Jumpy Carp, Jumpy Boaters
Heads up! The invasive jumping carp have officially moved
upriver to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In early December the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced that
it had identified a silver carp taken from a commercial fishing
net in the Mississippi near La Crosse.
carp and one or two bighead carp
— also invasive Asian carp — were taken from the
When spooked by the vibrations from outboard
motor propellers, silver carp will leap as high as 10 feet
out of the water. They sometimes leap into boats and have injured
people in boats. They can grow to weigh 60 pounds, according
to Minnesota DNR information.
This is the first official report of
a silver carp upriver from the Quad Cities.
Grass carp have been found in the Wisconsin
stretch of the Mississippi since 1987. Bighead carp were caught
at the mouth of the St. Croix River in 1998, and in Lake Pepin
in 2003 and 2007. This was the first caught in Pool 8.
Grass carp can grow to weigh 70 pounds,
and bighead carp to 110 pounds. All three species were originally
stocked in commercial ponds in the South to control plants
and snails. Floodwaters carried them into Mississippi tributaries.
Their spread disrupts the river ecosystem, because they consume
large quantities of plants and algae, displacing native species.
Once they get bigger than about 10 pounds, they have no predators.
in part by the threat of Asian carp reaching the Great Lakes,
the Great Lakes Fishery Commission released a report whose
title nearly says it all: “Preliminary
Feasibility of Ecological Separation of the Mississippi River
and the Great Lakes to Prevent the Transfer of Aquatic Invasive
and the Great Lakes watersheds are linked artificially by
canals in the Chicago area between Lake Michigan and the
Illinois River. Zebra mussels used this link to reach the
Mississippi in the 1990s. Currently an electrical barrier
near Romeoville, Ill., is the only barrier between the two
watersheds. The report worries that eventually “human
error, an accident, or a natural disaster” will allow
the barrier to be breached, and it asks that serious consideration
be given to physically separating the two watersheds.
Historic to History
Park, Minn. — A closed bridge approach that
was being considered as a historic site may be put on a fast
track for removal after a section of the approach on the
east shore sagged toward the floodplain below on Nov. 22.
No injuries were reported.
Some people still hope to save the span
jutting from the western bank, saying that even people with
limited mobility can follow the old roadbed as far as 700 feet
out onto the Mississippi.
The bridge is in poor condition overall,
but the western approach is in better shape, according to preservation
advocates. They claim that restoring the western approach would
cost about the same as tearing it down, and it could be used
as a fishing pier, scenic overlook and historic site.
After the partial collapse, the west
approach was fenced off with no-trespassing signs and officials
cautioned people to stay away.
Once known as the Rock Island Bridge,
the swing bridge between the Minnesota communities of Inver
Grove Heights, on the west end, and St. Paul Park, on the east
end, dates to 1895. The 1,661-foot-long, two-level span closed
to trains in 1980 and its two-lane crossing closed to autos
in 1999. The U.S. Coast Guard ordered it removed in 2001 lest
the dilapidated structure interfere with river traffic, but
preservationists have tried to save it. Washington County had
already planned to demolish the 471-foot eastern approach.
The swing section remains in the middle of the river.
On the Dakota County side, however, Inver
Grove Heights has planned a 60-acre park adjacent to the west
end of the bridge. The Mississippi River Trail for pedestrians
and bicycles passes nearby. Marina slips for hundreds of pleasure
craft are just upriver.
bridge had long been a destination for river watchers, albeit
unsanctioned. In a carefully worded statement, Mark Krebsbach,
Dakota County transportation director, said that because
Minnesota owns the bridge, the state will decide its fate,
and the collapse “may accelerate planning
for disposition of the bridge.”
end in Dakota County “is
not in quite as poor condition as the eastern spans” and
has a different structural design, Krebsbach said. Two western
spans closest to shore, however, “are in the worst condition
of the west approach,” he added, and finds “the
entire bridge in very poor structural condition.”
