With the spring thaw, the Mississippi River swells with melted snow and stormwater from city sewers. Lockmaster Tim Meers oversees the Lower St. Anthony Lock and Dam just downriver from the Stone Arch Bridge, and sees what pops up each spring as the river's raging flow is temporarily stilled inside the lock's gates.
What has this year's spring thaw brought you?
Mostly trees and natural debris. But if there's a real heavy rainfall and the storm sewers get flooded, you'll see whatever's in them come out. I don't know what all is in there . . . But after a big rain I see a lot of cigarette butts.
Do you remove them?
We just let it pass through. We don't have the capability to take things out or do anything with them -- it would cost the taxpayers money to do that.
Is there anything you're required to remove?
Not that I can think of. [Pause.] Oh, of course, if there's a human body or something . . . it has happened over the years that we do get corpses. It's been just a real variety of people, some young, some old. But I don't know how long it's been since we last had one.
On a more positive note, it seems more birds are visiting this stretch than, say, 10 years ago.
Oh sure. We've seen bald eagles, peregrine falcons, red-tail hawks and lots of songbirds. Blue herons, they're back, and egrets -- white, just pure white, beautiful birds. That's the beautiful part of the river, there's lots of wildlife, something nice to have in the city.