Government Threatens to Take Hundreds of Acres from Fourth-Generation Farm

Under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' current proposal, the Drysdale family farm in Wabasha could lose nearly 300 acres of land.

Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

WABASHA, Minn. – A family farm in Wabasha could have hundreds of acres confiscated for government use.

As Alpha News previously reported, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, over 10 million cubic feet of sand needs to be dredged from the Mississippi River where it meets the Chippewa River over the next 40 years. With unusually high volumes of sand needing to be removed from the river over the next four decades, the project will require permanent placement sites. However, with the Corps’ current permanent placement sites full, local landowners could be forced to hand over hundreds of acres to the government.

Earlier this month, the Corps of Engineers St. Paul District sent out a letter to landowners near the Mississippi River, informing the farmers that their properties were identified as “tentatively selected permanent sites” to store the sand that will be removed from the river. The Corps’ estimates they will need 550 acres to adequately store all the sand, and over half may come from one family farm.

Under the Corps’ current proposal, nearly 300 acres could be taken from the Drysdale family farm in Wabasha for a permanent storage site. The proposal shocked the family, who learned about the potential devastating changes to their farm when they received the notice in the mail.  

“It’s not right to take up prime, irrigated, continuous flat farm ground when we are surrounded by wasteland, old rock quarries,” Chelsey Drysdale, the fourth generation to farm on the land, told Fox 9. “There are several other places it could go.”

In a hearing at the Wabasha-Kellogg Public School auditorium Thursday, members of the community expressed their disapproval of the plan. Kare 11 reports dozens of people spoke at the meeting, and not one person was in favor of the proposal. The land grab has farm owners worried. While they are supportive of dredging, some fear losing farmland would have a negative impact on the local economy.

Farmers like the Drysdale family may not have a choice whether to turn over their land. While the Corps intends on compensating the landowners for their property, if the landowners choose not to comply with the government’s request, eminent domain would allow the Corps to condemn the property.

“We won’t simply take the land, we will compensate them for it,” Col. Sam Calkins from the Corps told Fox 9. “I know that’s not a good answer for someone who planned to farm their land the next 40 years, but the sand has to go somewhere.”

Farm owners and politicians are joining together, asking the Corps to find a new location. While there will be no more public meetings on the proposal, the Corps extended the comment period to June 23 to accommodate the growing public interest in the project.

Christine Bauman