Dakota County has no formal position
on what should happen to the bridge, but it has worked with
other agencies on possible reuse of the western spans on its
side of the Mississippi, Krebsbach said.
City-based HNTB Corp, the designer of the Wakota Bridge,
which carries I-494 across the Mississippi between South
St. Paul and Newport, Minn., will pay the Minnesota Department
of Transportation a mediated $20 million settlement because
of a design flaw.
The retrofitted west-bound span of the
bridge opened in 2006 and currently carries traffic in both
directions. Completion of the redesigned east-bound span is
scheduled for 2010.
bridge between Savanna, Ill., and Sabula, Iowa, was closed
several weeks for maintenance work last fall.
weight restriction of 8 tons on the bridge between Fort Madison,
Iowa, and Niota, Ill., may remain in effect through the fall
of 2009. The double-decker, toll, swing bridge is owned by
the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The lower level
carries trains and is under no weight restrictions. The restrictions
apply only to the upper deck, which carries motor vehicles.
Global warming appears to be changing the nesting schedule
of turtles on the Upper Mississippi.
“The results have been astonishing,” said
Fred Janzen, a professor to ecology, evolution and organismal
biology at Iowa State University. “In some cases, such
as regional populations of red-eared sliders, they are now
nesting three weeks earlier than they did in the early 1990s.
That is the fastest response to climate change of any species
that I know of.”
Janzen’s study looked at mud turtles,
sliders, snapping turtles and painted turtles that live in
South Carolina, Nebraska and along the Mississippi River between
Iowa and Illinois.
As is the case with many reptiles, the
gender of turtle offspring is affected by the temperature of
the ground where the eggs are laid. Warmer ground produces
more females, but Janzen found a disproportionate number of
baby male turtles. This may be because the warmer air triggers
females to lay their eggs when the ground is still cold. Janzen
worries that the overabundance of males will stress the species.
The study also found the both younger
and older turtles are laying their eggs earlier.
Voters in Minnesota, where the Mississippi
River begins, approved an amendment to the state constitution
raising their own taxes to pay for clean water, wildlife habitat
and natural areas.
The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment
passed with 56 percent of the vote on November 4. The measure
will also fund parks and arts in the state, but about 80 percent
will go for clean water, wildlife habitat and trails.
The tax boost will raise Minnesota’s
sales and use tax by three-eighths of a cent per dollar, from
6.5 percent to 6.875, effective July 1, 2009. That will generate
between $275 million and $300 million annually during the 25-year
life of the amendment.
The Nature Conservancy, which backed
the amendment, calls it “the largest conservation ballot
measure in U.S. history, nearly double the nation’s previous
record conservation ballot measure.”
The cost for the average household will be $5 per month, according
to Nature Conservancy.
Friends of the Mississippi River, the
St. Paul-based river advocacy group, also worked for the amendment.
Whitney Clark, FMR executive director, noted in a release that
Minnesotans care about clean water and “were willing
to increase their own taxes to do so.” FMR organized
volunteers to urge voters to back the measure.
Forty percent of Minnesota’s waters
don’t meet quality standards, and “every mile of
the Mississippi River through the Twin Cities is on the state’s
list of impaired waters,” according to Clark.
In mailings urging a vote for the amendment,
FMR predicted that “the health of the great Mississippi
River will be dramatically improved if this measure passes.”
The state’s Department of Revenue
projects that 33 percent of proceeds will go to restore habitat — approximately
$80 million in fiscal year 2010 and $91 million in fiscal year
2011. Another 33 percent will create a Clean Water Fund to “protect,
enhance, and restore” water quality in lakes, rivers,
streams and groundwater. At least 5 percent of the Clean Water
Fund will go to protect drinking water sources.
About 14 percent of proceeds will fund
parks and trails “of regional or statewide significance,” says
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website — about
$35 million in 2010 and $39 million in 2011.
New Depot Museums
Plans for storing the archives of the Rock Island Technical
Society at Savanna Depot Park (formerly the Savanna Army Depot
Activity) north of Savanna led to the opening of two museums.
