This summer, when hordes of visitors stop to admire the torrent of water that flows over the falls at the St. Anthony Lock and Dam in Minneapolis, they will be standing at a turning point in the 100-year relationship between the Mississippi River and the cities founded along its banks.
The lock closed two years ago, and now the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that controls navigable waters nationally, is undertaking a major review of what it will do with it and two others just downstream.
The review could take years to complete, but already a long line of powerful government and advocacy groups are lining up for what promises to be a historic and perhaps acrimonious civic debate rooted in one simple question: What kind of Mississippi River do Twin Citians want for the next century?
“We are living with the vision of the people from the past,” said John Anfinson, superintendent of the Mississippi National River Recreational Area for the National Park Service. “But for first time in 100 years, we have a chance to think about the river’s 21st century relationship with the Twin Cities.”