United for Restoration.
Every year, a sediment load, the size of a city block filled to the height of the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, accumulates at the head of Lake Pepin. The sedimentation rate is now 10x above normal with the Minnesota River contributing a whopping 80-90% of the annual load. Sediment accumulation in Upper Lake Pepin has contributed to record boat groundings, isolated communities, and an ecological vulnerability to collapse. A sustainable solution will require upstream mitigation, but local restoration is also necessary to manage the cumulative impacts and sustain current uses.
Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance (LPLA) has spearheaded a large-scale restoration project to rejuvenate the area most impacted by sediment. The project aims to improve water clarity, create fish and wildlife habitat, and increase recreational access in Upper Lake Pepin. It will also provide a beneficial use for the dredge material in Lower Lake Pepin, which is suitable for the construction of new islands designed to redirect sediment flows and reduce overall impact. Onsite dredge material can be used for capping islands as a top layer. Island construction has already been done successfully throughout other portions of the Mississippi River.
Restoration is an opportunity for stakeholders, who love and depend on the lake, to exercise control over its future. With federal interest and funding now available, LPLA is mobilizing local support for the proposed project. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) is leading implementation and funding 65% of the costs, but LPLA is responsible for fundraising the local cost-share, estimated to be $3.5 million. The City of Red Wing has already dedicated $100,000 towards restoration, which will hopefully encourage other municipalities to follow suit. Depending on local fundraising, project construction could start as early as June 2019.
If you're interested in helping LPLA create political pressure and attract financial resources necessary for restoration efforts, consider becoming a member and staying informed through Facebook and our e-newsletter. LPLA members also receive exclusive hats, t-shirts, and event invitations to help spread the word.
To learn more, read our blog post: Your Questions Answered: The Lake Pepin Restoration Project
Second Public Meeting: Draft Restoration Maps & Public Input Guide
Understanding Island Construction
The aerial photos below show island construction projects already done along the Mississippi River. They are screenshots from an interactive web application called "Life and Death on the Mississippi River" that was created by The Center for Global Enviornmental Education at Hamline University in St. Paul. Users can learn about changes to the Mississippi River throughout time, learn how island construction is an effective management strategy, and even practice choosing appropriate locations for island construction projects.
Habitat Restoration: Project Objectives
1. Increase emergent & floating leafed aquatic vegetation
Stressor: Wind/wave action, water clarity.
Restoration Measure: Bank protection, island restoration/creation, creation of emergent wetlands, seasonal water level variation through moist soil management, isolated wetlands.
2. Increase submerged aquatic vegetation.
Stressor: Wind/wave action, water clarity
Restoration Measure: Bank protection, island restoration/creation
3. Redirect sediment accumulation to improve habitat and species diversity.
Stressor: Wind/wave action, rate of sediment deposition, hydraulic connectivity
Restoration Measure: Bank protection, island restoration/creation, closure structures, desirable habitat areas connectivity
4. Improve or maintain habitat for riverine aquatic species.
Stressor: Wind/wave action, river currents, lack of substrate and bathymetric diversity
Restoration Measure: Bank protection, island restoration/creation, flowing channels
5. Improve or maintain habitat for migratory birds.
Stressor: Lack of habitat and available forage
Restoration Measure: Island restoration/creation, establishment of emergent marsh or isolated wetlands, moist soil management
6. Improve or maintain habitat for backwater fish.
Stressor: Hydraulic connectivity, lack of protected overwintering fish habitat, including areas >4 feet deep meeting water quality criteria
Restoration Measure: Bank protection, island restoration/creation, closure structure, habitat dredging (>4 feet)