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RIVER LIFE

Busy Day for News about Rivers

Sometimes it’s like that:  there will be a series of stories coming through the Google Alert thread that pertain to our river subjects.  Sometimes, of course, there’s a lot of news but it all pertains to bass tournaments and so forth, We aren’t (yet?) writing about bass tournaments.

In northeastern Wisconsin, a plan to build a transport system that will allow boats to bypass a closed lock is causing concern.  Even though there are several steps proposed that would supposedly clean boats passing through the system, as described in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, many people are wondering who would be benefited and what the risks would be in bypassing the lock.  Currently the lock separates waters from Lake Michigan from waters in the Lake Winnebago system, an important Wisconsin sport fishery.  Invasive species of concern include the sea lamprey, round goby and quagga mussel.

Farther south, the Sierra Club’s Three Rivers Project will team up with American Waters and the 1Mississippi campaign for a river cleanup on Saturday November 22 (must be a lot warmer there than here!).  The Three Rivers Project hosts the regional outreach assistant employed by the Mississippi River Network to develop the 1Mississippi campaign.  The purpose of 1Mississippi is to recruit 20,000 River Citizens, people who are committed to taking action to improve the health of the Mississippi River.  Full disclosure: we are in the process of working out the details to become the 1Mississippi host for the Minnesota-Wisconsin region.

Here in Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial board argues that plans for the 130 acre Ford truck plant site in St. Paul should be visionary, modeling what a 21st century community can become.  The site’s location on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River is one of its prime assets, and while there is general agreement that the site can be a model for the direction riverfront development should take, concerns remain on what exactly that direction should look like.  How much public green space is appropriate?  How tall should the buildings be?  What ongoing safeguards will be in place against the site’s polluted history?  The devil’s in the details.

Finally, again from the Star Tribune, there is a story reporting that Minnesota farmers are using more barges to transport their crop this year than usual, owing to the heavy use of rail cars by the North Dakota oil fields.  Navigation use of the Mississippi is a contentious issue, with well established talking points by the barge industry and commodity associations on one side and by large environmental groups on the other.  Both are partly right, in a general way, but the debate really needs to become much more specific and detailed before it can be understood properly.  This article does provide some good contextual details, although the usual platitudes in favor of navigation improvements are included as well.  Still, worth a careful, thoughtful read.

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2 Comments

  1. Greg GenzNovember 18, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Full Definition of PLATITUDE per “Merriam – Webster”

    1
    : the quality or state of being dull or insipid
    2
    : a banal, trite, or stale remark

    I am still looking for those platitudes in favor of navigation improvements in the article. I did read some facts about the navigation system. Your prejudice is showing! You will soon have your non-navigable waterway in Mpls. I just wish the Corps wouldn’t be allowed to operate Upper St. Anthony Lock as a flood spillway. I am all for returning the Miss. River to it’s “natural” state in Mpls. Now it won’t be those nasty towboats and barges ruining that dream, it will be hydro power facilities stopping it now.

  2. Patrick NunnallyNovember 18, 2014 at 11:59 amAuthor

    Fair call on the term “platitude” Greg, but I will take issue with your calling me out on “prejudice.” I have not “prejudged” that the river and our communities are not well served by expanding/enhancing navigation capacity; I have come to that position through careful and thoughtful consideration. I do disagree with you, but I still think we can disagree respectfully. I continue also to believe that the details of navigation enhancements on the river, in terms of a robust complete cost-benefit analysis, have not been widely distributed. Neither have the full details of ecological enhancement, to be fair.

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