Upper Mississippi River – Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) Wacouta Bay Project

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published April 12, 2024


Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability (NESP) is a long-term program of ecosystem restoration and navigation improvements for the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS). NESP will improve system capacity and reduce commercial traffic delays through construction of seven new 1,200-foot locks, mooring cells, and switchboat implementation.

Wacouta Bay is located at the head of Lake Pepin in Pool 4 of the Mississippi River. The study area spans the entirety of Wacouta Bay, located on the right descending side of the channel, approximate river miles 784-786. 

Concerns over habitat deficiencies in Wacouta Bay, most resulting from sedimentation and turbidity, include reduced aquatic and terrestrial habitat diversity and quality, lack of aquatic vegetation, lack of protected wetlands, and reduced abundance of fish and wildlife.  Deep protected aquatic habitat for centrarchid fish and associated species is lacking in the backwaters and large shallow open water areas of Upper Lake Pepin.


This is a NESP study partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WIDNR), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The study will consider alternatives including island building and enhancement, forest enhancement and creation, backwater restoration and dredging, island and shoreline protection and beneficial use of dredged material.


After an 18-month development, the Project Implementation Report will be complete pending final review by Corps Mississippi Valley Division. Design development will continue for 2024 and into 2025 with a construction contract award planned in summer 2025. Construction may commence in fall of 2025 through 2027.


General Investigations – Title VIII of the Water Resources Development Act 2007


Project planning and design will be 100% federally funded. Construction is anticipated to be under the ordinary high-water mark and therefore will be fully federally funded. Operation and maintenance costs will be the responsibility of the WIDNR.

Funds allocated to-date:                         $1.56M

Anticipated construction cost:                ~$15M