River Guardians' top questions, concerns about the future of the locks and dams

A kayaker paddles away from Lock and Dam 1 on a sunny June day in 2022.

The Army Corps of Engineers is considering the future of two Twin Cities locks and dams, including Lock and Dam 1 seen here. (Photo by FMR)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asked for your input. You answered.

The public submitted hundreds of comments to the federal agency in recent months, ahead of a disposition study that will consider the future of the Lower St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam and Lock and Dam 1. The first phase of this study, called scoping, is getting underway now. It will determine which questions, research and implications must be considered as the Corps weighs the costs and benefits of various future scenarios for these structures.

River Guardians submitted more than 170 of those public comments, highlighting important topics for the Army Corps to consider and asking vital questions about potential impacts to the environment, recreation opportunities, equity and more. (FMR prepared comments as well. You can read more about the questions and concerns we raised here.)

Here's an overview of River Guardians' comments.

A word cloud showing the most common topics mentioned by River Guardians in comments to the Army Corps.

A word cloud showing the most frequent topics included in comments submitted by River Guardians. The larger the term, the more often it was included in submissions.

Questions and concerns about the river gorge’s unique ecosystem were a top priority. Many River Guardians emphasized the importance of studying how the habitat might be affected by either the removal or continued maintenance of the dams, including the potential for the restoration of native fish and mussel populations. 

The Mississippi River's water quality was also of significant interest. Many people asked whether dam removal might improve water quality, or if surrounding infrastructure (such as stormwater outputs into the river) would still diminish efforts to improve the river's health. Polluted sediment built up behind Lock and Dam 1 was also raised as an issue worthy of more study, due to concerns about downstream impacts should the dams be removed. 

A group of River Guardians listening to a presentation given during a fall lock and dam boat tour.

800 community members have joined us for lock and dam presentations and tours this year, including this boat tour just for River Guardians. (Photo by FMR)

You also voiced interest in what dam removal might mean for recreational access to the river. While some are intrigued by the possibility of more trails and access to the river gorge, others emphasized the appreciation they have for the river and its recreational opportunities in its current dammed condition.

What comes next?

The future of our locks and dams is a challenging and nuanced issue, and it is clear the community is eager to learn more about what this might mean for the river and our communities. You can read more about the Army Corps' next steps in this FMR update.

You can also sign up to be a River Guardian. We’ll keep you informed with the latest news about the future of the locks and dams as we learn more.

Become a River Guardian

Sign up and we'll email you when important river issues arise. We make it quick and easy to contact decision-makers. River Guardians are also invited to special social hours and other events about legislative and metro river corridor issues.

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