“We were looking for a climate-controlled
building, and someone suggested we go up to the depot,” said
Jack Carson, president of the Technical Society. The group
found the perfect spot on the southern end of the park. It
could not only store blueprints, train orders and other documents
from the Rock Island Railroad, which went out of business in
1980, it had room for displays, including a large scale-model
railroad complete with a switching yard and a small village;
a glass case full of scale model engines and cars; and a railroad
ticketing office complete with a railroad agent’s desk
and a potbellied stove.
While the Technical Society was putting
together the railroad museum, people began donating memorabilia
from the Savanna Army Depot, which was de-commissioned in 2000.
“One man just showed up one day
with bound copies of ‘S.O.D. Busters’ (a newspaper
that was published on the depot) from 1950 and 1951,” said
Alice “Mike” Neuschwanger, the museum’s curator.
Shortly after opening the railroad museum,
they opened the Savanna Army Depot and Military Museum next
“The Savanna Army Depot Museum
was an afterthought,”
A large scale model of the depot runs
about half the length of the former Army chapel where the museum
is located. An army bunk bed and locker stand in one corner.
Signs and photo displays occupy most of the rest of the area.
Enough items are in storage to allow rotating displays, according
In addition, Neuschwanger is collecting
stories from people who once worked at the depot. “Some
of these people just show up and start telling me things,” she
said. “Just yesterday I learned that an igloo [an earth
sheltered building where ammunition was stored] exploded in
1950 or 1951. There was the seismographic explosion in 1948,
but no one had ever talked about the later one. The man told
me he heard the explosion, and when he went out to look, it
was raining boxes of ammunition.”
Neuschwanger keeps a tape recorder on
hand to capture the stories. She hopes to make the stories
available to the public, either in recorded or written form.
The depot, a 13-mile-long proving ground
along the Mississippi River where the army fired and tested
howitzers, began operating in 1918. Later, depot activities
expanded to the manufacture, storing, shipping and recycling
of ammunition. During World War II, the Department of Defense
employed more than 7,000 people, mainly civilians, at the installation.
“Around here, everybody either
worked here or had relatives who worked here,” Neuschwanger
Plant Permit Denied
Building a coal-fired power plant in Cassville, Wis. would
have cost too much and would have resulted in energy-price
increases for consumers. It likely would have required that
Alliant Energy eventually either retrofit the plant to meet
air-quality standards or buy emission credits, according to
the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
Also, the commission was not convinced
that Alliant Energy, which proposed building the plant at its
Nelson Dewey facility on the Mississippi River in Cassville,
would have fueled the plant with 20 percent biomass, as it
claimed some time after filing for permission to build.
In a unanimous decision on Nov. 12, the
three-member commission rejected Alliant’s application.
It also said Alliant cannot build a coal-fired plant in Portage,
Wis., which was Alliant’s second choice.
The facility would have cost nearly $1.3
billion and would have created more than $30 million in construction
jobs over four years, according to Alliant estimates. The company
also would have bought nearly $50 million worth of local services
and biomass products each year. Local officials said the plant
would provide the energy needed for business expansion in the
But the commission said the plant would
have been too expensive for its size, and that it would cost
less for Alliant to convert its facility in Neenah, Wis., to
Furthermore, Congress is expected to
pass tougher emission standards and/or a cap-and-trade carbon-emissions
measure next year, which would add to Alliant’s costs.
As a result, consumer-energy prices would have gone up, according
to the commission.
Michael Vickerman, executive director
of RENEW Wisconsin, a non-profit group that supports renewable
energy, applauded the commission’s decision. “The
biomass component functioned as a sideshow to obscure the central
premise of this plant, which is to burn nonrenewable Wyoming
coal in a Wisconsin location,” he said in the Nov. 11
edition of the group’s newsletter. “The truth is,
there are far easier, more sustainable and less expensive ways
to generate new sources of renewable energy in southwestern
He called Alliant’s plan “an
example of combining a 19th century fuel with 20th century
combustion technology to tackle a 21st century problem,”
Some local leaders were disappointed.
