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Lake Pepin project gets ‘green light’ from Pierce County

Pierce County Board supervisors passed a resolution supporting Lake Pepin rehabilitation efforts at its Feb. 23 meeting. Supervisors Dean Bergseng (River Falls) and Dan Reis (Ellsworth) were absent.

The resolution is in favor of the Upper Pool 4 & Lake Pepin Habitat Restoration Project, assisting with project education and outreach, and encouraging grant funding if opportunities arise.

The Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance (LPLA) is looking to Wisconsin and Minnesota municipalities for help to restore Lake Pepin habitat for fish and wildlife. The LPLA, based in Red Wing, is described on its website as “a multi-state non-profit organization established in 2009 to preserve and restore Lake Pepin as an integral part of the Upper Mississippi River System.”

Rylee Main, project manager of the LPLA, announced to board supervisors Tuesday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has chosen the project, which includes creating islands and dredging the head of Lake Pepin, as a “start-up project.”

The first phase involves the corps’ St. Paul District compiling a fact sheet, which will be forwarded to the Mississippi Valley Division to see if there is federal interest in the group’s efforts; the Corps is putting $50,000 into this phase.

Main said the next step would be a feasibility study.

“We should move into the feasibility phase of the study quickly,” Main said. “We didn’t think this would happen for years.”

Main first addressed the board at its July 29 meeting to explain the LPLA’s mission, funding hopes and the early concept plans to eradicate a growing problem: sediment buildup in Lake Pepin, especially at the head of the 20-mile long lake and Upper Pool 4.

“The lake at its current rate would be filled in in 300 years,” Main had said. “The head of the lake by the end of this century. One million metric tons (equal to one cubic city block) of sediment is going into Lake Pepin each year.”

Main admitted in July while the majority of sediment (80-90 percent she said) is coming from the Minnesota River Basin, the Alliance is trying to identify funding sources and garner community support for the project, which is estimated to cost $10 million. Wisconsin municipalities were asked to pass resolutions in support of the LPLA mission; most of the waters affected by this problem are technically Wisconsin waters.

Solutions

Solutions outlined by the LPLA include: reducing sediment by implementing conservation practices within the watershed; protecting existing shorelines and building new islands to direct flow, reduce erosion and create protected areas for migrating birds and fish; and dredging channels and bays to increase overwintering habitat for fish and provide access channels for improved navigation.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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