Boat Groundings on Lake Pepin Lead to Study

November 30, 2017 07:06 PM

While the summer boating season has come to an end, it is still the topic of conversation around Lake Pepin - the iconic lake that forms the wide part of the Mississippi River near Red Wing.

Boat groundings this summer were at an all-time high, with at least 30 boats needing rescue.


"Yeah, that was one area where we had more tow calls than any other time," said Zach Paider, the general manager of Bill's Bay Marina.

WATCH: Chopper 5 Footage of Lake Pepin

Paider shared pictures of some of the rescues he made after boaters became stranded.

"Sometimes we're taking a paddle board to their boat, sometimes we're walking out in ankle deep water to get there," he said. "It's a lot of work sometimes. But if they are lightly grounded, we can usually pull them off."

Rylee Main with the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance said the problem was sediment which moves down the river and collects at the opening to the lake.

"If you think about the height of the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, a full city block, that is how much sediment is flowing in every year," she said.

Heavy barges with high-tech electrical equipment rarely have problems, but recreational boaters who accidentally stray from the main path of the river are getting stuck.

"I wouldn't be surprised if next year is a little bit worse," Main said.

Main is now working with both the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources to study the river, then dredge certain areas.

"Part of our goal working with the Army Corps of Engineers is not only dredging, but constructing islands and extending some existing islands, so the areas we dredge don't fill right back in with sediment," she said.

A feasibility study is already underway. Main says they will likely get more than $6 million in federal funding for the project, but will need at least $3 million more. Requests will go out to communities around the lake soon.

Main said dredging could begin in 2019.


Jessica Miles

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