Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area Program

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:

Summary of Designation and Rulemaking


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


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. This link leads to an external site.(SONAR Exhibit A)


Governor Albert Quie continues the designation. Executive Order 79-19. This link leads to an external site. (SONAR Exhibit B)
Metropolitan Council acts to make designation permanent. Metropolitan Council Resolution 79-48. PDF (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). This link leads to an external site.


MNRRA designated a state critical area per Critical Areas Act. Minn. Stat. § 116G.15 This link leads to an external site.(1991).


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


Legislature directs DNR to prepare report on the MRCCA. DNR Report to Legislature, January 2008. PDF (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 This link leads to an external site.(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. This link leads to an external site.


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), This link leads to an external site. codified at Minn. Stat. § 116G. 15 (2015). This link leads to an external site.


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