Stimulus will help upgrade Red Wing lock, create jobsby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Federal stimulus money will help upgrade the lock and dam on the Mississippi River near Red Wing, creating about 500 jobs for two years, according to officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps has received $70 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and plans to use the funds to renovate the 70-year-old facility, according to Tom Crump, Chief of Project Management at the Corps' St. Paul District office.
But the project, which has been in the planning stages for nearly a decade, faces longstanding opposition from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Crump said officials there are asking for a fish passageway to be added to the project. Such a passageway would circumvent the dam, allowing fish to get around the structure.
The stimulus money does not include funds for the fish passageway, which Crump said would cost an addition $12 million.
"If it's funded, we'll add it," he said. "Right now it's not funded."
Officials with the Wisconsin DNR did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Minnesota Public Radio.
Part of the lock and dam's problem is that the current in that part of the Mississippi River tends to pull tows and barges away from the lock and into the gates of the dam, Crump said. An accident happens each time a barge ends up in the gates and has to be recovered.
The dam has seen several dozen such accidents in its lifespan, Crump said.
"It's one of the more accident-prone locks and dams on the Mississippi," Crump said.
What the Corps is trying to avoid is an accident that would crash into the dam gate and force water into the embankment on the Wisconsin side, Crump said.
"If the embankment fails ... the water behind the dam would drain, circumvent the dam, and that would impact navigation, and power supply and those kinds of things," Crump said.
The Corps and the Wisconsin DNR are meeting this week to try to come to an agreement on some of the conditions of the project, Crump said. The DNR still has to approve several key permits before the project moves forward.
If the permits are granted, construction is expected to begin in the fall. The Corps will use a process called design-build, which means construction will begin before the design is completed in order to get the project started, Crump said.
"We're trying to build the project that both solves the navigation safety issue but also is mindful of the environment and respects the environment that it's being built in," he said.
The project is expected to be completed by 2011.