Plans made for Houston County derailment site restoration

Railroad to begin restoration on derailment site south of Brownsville

Plans are in place to restore a Houston County derailment site after damage from train cars, heavy equipment and a vegetable oil leak.

A Canadian Pacific freight train derailed in late January on the banks of the Mississippi River, just south of Brownsville, leaking 657 gallons of vegetable oil into the water.

“What we’ve found is that a lot of it seemed to be caught up under ice and the broken ice from the rail car going in,” said Tim Miller, the district manager for La Crosse District of Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

But that changed as the weather warmed up.

“As the ice came out, we did see some appearing near the shoreline,” Miller said. “It was a very, very light sheen that was on the water.”

There are booms in place to keep the oil from migrating, and crews will continue monitoring the levels for the safety of wildlife.

“This is the fly-way. We get thousands and thousands migrating water fowl and migrating birds,” said Miller. “We just don’t want them sitting down if there’s a patch of it that shows up somewhere.”

While the oil is not technically toxic, it can interfere with thermal regulation for birds and mammals.

In addition to monitoring oil levels, the plan includes cleaning up remaining train parts and restoring the scenic outlook at the derailment site to what it once was.

“The site restoration plan will target areas of shoreline that were disturbed in derailment. The goal will be return that shoreline to its pre-existing slope so it drains properly,” said Canadian Pacific spokesperson Andy Cummings. He said crews will also replant vegetation, which will help prevent erosion.

“Our goal is to restore site, leave it as good or better than we found it whenever possible,” said Cummings.

“It’s just good to get it back into a good cover that protects the river and the watershed, and provides habitat,” said Miller.

CP crews will be out cleaning and preparing the site in the next two weeks for the restoration projects, which they said are slated to begin in early to mid-April