Wabasha pledges to fight dredging plan

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is again extending the public comment period for its draft environmental assessment to dredge near Wabasha. The new deadline is July 28.

The move came Thursday, the same day the Wabasha City Council voted to pursue a comprehensive legal action to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from implementing its Mississippi River dredging materials management plan.

"The Army Corps of Engineers' dredging plan is simply bad for the city of Wabasha," Mayor Rollin Hall said in a news release. "It would result in a dangerous uptick in truck traffic, increased noise and air pollution, and hamper our community's ability to grow."

City Council has enlisted a team of experts including the law firm Flaherty & Hood, which specializes in regulatory and environmental issues; Bolton & Menk, an engineering firm; and Dan McDougal, a dredging expert.

The Corps maintains at least a 9-foot deep channel for commercial traffic moving goods up and down the river.

The draft plan outlines the removal of more than 10 million cubic yards of dredged material from the Mississippi River's Lower Pool 4 during the next 40 years.

"The Corps will continue working with its federal, state and local partners to explore opportunities to reduce costs associated with maintaining the channel as well as minimizing impacts to the communities," the Corps said in a news release Friday.

The draft plan was originally released May 11 with a public comment period through June 9. The comment period was extended to June 23 and then to July 14.

The Lower Pool 4 plan identifies Wabasha's southside Fitzgerald neighborhood as a transfer location where sand and sediment pulled from the Mississippi River would be stored before being hauled away.

This would result in approximately 70 trucks per hour going in and out of the residential area during the 75-day hauling period each year. The plan is estimated to be in effect 30 to 40 years.

"We have identified several other cost-effective and more environmentally friendly sites," said Chad Springer, Wabasha city administrator. "But so far, the USACE is moving ahead with what it has deemed to be the 'cheapest' option, despite the harm it would cause to the families and businesses in our city. We are taking action to do all we can to stop their plan from becoming a reality."

Direct comments about the project to Bob Edstrom, Corps project manager, via email at Robert.K.EdstromProject Management, 180 Fifth St. E. Suite 700, St. Paul, MN 55101-1678.