Upper Harbor Terminal Project update: Environmental review

This article was written by Melissa Winn and Kelley Skumautz

The City of Minneapolis’ plan for the Upper Harbor Terminal, a 48-acre site on the west side of the river in North Minneapolis, has been in the works since at least 2015 when Saint Anthony Falls closed to barge traffic, making the terminal obsolete. The City Council was going to vote on the Coordinated Plan in February 2021, and if approved, the project would have started preliminary, preparatory construction in 2022.

The vote was delayed after Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) brought attention to the illegality of approving the plan before an environmental review was completed. While the City was scheduled to vote on the plan before knowing the extent of environmental impacts, they heeded the Minnesota Environmental Protection Act and MCEA’s warning and agreed to delay sending the plan for approval so the environmental review could be done.

The City issued an environmental review scoping order on February 9, setting forth the guidelines it will follow in performing the review. Acting as its own Responsible Governmental Unit, the City decided to use an Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR) as its environmental review process. The AUAR process is a hybrid of the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review processes. An AUAR can be used as a planning tool to understand how different development scenarios will affect the environment of a community before the development occurs, and is designed to look at the cumulative impacts of anticipated development scenarios within a given geographic area. It is anticipated that the public will have the opportunity to comment as the review is underway.

For info visit upperharbormpls.com or minneapolismn.gov.