Public meeting scheduled about McGregor Lake project

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This aerial view shows McGregor Lake, also known as Horseshoe Lake. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is hosting a public meeting at the Prairie du Chien City Hall, 214 E. Blackhawk Ave., on Dec. 11 to gather public input on its Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment to improve habitat in McGregor Lake.

The informal meeting is from 6-8 p.m. A short slide show will be presented at 6:30 p.m. to explain the project. Representatives from partner agencies involved in the project will also be on hand.

The project, which is part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program, is located in Pool 10 adjacent to Prairie du Chien and Marquette. The project consists of the improvement and/or creation of more than 380 acres of floodplain forest and aquatic habitat throughout the approximately 1,063-acre project area.

The draft report is available on the St. Paul District website at: https://www.mvp.usace.army.mil/Home/PN/Article/1701509/mcgregor-lake-hab.... The public review and comment period ends Dec. 31. Questions and comments concerning the project should be directed to Shahin Khazrajafari, Corps project manager, at 651-290-5219 or Shahin.Khazrajafari@usace.army.mil

This project requires a review of environmental effects under the National Environmental Policy Act. A copy of the draft Environmental Assessment with a finding of no significant impact was coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state resource agencies prior to posting the public notice. A final determination on the draft Environmental Assessment will be made following the 30-day public review period.

When the Harper’s Slough project was completed in April, the much anticipated McGregor Lake Project was moved up the priority list. It is now in its final stages of planning.

The McGregor Lake Project is a Habitat Rehabilitation Enhancement Program (HREP) project and will have 100 percent federal funding. It was put on hold for a number of years due to lack of funding, but is now in the review process.

According to the Corps of Engineers’ website, 39 alternatives were considered, including doing nothing. The recommended alternative would cost $17.7 million and is considered worth the investment and also appears to best meet project objectives, including maximizing floodplain forest.

Public meetings regarding the McGregor Lake Project were first held in area communities in 2010. 

In 2010, the main problems in McGregor Lake and the surrounding area were identified as loss of overwintering areas and loss of fish and wildlife nursery habitats. The lake is a wide expanse of shallow water with little habitat diversity. Since 1989, there has been a decrease in the amount of emergent and submersed vegetation, loss of depth in the backwaters and island erosion along the main channel and East Channel. 

The majority of habitat decline is from the impacts of sedimentation due to changes in connectivity to the area brought on by impoundment by the locks and dams. Island erosion is partially due to the above reason, and also from recreational boat traffic and loss of trees in the area. Wind and wave action re-suspends sediments and prevents establishment of vegetation. Flow from the main channel and East Channel threatens to break through the barrier islands into the lake.

“The McGregor project plan will generally include construction of floodplain forest features around the McGregor Lake, along with an overtopping rock spillway to protect against break through flows from the east channel; erosion protection measures along the river bank locations to protect the existing floodplain forest, aquatic, and wetland areas; some emergent wetlands, and a flow control structure to improve overwintering habitat quality in Lover’s Lane,” said  Shahin Khazrajafari, senior programs and project manager for the Corps of Engineers.

In addition to these features, Khazrajafari said the project will also include timber stand improvements throughout the project area, to improve existing floodplain areas. Construction of the floodplain forest features will utilize sand from the Corps channel dredging and maintenance program, and the fine material will be dredged from portions of the McGregor Lake backwater areas.

“The project is still in the planning phase, and the draft report has been released for a 30-day public commenting period,” said Khazrajafari. “Construction will begin no sooner than 2020.”

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