The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining a 9-foot navigation channel as an important component of the inland navigation system.
The St. Paul District 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 St. Paul District navigation project 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
- Close monitoring of river bottom conditions
Since 2012, the Corps has dredged an average of 1,042,000 cubic yards annually at 35 locations using both federal and contract hydraulic and mechanical dredges. The Corps extensively plans and actively manages dredged material placement for beneficial use, using innovative, revolutionary, and technological solutions, including habitat and recreation activities, all while improving navigation safety and reducing dredging requirements. Since 2012, 100% of dredged material in the St. Paul District has been used beneficially.
Minimal channel widths and depths are present in a few areas and will require additional dredging 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 frequently engages stakeholders and local communities.
Capacity at temporary dredged material placement sites is maintained by periodically re-handling material to permanent locations as necessary. The district continues to develop dredged material management plans and has completed plans for pools 2,4,5, and 6. Dredged material management plans for pools 9 and 10 and a channel management study spanning pool 3 to upper pool 4 are currently underway.
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% federally funded except for 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 for the St. Paul District is approximately $30 million annually, and continues to increase, partially due to the increased cost of managing dredged material.