How to get involved with Mississippi River planning

View of downtown Minneapolis from Ole Olson Park

Welcome to FMR's river corridor planning resource page!

Here you can learn about the process of creating new rules to guide development and land use along the metro Mississippi, find out what your community is planning and get tips on how to get involved and weigh in with your comments and suggestions.

The 72-mile Mississippi River corridor through the Twin Cities metropolitan area is a state critical area and a national park. Minnesota adopted state rules for the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) in 2016 to provide a consistent approach to protecting the river's unique and significant natural and cultural resources.

Each of the 25 cities and townships within the corridor are required to update their river corridor plan by the end of this year as part of their 2018 comprehensive plan update. For more background information about the MRCCA and why new state rules were adopted, click here.

Click on one of the topics below or scroll down for highlights about the river corridor planning process, along with links to more information and planning documents.

River corridor planning 101:
New state rules for the MRCCA
- Local river corridor plans
Comprehensive planning timeline
Looking ahead: Developing river corridor ordinances
Be involved. FMR can help!

 

    New state rules for MRCCA

    In December 2016, the State of Minnesota adopted new state rules for the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area. Some highlights of the new rules include:

    • State rules provide standards and guidelines for development within the corridor, such as structure height, setbacks from bluffs and shorelines, permit requirements for vegetation removal and land alteration, open space dedication requirements and a whole lot more.
    • A variety of existing and future land uses in the corridor is accommodated by a system of six district types that repeat throughout the corridor. Each district has different standards for height, setback and open space dedication. To learn more about the MRCCA districts, click here.
    • The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides state agency oversight and implements the rules in partnership with the National Park Service, the Metropolitan Council, and the 30 local government units within the corridor.
    • Each corridor city is required to implement the new rules through a local river corridor plan and zoning ordinance. Local plans and ordinances are not in effect until they are approved by the DNR.
    • Corridor cities continue to have local control over site plan review, conditional use permits and variances, but these discretionary actions will need to be consistent with each cities' river corridor plan. (This is why the plans are SO important!)

    Read FMR's web story hailing formal adoption of the new rules
     

    Local river corridor plans

    In January 2018, the DNR notified cities that they had one year to create a new river corridor plan that is consistent with the new rules, and include it as a chapter in their city comprehensive plan.

    River plan (chapter) components include descriptions, plans and policies for the following areas:

    • Districts. Six districts reflect the character and development along the river and recognize planned future development.
    • Primary Conservation Areas. Key resources and features such as bluffs, shorelines, wetlands, natural drainage areas, unstable soils, existing vegetation, native plant communities and historic properties.
    • Public River Corridor Views. Views of and from the river that are identified by the community for their scenic value.
    • Restoration Priorities. Opportunities to restore natural vegetation, prevent erosion and stabilize slopes.
    • Open Space and Recreational Facilities. Current and future parks, trails, overlooks, river access points, etc.
    • Transportation and Public Utilities. Existing and planned roads, bridges, power, gas, water, sewer, stormwater.
    • Surface Water Uses/Barge Fleeting. Concentrated use areas and/or conflicts for boating, fishing, riverboat tours, etc.
    • Water-Oriented Uses. Commercial and industrial land uses that require water access such as barge terminals and recreational marinas.

    The Met Council Local Planning Handbook is a great resource for learning about the comprehensive planning process. Learn more about what is required in your city's local river corridor plan, or check out statistics, maps and tools for a specific community on one of the community pages (select your community from the drop-down menu and click the blue button).
     

    Comprehensive planning timeline

    Comprehensive planning is in full swing and most cities will release their draft comprehensive or "comp" plans by the end of June.

    To get timeline information about a specific city, visit your city's webpage and look for a link to the 2040 Comprehensive Planning process.

    To see where they're at with the river chapter, see our river city plans tracker.

     Timeline

     Step in the Process

     Winter/Spring 2018

     Cities release draft comp plans

     Spring/Summer 2018

     Cities solicit comments from the community

     By May 2018

     Cities send draft plans comp/MRCCA plans to adjacent cities and the National Park Service for the six-month review 

     By September 2018

     DNR conducts early (optional) review of draft MRCCA plans

     Varies

     City holds a public hearing on their draft comp/MRCCA plan

     By December 2018

     City submits draft comp/MRCCA plans to Metropolitan Council and DNR

     Early 2019

     Met Council and DNR review/approve comp plans and river corridor plans

     Mid to late 2019

     Cities formally adopt their plans

     

    Looking ahead: developing local river corridor ordinances

    • In 2019, the DNR will notify cities that they have one year to create an MRCCA-compliant ordinance consistent with their approved comprehensive plan and the state rules.
    • A good river corridor plan provides the foundation for developing a strong ordinance that will protect river resources well into the future. It will be critical to identify resources in need of protection in the plan documents.
    • If cities are granted an extension to complete their river corridor plan, they will likely not begin work on their ordinance until 2020 or later.
       

    Be involved. FMR can help!

    • Nominate some of your favorite views of and from the river via this online form. (If you have a photo, please email it to Daurius Mikroberts at dmikroberts@fmr.org.)
    • Organize a group of fellow river-lovers to testify at a public hearing – FMR can help!
    • Review and comment on your city’s draft river corridor chapter
    • Speak to your local representatives 
    • Submit a letter to the editor 

    Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or support. Our River Corridor Program Director Irene Jones can be reached at ijones@fmr.org or 651-222-2193 x11.