Bridge plan could aid Grey Cloud Island milfoil problemGrey Cloud Channel of the Mississippi River is already clogged with so much milfoil that residents might not be able to get their boats through it.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Grey Cloud Channel of the Mississippi River is already clogged with so much milfoil that residents might not be able to get their boats through it.
The clogged waterway is due to early warm weather this spring, according to Dennis Hanna, Grey Cloud Island Township resident and a member of the South Washington County Watershed District board of directors.
“It certainly wouldn’t be much fun in a canoe,” he said.
A bridge to replace the road over “First Fill” on County Road 75 to open the channel to the Mississippi River appears to be the solution but construction won’t begin until late 2014.
The channel, open to a river channel on the south, is now stagnant and water from the north side side channel is blocked by First Fill.
Thirty years ago that was a plus for the township when First Fill was raised so residents, along with trucks to the limestone and sand and gravel mines, could get in and out of the township during the 1965 record-setting flood.
River water quality was at its low point in the 1960s but the channel was clear. Residents on the township side and those on the Cottage Grove side could swim and fish and didn’t mind being blocked off from the polluted river.
But the water quality is now reversed and water from the river would be welcomed, not only by people who live on the channel but people who canoe and boat in the channel.
Residents have known for at least eight years that putting an opening in first fill would move out the milfoil, but the smallest township in the state — with only 116 homes — couldn’t cover the cost by itself.
Two years ago, the township, a member of the Mississippi sub-watershed, asked the watershed district for help to build a culvert under the road.
Watershed officials agreed to levy some of the cost, which would be spread over the sub-watershed — which includes St. Paul Park, Newport and part of western Woodbury — and seek grants and contributions from the township, Cottage Grove and Washington County for the remaining expense.
The results of an engineering study are complete and a committee that includes the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, National Park Service, federal Corps of Engineers and the watershed district are working on a solution.
Last month the committee decided a 100-foot to 150-foot bridge, for about $1.2 million, would be the best solution. The meeting was also attended by Hanna and Grey Cloud Island Town Board Chairman Dick Adams.
The committee rejected a small culvert because it would require guard bars and would be too small to navigate. It could also be blocked by debris and need maintenance.
A large culvert, for about $800,000, was rejected because it couldn’t handle high water flows such as those that recently occurred, according to Adams, and would not allow a boat to exit upstream.
Earlier this month the watershed board voted to spend up to $15,000 for additional bridge engineering information and get a firmer cost estimate before the watershed seeks grant money.
Bridge construction would probably begin late in 2014. It’s easier to build a bridge in the winter, Hanna said.
Even when the bridge is finished, milfoil will have to be harvested from the channel, he said, and residents will have to install floating docks because water will rise and fall with the river.
There will be no room for pedestrians to walk on the bridge other than the road. No parking is allowed along all township roads.