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Floating wetland anchored in fellows lake

The team tows the floating wetland to the middle of a cove on Fellows Lake, just east of the marina.
KSMU / Chris Drew
The team tows the floating wetland to the middle of a cove on Fellows Lake, just east of the marina.

The experimental artificial island is filled with native plants. It will be monitored to see how well it filters water and supports insect and animal life.

Monday staff from the Missouri Department of Conservation, City Utilities, Watershed Committee of the Ozarks and other partner organizations were in and out of Fellows Lake preparing to launch an artificial floating wetland. They hope it can help clean water and provide a small ecosystem for bugs and fish.

The team set up in a cove east of the marina at Fellows. Filling chicken wire frames with plants and what look like rocks. They are actually pieces of foamed glass aggregate. They’re part of what makes this project unique. It is made of fully recyclable glass and aluminum. Frank Nelson, Wetlands Systems Manager for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said there are a few common designs and commercially available floating wetland products, but they wanted one that was plastic free, they couldn’t find one to buy, so they built their own.

“We figured we’d give it a shot and see how we could provide an opportunity for municipalities, HOAs and other private landowners ... to lower the hurdles essentially, of trying this out and improving water quality in their water bodies and the larger watershed.”

Nelson said they are partnering with Ozarks Technical Community College, who will be be checking on the island and seeing how well it does over the next year. If all goes well the roots of the plants will work their way through the glass stones to the water line, creating an underwater environment while bugs and birds buzz around above, all while the plants filter water in one of the City of Springfield’s drinking water sources.

If it works Nelson hopes MDC can offer it as an option to help in water management, meanwhile it’s anchored in sight of the docks at Fellows. Four similar islands will also be going into McDaniel Lake. Conspicuous spots Nelson hopes will spur interest from the public and serve as a template for human made but ecofriendly solutions.