Corps agrees ‘in writing’ to leave Southside Fitzgerald site alone for dredging plan

May 3, 2019

WABASHA — As part of their ongoing work to develop a new dredge material management plan for Lower Pool 4, officials of the St. Paul District of the Army Corps of Engineers have agreed to some key concessions with the city of Wabasha.

“The Corps plans to not use Southside Fitzgerald and the ag land that’s unacceptable to us,” said Wabasha City Administrator Chad Springer, referring to farm land that runs behind River Drive South and the Drysdale Farm near Kellogg. While the Corps has several times stated these intentions verbally, Springer added, “We got that in writing, and that’s huge for us.”

“The Corps’ current plan eliminates the need to use the Southside Fitzgerald location near River Drive, an area identified within the city for its close proximity to the river, as well as previously identified agricultural lands,” Corps officials wrote in a statement about ongoing work with the city to develop a new dredge material management plan.

In May 2017, Corps officials sent out a draft of a 40-year plan for handling the dredge material — sand and silt removed from the bottom of the river to keep a 9-foot-deep navigation channel of the Mississippi River open for barge traffic. That plan was met with stern opposition from landowners whose property the Corps targeted, and from the city of Wabasha.

Each year, the Corps removes about 270,000 cubic yards of dredge material from Lower Pool 4, the area from where the Chippewa River runs into the Mississippi River down to Lock and Dam No. 4. Over 40 years, that amounts to roughly 10.7 million cubic yards.

Corps officials state their new planning efforts are focusing on working with the city as an active partner in removal and permanent storage of dredge material. Part of this effort includes looking for willing sellers of land that can be turned into dredge material storage sites.

“The Corps is actively seeking willing sellers in the areas between Wabasha and Winona,” Corps officials said.

Springer said a big part of the city’s plan is to develop a port facility where dredge material is moved from the river to be transported to permanent sites or for beneficial projects.

“If our port gets built, it’ll be because of a dredge material management plan to utilize that port,” Springer said. “If we have a port, we can manage it, we can regulate it and we can enforce it.”

“We are very optimistic that the new plan will be a win-win for the community and the Corps of Engineers,” said Bob Edstrom, project manager with the Corps. “It will just take a little longer to ensure it’s the right plan for everyone involved.”

How long is unknown. Springer said any “hard and fast deadlines” are probably not going to be met, though he believes a new dredge material management plan won’t take more than a couple of years at most.

“We are very pleased with the level of collaboration that the Corps has shown in working with the city on this issue,” said Wabasha Mayor Emily Durand. “Together, the city and the Corps have put significant time and effort into finding reasonable alternatives that meet the city’s goals.”