A historic shift for the Mississippi River in Minneapolis: ecological impacts being studied
Last summer, when the Upper St. Anthony lock closed for good (at least as permanently as anything done through federal policy-making) there was considerable discussion about changes in the ways the river and adjacent corridor might be used. Would the absence of barge traffic through the lock spell the end of industrial waterfront uses above the falls?
The jury is still out on that, but in the meantime another study of potential impacts has begun. The Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership, working with the River Life program as well as several other partners, has received a grant from the State of Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Together we are studying the ecological and physical attributes of the river between the Coon Rapids Dam upstream and the lock/dam at the site of the old Ford Plant in St. Paul, just upstream from the junction with the Minnesota River. We’re trying to establish baseline data on a number of conditions such as sediment load, presence and density of mussel populations, and river bed conditions, so that we can assess changes over the next 3-5 years.
The Mississippi River is, of course, a very complex system even up here. Some people have worried that the absence of Corps of Engineers dredging will cause the river to “fill in” with silt. Others see the absence of navigation as an opportunity to manage the river for recreation and ecological benefits.
Whatever the future management and policy decisions are for the river in Minneapolis, they should be informed by good science. Good science starts with close observation and analysis of the data. Stay tuned–we’ll know more in a few months!
For more on our study, and comments from our partners, see “Study to review effects of retiring a stretch of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis”