Divers have moved more than 4,000 rare and endangered mussels out of the way of a new bridge over the St. Croix River.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation hired divers to spend two weeks picking up the mussels off the river bottom. They included some rare Higgins eye mussels discovered in the area last fall. The mussels are on the federal endangered species list.
"The location that we're building the bridge is in an area where these mussels exist, and as part of our environmental process, in consultation with the DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and other agencies, it was determined that we needed to relocate these mussels and try to avoid the impact to them," said Jon Chiglo, project manager for the St. Croix Crossing project.
He said that the move clears the way for work to begin on a bridge pier on the Wisconsin side of the river. The three-year project will replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge as a connection for motorists between Minnesota and Wisconsin.