ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA — By Kjersti Monson.

The Minnesota House Capital Committee hearing took place on March 21, 2018 for HF2898, a bill for an act relating to capital investment; appropriating money for Upper St. Anthony Lock redevelopment; authorizing the sale and issuance of state bonds.

Representative Raymond Dehn introduced the bill, which seeks $1.5 million predesign dollars for The Falls, and invited Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and representatives of Friends of the Lock & Dam to present the project to Committee members.

Frey introduced the project, and spoke of the City’s strong support. He recognized the unique opportunity that it presents for the state and the city. The Falls Project Manager Kjersti Monson then presented the project to the assembly, and Ambassador Sam Kaplan, counsel to Friends of the Lock & Dam, spoke in support.

The following summarizes the key points presented to the Committee:

  • The Falls will deliver significant benefits to the state as a destination feature of the 10-state Great River Road, a Minnesota state tourism asset.
  • The Falls is a coalition project supported by numerous constituencies: neighborhood, heritage, tourism, business, recreation, parks groups, and more.
  • The project assures iconic status for the largest lock on the Mississippi River at 49’ - a work of civil engineering that stands nearly 5 stories tall and was dubbed a “jewel” of the Mississippi by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lockmaster, Mike DeRusha. 
  • Project programming focuses on public benefits, education and enrichment, and recreation.
  • The facility will be self-sustaining and will not require ongoing subsidy.
  • The time for action is now: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is launching a disposition study for all three Locks; but unlike the other two, the Upper Lock already has coalition consensus on a future use, and benefits from both private commitments and a leading government partner in the City of Minneapolis. Notably, the City of Minneapolis was the original cost sharing partner in the construction of the civil work.
  • The City of Minneapolis and its partners have an opportunity to work with the Minnesota Congressional delegation to provide guidance to the Corps in this year’s Water Resources Development Act (WRDA); and if this happens, the project can continue to move forward expeditiously with the goal to construct it concurrent with phase 2 of Water Works Park in 2021/22.
  • The Lock has had a historic relationship with the Upper Harbor Terminal rooted in civil works and commercial navigation; the relationship between the two sites will continue to be strong as both sites redevelop, this time with strong ties to recreation and water activation.
  • The City of Minneapolis is seeking $1.5 million in pre-design, to be matched by $3 million from Friends of the Lock & Dam, for predesign. The assumption is that private money will be spent first. 
  • The state’s support will be crucial to signaling project readiness to the Congressional delegation as we endeavor to add direction about this project in this year’s WRDA.

No decision about what projects will be funded in the bonding bill is anticipated until later in the Spring. As of this writing, a hearing of the bill by the Senate has not yet been scheduled.