Construction on Minnesota Loop Trail Underway in Stillwater

Construction of the Minnesota portion of the 4.7 mile St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail is underway.

Loop Trail construction will take place in phases from now until 2017. This year’s construction will focus on the stretch of trail from north of Sunnyside Marina to north of Nelson Street in downtown Stillwater.

This week, the contractor is working to secure a historic wall along the future trail and removing some trees and other vegetation.

When the St. Croix River Crossing is complete in fall 2016, the Stillwater Lift Bridge will be converted for bicycle and pedestrian use. The Loop Trail will cross the St. Croix River at the Lift Bridge and on the St. Croix River Crossing bridge.

The main portion of the Minnesota Loop Trail will be constructed in 2015 and 2016, with final connections made in 2017. Construction of the Wisconsin portion of the project will happen in 2017.

Trail sections will be open for use after they are constructed. When complete, the Loop Trail will also connect to existing local and regional trails such as the Browns Creek Trail in Minnesota and trails in Wisconsin.

The conversion of the Stillwater Lift Bridge to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge may result in the “incidental taking” of the rock pocketbook mussel, which is listed as an endangered species in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Monday announced that it plans to authorize the “incidental taking” of the endangered mussel for the project.

According to the Wisconsin DNR’s news release, incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.

When the Lift Bridge is converted to pedestrian use, repairs to stabilize the existing bridge and piers will take place.

“DNR staff determined that the proposed bridge repairs may result in the incidental taking of some mussels, and the agency proposes to authorize the incidental taking of rock pocketbook mussels for the project,” the news release reads. “No other state or federally threatened or endangered mussel species known to occur in the St. Croix River are expected to be impacted by this project as proposed.

DNR staff concluded that the proposed temporary repairs will minimize impacts to the mussels by adhering to conservation measures; is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state populations of this species or the whole plant-animal community of which it is a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.”

Conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the endangered species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization, according to the Wisconsin DNR.

Here is a copy of jeopardy assessment and background information on the species.

Public comments on the authorization will be taken through Sept., 25 and should be sent to Rori Paloski or Lisie Kitchel, Conservation Biologist, WDNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

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