WABASHA, Minn. (FOX 47) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving ahead with plans to build islands with dredged sediment in the backwaters of the Mississippi River along the north end of Lake Pepin.
For years, the Army Corps has been searching for good disposal sites for the millions of cubic yards scooped up and pumped out of the Mississippi River bottom near Reads Landing north of Wabasha. That’s where the Chippewa River flows from Wisconsin, dumping enormous amounts of sediment as it joins the Mississippi.
“Building islands in Upper Lake Pepin will be a great success story for the Corps and is partners,” said Tom Novak, the project manager of the Upper Pool 4 Islands Complex Project. “Not only will we improve the environment with this project, we will also create some additional storage capacity for the dredging requirements near Wabasha.”
Contentious meetings with Wabasha-area residents have become part of the recent history of the Corps’ relationship with the region. Its job of keeping the navigation channel open for barge traffic has been complicated by a frustrating hunt for disposal sites for the sediment, some 270,000 cubic yards a year.
An Army Corps spokesperson estimated that there will be a need for a disposal site for 10.7 million cubic yards of sediment over the next 40 years. The pilot program now being pursued for the Head of Lake Pepin is an effort to use the dredged soil to improve river habitat. The Upper Pool 4 Islands Complex Project is one of ten projects given the green light out of 95 proposals submitted, and would use about 500,000 cubic yards of the material already piled up on the eastern bank of the navigation channel across from Reads Landing.
The next step in this project would be for the Army Corps planners to settle on a specific plan and obtain the necessary approvals–it’s estimated construction of the islands could start in the year 2020.