Working to protect the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities area

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DNR Critical Area Study report now online

The DNR has submitted its final report to the state legislature on the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) Study, authorized during the 2007 session. In the fall of 2007, the DNR hired FMR to conduct a series of stakeholder meetings for the study and submit a report, all of which is included in the appendices of the DNR report to the legislature.

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 MRCCA program and possible solutions to ensure protection of this local, state and national resource.

For details about the stakeholder meetings and results, visit our Critical Area Study project page.

The DNR report summarizes the options generated during the stakeholder process and in some cases, options are further defined, expanded upon or even divided into more than one option. The DNR also added some options not discussed by the stakeholders, and estimated whether the options would be of low, medium or high cost to implement.

Prior to the stakeholder process, the DNR conducted a survey with all corridor communities regarding status of local plans, ordinances and variances granted. A summary of the survey, to which there were 22 respondents, is included in the DNR report.

You can find the report on the DNR's Department reports page (look for “Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area Report to the Legislature, January 2008”), or download the 5.7 MB PDF file directly.

The DNR suggests the changes below for the MRCCA program in order to ensure the river corridor’s scenic and natural qualities are adequately protected. Complete descriptions of these options are included in the report.

  • Move MRCCA from Division of Waters to DNR Central region
  • Increased consultation by Local Governmental Units (LGUs)
  • Increased partnership with National Park Service/MNRRA
  • Annual LGU meeting/training
  • Increase visibility (costs borne by MNRRA)
  • Metropolitan Council policy inclusion of MRCCA
  • Additional outreach
  • Increase funding to small LGUs
  • An inventory of scenic and cultural resources
  • Protection of key areas through easement and acquisition
  • Process for amending corridor boundary changes; high cost if rulemaking required; low if accomplished by statute
  • Administrative mechanism for amending E.O.79-19; high cost if through rulemaking
  • Clarify DNR authorities through statute
  • Appeals boards to oversee LGU decisions

During the stakeholder meetings and the subsequent writing of the report, FMR acted as an impartial mediator of the process and did not provide formal input. After completion of the stakeholder meetings and report, FMR sent a letter to Kent Lokkesmoe, Director of DNR Waters, identifying the options we recommend be pursued by the DNR and others.

FMR’s recommendations letter (120 KB PDF)

Many of our suggestions were included in the DNR’s list of recommendations, but a few that were not are listed below.

  • Annual stakeholders meeting
  • Increase MRCCA priority within DNR
  • Set priorities among critical area goals and uses
  • Establish process for early input by DNR and other stakeholders
  • Restrict district boundary changes to only allow change to more protective districts
  • Rulemaking or legislation to establish minimum standards and additional definitions
  • Variance certification: local variances require DNR approval. (We also support a technical appeal board as an alternative oversight mechanism)

The legislature will likely hold hearings on the report this spring. FMR is planning to testify and continue to work with the DNR, legislators and other stakeholders to explore how we can move forward with potential efforts and reforms that will improve river corridor protection at the state and local level. Please stay tuned, and contact Irene Jones at 651-222-2193 x11 or through our web form if you have questions or want to get involved. Read more…