- Associated Press - Sunday, June 4, 2017

WABASHA, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota family is fighting to save a third-generation farm from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers‘ dredging plan.

The Post Bulletin (https://bit.ly/2shU87S) reports that Corps plans to acquire a large portion of Willard Drysdale’s 415-acre farm to store dredge material in Lower Pool 4 of the upper Mississippi River in order to keep a nearby navigation channel operational.

According to a summary of the Corps‘ plan posted online, the permanent dredge storage sites that normally service the pool have reached capacity, forcing the engineers to build new facilities that could store the silt.

Drysdale, whose family has farmed the land since 1939, says he understands the Corps needs to keep the channel open. He just asks them to look elsewhere.

“I told the fella it’s not for sale,” Drysdale said, referring to representatives from the Corps.

Elliott Stefanik, a biologist and chief of the environmental planning section for the district, said the Drysdale farm likely was selected because the Corps does not have many other options.

“We don’t want to take anyone’s land against their wishes,” he said. “Eminent domain is our absolute last resort. It’s a tool in our toolbox, and we don’t want to do that if we don’t have to.”

Stefanik said if the plan is not adopted, the Corps would need to take emergency actions for its dredge material, which likely means dumping it in the river.

Since Drysdale’s family received notice of the Corps‘ plan on May 15, the family has been busy writing lawmakers, from locals such as state legislators Barb Haley and Mike Goggins to federal lawmakers including U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Jason Lewis and Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have received letters as well.

Wabasha County Administrator Michael Plante has written a supportive letter to the Corps outlining the county’s concerns with the storage plan.

“It appears that very little thought was given to the impact that the project would have on Wabasha County, the cities located within the county or the citizens of the area,” Plante wrote.

Plante suggested the Corps had ignored many undeveloped areas and rejected “prior mining” sites as possible destinations for the dredge material. He also suggested the Corps had overlooked less developed areas available in Wisconsin.

A 30-day comment period on the Corps plan began May 11 and will end on June 9.


Information from: Post-Bulletin, https://www.postbulletin.com

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