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Zebra mussels on barge delay St. Croix bridge work

A Wisconsin firm will de-contaminate almost 100 construction barges used to ship building materials to the site of the new Saint Croix River bridge near Hudson.

Preliminary work on the project was halted after Minnesota's DNR found dead invasive zebra mussels on six of eight barges hauled in by trucks to the site from Oshkosh and Milwaukee. None of the barges reached the river.

The DNR's Chris Niskanen said Edward Kraemer and Sons of Plain property treated the hulls of the barges with 190-degree water but they did not scrape the hulls.

Inspectors noticed the zebra mussels this week at a construction staging area on the Minnesota side of the river, and they notified that state's DNR. Kraemer's Bob Beckel said his firm will make sure the cleaning problem does not happen again.

The DNR is investigating the incident. Even if they got into the river, Niskanen said the waterway would not have been at risk. It's the second major delay for the four-lane Saint Croix bridge.

The first came as the result of bidding dispute by a Minnesota contractor that went to federal court last month. Wisconsin and Minnesota are splitting the cost of the new bridge, totaling around $620 million. It's due to open in 2016.