Wabasha: Historic agreement creates sand management partnership

Members from the city of Wabasha, Minnesota, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, gathered at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha to sign a historic partnership agreement July 24.

Photo by Patrick Moes, USACE

Wabasha Mayor Emily Durand and St. Paul District Commander Col. Eric Swenson signed a pact for the management of dredged river sand removed from the Mississippi River.

The agreement, also known as a Section 217 partnership, was years in the making and is a non-binding effort allowing the Corps of Engineers to partner with the city of Wabasha to help manage the river sand removed from the 9-foot navigation channel within the greater Wabasha area.

Bob Edstrom, St. Paul District project manager in charge developing plans for the placement of river sand removed from the navigation channel, said the plan is the first of its kind for inland waters within the United States and represents a unique solution for the both the community and the Corps of Engineers.

He said that approximately 25 percent of the nearly 1 million cubic yards of sand that the St. Paul District removes from the Mississippi River annually is generated within the Wabasha community.

“Having a partner in the city of Wabasha significantly helps us ensure a safe, reliable navigation system,” said Edstrom. “The agreement will help the community determine what is best for their needs, while providing us more time to focus on maintaining nearly 90-year-old navigation infrastructure.”

The partnership originated after the initial release of a draft plan for the management of river sand in 2017. Edstrom said he vividly remembers hearing from many citizens about the need to have a stronger voice in deciding what would work best for their community.

The initial plan was rescinded after more than 100 days of public comment.