Protecting and restoring the Upper Mississippi River by advocating for reforms to the navigation system


The Nicollet Island Coalition (NIC) works to protect and restore the Upper Mississippi River by advocating for reforms to the navigation system. NIC was established in the early 1990s to help represent the broader public during the investigation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of a proposed lock expansion project on the Upper Mississippi River. During this process NIC brought environmental issues and public accountability to the forefront of the discussions about river management. In 2000, the Corps’ published reports were exposed by a whistleblower for inflating the economic benefits of navigation on the UMR, instigating an investigation by the Inspector General. The subsequent investigation found that the Corps’ economic analysis for navigation-related construction projects falsely claimed high financial benefits to ensure Congressional spending.

The Nicollet Island Coalition is dedicated to combating wasteful spending on environmentally damaging navigation projects and includes environmental groups, conservation organizations and taxpayer advocates. Through coordinated action and advocacy, the Coalition supports state and federal policies and appropriations that improve the health of the Upper Mississippi River, while challenging policies that compromise the upper Mississippi River’s ecology, economy, and society

Locks and Dams

Locks and dams fundamentally changed the character of the Upper Mississippi River by turning a free flowing river into a series of slack-water pools. Despite the environmental impacts of navigation dams, the barge industry is pushing for new infrastructure. Learn why these projects are bad for the economy and the environment.

Restoring the Upper Mississippi River

Recognizing the ecological deterioration caused by the Upper Mississippi River dams, Congress has authorized programs for environmental restoration and habitat rehabilitation on the Upper Mississippi River. Learn more about the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program and how you can support these projects.

Navigation Funding

River navigation is the most heavily subsidized transportation sector. The majority of funding for highways and railroads is paid by the users. But the navigation users only pay 10% of the cost to construct, operate, and maintain the commercial river navigation system. Learn more about transportation subsidies and who pays for the system.