Newsmakers, October 26, 2017

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers
Paul Machajewski and Bob Edstrom
Paul Machajewski and Bob Edstrom Hope Kirwan/WPR

A possible solution could be in the works to change a controversial U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge management draft plan for the area where the upper Mississippi and Chippewa rivers meet, about 60-miles north of La Crosse.

The Corps is roughly three years away from running out of storage for sand carried by the Chippewa River into Lower Pool 4 that must be dredged to keep the Mississippi navigational channel open.

A 40-year draft plan the Corps released in May calls for acquiring private land in Wisconsin around Alma and Nelson, and in Wabasha, Minnesota, to store sand.

The plan had residents up in arms and a 900-signature petition was presented to the Corps earlier this month.

Corps officials met earlier this month with local residents who opposed the original draft plan and were made aware of some other options for storing the sand that would be less objectionable.

One option is for the Corps to eventually store the sand in a gravel mine that’s being expanded in Wabasha from 25 to 75 acres.

“That would be a great help. It’s in an area where this type of activity has been going on. We’ll have to figure out how to get the material there,” said Paul Machajewski of the Corps’ Operation Division. “But it might be a solution that we’ll all be happy with if that’s something that comes to fruition.”

Machajewski said that one proposed expanded gravel pit would have storage space for 11 million cubic yards of sand, enough to meet a 40-year plan.

Wabasha Mayor Rollin Hall said residents on either side of the river are concerned about the impact the Corps’ draft plan would have on property values, tourism and noise from increased truck traffic on the quiet rural area. But he said he’s encouraged by the discussions with federal officials.

“Based on the fact that they have met with the city officials several times and with community members several times, I’m much more hopeful today, and I think we all are, then perhaps we were back in May,” Hall said.

Some of the dredge material is repurposed by area highway departments as fill material for roads or to de-ice winter roads. Farmers are also using it for animal bedding. Machajewski said the Corps will also explore other markets for the material, such as use in fracking, to extend the life of future storage.

Corps officials are planning to update the draft plan based on better communication with local officials and will give residents another 30-45 days to comment on it.

– John Davis

Episode Credits

  • Hope Kirwan Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Paul Machajewski Guest
  • Bob Edstrom Guest
  • Rollin Hall Guest
  • Jane Glander Guest