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Stillwater lift bridge conversion may mean 'incidental take' of a rare species

MADISON -- The conversion of the Stillwater Lift Bridge to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge may result in the "incidental taking" of a mussel listed as a state endangered species under an authorization the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources proposes to issue for the project.

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, according to a press release issued Monday afternoon by the WDNR

The Minnesota Department of Transportation in coordination with Wisconsin DOT proposes to convert the Stillwater Lift Bridge over the St. Croix River from a highway bridge to a bridge carrying pedestrian and bicycle traffic, including repairs to stabilize the existing bridge and piers.

A new highway bridge is currently under construction south of Stillwater.

The presence of the state threatened rock pocketbook mussel (Arcidens confragosus) has been confirmed at the bridge site.

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. No other state or federally threatened or endangered mussel species known to occur in the St. Croix River are expected to be affected by the 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.

The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the endangered species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the species are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take public notice or upon request from Rori Paloski at 608-264-6040 or Lisie Kitchel at 608-266-5248.

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

For more information about this particular species of mussel, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/animals.asp?mode=detail&spec...

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