St Paul, MN ( KROC AM News) - A sign of spring in southeast Minnesota is scheduled to begin next week.

The US Army Corps of Engineers will begin taking this year's annual Lake Pepin ice measurements on Wednesday.

The Corps takes ice measurements on the lake annually to forecast the navigational outlook on the Upper Mississippi River. Located between Red Wing and Wabasha, the lake is the location of choice for these measurements because it’s the last part of the navigation channel where the ice breaks up due to slower river currents.

A Corps survey crew uses an airboat and a global positioning system to collect the data. The information is used by the navigation industry to predict when it's safe to break through the ice and begin the 2016 navigation season.

Last year, the Motor Vessel New Dawn was the first tow to pass through Lake Pepin and reach St. Paul.  That was one March 25. The average opening date of the navigation season in St. Paul for the last 10 years is March 24.  Ongoing work at Lock and Dam 9 near Lynxville, Wisconsin will prevent tows reaching Lake Pepin until after the construction is complete.  It’s scheduled to be completed March 17.

Normally, ice measurements are completed weekly, or biweekly, until the navigation season begins.