Lake Pepin ice thicker this yearThe whine of an airboat skimming across the ice on Lake Pepin was a sound that spring is approaching.
By: By RiverTown Staff, The Republican Eagle
The whine of an airboat skimming across the ice on Lake Pepin was a sound that spring is approaching.
The airboat is used by crews from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as they cross frozen Lake Pepin to take annual ice measurements.
The corps takes ice measurements at this location every year to predict the navigational outlook on the upper Mississippi River.
This year the crews found that thee thickest ice was 29 inches near Stockholm, according to Mark Upward, a corps spokesman from Fountain City .
“The ice is thicker this year than it was last year, when we had fairly thin ice,” Upward said.
“We have more ice this year than in the past several years,” he added.
Corps officials say Lake Pepin is the location of choice for these measurements because the lake is the last part of the river to break up and the current is slower on Lake Pepin than it is on the rest of the river.
Crews use a Global Positioning System to identify the exact location for taking the measurement and a tape measure to measure the thickness of the ice. In addition to measuring the ice thickness, they also record the general condition of the ice.
This data is used by the towing industry to predict whether it will be difficult for towboats to break through the ice and to determine when it’s safe to begin towing barges to St. Paul.
Normally, ice measurements are completed weekly until the navigation season begins. The data are posted on the Corps of Engineers St. Paul District’s Web site.
Upward said the next measurements won’t be taken until March 5 because weather conditions that affect ice thickness haven’t changed that much.
Last year, the first tow to make it all the way to St. Paul was the MV Cooperative Venture, operated by American River Transportation Co. of St. Louis, on March 30.
The average opening date of the navigation season in St. Paul for the last 10 years is March 20.