Wisconsin State Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, complained
to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald that
the state “will be shipping more dollars out of state
to buy natural gas to produce power from it.”
Cassville Mayor Mark Meyer and Grant
County Economic Development Coordinator Ron Brisbois had said
an insufficient energy supply in the area was keeping new businesses
Tracking Box Turtles
The ornate box turtle is listed as a
threatened species in Illinois. Much of its habitat — sand
prairie — has disappeared to development, and people
have harvested the turtle to sell as pets. To learn how to
protect it the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with
Iowa State University to track the animal’s movements
at a sand prairie near the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois.
“We have increased our burning
program at the prairie, but we don’t want to burn or
mow areas when the turtles are active,” said Ed Britton,
manager of the Savanna District of the Upper Mississippi National
Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
The turtle, which has a dark brown shell
etched with yellow radial stripes in each segment, is one of
only two turtle species east of the Mississippi that lives
Last summer, biologists attached radio
transmitters to 10 turtles. By tracking their signals, scientists
have made two surprising discoveries.
“We’re seeing a lot of movement,” Britton
“Normally you think of them as hardly moving at all,
but they can move an eighth to a quarter of a mile per day.” The
females tend to move more, he said.
Second, a few of the turtles began to
hibernate earlier than expected. One turtle actually dug in
during early October, when the temperature was still 60 to
70 degrees. The turtles burrow about a foot deep, below the
frost line. By the end of the month, all of them were snugged
in for the season.
“That’s good to know,” Britton
said. “We will do our burning and mowing after November
Next summer biologists will begin the
second phase of the study — searching for the species
at the Lost Mound Unit of the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge.
Lost Mound is a 4,000-acre sand prairie north of Savanna, Ill.,
within the former Savanna Army Depot. For years, the prairie
was used for pasturing cattle, so the ornate box turtles probably
died out, according to Britton.
If biologists do not find any of the
turtles there, they will try to re-introduce the species, Britton
Ornate box turtles live 30 to 40 years
and usually grow to 5 to 7 inches long. The largest are 8 or
Breitbach’s Burns Again
Within one year of burning to the ground and being rebuilt,
Breitbach’s Country Dining restaurant and bar in Balltown
was again destroyed by fire.
Breitbach’s was the oldest restaurant
in Iowa, having opened in 1852 at a stagecoach stop. In 1855,
the Breitbach family took it over and passed down the restaurant
and bar through six generations.
With tasty home cooked food, interesting
antiques and a location high above the Mississippi, Breitbach’s
was a favorite with locals and travelers on the Great River
The first fire occurred early on Christmas
Eve 2007. Within a few weeks, owners Mike and Cindy Breitbach
and their family decided to rebuild. Neighbors and friends
from miles around pitched in to help.
In mid June, the restaurant re-opened
to the delight of the community. Although the building was
new with few of the antiques from before — most had been
lost in the fire — it captured some of the old ambience.
Business quickly resumed, and community members congratulated
the Breitbachs. The Breitbachs expressed heartfelt gratitude
to the community for its help and support.
On Oct. 24, just 10 months to the day
from the first fire, a second blaze broke out. The new structure
could not be saved. Mike Breitbach told the Dubuque Telegraph
Herald in November that he felt he was living in a “nightmare.”
As of this writing, the cause of the
second blaze remains unknown, and the investigation is continuing.
Breitbach said that his family would not decide whether to
rebuild until the investigation is complete.
Casino to Museum
In mid January, the Diamond Jo Casino will turn the keys to
its riverside building in the Port of Dubuque over to the National
Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Then the museum will
seek bids for what executive director Jerry Enzler estimated
will be a $40 million retrofitting project.
Enzler and his staff are hatching some
big plans for the 50,000-square-foot structure, which will
include educational and interactive exhibits, a digital theater
and a research center.
