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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”


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One Comment

  1. Greg GenzJanuary 4, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Oh, you can bet the River will fill with sediment. After the 2012 flood that inundated Duluth and affected the Upper Mississippi, especially in the Big Sandy Lake area, the channel above Lowry Avenue was filled in to 3′ deep. The Corps has been dredging the average of 70,000 cubic yards of sediment out of Upper Pool and Pool 1. Everyone seems to be worrying about excess sediment coming from the MN River. It is a concern born more out of the visuals from the Mouth, where you can see suspended solids. We need to start focusing on the Upper Mississippi’s sediment, which consists of mainly heavy particles/sand, that make up “bed load” and no one sees. The growth of the northern suburbs and exurbia are accelerating excess run-off from impervious surfaces and will be causing a serious growth in sediment deposition in “Minneapolis’ Mississippi”.
    Another sidebar to the sediment issue as pertains to the Twin Cities is, by having the Corps using the Mpls “pools” as sediment traps and excavating the sand in Mpls,, it allowed several things to happen in dealing with sediment management. The “cleaner ” sand dredged in Mpls had value and all of it was sold by the City of Mpls for fill on different projects. Now, the material, that will replaces the dredge material will have to be trucked in from suburban land-based pits. The other result is that the Upper Mississippi sediment will now exacerbate the sediment crisis happening in Pool 2. The “clean” sand will now mix with MN River “mud” and become non-marketable adding to the filling in of Pool2 and Lake Pepin.
    One must never be parochial when looking at the River, it is a living system and everything has a consequence everywhere!

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