"The University of Minnesota had first considered building a hydraulic laboratory to use the water power at St. Anthony Falls as early as 1908.The plan came to fruition in the mid 1930's as a result of the transfer of city-owned land at the site to the University, the cooperation of the St. Anthony Falls Water Power Company, and, most important, the availability of funds through the Federal Works Progress Administration. Construction was started in March 1936 and the Laboratory was completed in the spring of 1938."

(Marsh, Mary H., The St. Anthony Falls Hydraulic Laboratory: the First Fifty Years. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, Iowa: 1987.)

Designed specifically to take advantage of this unique location, the Laboratory operates by diverting water from the St. Anthony Falls headpool. Water entering the building can either be stored in an indoor reservoir or directed to a large open channel to flow at rates of up to 300 cfs (cubic feet/ per second). As it makes its way through the Laboratory’s three experimental floors, water can be routed to various experimental tanks before rejoining the main Mississippi River channel approximately 50 feet below the headpool.An additional diversion directs water to the "Outdoor StreamLab" adjacent to the laboratory.

Researchers at SAFL have been developing solutions to the major problems in hydraulic engineering and water resources since the laboratory opened, from dam design to dam removal, from stormwater research to study of delta processes, wind energy and biofuels research. However, as demand for SAFL experimental facilities has grown, the building and its facilities have begun to crumble. This renovation will ensure safe, state of the art facilities for the use of researchers from across the United States and indeed the world.