Surveying the Upper Mississippi River

By Elizabeth StoeckmannJanuary 15, 2024

Surveying the Upper Mississippi River
(left to right) David Potter, biologist, and Molli Naber, economist, survey the Upper Mississippi River in Minneapolis with the help of the National Park Service as part of the ongoing disposition studies, Sept. 22. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Stoeckmann) VIEW ORIGINAL

Paddle boats, dog park use and birdwatchers were just a few of the things Corps officials observed of river patrons during the summer months on a river well known to the city.

Evaluation of recreational use provides valuable data points for officials studying the disposition of Lower St. Anthony Falls and Lock and Dam 1, both located within the city of Minneapolis. The Mississippi River is not just a recreational resource. Barges and tows move approximately 175 million tons of freight each year on the Upper Mississippi through the navigation system.

“With the help of the National Park Service, we are observing every type of interaction with the water involving recreation,” David Potter, biologist, said. “We start from the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Minnesota River through Lock and Dam 1, through Lower St. Anthony Falls and terminating at Upper St. Anthony Falls.”

The disposition study evaluates whether it’s in the federal interest to continue ownership of the two Minneapolis locks and dams and the maintenance associated with the Mississippi River navigation channel between the lock sites. The study will consider different scenarios for the locks and dams and other commercial navigation infrastructure while weighing the costs and benefits.

“We are able to directly get on the river and physically see the public’s interaction with the river and document activities that include fishing from shore or boat, dog walkers, wildlife viewing and watercraft use like powerboats, kayaks, canoes and sports rowing,” Potter said.

“Accounting for all users on the river allows us to quantify overall usage and value to the local economy,” Molli Naber, economist, said. “This is very important to the disposition study.”

Alternatives may include deauthorization, full or partial disposal of the locks and dams, modifications and removal. If disposal is recommended, the locks and dams or portions thereof could be transferred out of federal ownership to a willing local, state or other federal agency.