Landowners could lose hundreds of acres for government use

Published: May. 26, 2017 at 8:38 PM CDT
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Landowners near the Mississippi River are in danger of losing hundreds of acres of land for government use.

10.2 million cubic feet of sand needs to be dredged from the Mississippi River where it meets the Chippewa River to keep a 9-foot navigation channel open according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers St. Paul District sent out a letter to multiple farmland owners near the Mississippi River informing them their properties were identified as “tentatively selected permanent sites” to place the sand that will be dredged. All-in-all, the Corps wants about 550 acres of land in Western Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Willard Drysdale of Wabasha, Minnesota says he owns close to 300 acres the Corps wants to take. It’s been his livelihood for his whole life and in his family for 4 generations.

“This farm is our livelihood,” Drysdale said. “It’s the way we make our living. We’ve kept it in the family to take care of it and that’s always been our intention. We really had no intention of ever selling it if we didn’t have to.”

The Corps is taking feedback from the landowners until June 9th. They will be reviewing the feedback and say they will take it into consideration going forward with the plan.

Jason Weisenbeck, who owns 78 acres the Corps selected as a tentative site, says it’s not good for the economy and that his property value will drop if it’s chosen.

“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,” Weisenbeck said. “They’re not looking at other alternatives to try to fix this problem.”

The Corps says it will be a 40-year plan. Landowners living close to properties where the sand could be placed are worried about what the sand could do to their health.

“The wind blows across right directly at me,” Betty Wieland from the Town of Nelson said. “I would be sand blasted to death.”

The Corps says the landowners will be compensated for their property. If the landowners don’t comply with the Corps, the land could be taken regardless.

“Eminent domain is what gives us the right to condemn the property,” Craig Evans, the Chief of Plan Formulations with the Corps, said. “Like I said, that would be our last resort.”

A public hearing will be held on June 6th at the Nelson Community Hall with those who would like to voice their opinion on the matter.