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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District
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332 Minnesota St., Suite E1500
St. Paul, MN 55101

Phone: (651) 290-5807
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Springing into spring cleanup

St. Paul District
Published April 24, 2017

Spring cleaning took on a slightly different meaning recently as the St. Paul District environmental section teamed up with a few of its partners to clean up a backwater slough in northeast Iowa.

Following torrential rains in August 2016, the Upper Iowa River rapidly rose to major flood stages. With more than 8 inches of rain falling in the basin overnight, communities along the river found themselves with a major disaster on their hands. The rising river collected debris and fallen trees throughout the basin.

As the flood waters receded, the debris ultimately settled in Big Slough, a Mississippi River backwater near the Corps’ Blackhawk Park in De Soto, Wisconsin. Ray Marinan, Corps natural resources specialist, said a team of Corps staff and members from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Living Lands and Waters, collected around 60 cubic yards of manmade debris during a cleanup effort in early April. Marinan said the debris included docks, picnic tables and lots of plastic. He said the team even filled a 30-yard dumpster with refrigerators and old tires.

“The project was amazing,” said Marinan. “We worked within the limits of Mother Nature as well as working really hard to schedule a time for everything to fall into place.“ Those limits included finding the perfect time to ensure the various agencies all had an availability. It also meant trying to find a time when the river levels were suitable for the environmental cleanup.

Scheduling challenges also included getting some of the Corps’ maintenance and repair crew to pitch in with their crane. Marinan said the district’s maintenance and repair team did a great job to clear the log jams and vegetative debris pile that was created following the flood. He said the crew was able to either remove the debris from the slough or at least move the vegetative debris out of the channel. He added there is now water moving through the middle of the slough, which will help improve the area.

Marinan, quick to thank the various people and agencies that supported the cleanup, said the entire project wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the nonprofit Friends of Pool 9 group. He said the group was responsible for bringing the problem to the Corps, and they worked tirelessly to find a solution to the problem that worked for everyone involved.

Randy Urich, St. Paul District environmental management section manager, said this project is “another example of what is possible with the strong support and great network of partners on the river. It’s a definitely a resource that brings people together and is worth taking care of for future generations.”