A century-old bridge across the St. Croix River five miles north of Stillwater is due to be repaired, with implications for the mighty yet fragile St. Croix. Contractors working for the Wisconsin Central railroad plans to remove loose concrete and encase the footings in fresh cement, according to an environmental filing.
Construction of the High Bridge was completed exactly 105 years ago this June 1. It reaches a half-mile from bluff-to-bluff, standing 185 feet above the water. It is difficult to see from land but a landmark for many boaters.
Wisconsin Central seeks to place debris and soil on .3 acres of floodplain during the project. Workers would haul equipment to the sites via rail equipment, a crane, and suspended scaffolding. The company has applied for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, the National Park Service, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Click here to download the permit application as a PDF.)
The Wisconsin DNR has already given its tacit approval, stating the project “will result in a discharge to waters of the state and that there is reasonable assurance that this activity will be conducted in a manner which does not violate the standards [in law].”
Several questions about the presence of plants, wildlife, and other ecological aspects remain unanswered. The application states: “Vegetation is unknown due to the remoteness of the site and lack of access … Potentially toxic materials to be used would be consistent with construction activities and rail transportation … [no endangered species] were identified by the applicant or are known to exist in the permit area.”
The application does acknowledge that three rare species of mussels live in that part of the St. Croix River.
Environmental protections would include silt fence, silt socks, and turbidity barrier curtains. After work is completed, excavation pits would be backfilled and the site would be seeded with native plants and erosion control matting.
Public comments are accepted until June 20. They must be mailed to:
Regulatory Branch, St. Paul District, Corps of Engineers,
180 Fifth Street East, Suite 700
Saint Paul, MN 55101-1678.