Every year, American Rivers puts out its “Most Endangered Rivers” list, an event that serves to rally the river advocacy community around a few top threats around the country. Every year, the list, found here, highlights small formerly-obscure rivers as well as a few of the “headliners,” such as the Colorado or the Mississippi. While the threats are disheartening, the range of efforts being made to address those threats is always instructive.
One thing that stood out on this year’s list is the number of rivers that are listed because of “outdated water management” that pays insufficient to the range of goods and services that our rivers provide. It seems to me that a systematic study of those water management plans, and how they might be improved, combined with examples of really good water management plans, would be a great study, highly valuable to all of us engaged in this work of planning toward sustainable, multi-functional rivers.
Another interesting question: how has the Most Endangered list changed over time and what do those changes tell us? If the earlier threats aren’t showing up as rationales for inclusion, does that mean the “state of the rivers” is improving, at least in terms of response to some types of threat?
Anyone know of such a study, or one approximating it? Maybe we’ll have to start one up here–got a lot of students looking for good projects!
In February, we convened an afternoon of presentations by University of Minnesota faculty to hear about work being done on the Mississippi River, and to foster a discussion of next steps.
In this video, you can hear from Carissa Schively-Slotterback, Associate Professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, as she talks about her work as the Director of the Urban and Regional Planning Program, and as the founder and faculty director of the Resilient Communities Project.
Planning for the long term health and vitality of the Mississippi River corridor in the Twin Cities should get a strong boost tonight when the St. Paul City Council votes on whether to adopt the “Great River Passage plan, which sets a framework for development and preservation for the next several decades. Articles here and here provide more detail on the plan and supporters’ goals.
When combined with the “River First” plan for Minneapolis’ riverfront above St. Anthony Falls, the St. Paul action ensures that some 30 miles of urban riverfront has a framework for planning and design well into the 21st century.
The importance of these plans cannot be overstated. The challenges facing urban riverfronts, particularly on the Mississippi, are complex and dynamic; a solid yet flexible approach to public investment on these corridors is absolutely necessary if waterfronts are to be the engines of urban placemaking going forward.
Stay tuned to this site for further updates on systemic Mississippi River challenges and solutions; in the meantime read the plans and participate in the local riverfront efforts.
And, with a forecast for 6-10 inches of snow in the Twin Cities (yes, it is April, but spring hasn’t come to us yet), dream of bike rides to come along restored urban riverfronts!
An article by Doug Smith in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune discusses the increasing complexity of some of the problems that concern the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It’s not enough any more just to try to figure out of to provide enough walleyes for all the fishermen in the state. Instead, land use change and habitat loss, overuse of water resources (see Josephine Marcotty’s fine article sounding the alarm on diminished water in the state), pending climate change, all are issues that require new, more complex thinking and awareness of the state’s interconnected resource systems. Read more →
While it’s true that the title of this post could refer to pretty nearly anything, today the subject is the Dakota War of 1862 or, more properly, one particular reaction to it.
On Wednesday January 9, the St. Paul City Council passed a resolution commemorating the Dakota War, recognizing 2013 as “The Year of the Dakota,” and directing the city’s parks and recreation department to work with Dakota people and identify Dakota names for places on the Mississippi River in the city that are important to Dakota people. Read more →
Most of the e-chatter on the Mississippi River these days is about dropping water levels and threats to navigation. But last week the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources made an important announcement concerning efforts to stymie the encroachment of Asian carp up the river. As reported here and elsewhere, the DNR is recommending that a sound-and-light barrier be constructed at Lock and Dam #1 (Ford Dam) between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The barrier would not be 100% effective (nothing except permanently closing the lock would be 100% effective) but it would be comparable to the electric barriers now in place on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship canal. DNR officials expect that the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and manages the lock, would be very reluctant to allow the electronic barrier, if they did not prohibit it outright.
The Army Corps of Engineers is not used to being in the position of “good guys,” but their comments in this Washington Post article appear to be the reasonable ones in the dispute.
No one disputes that the Mississippi River’s water level is dropping due to the historic drought that is gripping the middle of the continent. Shipping industry organizations, though, argue that the response should be to do whatever is necessary, and spend whatever money is available, to ensure that the river is the “deepest, safest channel” for moving goods.
The Corps agrees, but only to a point, mindful that it has a mandate to try to manage the Mississippi and the system of rivers that feed it, for multiple uses.
I’ve written elsewhere about this business of seeing the Mississippi as a system for humans to manage, so I won’t go there now. Suffice it to say, it will be an interesting few weeks as the river continues to drop.
There is a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth concerning low water levels on the Mississippi River this winter. Several months of drought will reduce water levels, you know. And some of us have a hard time getting our head wrapped around the fact that 18th months or so ago, the river saw some of the highest floods on record. What’s going on here? Read more →
It’s been about a month now since Hurricane Sandy walloped (great word there—haven’t gotten to use it since I was a sportswriter as an undergraduate!) the New York City region and spread devastating impacts across most of the northeastern quarter of the United States. Immediate post-storm analysis touched on a number of topics important to our work, including climate change, water and cities, water infrastructure and resilience. Some of the more thoughtful reflections include:
Think “sustainability” and “resilience” mean the same thing? Then you should read this piece from The Atlantic Cities on how the important distinction between the terms comes to light in Sandy’s aftermath. Read more →
I’ve been in this business long enough to remember when folks interested in the Mississippi River could really gather in a not-so-big room and talk together about the work we were doing to connect the river better to our communities and our lives. The discussions crossed interest groups and sectors, included representatives from various levels of government, and often resulted in small groups or clusters breaking away to focus on getting work done on the ground.
So for me, last week marked something of a milestone: four highly distinctive, yet connected, meetings within a seven day span, all concerning the Mississippi River directly or indirectly, and with almost no overlap of participants. The rundown: Read more →