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River Enhancement in the Upper Mississippi River Basin: Approaches Based on River Uses, Alterations, and Management Agencies


  • T. Kevin O’Donnell,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences, University of Missouri—Columbia, 302 ABNR Building, Columbia, MO 65211-7240, U.S.A.
    2. Present address: Department of Soil, Environmental, and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, 302 ABNR Building, Columbia, MO 65211, U.S.A.
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  • David L. Galat

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Missouri—Columbia, 302 ABNR Building, Columbia, MO 65211-7240, U.S.A.
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Address correspondence to T. K. O’Donnell, email


The Upper Mississippi River is characterized by a series of locks and dams, shallow impoundments, and thousands of river channelization structures that facilitate commercial navigation between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Cairo, Illinois. Agriculture and urban development over the past 200 years have degraded water quality and increased the rate of sediment and nutrient delivery to surface waters. River enhancement has become an important management tool employed to address causes and effects of surface water degradation and river modification in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. We report information on individual river enhancement projects and contrast project densities, goals, activities, monitoring, and cost between commercially non-navigated and navigated rivers (Non-navigated and Navigated Rivers, respectively). The total number of river enhancement projects collected during this effort was 62,108. Cost of all projects reporting spending between 1972 and 2006 was about US$1.6 billion. Water quality management was the most cited project goal within the basin. Other important goals in Navigated Rivers included in-stream habitat improvement and flow modification. Most projects collected for Non-navigated Rivers and their watersheds originated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the USDA were important sources for projects in Navigated Rivers. Collaborative efforts between agencies that implement projects in Non-navigated and Navigated Rivers may be needed to more effectively address river impairment. However, the current state of data sources tracking river enhancement projects deters efficient and broad-scale integration.