In “Imagine this Mississippi” (June 14), about bringing back the rapids through the Mississippi gorge, the authors talk about the potential “pleasures of miles of white water in a city crowded with outdoor enthusiasts.”
Say what? What about the rowers, flat-water canoers/kayakers, stand up paddlers, fishermen and pleasure boaters of all kinds? Who are these people, chopped liver? Not “outdoor” enough for you? All of these would lose the use of this great body of water as it is now. In fact, as it has been since 1917 when they built the Ford Lock and Dam. No one alive can even remember it any other way.
The Minneapolis Rowing Club has about 250 members. It was organized in 1877 and has been rowing on the Mississippi since 1965. The University of Minnesota rowers have been using this stretch since 1957. The U’s female crew won the Big Ten Championship in 2007. There is a group of racing canoers who practice on this stretch on Monday evenings. There are also other organized groups of recreational canoers/kayakers and stand-up paddlers who use the Mississippi here — as well as other unorganized paddlers of all kinds every summer day.
And what about the fishermen and pleasure boaters who can now come up through the Ford lock? What about them? In 2014, 799 pleasure boats locked through this lock. There will be less this year because the Upper St. Anthony Lock closed on June 9, but how many less is unknown. This great body of water is still worth it for many of these boaters — but “chopped liver” I guess to the promoters of this goofy idea.
The authors brag that we could create the “longest white-water run through a major city anywhere in the world.” I’ve got news: We just closed the “highest” lock on the whole Mississippi River. (I think the fourth-highest in the world.) Just adding an “-est” after a word doesn’t make it worth doing.
They go on with wild speculation that “scores of eagles would soar overhead, drawn by all the fish that would mass in the oxygen rich water.” And yet 2 miles below the Ford Dam, the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi. From that point to the confluence with the St. Croix, 35 more miles downstream, is the most polluted stretch of the whole Mississippi. If we want a cleaner Mississippi, the Minnesota is where to start. When the Minnesota is clean, then you can bring up the idea of spending “at least $40 million and likely much more” on this 8-mile stretch.
By the way, I spend quite a bit of time on this river doing some of the above-mentioned activities. And I see eagles every single day I spend on the river. They are no longer rare. I see them while just walking along the paths above the gorge. “Eagles soaring overhead” are already here. The “scores” part is a ridiculous exaggeration.
And then, with a snap of their fingers, the authors eliminate a perfectly good hydroelectric generator with the removal of the Ford Dam, which makes enough electricity for 30,000 homes cleanly, reliably and renewably. All for what, an 8-mile white-water course? Judging by the pictures with the article, these rapids would be dangerous to ordinary paddlers, and only expert paddlers would be able to paddle them anyway.
Speaking of the pictures, the professionally Photoshopped pictures in the article are sure pretty. To many however, this stretch of Mississippi through the gorge is already beautiful, just as it is, right now.
Eric Otterness lives in St Paul.