Pigs Eye Lake Island Building Project

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Project background

Pigs Eye Lake is located in Battle Creek Regional Park. In 2012, Ramsey County Parks & Recreation staff reached out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Saint Paul District, to identify a need for environmental restoration within Pigs Eye Lake. The combination of low-quality habitat and the abundant wildlife suggests that habitat improvement could help the local ecosystem significantly. 

In 2015, funding became available for a feasibility study and work began to identify the project scope, objectives, coordination, stakeholders and process for developing the feasibility study with an integrated Environmental Assessment. 

Island building

The Corps, in close collaboration with Parks & Recreation, has completed the feasibility study on constructing habitat enhancements in Pigs Eye Lake. The project will enhance and restore backwater habitat by creating island and wetland features. Project features include seven islands, sand benches, marsh habitat and land plantings. These will improve aquatic and land habitat as well as maintaining the shoreline of Pigs Eye Lake. This project will also allow us to utilize dredged material from the Mississippi in an environmentally beneficial way. Dredged material will be tested by MPCA standards and will only be used if it passes analysis.

Master plan

A separate, focused Pigs Eye master plan will address phased natural resource improvements for the island building project, other natural resource activities and public protection for the Ramsey County section of Pigs Eye Lake. 

Goals

  • Improve aquatic habitat – Create depth and habitat diversity in Pigs Eye Lake. Increase acreage of aquatic vegetation. Incorporate structural habitat features to promote fisheries.
  • Improve the quantity and quality of habitat for migratory bird species – Create suitable habitat for migratory birds such as dabbling ducks within Pigs Eye Lake.
  • Maintain or enhance the quantity of shoreline habitat – Protect existing floodplain forest and marsh habitat along the shoreline of Pigs Eye Lake from wind and wave erosion.

Funding

The total estimated project cost is $15.6 million. The Corps' Operation and Maintenance budget would provide $3.2 million toward the project. The remaining $12.4 million would be cost-shared by the Section 204 program ($8.1 million) and the local sponsor, Ramsey County ($4.3 million). Parks & Recreation was awarded the $4.3 million from the Lessard-Sam’s Outdoor Heritage Council during the 2019 legislative session.

Timeline​

  • Feasibility study – 2015 - 2018.
  • Final design – fall 2019 - 2020.
  • Project construction – summer 2021.
  • Complete construction – fall 2024.

Project status

The project team completed a feasibility study. The 30-day public comment period ended on April 12, 2018, and the feasibility study integrated Environmental Assessment Worksheet Record of Decision was finalized in accordance with the Minnesota Environmental Protection Agency and the National Environmental Policy Act. All comments received from the public comment period were included within the finalized Feasibility Study EAW Record of Decision.

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners and United States Army Corps of Engineers approved a Project Partner Agreement in June 2019 to move into the next phase of the project for final design and construction. 

During final design, several components will be addressed – island design, vegetation management and construction implementation. Public involvement opportunities will be informative only and will consist of an open house to illustrate final design outcomes. 

Community engagement

The project feasibility report was made available for public review and was open for comment from March 2018 through April 2018.

Public coordination was conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act requirements and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Ramsey County published and requested comment concurrently as part of Minnesota Environmental Policy Act requirements and the project was published in the Minnesota EQB Monitor.

There was extensive agency coordination and support from subject matter experts, consisting of local, state and federal agencies that had direct involvement in the development and approval of this feasibility study, including:

  • Ramsey County.
  • City of Saint Paul.
  • Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District.
  • Metropolitan Council.
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation.
  • Army Corps of Engineers.
  • National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. 

The National Park Service, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation and Friends of the Mississippi River submitted supporting letters for the project and are included in the master plan appendix.

Additional outreach was conducted with a virtual community meeting for the Pigs Eye Lake master plan amendment on September 17, 2020, during which questions and concerns from the public were addressed.

Frequently asked questions

General information

Dredged material

Environmental impact

Additional island building resources

Resource information on island building is available through:

Additional project-related documents are available upon request. Email Parks & Recreation.