Water control structures have shaped the development and management of the watershed for many years. The structures provide flood control, water supply, hydro electric generation and proper management also benefits tourism, recreation, and wildlife habitat.
- In the 1800s, numerous dams were constructed along the Mississippi River to support the timber trade and textile industries.
- Many of the structures were abandoned聽 or deteriorated as the timber trade declined.
- Between 1910 and 1920 hydro electric generation interests rehabilitated many dam sites on the system
- in the 1950s and 60s tourism and cottage development were attracted to the reservoir lake shores
Currently there are in excess of 30 water control structures in operation on the main Mississippi River and its tributaries, with remnants of another 20 or so still visible. Of those 30 dams, MVCA owns and or operates 19 of them. There are currently five hydro generation structures on the Mississippi River, which are the only dams on the main river which MVCA does operate. MVCA has developed operating guidelines for all its structures to try to ensure the most effective and coordinated operation of the structures as a whole is achieved.