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Working to protect the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities area
In the fall of 2007, FMR organized and facilitated a series of stakeholder meetings designed to assist the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in responding to a mandate from the state legislature. The DNR is required to report on the status of the state Critical Area program for the Mississippi River corridor in the Twin Cities region.
Final Report to the DNR (1.1 MB PDF)
The goal of the stakeholder process was to gather and document input from corridor cities, river businesses and developers, and environmental, civic and neighborhood groups about the strengths and weaknesses of the Mississippi River Critical Area program and possible solutions to ensure protection of this local, state and national resource.
Sixty stakeholders participated in the three input meetings organized by stakeholder group (Business: 12, Government: 24, Citizen: 24), and 24 returned for the all-stakeholder meeting held in early November.
There was a surprising amount of agreement and overlap among stakeholder groups with regard to the strengths and weaknesses of the program, but there was less agreement about how and what potential solutions would best address protecting corridor resources. In spite of some differences, several options proposed had general agreement from all groups, including maintaining a unique state management framework for a significant resource, strengthening the partnership with the National Park Service, increasing interagency coordination, establishing a process for early input by the DNR and other stakeholders, and providing outreach and technical assistance to corridor communities.
Detailed descriptions and discussion of each of the proposed options is included in a final report to the DNR (1.1 MB PDF). The report documents the stakeholder engagement process facilitated by FMR, catalogues the opinions and observations of meeting participants, summarizes the identified strengths and weaknesses, and analyzes management options developed in the stakeholder engagement process. It also contains as appendices a comprehensive set of materials associated with the process, including meeting attendees, meeting summaries, and other items.
The DNR will incorporate portions of this report into their report to the state legislature, which is due on February 1, 2008.
The FMR-led stakeholder engagement meetings were funded by the DNR and the Mississippi River Fund.
Laws of Minnesota 2007, Chapter 57, Art. 1, Sec. 4, Subd. 8 directs the DNR, in consultation with the Environmental Quality Board, to report by February 1, 2008, on the Mississippi River critical area program. The report must include the status of critical area plans, zoning ordinances, the number and types of revisions anticipated, the nature and number of variances sought, and recommendations to adequately protect and manage the “aesthetic integrity and natural environment” of the river corridor.
The Mississippi River Critical Area corridor was designated over 30 years ago, extending approximately 72 miles and encompassing portions of some 30 governmental subdivisions. This report will address the status of plans and ordinances, discuss variances to the ordinances, and include options and recommendations for improving critical area management, especially for protecting the river corridor’s visual and natural amenities. DNR will complete the report, primarily using existing staff and resources. Staff will conduct a survey of local government units within the Critical Area corridor to obtain first-hand information on the status of critical area plans and ordinances, community perspectives on the program, and ascertain the number and types of variances sought and issued in each community. The DNR, with the assistance of Friends of the Mississippi River and research consultant Dave Dempsey, will convene a stakeholder group to provide input on management issues, to help develop alternative or improved management strategies, and to identify programmatic, statutory or rulemaking requirements or obstacles to improvement.
The report will provide background and discuss roles of the Environmental Quality Board, the Met Council, DNR, and the National Park Service/MNRRA. It will discuss the status of critical area plans and ordinances in each of the communities, and it will include information received from the survey of local units of government. There will be a discussion of issues with the current management scheme, and a discussion of potential management options and the statutory, funding or other changes necessary to implement each.
Final Report to the DNR (1.1 MB PDF)
Critical Area Program History and Summary (72 KB PDF)
Critical Area Map with Districts (140 KB PDF)
The DNR’s web site on the Mississippi River Critical Area Program Includes links to:
Connecting with Minnesota’s Urban Rivers (1 MB PDF) — Minnesota Planning report to the Legislature, 2002