The feature exhibit, called “River
WAYS” will tell the story of America “as told through
rivers,” Enzler said. It will not only tell tales of
the Mississippi, but also from the Chicago River, Colorado
River and the Catskill watersheds. Another exhibit will explore
river formation, water quality and the effect of the Mississippi
on the Gulf of Mexico.
The theater will have a 40-foot screen
and the capacity to show 3-D films with 4-D effects, such as
moisture and smells.
Part of the $40 million will also fund
efforts to preserve other properties owned by the Dubuque County
Historical Society: the William M.
Black dredge steamboat, the Mathias Ham House and the
The organization is well on its way to
raising the $40 million needed to redo the casino building.
The Diamond Jo has committed $3 million to the project, including
the building. One million dollars will come form a former Dubuque
couple, and John Deere Dubuque Works is adding $500,000. Public
funding includes $8 million from the Vision Iowa program and
grants from several federal agencies.
In addition the City of Dubuque is spending
$29.5 million on a parking ramp that will serve the museum,
the casino and the river plaza.
Enzler said the new facility will open
sometime in 2010.
Stabilizing the Banks
Picturesque Minnehaha Creek is getting a $5.8 million restoration
this winter to stabilize stream banks and bluffs, remove
invasive plants, build trails and upgrade stormwater management.
The work is underway just below Minnehaha
Falls, a landmark 53-foot tumble of water and a must-see for
the 850,000 visitors who come to the 193-acre Minnehaha Park
each year. About a half-mile below the falls, Minnehaha Creek
joins the Mississippi River near Fort Snelling.
Restoration work started in November
and will be mostly finished by June. During the restoration
this winter and spring, visitors can view the falls from above.
The area below the falls will be closed for the winter and
probably most of the spring.
Following heavy rain in 2005, the creek
flooded, and a surge of runoff damaged limestone walls built
to buttress banks in the 1930s under the federal Works Progress
Project funds come from the Army Corps
of Engineers, state of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation
Board, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and the nearby
Minnesota Veterans Home. At the VA site, the project will fix
erosion problems and direct stormwater into a new rain garden.
An electrical generator that leaked exhaust and a carbon monoxide
detector with no batteries caused the death of four people
on a weekend houseboat trip last October.
Four family members had taken the boat
out for the first time all season to celebrate the birthday
of Jody Ryan of Elsberry, Ill., who would have been 39 years
old the Tuesday after the accident. Her husband Dale, her brother
William Boehm and his wife Ruth all died.
The group moored on an island on the
Illinois side of the river, where they entertained guests on
Saturday night. One of the guests noticed that a generator
was powering the boat’s refrigerator. Friends who went
out to visit on Sunday found the bodies. All had apparently
been overcome quickly by the gas.
The coroner said it appeared that everyone
had felt tired at the same time and had fallen asleep on the
spot, according to an Associated Press story (10-07-08).
More than 600 carbon monoxide poisonings
have occurred on boats since 2000, killing more than 100 people,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Generator exhaust caused four out of five incidents on houseboats.
Flood of Sweetness
A steel storage tank burst and sent a tsunami of 200,000 gallons
of corn-sugar water over the railroad tracks and into a ditch
to the Mississippi River on October 13, 2008. The sweet liquid
pushed over a wall and knocked railroad cars off the tracks
near the Roquette America processing plant. No one was injured.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources inspected the spill
and found no immediate impact on plants or animals in the river.
Corn-sugar water is a by-product of processing
Big Wheel on the River
St. Louis —
Apparently the 630-foot Gateway Arch on the St. Louis riverfront
isn’t enough anymore.
A couple of years ago, the city explored
the idea of building floating islands in the river with casinos,
hotels and restaurants to attract boaters and other traffic.
The plan came to naught.
Now that a condo development has fallen
victim to the downturn in the housing market, the latest idea
is to build a giant Ferris wheel on the landing. The Ferris
wheel would be 175 feet tall with 42 enclosed, climate-controlled
gondolas equipped with video screens. Visitors would ride for
15 minutes in air-conditioned comfort while enjoying big views
of downtown, the Arch and the Eads Bridge.
