Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area Program History

Designated by Governor's Executive Order in the 1970s, the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) is a land corridor along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area governed by special land development regulations that protect and preserve the unique natural, recreational, transportation, and cultural features of this section of the Mississippi River. It comprises 72 miles of river and 54,000 acres of surrounding land in 30 local jurisdictions.

The MRCCA was designated in 1976 by Executive Order following passage of the Minnesota Critical Areas Act of 1973. The Critical Areas Act (Minn. Stat., § 116G) provides a general regulatory framework for protecting specific areas of the state that possess important historic, cultural, or aesthetic values or natural systems through a defined local-regional planning and regulation process.

The MRCCA was the first and remains the only critical area in the state. The MRCCA protects these resources through local governments' land use plans and zoning ordinances that regulate structure placement, height, vegetation clearing, land alteration, and subdivision of land.

Importance of the MRCCA

The MRCCA contains significant natural and cultural resources, including: water, navigational capabilities, scenic views, geology and soils, vegetation, minerals, flora and fauna, cultural and historic resources and land and water-based recreational resources. The MRCCA is home to a full range of residential neighborhoods and parks, as well as river-related commerce, 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 also shares the same boundary as the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area (MNRRA), a unit of the National Park Service.


The purposes of designating the Mississippi River as a state critical area include:

  • protecting and preserving a unique and valuable state and regional resource for the benefit of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens for the state, region, and nation;
  • preventing and mitigating irreversible damage to this resource;
  • preserving and enhancing its natural, aesthetic, cultural, and historical value for public use;
  • protecting and preserving the river as an essential element in the national, state, and regional transportation, sewer and water, and recreational systems; and
  • protecting and preserving the biological and ecological functions of the corridor.

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.