employees, families and friends participate in Duluth’s dragon boat race each summer

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Tom MacDonald

Vice President, Senior Water Resources Engineer

In a recent fall cyclocross race (photo courtesy of Brady Prenzlow)

When Tom MacDonald isn’t busy working on stream and river restorations, he’s racing. Bike racing, that is.

“I’ve been racing bicycles since I was 12 years old,” said Tom. “My favorite event is the Dakota Five-0, a 50-mile off-road race in the Black Hills of South Dakota. At one point, you can look down about a thousand feet and see the dam conversion project we completed several years ago on Spearfish Creek!” 

He also regularly rides his bike to and from work, finding it much more enjoyable and relaxing than driving. His wife and two sons share his biking enthusiasm.

And he’s just as passionate about his work. Tom began college studying mechanical engineering, but quickly realized he was less interested in building things than in addressing societal and environmental problems. He completed his master’s degree working under the auspices of Dr. Gary Parker, a world-renowned expert in stream and river processes, and nurtured the fledgling field of stream restoration at Barr.

“Stream restoration efforts have really exploded over the last several years,” said Tom. "It fits well with our emphasis on low-impact design.” 

Dam removal has become a preferred means of restoring river ecosystems. At present, one of his pet projects is the removal of the Minnesota Falls Dam in Granite Falls, Minnesota, for Xcel Energy.

“This will be one of the few complete dam removals in Minnesota,” said Tom. “Restoring the area to what it once was will expose beautiful granite bedrock and restore three miles of prime spawning area for several threatened fish species such as paddlefish and river sturgeon.”

Living just yards from the Mississippi River, Tom appreciates the subtle value rivers and streams bring to people’s lives and communities.

“Living near the river makes life in the city a lot less claustrophobic,” said Tom. “I enjoy hiking and biking along stream and rivers as well as canoeing them.”

Tom also enjoys skiing, food, and travelling in his free time. Before starting a family, he and his wife spent three months doing volunteer work in a remote Nepal village where there were no roads, cars, electricity, and only one telephone in the area. They hope to return someday with their sons.