Locks and dams operating as normal, waterfowl seasons continue though federal properties are closed

On the first day of the shutdown, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put up this small barrier and posting at the entrance to the Sturgeon Slough Hiking Trail between Prairie du Chien and Marquette. There are various barriers and postings in the Prairie du Chien, Marquette and McGregor area. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Ted Pennekamp

The locks and dams on the Mississippi River, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will remain open for the duration of the federal government shutdown because commercial river traffic and flood control are considered core functions.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District spokesman George Stringham said that both lock and dam and dredging operations to keep the channel clear will continue during the shutdown, as they have been deemed vital government services. The locks will also be open for recreational boaters.

An operator at Lock and Dam 9 said that the shutdown isn’t affecting the operation of the Lock and Dam whatsoever. All of the regular personnel are on the job and work is continuing as normal.

Lock and Dam 9 is located south of Lynxville, and 12 miles north of Prairie du Chien. It serves as a step in the Upper Mississippi River water stairway of 29 locks and dams.

WISCONSIN DNR officials have not received information from the federal government indicating any changes to ongoing waterfowl hunting seasons. However, hunters need to be aware of closures to federal properties due to the federal government shutdown.

“Basically, when it comes to waterfowl hunting, it is business as usual. So get your stamp, grab your gear, follow the regulations and have a safe and enjoyable hunt. State wardens will be out on patrol as usual,” said Randy Stark, DNR Chief Warden. “The only difference is that access points to federal properties are closed.”

Those hunting along the Mississippi River should note that the US Department of the Interior has closed federal access points, federal river properties, and the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. However, citizens who gain legal access to the river via open launches are permitted to use the Mississippi River as well as state-owned properties for legal recreational activities, such as waterfowl hunting.

While National Forest campgrounds are closed, the National Forests in Wisconsin remain open to hunting.

“What this means is that federally-controlled lands, including certain islands in the river, will remain closed until reopened by federal authorities. But the waters of the Mississippi River, and other rivers, are open for public use, including waterfowl hunting,” said Tim Andryk, DNR Chief Legal Counsel. “Hunters will need to use state-managed launch sites, or private access points, if they have permission, to get onto the river. All Wisconsin state parks, trails, forests, wildlife and other properties remain open for public recreation and enjoyment.”

All existing Wisconsin waterfowl hunting regulations remain in place and can be found at dnr.wi.gov, search keyword “waterfowl.”

Wisconsin and Iowa DNR personnel are unaffected by the federal government shutdown and will continue to patrol the Mississippi River as always.

Boaters and anglers can also continue to launch boats and can fish in the Mississippi River as long as they launch from state-managed launch sites, city-managed launch sites such as those in Prairie du Chien, Marquette and McGregor, or from private launch sites.

On the first day of the shutdown on Tuesday, Oct. 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put up a barricade in front of the boat landing at Wyalusing State Park. The barricade was up for only a short time on Tuesday, however, and then taken down by park personnel.

Wisconsin DNR spokesperson Robert Manwell said, “We looked into it and we cited a 1961 agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service and we took down the barricade.” The landing has been open ever since and will continue to remain open, Manwell said.

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