Partiers to be fined for being in lake project area

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By Ted Pennekamp


The McGregor Lake Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project (HREP) in Pool 10 of the Mississippi River began in April and is going well. Boaters and partiers, however, have raised a concern.

Drawn by newly deposited sand that has been brought in as part of the project, boaters have been partying on the new “beach” areas in recent weeks. People are not allowed in the project area, and fines will soon be issued for such activities, say U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) personnel.

“The FWS has not issued any fines to date for using the McGregor Lake HREP as a party site,” said Brandon Jones, the acting regional hunting and fishing chief of the FWS who is based in Prairie du Chien. “However, multiple warnings have been issued over the last month. Warning signs are also placed at the site to educate people that the site is not for public use because it’s an active construction zone. Tickets will start to be issued the first week of July. The fine is $180. It should also be known that it is illegal to discharge any fireworks on FWS lands.”

The McGregor Lake Project (known locally as Horseshoe Lake) is a five-year, $20 million project. The project was designed as part of a cooperative effort among the St. Paul District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Iowa and Wisconsin departments of natural resources and local interests.

The first phase of the project is complete. The project has moved into the second phase. During the first phase, 70,000 cubic yards of dredged sand from the nearby McMillan Island dredged material site was transferred to McGregor Lake.

The overall project area includes McGregor Lake and the associated islands, channels and backwater complexes between the main channel and east channel. 

The goal of the project is to protect and improve the floodplain forest habitat of the area through elevation rise resulting in less inundation and providing quality habitat for wildlife, fish and other species that rely on backwater habitats. 

The specific features of the project include five floodplain forest features, up to five habitat dredging features, three erosion protection features, one flow modification feature and one rock berm, as well as 35 acres of timber stand improvement. 

The floodplain forest features will receive a mix of sand and fine materials from dredging associated with the Corps of Engineers’ channel maintenance program and also from dredging portions of the identified backwater locations in order to raise the elevation of the wetland and restore and preserve wetland quality. 

The habitat dredging features will be dredged to acquire fine materials for the project, manage water flow in overwintering areas and incorporate habitat structures. 

The erosion protection features would be comprised of R40 riprap with chinking stone and would provide stability to vulnerable areas and maintain and protect the existing shoreline. 

The flow modification structure will be comprised of R40 riprap and is designed to enhance the overwintering habitat by controlling the volume of flow entering aquatic areas during low flow periods. 

The rock berm feature will isolate and develop the existing emergent and submergent wetland complex near the south end of McGregor Lake. 

The timber stand improvement will improve forest health and habitat quality through thinning, planting, girdling and invasive species removal.

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