Down with Boulder Dam

BY ED FELIEN

On Sept. 9 I sent the following email to Superintendent of Parks Mary Merrill:

Hi Superintendent Merrill,

Would you please direct staff to remove the boulder dam/weir under the 30th Avenue Footbridge that is obstructing the flow of Minnehaha Creek, as indicated in the Barr Engineering study.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

On Sept. 12 I received this from John Goodrich, Executive Assistant/Office of the Superintendent:

Mr. Felien,

Superintendent Merrill requested that I loop back with you to relay that, The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is the local unit of government responsible for managing the area you reference. Park Board staff are not allowed to remove boulders or modify the creek.

So, I sent this to James Wisker, district administrator of The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District:

Hello James Wisker, District Administrator,

I have been informed by MPRB Superintendent Merrill’s office: “The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is the local unit of government responsible for managing the area you reference. Park Board staff are not allowed to remove boulders or modify the creek.”

I had written: “Would you please direct staff to remove the boulder dam/weir under the 30th Avenue Footbridge that is obstructing the flow of Minnehaha Creek, as indicated in the Barr Engineering study.”

If the MCWD is “responsible for managing the area,” would you please tell me what is the function of the boulder dam/weir under the 30th Avenue footbridge? According the Barr Engineering study, this dam/weir is the control point:

“The Barr Engineering Study of Minnehaha Creek cites two other points that control the water level flowing out of Lake Hiawatha: ‘The existing control of water levels in Lake Hiawatha is either the high point in the channel upstream of 28th Avenue South or the rock weir under the pedestrian bridge at 30th Avenue South. The high point at 28th Avenue South appears to be caused by a gas main crossing the creek. The weir at 30th Avenue South appears to be manmade and its function is unknown. Both high point elevations are approximately 810.7 feet above sea level.’”–http://southsidepride.com/2018/07/02/stop-the-flooding/

Stop the flooding – