Two sets of appointed officials are lined up to okay a project that explicitly violates the law. The Metropolitan Council is promoting sewer replacement construction that contravenes the Coldwater protection law by threatening the flow to this 10,000 year old spring.
UPDATE: * The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District meeting to discuss & vote on the sewer project permit was postponed to Thursday, March 26 to allow more time for the public to comment.
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is set to permit the project with assurances about “contingency plans” for unforeseen circumstances, “restoring” Coldwater Springs after “temporary” dewatering, and orders to monitor the spring daily during the 2-year construction project.
Take action. Ask that sewer construction be redesigned to the location of the current pipe without tearing up the north end of Minnehaha Park and threatening the flow to Coldwater Springs:
Adam Duininck, Chair, Metropolitan Council, 651-602-1390 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lars Erdahl, Administrator, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, 952-641-4505 or email@example.com
National Park Service, 651-293-8438 or http://www.nps.gov/miss, click on Coldwater and follow prompts
THE LAW – Section 1. [PROTECTION OF NATURAL FLOW.]
Neither the state, nor a unit of metropolitan government, nor a political subdivision of the state may take any action that may diminish the flow of water to or from Camp Coldwater Springs. All projects must be reviewed under the Minnesota Historic Sites Act and the Minnesota Field Archaeology Act with regard to the flow of water to or from Camp Coldwater Springs. (passed in 2001)
The language of the law is specific, forbidding “any action that may diminish the flow.” Not “temporary” dewatering, not permanent dewatering—no “action that may diminish.” The language of the contingency planning (below) is slippery.
Coldwater is the last major natural spring in Hennepin County, is where the soldiers who built Fort Snelling lived (1820-23) and where a civilian pioneer community gathered to service the fort. Some consider Coldwater to be the birthplace of Minnesota. The spring furnished water to Fort Snelling 1820-1920.
THE PROJECT: Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) project 1-MN-344 Tunnel Improvement: A sanitary sewer pipe is scheduled to be replaced at the north end of Minnehaha Park. It is an underground construction, about 45 to 50 feet below the surface, with two 18-foot diameter access shafts cut through bedrock at either end, and a 44 by 60-foot subsurface vault. Groundwater “will just flow around” these subterranean buried structures after construction planners reported at Minnehaha Creek Watershed District board meeting (1/29/15).
A replacement 1,000-foot pipe would run horizontally below Minnehaha Creek, the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit line and Highway 55 to replace a 1930s-era sanitary sewer pipe. The project is scheduled to run for two years from this summer to June of 2017.
Both groundwater and deep well dewatering is planned that is, pumping water out from above the limestone bedrock and below in the sandstone. Daily monitoring at Coldwater is called for.
Assurances by experts of “no loss of flow” from the Highway 55 reroute resulted in the permanent loss of nearly a quarter of the flow to Coldwater. MnDOT was court-ordered to monitor the spring flow for 20 months post-construction. Despite the Coldwater protection law a permanent, daily loss of flow of 27,500 gallons was reported.
Before Highway 55 reroute construction the flow to Coldwater was measured at about 130,000 gallons a day. Now the flow rate is about 84,000 gallons daily. Adding the 27,500 daily dewatering lost to Coldwater to the current flow of 84,000—there is a mystery loss of more than 18,000 gallons
CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR PROBLEMS
Consultants at the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District meeting admitted that the “contingency plans” are unknown, that conditions are “unforeseeable,” that an observer will be on site to come up with “reasonable solutions.”