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Annual Corps of Engineer’s Lake Pepin ice measurements to begin next week

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published Feb. 8, 2022
Man drills hole in ice

Bill Chelmowski, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District survey technician, uses an ice auger to measure the ice at Lake Pepin, near Red Wing, Minnesota. The lake is a part of the Upper Mississippi River. Chelmowski is a part of a team that was collecting ice measurements Feb. 9, to help the navigation industry determine when it is safe to break the ice and begin the 2021 navigation season. Ice measurements are collected at Lake Pepin because the water flow is slower in this area and the ice is usually the thickest. Navigation officials typically waits until the ice is no more than 12 inches thick before sending barges north to break the ice en route to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Crew ride airboat to conduct ice surveys

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District Survey Technicians Dan DeVaney, left, and Bill Chelmowski ride on an airboat above the ice at Lake Pepin, near Red Wing, Minnesota Feb. 9. The lake is a part of the Upper Mississippi River. The team was collecting ice measurements to help the navigation industry determine when it is safe to break the ice and begin the 2021 navigation season. Ice measurements are collected at Lake Pepin because the water flow is slower in this area and the ice is usually the thickest. Navigation officials typically waits until the ice is no more than 12 inches thick before sending barges north to break the ice en route to St. Paul, Minnesota.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – It’s a sign that spring is near, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, will start its annual Lake Pepin ice measurements Feb. 16.

Lake Pepin is a naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River on the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Corps takes ice measurements on Lake Pepin annually to forecast the navigational outlook. Lake Pepin ice thickness is measured, because it’s the widest, naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River. 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 will be used by the navigation industry to predict when it’s safe to break through the ice and begin the 2022 navigation season.

The Motor Vessel R. Clayton McWhorter was the first tow to pass through Lake Pepin last year and reach St. Paul, Minnesota, arriving March 19, 2021. 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 results 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. 22-018