KELLOGG — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has found a home for up to 100 years of dredge material it will likely carve off the bottom of the Mississippi River.
Paul Machajewski, dredged material manager for the Corps' St. Paul district, said the Corps had purchased nearly 1,000 acres of land southeast of Kellogg to serve as a permanent storage site for sand and silt that is dredged from Pool 5 – the section of the Upper Mississippi River that stretches from Lock and Dam 5 just south of Minneiska to Lock and Dam 4 near Alma, Wis. – as part of the channel maintenance operations designed to make the river navigable for the barge traffic that moves about $2 billion in commodities a year.
Annually, the Corps takes about 120,000 cubic yards of dredge material from Pool 5, Machajewski said. That sand needs to be stored since only a small portion traditionally gets taken for other uses. The land purchased for permanent storage came from willing sellers – Bernie Sheehan, and Bill and Jim Fitzgerald – for an undisclosed sum.
Machajewski said about 75 acres will be used initially for dredge material storage. Another 300 acres are considered wetland, though the Corps will spend time between now and next spring evaluating the land. The rest of the land will be put up for bid to be rented as farmland for the foreseeable future.
The initial storage site of 75 acres should last about 20 years, Machajewski said, with the Corps piling dredge material to a height of 10 to 15 feet. At the end of that period, the land will either become sand prairie with native grassland on top or the Corps will work with the University of Minnesota and the county extension office to place topsoil atop the 75 acres and see if it can be returned to farmland.
"We will be getting together with federal, state and local entities to begin the implementation process," Machajewski said. Part of that implementation process includes talking with local and state governmental and conservation entities about any concerns such as the impact of truck traffic on Wabasha County Road 84 that runs through the site, wetland restoration and drainage concerns to ensure piled sand and silt does not block ditches that normally convey water away from the site, thus avoiding any pooling as sand dries or during rain events.
The initial 75 acres will likely be located south of County Road 84 near the Sheehan homestead, he said. The storage site will be surrounded by prairie grass with a spot set aside where the public can come take dredge material for alternate use.
Machajewski said the Corps was first approached by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy, which had been in talks with the sellers about acquiring the land to develop alongside the McCarthy Lake State Wildlife Management Area, located to the south. However, the DNR and TNC heard the Corps was looking to purchase land for its dredging needs and brought the Corps to the table.
Going forward, the Corps will manage some of the land to match McCarthy Lake WMA.
The whole process, Machajewski said, stemmed from the Corps' experience 2017 in Wabasha and the community backlash it received for its draft dredge material management plan for lower Pool 4. Since that effort, which is still ongoing, the Corps has sought willing sellers and community engagement to ensure local support of its dredge material storage efforts.