Minnesota trailblazer receives Department of the Army award for his public service

Published April 27, 2018

DETROIT – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE or Corps) in the Great Lakes region presents a distinguished Army award to Nelson T. French, Lake Superior supervisor for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA.)

French recently received the Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Public Service, for his dedicated public service and support of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. As Lake Superior Supervisor and subject matter expert on remediation/environmental restoration processes for MCPA, French led restoration project sponsorship efforts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, helping to guide several important mitigation and restoration projects within Minnesota’s Duluth Harbor/St. Louis River EPA-listed Area of Concern (AOC.)

The Corps states that, French's unique skills in collaboration and strategic planning brought the vision of using dredged material in the Duluth, Minn. – Superior, Wis. Harbor together with providing ecosystem benefits. French’s dedication to a shared mission and selfless service are greatly appreciated and will provide lasting benefits to the region as the Corps continues to ensure sustainable use of the Great Lakes System, according to the Corps.

"These Commander’s awards for public service are special. They are rarely given to civilian USACE service people and even more rarely given to civilians who are not a part of the USACE family. But Nelson French’s service to the St. Louis River Area of Concern certainly merits such an award," said Tony Friona, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering Research and Development Center Liaison to the Great Lakes.

"Because of French’s history of outstanding partnership with the Corps and the Great Lakes Restoration Interagency partnership, his dedication to a shared mission and his selfless service in supporting the Saint Louis River AOC, and his passion for the Lake Superior system - all of which are embodied in the very highest traditions of public service – we bestow this honor on him," said Friona.

The Corps provides additional details that explain why French received the award including his passion towards the restoration and protection of the environment of the Western Lake Superior Basin.

With the MPCA, French was part of several interagency pollution remediation teams working on significant projects for the State of Minnesota. French is regarded as a subject matter expert on pollution remediation/environmental restoration processes and techniques and financing large public projects, which have helped to restore over 1,300 acres of fish and wildlife habitat in the St. Louis River Area of Concern and pave the way for another 400 acres.

French has also acted as the MPCA lead for restoration project sponsorship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District. With his partnership, French has helped guide several critically–important mitigation and restoration projects within the Duluth Harbor/St. Louis River EPA-listed AOC. Due to French’s understanding of the MPCA’s policies and procedures, as well as federal, or Corps, policies regarding AOC’s, he has skillfully brought a diverse and complex partnership together to complete several remediation and restoration projects that were standing idle.

French has been an outstanding non-federal partner and Corps advocate, while continuing to develop new concepts that will allow for future Corps/MPCA partnerships to assist the Corps in meeting its civil works missions, as we work together to delist the St. Louis River AOC, according to the Corps.


Lynn Rose
313-300-0662 (cell)

Release no. 18-019