Rare mussels to be moved for bridge project

DNR Press Release

St. Croix River bridge project may result in incidental take of rare mussels

MADISON – State officials plan to relocate rare mussel species out of an area of the St. Croix River where construction of a new bridge between Wisconsin and Minnesota will disturb the river bottom.

The new bridge crossing of the St. Croix River will connect Wisconsin State Highway 64 and Minnesota State Highway 36 over the St. Croix River. The new bridge will cross south of the Stillwater lift bridge, in an alignment south of Stillwater, Minn. and Houlton, Wis. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, in coordination with the Wisconsin DOT, proposes to construct a new bridge crossing at this location.

The presence of the state and federally listed Higgins eye (Lampsilis higginsi), state endangered butterfly (Ellipsaria lineolata) and state threatened buckhorn (Tritogonia verrucosa) has been confirmed at the proposed bridge site area along the Wisconsin side of the river.

To minimize impacts to the mussel population along the Wisconsin side of the river, mussels that occur in the river adjacent to the Wisconsin shore will be relocated out of areas where the river bottom will be disturbed by bridge construction or equipment used for construction. Although mussels will be relocated out of the project area, DNR staff determined that the proposed project may result in the incidental taking of some mussels outside of the relocation area.

Department staff concluded that the proposed project will minimize the impacts to the mussels by adhering to relocation and conservation measures; is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state populations of these species or the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action. This authorization does not cover mussels on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River.

The conservation and mitigation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the listed species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take or upon request from Rori Paloski at 608-264-6040. Public comments will be taken through Dec. 31, 2012 and should be sent to Rori Paloski DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

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