Willard Drysdale doesn’t care whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts dredged material from the Mississippi River in a gravel pit, or in a dump, or on the property of someone who wants it.
He is certain, though, all of that soil and all of that debris has no place on his family’s farm — a rolling parcel of pasture and cornfield, dotted with red barns and a big white farmhouse.
“They’re saving something by keeping the river open, but they’re burying something that’s productive: the farm,” Willard said Friday, during a visit from Sen. Amy Klobuchar and local leaders.
The group toured the Drysdales’ fourth-generation farm, which has become a hot spot for talk about the disposal of dredged material, as well as a 16-acre piece of land in Wabasha — land proposed as a material placement and transfer site.
“I’m optimistic we’ll find another solution,” Willard said. “We won’t let anything else prevail.”
Klobuchar says she has spoken directly with Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite of the Corps, pressing his agency to consider other possibilities for the dredge management plan.
They’ve talked about dumping the material in gravel pits, in dumps and on other private properties (properties whose owners would want the material), as well as finding beneficial uses for the material.
“They need to be creative here,” said Klobuchar, who backed a provision that allowed the Corps to study the beneficial use of dredged material at select pilot sites. “That, to me, makes a lot of sense as our country looks at dredging in the future.”
The farm has been in Drysdale hands since the late 1930s, but would be taken by the government through eminent domain under the Corps’ current plan.
Over the next four decades, the agency plans to remove more than 10 million cubic yards of material from the Mississippi’s Lower Pool 4, with the hope of easing transportation on the river. The Drysdale farm could take on 1.2 million cubic yards.
“I don’t know if there’s a better selling point than this view,” said Klobuchar, scanning a long stretch of cornfield between the deep-green bluffs. The Drysdales are “proud farmers with beautiful land, and they deserve better from their government. Slashing someone’s way of life is not how you treat them.”
The Corps’ current plan, if finalized, would have major negative impacts across Wabasha and the surrounding area, residents say.
A number of homeowners stand to lose their property, and local roads would become clogged with trucks hauling material from the placement and transfer site to various dumping sites.
Mark Jarstad, who lives along the potential truck route, told the Daily News last week: “(The Corps) couldn’t have picked a better area … if you wanted to adversely affect as many people as you can.”
Klobuchar’s visit to Wabasha was the second by a U.S. senator in the past week; Sen. Al Franken took a similar tour and met with concerned landowners Aug. 25.
The Drysdales say they’re fortunate to have the support of lawmakers with the power to influence the Corps’ final decision, which has no firm deadline.
“They want to take my pension and the future generations’ livelihood,” Willard said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re here or someone else is — they want to destroy something that’s productive.”