The Star Tribune reported Dec. 30 that recently passed congressional legislation will transfer about three acres of land around the St. Anthony Lock and Dam to the City of Minneapolis. The lock was closed to navigation in 2015.
However, a call to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) revealed that transfer of the land – and which specific pieces of land – is still up in the air. George Stringham, Corps of Engineers spokesperson, told the Northeaster they had not yet had time to go through the legislation and determine “what to keep and what’s eligible for transfer to the City of Minneapolis.” The legislation and its intent will be studied at the local level and at the Corps’ headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“What this legislation does is put us into fast-forward,” he said. “It’s not a done deal yet.” The Corps has been studying disposition of the site since the lock’s closing. Once they have a plan in place, the land transfer is to take place “as soon as practicable.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar was instrumental in passage of the bill.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2020, signed by President Donald Trump, will allow for enhanced public access to the Mississippi River at the lock and dam site in downtown Minneapolis, according to a press release from Friends of the Falls, an organization that has pushed for city ownership of the site. The act directs USACE to divest its interests in the surrounding property. However, the Corps will continue to operate the lock and maintain its current water management and flood mitigation programs. According to Friends of the Falls, continued professional management and flood mitigation is needed because the risk of flooding has increased with climate change.
The lock and dam are next to the site of the $30 million Water Works Park under development by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Friends of the Falls is looking into building a boat ramp or marina on to-be-opened land, and are consulting with Native American leaders about an interpretive site. St. Anthony Falls has been of great spiritual importance to the Dakota people in particular for centuries. The organization has raised $2.5 million from donors and is seeking another $2.8 million from Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund for the project.
Stringham said there is still time for the public to comment on the Corps’ draft report and environmental assessment. The report can be viewed and downloaded from the Corps’ St. Paul District website at: https://www.mvp.usace.army.mil/Home/Public-Notices/. Public comment is open until Feb. 15, 2021.
Below: Aerial view of the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam. The land which would transfer to the City of Minneapolis is at right. (Drone photo by Mike Madison)