But at present that is not an argument the corps is willing to conduct. For the past two years, Davis, along with other representatives from the DNR, the corps, and several other public agencies have been holding "visioning meetings." The aim is to come to consensus on what should be done with Pool 1. As a precondition of those meetings, Davis says, participants were told that they had to assume that commercial navigation would remain on the river, meaning dam removal was off the table. "Basically, we weren't allowed to articulate an idea about the future," Davis complains. "Everybody just wants us to hold hands and hug." That said, Davis's contribution to the visioning group's draft report obliquely suggests a future in which "navigation infrastructure is no longer essential."
As we motored up Pool 1, we approached the vicinity where the corps and the kayaking folk hope to build their whitewater park. Davis pointed to the river's east bank, covered with big, flat slabs of limestone cap rock. The slabs, Davis explained, were dropped into the riverbed by the erosion of St. Anthony Falls thousands of years ago. Sometime in the past century, they were extracted from the river and placed on the bank by the corps to aid navigation and stabilize the bank. "I like how those rocks look," he said, his face lighting up. "They would have made some spectacular rapids, and they would have created a lot of habitat for a lot of creatures."