The St. Paul District is responsible for maintaining the 9-foot navigation channel on the Minnesota River from the mouth in St. Paul, Minnesota, to river mile 14.7 in Savage, Minnesota, and 4-foot channel depth from river mile 14.7 to 25.6 in Shakopee, Minnesota. Annual channel maintenance actions are required to maintain the congressionally authorized 9-foot channel depth. These channel maintenance activities consist of dredging, snag removal, and close monitoring of channel conditions.
The St. Paul District dredges approximately 19,000 cubic yards of material per year from seven distinct locations on the Minnesota River. Both government and contract hydraulic and mechanical dredges are used. Dredged material is actively managed to maximize beneficial use of the material and to minimize adverse environmental impacts within the riverine environment.
Annual operation and maintenance is required to ensure safe and reliable navigation. Coordination with project users, other river resource agencies, and the public is crucial to a successful program.
Operational agreements have been developed with state regulatory agencies to facilitate channel maintenance. The Lower Minnesota River Watershed District is the non-federal sponsor for the project; they are responsible for acquiring and maintaining dredged material placement sites.
The Minnesota River 9-foot channel navigation project is the head of navigation for the Upper Mississippi River navigation project. Several of the nation's largest agri-business corporations (Cargill, Cenex, and Bunge) operate terminals on the Minnesota River and depend upon a reliable navigation system for movement of commodities. The Minnesota River transports approximately one-fourth of the 16 million tons annually shipped in and out of Minnesota with an annual economic value of more than $362 million. Commodities transported on the Minnesota River include corn, soybeans, wheat, limestone, salt and fertilizer.
As part of the Dredged Material Management Plan, a placement site was constructed on land acquired from Cargill in 2010. This plan provides for long-term management of dredged material generated from the Minnesota River for both the Corps and private industry.
In 1892, the Rivers and Harbors Act authorized the maintenance of a 4-foot navigation channel from the mouth to mile 25.6. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1958 authorized the existing 9-foot navigation channel.
Operation and maintenance of the project is funded under the Corps of Engineers Civil Works Operation and Maintenance appropriation through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The average annual funding for the maintenance of the navigation channel on the Minnesota River for fiscal years 2019 through 2023 was $212,000. Funding was not included in the fiscal year 2020 president’s budget. The president’s 2024 budget includes $290,000.