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Wabasha sends Lower Pool 4 dredging plan to Corps

October 24, 2018

WABASHA — In a first step toward a new plan, the city and port authority of Wabasha sent a new dredge material management plan for Lower Pool 4 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The plan, said Wabasha City Administrator Chad Springer, includes the cost of moving 260,000 cubic feet of sand annually from temporary storage sites such as Crats Island, Teepeota Point, Wabasha Gravel Pit, and Grand Encampment to final storage at Wabasha Sand and Gravel 1 and 2 sites. However, it does not include the Corps’ cost of dredging the sand and placing it at those temporary sites.

“That doesn’t include the cost of getting it off the channel floor,” Springer said. “We’ll take control of the sand once it hits the island.”

In May 2017, the Corps proposed a 40-year dredge material management plan for Lower Pool 4, the section of the Mississippi River between where the Chippewa River empties into the Mississippi and Lock and Dam 4.

That plan, which included using local farmland as permanent storage for the dredge material dug from the 9-foot navigation channel, was fought against by the city, Wabasha County and area landowners who said the plan would harm property values and the city’s infrastructure.

Robert Edstrom, a project director for the Corps for Lower Pool 4, said the Corps was still in the process of reading and evaluating the city’s proposed plan. “It’s a good first step,” he said. “But it’s a first step.”

The city’s plan will be measured against the Corps’ original draft plan to ensure it meets the Corps’ requirements for least cost, environmental compliance and implementation.

“We continue to work with the city to develop the preferred alternative that will be considered a win-win by all involved,” Edstrom said.

“I think their heart is in the right place. There are some federal regulations we need to abide by, and that’s the lens we’ll be looking through,” he added.

Both Springer and Edstrom said the two sides have worked together to get to this point, and some changes to the Corps’ plans and the city’s proposal are in agreement. Chief among those is that the Southside Fitzgerald site along River Drive South and the two Drysale Farm sites are no longer part of the Corps’ plans for temporary or permanent sand storage.

Springer said the proposed plan as it stands would meet 10 years of sand storage needs, but the city is looking to make that 20 years, which is the Corps’ minimum for a new plan.

Most of the permanent storage would go into filling existing sand pits near Wabasha, Springer said, but he’d eventually like to see the city find buyers who will use the sand, extending the storage capacity.

“In a perfect world, we’d find a market for it, and we’re working toward it,” he said.

The city and the Corps signed a memorandum of understanding in June to work on the project and develop a preferred alternative plan.

Edstrom said the Corps and city will make revisions on the proposal over the winter, and he hopes to have a plan ready for public review – after some internal Corps and outside agency review – by mid- to late winter.

Springer said getting the right plan is a must for the city, which can be seen in the investment of time and money the city has made – close to $100,000 in total value – on fighting the Corps’ original plan and developing the alternative plan.

“We aren’t going to sign off on a plan that doesn’t make us happy, and the Corps knows that,” Springer said. “Wabasha had the backbone to stand up to the Corps, and we’ve got support from our legislators.”