes would significantly alter natural wetlands; impacting native plant communities, soils, and groundwater. This contradicts the many efforts to remediate the effects of decades of mismanagement of the Missouri River watershed.

• Development application notes a purpose “to create a publicly accessible green space, providing wide vistas, containing a prominent central water feature.” But wide vistas are already present through much of the regional watershed; and the Bangert Memorial Wildlife Area is already accessible through numerous hiking and biking trails.

• The application’s statement that “impact areas are unavoidable due the desired open space need for the proposed development” ignores the fact that there is no demonstrated need for open space of this type.

• While the Bangert Memorial Wildlife Area is deeded to remain in a natural state, the proposed development will significantly result in a developed/engineered state. The natural result of this is further constriction of the Missouri River, with potentially future expensive flood-control projects needed.

• While the application concludes that the project will not impact suitable habitat for the Decurrent False Aster or Pallid Sturgeon and that Gray Bats would not be adversely affected since “trees will be cleared outside of the roosting period,” there has been no consideration given to the more than 100 species of birds that use Bangert Island and its surrounding area.

Proponents Tout Biz Growth

Proponents of the development say that the project will create 4,000 jobs and stimulate approximately $1.5 billion in growth for the region. Shoppers will enjoy new retail outlets, entertainment venues and access to island and river vistas.

Scott George and other critics said there is no evidence that retail business owners in the Old Town area of St. Charles are pleased by the prospect of additional competition to the south on the other side of the I-70 bridge. They said there is already commercial overdevelopment in the area.

Critics note the closing of The Mills shopping mall and other major retail malls in the St. Louis region. They ask if consumers really need additional store outlets in a proposed St. Charles’ Riverpointe that could reduce foot traffic in Old Town St. Charles.

Commercial and economic concerns aside, environmentalists and naturalists see other overriding concerns that involve loss of habitat for river fish and fowl.

“With the Bangert Island impact, we’re looking at an ecological significant site to be destroyed for a ‘better view’ for shoppers,” said George. “St. Charles should be thinking of eco-tourism, not promoting rock fill and more pavement.

“If given the facts about Riverpointe, I really believe that most St. Charles citizens would prefer that Bangert Island in the unpredictable Missouri River be protected,” George added.

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