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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, completed the first ice measurements of the year on Lake Pepin, near Red Wing, Minn., Wednesday, Feb. 13.

The measurements help the navigation industry determine when it might be possible to get tows upstream to St. Paul, Minn. The lake is usually the last obstacle preventing northbound tows. Lake Pepin, located on the Mississippi River between Red Wing and Wabasha, Minn., is used as the benchmark because the ice melts slower in this area due to the lake width and the slower current.

Survey crews from the Corps' Fountain City Service Base in Fountain City, Wis., used an airboat and a global positioning system to identify the exact measurement locations. Surveys for River Mile 770 during the past five years are: Feb. 13, 2013, 19 inches; Feb. 15, 2012, 15 inches; Feb. 16, 2011, 22 inches; Feb. 17, 2010, 26 inches; and Feb. 18, 2009, 22 inches.

For many of those who live in the Midwest, the first tow of the season is the unofficial start of spring. The first tow to break through Lake Pepin in 2012 was the Motor Vessel Deana Ann, a tow operated Marquette Transportation Company, Inc., of Paducah, Ky., March 17. The average opening date of the navigation season in St. Paul for the last 10 years is March 20.

The Corps does not anticipate any up bound, out-of-town tows in Lake Pepin until at least March 15 due to ongoing construction at Lock and Dam 6 until March 11. Data from today's measurements and future surveys will be posted on the St. Paul District's website. For figures on past and present Lake Pepin ice measurements, see: http://www.mvp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation/IceMeasurements.aspx. The link goes to the district's new website. Please update your bookmarks accordingly.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, serves the American public in the areas of environmental enhancement, navigation, flood damage reduction, water and wetlands regulation, recreation sites and disaster response. It contributes around $175 million to the five-state district economy. The 700 employees work at more than 40 sites in five upper-Midwest states. For more information, see www.mvp.usace.army.mil.

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Page last updated Fri February 22nd, 2013 at 16:00