Government Could Take Hundreds of Acres from Landowners

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul could condemn over 550 acres of land around the Mississippi River.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – Landowners near the Mississippi River could have hundreds of acres confiscated for government use.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, more than 10 million cubic feet of sand needs to be dredged from the Mississippi River where it meets the Chippewa River over the next 40 years. With unusually high volumes of sand needing to be removed, the long-term plan could spell trouble for landowners near the Mississippi.

Every year, the Corps must remove sand from the bed of the Mississippi in order to maintain an appropriate water level. Often times sand dredged from the Mississippi will be stored in a temporary placement site. However, because of the high volume that is expected to be removed from the river over the next four decades, the project will require permanent placement sites. With the Corps’ current permanent placement sites full, local landowners could be forced to hand over hundreds of acres to the government.

In a letter sent to landowners near the Mississippi River, the Corps of Engineers St. Paul District informed farmers their properties were identified as “tentatively selected permanent sites” to store the sand that will be removed from the river. The Corps’ estimates they will need 550 acres to adequately store all the sand.

The land grab has farm owners worried. While they are supportive of dredging, some fear losing farmland would have a negative impact on the local economy.

“I do understand that the Mississippi River channel has to be maintained and I support that 100%, but I don’t think they’re looking at the effects that taking land from private landowners – what it does to local economy,”Jason Weisenbeck, who owns 78 acres the Corps selected as a tentative site, told WEAU 13 News. “They’re not looking at other alternatives to try to fix this problem.”

The landowners may not have a choice whether to turn over their land. While the Corps intends on compensating the landowners for their property, if the landowners choose not to comply with the government’s request, eminent domain would allow the Corps to condemn the property.

The original public comment period was set to expire June 9, but the Corps extended the period to June 23 to accommodate the growing public interest in the project. Two public meetings are also scheduled to discuss the dredging.