Area residents discuss McGregor Lake Project

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Megan McGuire of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gives a presentation about the McGregor Lake Project in the Prairie du Chien City Hall Tuesday night.

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

There were 26 people, including Prairie du Chien area residents, U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel, and members of the Iowa and Wisconsin DNRs at a meeting Tuesday night in the Prairie du Chien City Hall to discuss the McGregor Lake Project in Pool 10 between Prairie du Chien and Marquette-McGregor.

Megan McGuire of the Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, led a slide show presentation about the project and then fielded questions, along with other Corps of Engineers personnel.

McGuire said the Corps looked at several options and has chosen a tentatively selected plan that would cost approximately $17.7 million that would be 100 percent federally funded. 

The project, which is part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program, 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. McGuire said the project area includes McGregor Lake and the associated island, channel and backwater complex between the main channel and the east channel of the Mississippi River.

“We looked at this area and tried to predict what it would look like in 50 years if we did nothing versus if we do the project,” said McGuire.

McGuire said there is not much diversity in the area now and it is dominated by silver maples, with a few oak trees. She said if nothing is done, McGregor Lake, also known as Horseshoe Lake, would continue to get wider and to deteriorate, and eventually would become part of the river, which would not be a good overwintering site for fish and wildlife. It would also continue to fill in with sediment.

McGuire said the objectives are to increase the quantity and improve the health of the floodplain hardwood forest, to maintain or increase the amount and quality of winter and summer aquatic habitat in McGregor Lake and some other adjacent areas, to increase emergent and submergent aquatic vegetation, and to reduce the loss of habitat through erosion. 

She said the project calls for building land and islands by using sand and silt, a big portion of which would be on the north side of McGregor Lake, just south of the Highway 18 Bridge. This area would be about two feet higher than the surrounding area. The base would be sand and the top more silty, and the area would eventually become a floodplain forest. The vast majority of the existing floodplain forest associated with McGregor Lake would be left alone. In addition, the land around the lake, especially on the east channel side would be made thicker so that there could be more trees.  

“We will be doing a lot of monitoring on the east side,” said McGuire. “We will evaluate over the next five or 10 years and if there is too much loss due to erosion, we will then put in riprap.”

Prairie du Chien resident Bill Howe said that the increased boat traffic over the years is one major reason for the deterioration of the land on the east side.

“There used to be several lines of trees,” said Howe. “Now, there is only one line of trees, and there are almost no willows.”

Several other attendees pointed out that there is a very large population of beavers in the area, and the beavers are killing off the oak trees. One man suggested having more beaver trapping.

Several people asked about dredging for the project. McGuire said the project will involve more than 70 acres of dredging, with 35-40 acres in McGregor Lake. Also, 45 acres of new forest will be created. There will be rock erosion protection in some areas. A rock spillway will be created on the north end of the east side of McGregor Lake.

McGuire said up to approximately $4 million worth of sand for the project will come from the channel maintenance program that maintains barge traffic.

Monitoring for the project will begin in 2019, said McGuire. Plans and specifications are scheduled to be developed in the spring and summer of 2019. Bids will be let and a contract awarded in the fall of 2019. The project is expected to begin in 2020 and run through 2022.

“This is a big project and it will take about three years to complete,” said McGuire. 

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

Attendees at Tuesday night’s meeting expressed that this project is long overdue and much needed. Along with verbal suggestions, some people wrote down their suggestions for the project and dropped them in the suggestion box for Corps of Engineers, along with Fish and Wildlife, and Iowa and Wisconsin DNR personnel to consider. Other attendees will mail or email their suggestions. Corps of Engineers personnel said there were many good suggestions given at the meeting that will be looked into further, and it is hoped more public input will be forthcoming.

The draft report for the project is available on the Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District website. 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.

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