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Corps sets date for first Lake Pepin ice surveys of the year

Published Feb. 5, 2020
WABASHA, Minn. – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District employees Al VanGuilder, left, survey technician, and Bill Chelmowski, marine machinery mechanic, use an airboat to  measure ice on Lake Pepin, near Wabasha, Minn., Feb. 13, during the first Mississippi River ice surveys of the year. The district conducts the annual ice surveys to help the navigation industry determine when it is safe to break through the ice. Lake Pepin, located on the Mississippi River between Red Wing and Wabasha, Minn., is used as the benchmark because the ice melts slower in this area due to the lake width and the slower current.

WABASHA, Minn. – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District employees Al VanGuilder, left, survey technician, and Bill Chelmowski, marine machinery mechanic, use an airboat to measure ice on Lake Pepin, near Wabasha, Minn., Feb. 13, during the first Mississippi River ice surveys of the year. The district conducts the annual ice surveys to help the navigation industry determine when it is safe to break through the ice. Lake Pepin, located on the Mississippi River between Red Wing and Wabasha, Minn., is used as the benchmark because the ice melts slower in this area due to the lake width and the slower current.

RED WING, Minn. – Al VanGuilder, St. Paul District lead survey technician, launches the St. Paul District airboat on to the Mississippi River, near Lake City, Minn., Feb. 27, to begin measuring the ice thickness within Lake Pepin. The Corps of Engineers measures the ice thickness every spring and the navigation industry uses the information to determine when to break through the ice and begin the shipping season. Lake Pepin ice is traditionally the last hurdle for the navigation industry to deal with before reaching St. Paul, because the ice is usually a lot thicker in the lake due to the slow moving current.

RED WING, Minn. – Al VanGuilder, St. Paul District lead survey technician, launches the St. Paul District airboat on to the Mississippi River, near Lake City, Minn., Feb. 27, to begin measuring the ice thickness within Lake Pepin. The Corps of Engineers measures the ice thickness every spring and the navigation industry uses the information to determine when to break through the ice and begin the shipping season. Lake Pepin ice is traditionally the last hurdle for the navigation industry to deal with before reaching St. Paul, because the ice is usually a lot thicker in the lake due to the slow moving current.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, will start its annual Lake Pepin ice measurements Feb. 12.

What has become one of the first signs of spring, the Corps takes ice measurements on Lake Pepin annually to forecast the navigational outlook. The Lake Pepin ice thickness is measured because it’s the widest, naturally-occurring part of the Mississippi River. Located between the Minnesota cities of Red Wing and Wabasha, the lake’s ice is the last major barrier for vessels reaching the head of the navigation channel in St. Paul, Minnesota.

A Corps survey crew uses an airboat and a global positioning system to collect the data. The information is used by the navigation industry to predict when it’s safe to break through the ice and begin the 2020 navigation season.

The Motor Vessel Aaron F. Barrett was the first tow to pass through Lake Pepin last year and reach St. Paul, Minnesota. She arrived April 24, 2019. Historically the average date in which navigation is open occurs during the third week of March.

Ice measurements are typically completed weekly until the first tow arrives. Ice measurements are posted on the St. Paul District website at: https://www.mvp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation/Ice-Measurements/.

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Release no. 20-007