State of the River Report FMR Policy Guide

Eagle over water

View/download a PDF of the FMR Policy Guide 2016. This guide is designed to be printed on 11×17 or tabloid paper. For best results, choose double-sided printing with binding on the short edge.


Please note: This guide is from 2016. We hope to reflect on each recommendation and report back on where we are now, five years later, in 2021. We'll be sure to share this as a Water blog update, along with other FMR and river news in our twice monthly Mississippi Messages.  


The State of the River Report 2016 illustrates that while in many ways the Mississippi River is cleaner and healthier than a generation ago there are a number of river impairments and disturbing trends that must be reversed to restore its health.

In this Policy Guide, Friends of the Mississippi River highlights the top 10 policy actions that decision–makers can take to help protect and restore the metro Mississippi River. 

While this list is far from comprehensive, the actions below represent excellent opportunities to greatly improve the overall health of the river by addressing many of the issues raised in the State of the River Report.

These recommendations will enhance public health and safety, improve river recreation, protect our drinking water, and enhance the economic vitality of communities throughout the Mississippi River watershed.

1. Promote perennial cropping systems

Improve water quality and farm profits by incentivizing conversion from annual crops to market-based perennial crops.

2. Improve chloride management

  • The state should adopt comprehensive chloride reduction legislation. This legislation should provide ongoing support for the state's chloride management activities and include:
  • Implement the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program to incentivize establishment of perennial crops and cover crops for use in biofuel production, green chemistry, biomass thermal energy and grazing programs;
  • Fully fund research and development of innovative, economically viable conservation crops through the University of Minnesota's Forever Green initiative; and
  • Adopt a state biofuels standard that requires one-third of the ethanol consumed in Minnesota automobile fuels be made from perennial crops and cover crops by 2025.

3. Continue bald eagle research

Provide long-term funding for eagle health and population research. In addition, the state, in concert with local communities, should develop and implement river reforestation plans to ensure healthy regeneration of cottonwood and other prime nesting and perching trees

4. Enhance river fish research

The state should implement consistent, comprehensive surveys of all fish in the metro Mississippi River. Natural resource staff must have the information they need to effectively manage aquatic life in the river. Unfortunately, the state lacks comprehensive data of fish populations, diversity and species mix. The state and other local partners should fund and implement regular, comprehensive evaluations of fish and aquatic life in the river.

5. Implement comprehensive drain tile reform

In many cases, agricultural drainage systems (drain tile) can be installed in crop fields without permits, reporting or any conservation requirements. The state should adopt legislation that includes the following:

  • Required permits for all new drain tile installations, so that state and local water managers can better understand the extent of these systems and their potential impacts on water quality and river hydrology;
  • Required or incentivized conservation systems installed on all new drain tiles, to better mitigate the impacts of artificial drainage; and
  • Comprehensive mapping of existing drainage systems to better manage and mitigate their impacts on surface waters.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers should modify lock operations to reduce recreational traffic wherever feasible, and manage lock operations to incorporate our growing understanding of invasive carp behavior, migration patterns and biology; and
  • Enhance long-term funding for research into the behavior and biology of invasive carp.
  • Amend the state's Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan to provide meaningful protections for our groundwater and drinking water throughout the state;
  • Amend the state's proposed Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule to compel farm operations to manage fertilizer use in a way that does not contaminate groundwater and drinking water sources; and
  • Establish conservation-based fertilizer recommendations that identify the maximum level of nitrate fertilizer that can safely be applied given local soils, weather, drainage and cropping systems.

6. Control invasive carp

Continue to fund research into how modifying flow through dam gates and installing carp-deterrent technologies such as bubble, electric and acoustic barriers in the locks can be most effective

7. Establish nitrate standards

Nitrate pollution can compromise aquatic life and is especially problematic downstream in the Gulf of Mexico. The state cannot effectively control this pollutant without science-based water quality standards. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency should adopt long-overdue nitrate standards to protect aquatic life in Minnesota's surface waters.

8. Advance microplastics research

Continue research into the sources and impacts of microplastics in surface waters and identify effective reduction strategies.

9. Improve fertilizer management

Excess agricultural fertilizers can impair surface waters, groundwater and drinking water supplies. Minnesota must:

10. Develop a statewide pharmaceutical management plan

Unused and expired pharmaceuticals including prescription medications are frequently disposed of down the drain, exposing surface waters and groundwater to potential contamination. Old and unused medicines can also pose a risk for accidental poisoning, theft and drug abuse. Currently, pharmaceutical disposal programs vary greatly at the local level, and no statewide pharmaceutical management plan is in place

  • Full funding to sustain and promote road salt application training for both public and private applicators;
  • Elimination or reduction of liability for private applicators who become certified in responsible salt application; and 
  • Research funding to develop new technology and alternatives to chloride-containing deicing chemicals..


Photo credit: Soaring Mature Eagle by J. Todd Poling


For additional State of the River Report-related content, see the table of contents above right or, on smaller screens, below.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Vermillion River Linear Park, Hastings
Thursday, May 23, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Riverside Park, St. Paul Park
Saturday, May 25, 2024 - 9:00am to 11:00am
Mississippi River Gorge Sand Flats, Minneapolis