Wisconsin DNR to move mussels for St. Croix project
TOWN OF ST. JOSEPH, Wis. (AP) — Crews will have to move thousands of mussels in the St. Croix River as part of the bridge project connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The more than 7,000 mussels will include three species that are protected or endangered and that play an important role in the river’s health, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Divers will take the mussels upstream this summer, said Lisie Kitchel, a conservation biologist and mussel expert with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She expects the project will cost about $50,000.
“The water’s pretty clear in the St. Croix,” Kitchel said. “It’s very sandy and you just kind of comb your fingers through the sand until you find a shell.”
Kitchel said the divers will move about 15 species, including the protected mussels, which are filter feeders and play the important roles of consuming algae and being a food source for other aquatic life.
“They tend to be found in beds with good diversity, so we take everything to maintain that diversity,” she said.
The mussels will be transferred to a suitable bed upstream in the hopes of protecting species such as the Higgins eye, which today can be found in only about 50 percent of its historic range, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.