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Dredge management project has Minnesota residents concerned

Government wants to purchase several hundred acres

Dredge management project has...

WABASHA, Minn. (WKBT) - A federal dredging management project near Wabasha, Minnesota is drawing opposition from area residents.

Dredging is where a navigation channel is cleared of sand and debris so barges can move along a river, like the Mississippi.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a new place to dispose 10 million cubic yards of sand near Pepin and Wabasha.

A plan released by the government last month requires acquiring new property to dispose of that material, and one farmer who's most affected by the plan is fighting back.

Last month, cattle farmer Willard Drysdale and his family received news in the mail.

"The entire draft plan was delivered to us by a FedEx truck in a cardboard box,” Drysdale said.

Inside that box was the Army Corps of Engineers plan to acquire nearly 300 acres of his farmland. as well as several other properties, to permanently place sand and debris after dredging.

"We certainly don't want to see our farm or anyone's farm, a productive farm, destroyed by 15 feet of sand piled on it,” Drysdale said.

The Army Corps of Engineers said it's just following policy.

"The policy that we follow tells us to find the least cost and environmentally acceptable way of managing all of the dredged material all over the country,” said Craig Evans, chief of plan formulation section for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps said other alternatives were not possible.

"Many of them were not environmentally acceptable,” Evans said. “So we ruled out anything that would place material in wetlands or waters of the United States, because we do have those alternatives."

But Drysdale disagrees and says there are alternatives.

"To old gravel pits, to land that's already wasteland,” Drysdale.

Drysdale is optimistic something can be done, but until then he's worried about his business and his land.

"As a family of course there's been a lot of anxiety, a lot of sleepless nights. As a farmer, your greatest asset is your real estate,” Drysdale. “Without having income from the farmland, it will be difficult to sustain the cattle operation."

U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, as well as Sen. Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin have voiced concerns over the plan, pushing for alternative sites for the dredge material.

The public comment period was originally supposed to end June 9. It was delayed to June 23, and has since been delayed again for more comments to July 14.

To leave a comment or concern for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, you can email robert.k.edstrom@usace.army.mil, or through mail at the St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn: Project Management, 180 5th St. E., Suite 700, St. Paul, MN 55101.


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