Background and purpose - MRCCA

ariel view of the Mississippi River in the metro area

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The MRCCA program is a joint state, regional and local program that provides coordinated land use planning and zoning regulations for the 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River through the seven-county metropolitan area covering 54,000 acres of land in 30 local jurisdictions. Minnesota Statute 116G.15 establishes Minnesota policy and authority for the MRCCA rules (6106.0010 – 6106.0180) requiring the development of local government plans and ordinances. The MRCCA shares a boundary with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), a unit of the National Park Service.

The MRCCA was designated a state critical area in 1976 to protect its natural, cultural and scenic resources. These resources are protected through development standards administered through local government land use plans and zoning ordinances.

The MRCCA contains a diverse mix of residential, commercial, industrial and recreational uses, as well as river-related industry and transportation. Though the river corridor has been extensively developed, many intact and remnant natural areas remain, including bluffs, islands, floodplains, wetlands, riparian zones, and native aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna.

The MRCCA is cooperatively managed by:

  • Cities, townships, and some counties through their MRCCA plans and zoning regulations that comply with state rules.
  • DNR through review and approval of local plans and regulations for consistency with state rules, and also by commenting on local development applications.
  • Metropolitan Council by reviewing MRCCA plans and sharing comments with the DNR. 
  • National Park Service by reviewing federal, state, and local plans and undertakings to ensure compliance with the MNRRA Comprehensive Management Plan and providing funding assistance to local governments for resource protection and recreation enhancement.


Summary of designation and rulemaking


Minnesota passes Critical Areas Act of 1973. Minn. Stat. § 116G.01 - 116G.14 (1973) EQB adopts rules to implement Act. Minn. R. 4410.8100 - 4410.9910.


Governor Wendell Anderson designates 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River through the metro area and its adjacent corridor a Critical Area. Executive Order 130. (SONAR Exhibit A)


Governor Albert Quie continues the designation. Executive Order 79-19. (SONAR Exhibit B)
Metropolitan Council acts to make designation permanent. Metropolitan Council Resolution 79-48. (SONAR Exhibit C)


Congress establishes the Mississippi National River and Recreational Area (MNRRA) as unit of NPS (MNRRA shares same boundary as MRCCA). 16.U.S.C §460zz (a).


MNRRA designated a state critical area per Critical Areas Act. Minn. Stat. § 116G.15 (1991).


Governor Arne Carlson shifts administrative responsibility for the MRCCA from EQB to DNR. Reorganization Order 170. (SONAR Exhibit D)


Legislature directs DNR to prepare report on the MRCCA. DNR Report to Legislature, January 2008. (SONAR Exhibit E)


Legislature amends MN Statutes, § 116G.15 and directs DNR to conduct rulemaking for the MRCCA. 2009, ch. 172, art. 2, §27, subd. 4, 2009 Minn. Laws (pages 2482-2485) codified at Minn. Stat. § 116G.15 (2009).


DNR develops draft rule after participatory stakeholder process, but rulemaking authority lapses pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 14.125.


Legislature directs DNR to resume rulemaking process in consultation with local governments. 2013, ch. 137, art. 2, § 18-21, 2013 Minn. Laws (pages 2327-2329), codified at Minn. Stat. § 116G. 15 (2015).


DNR prepares report to Legislature on goals and status of rulemaking. DNR Report to Legislature, January 2014. (SONAR Exhibit F)


DNR concludes rulemaking and adopts rules on January 4, 2017. Minn. R 6106.0010 - 6106.0180.


DNR corrected the MRCCA boundary legal description published in the 1979 State Register with a revised description published in the 2018 State Register. The DNR then conducted a minor rulemaking to update the MRCCA rules definition for “River Corridor Boundary” (Minn. Rule 6106.005 Subp. 64) to replace the reference to the boundary legal description published in the 1979 State Register with a corrected legal description published in the 2018 State Register.


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