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
- Close monitoring of river bottom conditions
Since 2012, the Corps has dredged an average of 1,065,000 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 the long term to maximize beneficial use, including habitat and recreation activities, and improve navigation safety, all while reducing dredging requirements. Since 2012, 100% of the material dredged has gone towards beneficial use.
Minimal channel widths and depths are present in a few areas and will require additional dredging for the next couple 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 frequently engages stakeholders and local communities.
Capacity at temporary sites is maintained by periodically re-handling dredged material to permanent locations when available. A contract to unload 50,000 cubic yards of material from the Homer West site (Pool 6) was completed in December 2021.
The Corps continued planning on dredged material management plans for Pools 4 and 6 with public and agency outreach. Dredged material management plans were initiated in Pools 9 and 10 and a channel management study continues in Upper Pool 4.
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 in MVP is approximately $20 million annually.