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La Crosse Officials Move Forward With Addressing Contamination In River Marsh

City Council Member Says Future Of Project May Be Impacted By Changes At State DNR

La Crosse River Marsh
rochelle hartman (CC-BY)

La Crosse officials are hopeful they may avoid a costly project to remove lead contamination in the city’s River Marsh.

The city hired an environmental consultant, Coulee Environmental Solutions, in 2016 to assess contamination in the La Crosse River Marsh, a large wetland complex in the floodplain of the Lower La Crosse River. The area was a trap shooting site until 1960, leaving thousands of lead pellets and clay targets buried underwater.

This week, a report confirmed the contaminants have not affected the water table below the marsh.

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La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said that assurance could give the city more options when it comes to addressing the problem.

“We’re suggesting not to do anything but to continue to monitor,” Kabat said.

Kabat said removing the lead pellets could do more harm than good and would cost the city millions of dollars.

He said the city hopes to do long-term monitoring of insects and animals in the marsh to make sure the contamination isn’t spreading.

But the state Department of Natural Resources will make the final decision on what happens next.

“(The DNR) will tell us if they want further study or if they want a different kind of remediation or whatever it is they decide that they want,” said La Crosse City Councilman Phil Ostrem. “There’s a new head of the DNR so we really have no inkling of what’s going to happen.”

Kabat said the city plans to send their recommendation to the DNR next month.