Locks and Dams

Corps Puts Off Decision On Twin Cities Locks

The St. Paul Engineer District is delaying plans to dispose of three Mississippi River locks and dams near the Twin Cities.

For a year, the Corps had been considering the fate of the three locks and dams in a single disposition study. But the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill that was signed into law in October 2018 directed the Corps to break the disposition study into two studies: one considering Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam and the other looking at Lower St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam and Lock and Dam 1.

Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam has been closed to commercial traffic since 2015 in response to concerns about the spread of Asian carp. The move was strongly supported by Minnesota’s congressional delegation, and the enabling law was included in the 2014 Water Resources and Reform Development Act.

Two sections of the 2018 WRDA affect the disposition study. Section 1168 specifies that a broader consideration of the effects of infrastructure removal—including environmental effects—should be included in any disposition study.

Section 1225 addresses the lock and dam study specifically and  provides guidance. George Stringham, public affairs officer for the St. Paul District, told The Waterways Journal that while the district is planning  public meetings over the next few months, it is awaiting further guidance from Corps headquarters before announcing their dates and times.

In the Twin Cities, a vigorous debate has been taking place about whether or not to completely decommission the locks and dams. Some environmental interests were initially enthusiastic about the idea of removing all three locks and dams and returning the river to a “wild” state. But numerous other local interests expressed concern about the effects of such a move, saying it could threaten historic riverside properties and entail millions of dollars in costs.