Locks and Dams

Corps Plans Meetings On Minneapolis Locks

After a “false start” last year, in which scheduled public comment meetings had to be canceled due to lack of funding, the St. Paul Engineer District is once again seeking public input that will become part of a “disposition study” to determine the fate of the uppermost three locks on the Upper Mississippi River.

The study will likely be finished by December 2019, according to Nan Bischoff, a St. Paul District project manager. The authority for the study is Section 216 of the Flood Control Act of 1970.

Included in the study are locks at Upper and Lower St. Anthony Falls and Lock and Dam 1. The Corps is proposing to evaluate two primary alternatives for each site:

(1) no action, which would see the St. Paul District continue to operate the sites as-is; or

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(2) deauthorization by Congress of the Corps’ federal navigation missions at the sites, leading to disposal of the properties through the General Services Administration. Bischoff told The Waterways Journal that “disposal” could mean simply turning the properties over to other operators, rather than dismantling them.

The Upper St. Anthony Falls lock is already closed to all traffic. It was closed by Congress in June 2015 as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, ostensibly as part of efforts to combat encroaching Asian carp. The closure brought an end to commercial barging in downtown Minneapolis and removed it as head of navigation. The Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam opened on September 21, 1963.

Bischoff told The Waterways Journal that the Coast Guard has removed channel markers from Pool 1 above the lock. Since dredging the pool is a low priority for the district, and winter silt could have changed the channel, the Coast Guard didn’t want to leave markers that could have been misleading.

Many local interests, from environmentalists to real estate developers, want to see all three Upper Mississippi River locks closed. City planners want to “revitalize” the industrial riverfront north of St. Anthony Falls, which includes a now-disused barge terminal, with housing, businesses and a park.

Some environmentalists would like the see the Upper St. Anthony lock not only closed but completely removed, which would restore white-water rapids to downtown Minneapolis.
As part of the study, the St. Paul District will identify entities that may be interested in owning the properties.

The scoping process for the disposition study will include two public meetings:

• Monday, July 16 – 6-8 p.m. – Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis; and
• Tuesday, July 17 – 6-8 p.m. – Highland Park Sr. High Auditorium, 1015 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul

Comments concerning the scope of the study should be submitted to: District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, ATTN: Regional Planning and Environment Division North, 180 Fifth Street East, St. Paul, Minn. 55101-1638.

Questions on the study can be directed to Nan Bischoff at 651-290-5426 or Nanette.m.bischoff@usace.army.mil.

Additional information can be viewed at: www.mvp.usace.army.mil/MplsLocksDisposition/.

The scoping period for the study ends August 20. A draft report will be available for public review in spring 2019.