Corps of Engineers awards $8.8 million McGregor Lake contract

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The McGregor Lake Project began in early April. (Courier Press file photo)

By Ted Pennekamp


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, has awarded an $8.8 million contract to Dubuque Barge & Fleeting Service Company doing business as Newt Marine Service, of Dubuque to begin constructing a habitat restoration project in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge located near Prairie du Chien.

The completed project will restore eroding peninsulas around McGregor Lake (also known as Horseshoe Lake), dredge backwater habitat for overwintering fish and enhance floodplain forest habitat. The forests in the Mississippi River corridor provide critical habitat for migrating songbirds, nesting bald eagles, herons, kingfishers and other birds. 

The project was planned in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Iowa and Wisconsin departments of natural resources and the local communities. Most site work is not expected to begin until the spring of 2021. 

“The interagency team worked hard to design a plan to stabilize fragile shorelines that would have otherwise disappeared, said Angela Deen, the Upper Mississippi River Program Manager at the Corps’ St. Paul District. “This project will benefit the local environment and the community for years to come.”   

This project is funded under the authority of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program. This program is intended to ensure the coordinated development and enhancement of the Upper Mississippi River system with primary emphasis on habitat restoration projects and resource monitoring.

After 10 years of public meetings and much planning by the Corps of Engineers, the highly-anticipated and much-needed McGregor Lake Project finally began Phase 1 in early April with dredging and sand placement to help build up and restore islands.

“Most of the work has been completed for the year,” said Patrick Moes, St. Paul District (Public Affairs), regarding McGregor Lake. Other dredging projects have been taking place in the lower portion of Pool 10, however.   

The total McGregor Lake Project is anticipated to cost approximately $20 million and take five years to complete.

Phase 1 consisted of transferring 70,000 cubic yards of dredged sand from the McMillan Island dredged material site near Guttenberg, Iowa to McGregor Lake.

The overall project will consist of the improvement and/or creation of more than 380 acres of floodplain forest and aquatic habitat throughout the approximately 1,063-acre project area.

The project calls for building land and islands by using sand and silt, a big portion of which would be on the north side of McGregor Lake, just south of the Highway 18 Bridge. This area would be about two feet higher than the surrounding area. The base would be sand and the top more silty, and the area would eventually become a floodplain forest. The vast majority of the existing floodplain forest associated with McGregor Lake would be left alone. In addition, the land around the lake, especially on the east channel side, would be made thicker so there could be more trees.

The project will involve more than 70 acres of dredging, with 35-40 acres in McGregor Lake. Also, 45 acres of new forest will be created. There will be rock erosion protection in some areas. A rock spillway will be created on the north end of the east side of McGregor Lake.

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