Giant Ferris wheels are gaining popularity
around the world. The 443-foot tall London Eye, across the
River Thames from Westminster, has become one of the most popular
tourist attractions in England. The 540-foot tall Singapore
Flyer carries private gondolas with up to 28 people.
Watch Your Tows
In a program called Operation Big Tow the Coast Guard is cracking
down on towboat crews. They are checking boats for strict compliance
with licensing and safety requirements, while working on a
more elaborate program of regular inspections.
Big Tow was a reaction to the largest
oil spill to date on the Mississippi, when on July 23, 2008,
a fuel barge pushed by the Mel Oliver was
hit by another boat and spilled 280,000 gallons of fuel oil
into the river at New Orleans, according to The
John Bavaret, who was piloting the Mel
Oliver, was not licensed to pilot a towboat without
supervision. The captain of the boat had abandoned it several
days earlier to deal with problems with his girlfriend.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana Department of
Environmental Quality says that leaky barges may be a major
source of ozone-causing volatile organic compounds, according
to the Associated Press (11-24-2008). Ozone is valuable in
the upper atmosphere, but damages health, crops and buildings
in the lower atmosphere.
The DEQ study began when infrared cameras
detected numerous leaks of volatile organic compounds from
barges. Barges may be releasing as much as 500 tons of the
pollutants into the air daily.
Freshwater mussels will soon be used to check water quality
in the Mississippi River upstream from the Quad Cities. They
normally filter nutrients from the water, but if they detect
pollutants they clam up, Bill Franz of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency explained at a meeting of the Upper Mississippi
River Basin Association in Davenport.
Next spring the EPA plans to set up a
large fish tank with mussels in it above Lock and Dam 14. River
water will be pumped into the tank and the mussels will be
watched. If the experiment is successful, the Quad Cities may
take over operation of the station, according to the Quad-City
Lee on the Block
St. Louis —
It was a buyer’s market for riverboats in 2008. In addition
to the three Queens being
for sale, the Lt. Robert E. Lee was
scheduled to go on the auction block December 19 in Festus,
Someone may have gotten a real deal.
The auction was open to the public and registration to bid
was also free. There was no reserve and no minimum bid, according
to Richie Bros. Auctioneers, which was conducting the auction.
The 19th century steamboat replica was
built in 1969 and served as a restaurant and nightspot on the
St. Louis riverfront. The boat is 213 feet long and 54 feet
wide. The restaurant could seat 500 diners.
Meanwhile, in St. Elmo, Ill., folks are
getting ready for the arrival of the President. Since
the 300-foot riverboat was built in 1923, it has played many
roles, including a casino on the Davenport, Iowa, riverfront
in the 1990s.
Its next, and perhaps last, role is
to be taken apart and moved to a 20-acre lake, where it will
be converted into an 80-room hotel, convention center, restaurant
and museum by the end of 2009 or early 2010, according to the Decatur
Herald & Review.
Where’s the River?
The promenade outside the St. Cloud Civic Center offers a sweeping
view of the Mississippi — but it’s one of the few
places downtown where you would notice that St. Cloud even
has a river.
As in many other towns, local river advocates
in St. Cloud want to improve access to the Mississippi. Here
it’s a pretty stream coursing through this college town
of 65,000 about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
St. Cloud’s challenge is a steep
bank and existing structures with their backs to the waterway.
Two factors that give them hope: replacement of the Minnesota
23 highway bridge is under way and a $30 million expansion
of the Civic Center is starting.
The new bridge will include river overlooks
and wider walkways on both sides of the crossing. An existing
paved walkway on the west bank will remain.
Moreover, with the new bridge comes renovation
of Highway 23 through downtown St. Cloud.
The business community backs the effort
to open St. Cloud to the river, says Marian Bender, executive
director with Minnesota Waters, a St. Cloud-based nonprofit
“responsible stewardship of our water resources,” according
to its web site.
