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Solution closer for Grey Cloud Island bridge over stagnant water

There will be at least one more summer of stagnant water in Grey Cloud Channel before bridge construction begins, but a funding gap is close to being bridged.

Washington County officials told the township last week that it would contribute $500,000 as its share of the $1.6 million project slated to get started this fall or in the spring of 2014.

The channel is south of First Fill on County Road 75 that links the township to the mainland. To the north is Mississippi River backwater and the road is a solid barrier between the two.

The channel is stagnant and choked with milfoil during the summer months. Zebra mussels have also been found. Poor water quality has affected the fish population and, at the height of the summer, only boaters who know how to navigate it can get through.

The solution, which has been discussed in the township for at least eight years, is to connect the two bodies of water. Moving water causes scouring and would not be conducive to milfoil or mussels. Some harvesting of weeds would also be needed.

A solution used to be just a pipe dream for township residents and those on the Cottage Grove side because of the cost.

When the township joined the Mississippi subwatershed district of the South Washington County Watershed District four years ago, help would eventually be on the way.

A tax levy for the subwatershed only -- which contains Grey Cloud, St. Paul Park, Newport and a small portion of Woodbury -- over three years means the watershed district will contribute about $700,000, leaving about $350,000 left to raise. The township will have to contribute and some of the money will come from grants, according to Matt Moore, watershed administrator.

About 1920, local residents built a wooden bridge at First Fill and it looks like a similar solution is coming back.

After an engineering study, watershed managers decided that a bridge, also called a bottomless culvert, would be the best solution. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of the agencies that has jurisdiction in the Critical River Corridor administrated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, also favors a bridge.

A small culvert would improve water quality only and, at times of flooding, the water flow rate could be dangerous.

Town Board Chair Dick Adams said that culverts would rule out speedy access for an emergency Washington County sheriff water patrol boat currently docked at the Northern Tier Energy refinery.

Officials said a larger culvert would have to be maintained and the road would have to be raised, adding to the expense.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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