Public comment sought for new Pig's Eye islands

by Alex Roth

Pig's Eye Lake is a favorite spot in our local flyway for pelicans, who will benefit from the new islands. (Photo by Monica Bryand for Great River Passage.)

Using dredged material from their channel maintenance work in the Mississippi's main stem, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may begin building new islands in Pig's Eye Lake in East Side St. Paul's riverfront park in early 2021.   

But before they do, Ramsey County, which owns much of the surrounding parkland, has put the project on pause to gather public comments and feedback.  

Shannan Prather recently wrote about the island-building and effort to gather public input effort for the Star Tribune. As our executive director Whitney Clark stated in the article, FMR supports the project overall, and would also like to see project planners "really consider including climate-adaptive species and use this opportunity to understand more about habitat restoration in the era of climate change.”

Our take

As we've written previously, when the Corps announced the island-building project, it was met with a fair share of concern and negative feedback. But FMR ultimately decided to support the project, seeing that potential gains — creating habitat and reducing shoreline erosion — far outweigh the possible negative impacts. 

FMR is excited about the additional wildlife habitat and has been communicating with the Corps about ways to make the most of the islands' creation in relation to climate change since 2018.

Our ecologists have once again submitted a letter of support — this time to the county — for the project's main objectives, namely creating habitat for wildlife and mitigating erosion. But the main purpose of our letter remains to urge the Corps to go further — to use the islands as living laboratories where we can learn more about what makes Mississippi River habitat more climate-resilient. 

Each island's relative isolation makes it a perfect place to experiment and investigate the establishment and growth of plant communities, and their effects on wildlife and other ecological processes.

With over 50 island-building projects along the Mississippi River over the last 30 or so years, we know the Corps can create healthy islands for our waters and wildlife. What we don't know is how climate change will impact them. 

How you can help

Learn more about the project out the Ramsey County information page, complete with video and PDF/map overviews.

Then submit your comments via the page or send them directly to parks@ramseycounty.us with the subject "Pigs Eye Lake comments." Here are our comments again, in case you share similar values and concerns and want to review them before you make yours.

There will also be a public virtual community meeting with updates about the plan and a chance to provide feedback and ask questions of project planners, Thursday, Sept. 17, noon-1 p.m. RSVP to receive event links.

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