For St. Cloud, Bender’s group envisions
an urban river corridor, with the Civic Center anchoring river-focused
commercial development and trails as well as “on-river
community recreation and river-focused events.”
“The steep banks are a challenge,
but there are enough low-elevation points throughout the city
to provide access,”
Bender said. Tougher challenges, Bender added, will be working
with private land owners in “key areas.”
In any case, the where’s-the-river
movement is rolling. More than 60 people attended a half-day
workshop Oct. 25 to discuss turning the town toward the Mississippi.
Those attendees now are engaged in committee work, Bender said.
The meeting that day was in a room at
the St. Cloud Civic Center with a great view of the river — the
likes of which Bender and others hope will soon be more widely
available in St. Cloud.
River Home Companion
Will this outlying Minneapolis suburb be the next hot river
Where the Rum River joins the Mississippi
in central Minnesota, this town of 18,000 holds an annual river
fest at which local boaters gave 1,200 pontoon rides last year.
A bass-fishing tournament draws 100 anglers.
“We have this beautiful resource
and amenity right there in our own back yard,” said Tim
Cruikshank, Anoka city manager. “The river is a big deal.”
Anoka is setting out to draw more people
to its riverbanks. Dredging and a new park along the Rum have
been priorities for city leaders. In autumn 2008, the city
spent $160,000 to deepen the Rum channel to four feet, so pleasure
boaters can tie up at a dock near City Hall. The park-to-be,
about half a city block of vacant land, is awaiting improvement.
The Rum, however, won’t be easy. “It’s
shallow and tricky,” concedes Cruikshank.
Moreover, the Coon Rapids Dam, about
5 miles downriver, has no locks, so it’s a barrier to
boats downriver in the Twin Cities.
Even so, Anoka can dream. The 130-year-old
town is considering more dock space, including new docks above
the dam on the Rum in hopes of drawing boaters from upstream
on that tributary.
Forty-five buildings in Anoka’s
five-block historic district were built in the 1880s after
a fire destroyed earlier structures. Rottlund Homes Inc. of
Minneapolis is erecting a $7 million, 40-unit condo near Main
Street and the Rum and may add a four-story loft and retail
building near the riverfront and City Hall. Three restaurants
and a sports bar opened recently. Plans for a 12,000-square-foot
retail building and 3,000-square-foot plaza are ready for 2009 — the
plaza with a fountain and plaque will mark the spot where Minnesota’s
first volunteers signed up for the Union Army in the Civil
Where will it all lead? Anoka “could
be the next Stillwater,” developer Dean Clossey trumpeted
to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis
on Nov. 15, referring to the city 20 miles northeast of downtown
St. Paul. Stillwater, Minn., population 16,000, draws thousands
of tourists to its scenic location on the St. Croix River,
another Mississippi tributary.
What does Anoka have that Stillwater
doesn’t? Radio personality, humorist and author Garrison
Keillor was born and raised in the central Minnesota town.
Keillor himself isn’t prominent in Anoka promotions,
but that may not be significant. After all, Hannibal, Mo.,
makes much of its heritage as the childhood home of renowned
humorist and author Mark Twain. Could Anoka become the upstream
bookend to Hannibal, Mo., and Sam Clemens?
The first dam-free hydro facility to crank electricity into
a grid was put in place and online in December, after it received
final approval from federal regulators. Hydro Green Energy
LLC of Houston, Texas, planned to install a pair of barge-mounted
turbines just below Lock and Dam 2 at Hastings.
Hydro Green’s equipment is designed
to generate just 250 kilowatts, adding only 5 percent to the
existing capacity at Hastings’ conventional four-megawatt
dam-based power plant. The city will run the equipment and
sell power to Xcel Energy Inc., a regional utility. Hydro Green
will test its turbines and get a share of the proceeds.
Hydro Green asked Hastings in 2006 for
permission to piggyback the firm’s new technology on
its existing hydro license. F