By Patrick Moes, Shannon Baue
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, and the city of Wabasha, Minnesota, are set to sign a historic river sand management document during a brief ceremony in Wabasha July 24. The ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., at the National Eagle Center Amphitheater, 50 Pembroke Ave. S., Wabasha. Col. Eric Swenson, St. Paul District commander, and Mayor Emily Durand, city of Wabasha mayor, will sign a memorandum of agreement that affords the city to manage the Corps of Engineers’ dredged river sand within the Mississippi River Lower Pool 4 area. With the pact, known as a Water Resources Development Act Section 217 agreement, the Corps will be able to pay the city a tipping fee to help manage river sand removed from the navigational channel during Corps dredging operations. Corps staff remove nearly 250,000 cubic yards of sand from this area every year or roughly 25 percent of the district’s annual dredging requirements. The agreement is years in the making and the first of its kind for inland waters within the United States. Following the initial release of the Corps’ draft dredging plan in 2017, Corps staff realized that the greater Wabasha area citizens were passionate about their community and had many ideas about the best uses for this sand. With this agreement, the city now has more control of where the sand goes and can develop more beneficial reuse opportunities. “The agreement is a win-win-win solution,” said Bob Edstrom, St. Paul District project manager in charge of the river sand management planning efforts. “The city of Wabasha gets more control on where to place the sand while we can now invest more of our energy on long-term planning efforts while also ensuring the navigation channel continues operating safely for the shipment of America’s crops grown right here in the Upper Midwest.” The agreement was identified as an option to manage river sand within the environmental assessment that was finalized in November 2022. While the agreement is nonbinding, Corps officials are optimistic that it will serve both the Corps of Engineers and the city for years to come.