Grey Cloud Crossing: Mississippi Backchannel Restoration Through Reconnection

Tue, 10/2: 1:00 PM  - 3:30 PM 
IKE Sessions 
New Orleans Convention Center 
Room: Room 339 
After being cutoff from Mississippi River for over a half a century, flow has been restored to Grey Cloud Channel in Grey Cloud Island Township, MN. A 2.7 mile backchannel of the Mississippi River, the Grey Cloud Channel was originally cut off from any flow as a result of road raising to allow access to Grey Cloud Island during and following the Mississippi river floods in 1965. Without flow, the channel quickly transformed into a stagnant, low oxygen environment suitable only to rough fish. Moreover, the combination of algae, submergent plant growth, and sedimentation choked out nearly all recreational activities. This backwater channel means a lot to the Grey Cloud Island community, one of the smallest townships in the state with only 10 square miles of land and 125 households. The river and channel define the Grey Cloud Island community both physically and culturally. Spurred by a capstone project from a University of Minnesota engineering student, the Grey Cloud Island Township sought assistance from their local watershed management agency, the South Washington Watershed District (SWWD). After decades of interest and years of project development, including packed neighborhood meetings, a solution was selected and funding was secured. This 1.6 million dollar project includes removing a section of the existing road embankment, making way for a 42 foot clear span bridge (bottomless culvert). The new bridge serves a practical purpose, but the primary impetus behind the project was to improve habitat and water quality and recreation in the Grey Cloud Channel. Replacing the embankment with a bridge provides immediate water quality benefits by allowing water to flow freely again, and aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals will be able to travel through and establish in the channel - Restoration Through Reconnection. The area is part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, which is in the National Park System, and is also a designated Minnesota State Water Trail. The bridge opening is large enough for small boats and pontoons. Project construction began in early Fall of 2017 and was completed in 3 months. Project funding partners were the SWWD, Washington County, and the State of Minnesota's Clean Water Fund. SWWD developed a short video of the history, development, and impact of the project:

IKE Abstract Speaker

Andy Schilling, South Washington Watershed District  - Contact Me

IKE Co-author

John Loomis, South Washington Watershed District