The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining a 9-foot navigation channel as an important component to the inland navigation system.
The St. Paul District (MVP) is responsible for maintaining 244 miles of the Upper Mississippi River 9-Foot Channel Navigation Project from the head of navigation at Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Guttenberg, Iowa. The navigation project also includes the lower navigable portions of the Minnesota, St. Croix, and Black rivers.
The navigation project in MVP is achieved primarily by a series of 13 locks and dams and channel maintenance. Channel maintenance is required to ensure safe, reliable navigation and consists of multiple methods:
- Channel control structures such as wing dams, closing dams and bank revetments;
- Debris or “snag” removal;
- Accurate channel marking; and
- Close monitoring of river bottom conditions.
Since 2009, MVP has dredged an average of 1,060,000 cubic yards annually at 32 locations using both federal and contract hydraulic and mechanical dredges. The Corps extensively plans and actively manages dredged material placement for the long term to maximize beneficial use, including habitat and recreation activities, and improve navigation safety, all while reducing dredging requirements. Since 2009, 100 percent of the material dredged was placed at beneficial use sites.
Channel conditions in MVP are poor due to significant flooding in 2019. Minimal channel widths and depths have been maintained and will require additional dredging for the next several years to allow unrestricted navigation. Coordination and flexibility with stakeholders and the public is crucial. The Corps has developed operational agreements with state regulatory agencies, and engages stakeholders and local communities.
Capacity at temporary sites is maintained by periodically re-handling dredged material to permanent locations when available. The Corps is working on awarding a contract to re-handle material from McMillan Island (Pool 10). Construction is expected to take place in August through November 2020.
A dredged material management plan was completed for pool 5 in February 2020 and planning continues for pools 2, 4 and 6 with public and agency outreach. The Corps initiated a channel management study in Pool 10 in 2017 and will complete the study in 2020.
Congress authorized the Upper Mississippi River 9-Foot Channel Navigation Project via the Rivers and Harbors Act on July 3, 1930. Channel maintenance is 100 percent federally funded with the exception of short segments of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and on the Minnesota River. Non-federal sponsors are responsible for furnishing dredged material placement sites on those segments.
The federal cost of channel maintenance in MVP is approximately $20 million annually.