By Colleen O’Connor Toberman | March 9, 2021

Written in response to ‘Feds find no takers for mothballed Mississippi River lock in Minneapolis’.

To the Editor:

I’m deeply concerned about the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to divest itself of responsibility for the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock. The lock maintains upstream water levels that ensure sufficient drinking water for nearly one million Twin Cities metro residents.

Minneapolis leaders have made it clear that the city doesn’t want to own the lock. There’s a real risk that a private owner, not accountable to the public, might pursue ownership.

Should a new owner’s negligence cause the lock to fail, damage to our water supply could be felt within days. Homes, hospitals, schools, airports and even fire hydrants could be without water. Our government leaders would scramble to respond, but it’s not a given that they could compel a private lock owner to cooperate or take responsibility.

The Upper St. Anthony Falls lock is also crucial for flood and invasive species management. Again, a yet-unidentified private owner (if one exists) might not have the wherewithal to provide these essential functions.

Congress recognizes this threat. In December 2020, it passed the Water Resources Development Act which states that the Corps should continue to manage the lock and does not have the authority to transfer lock ownership. The divestment plan defies Congressional direction.

The recent energy crisis in Texas is a cautionary tale about privatizing essential utility infrastructure. Minnesota needs to resist any efforts to take us down a similar path. The Corps is the appropriate entity to own and maintain the lock.

Colleen O’Connor Toberman is the River Corridor Program Director of Friends of the Mississippi River. Friends of the Mississippi River engages people to protect, restore and enhance the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities region.

Read the letter at StarTribune.com

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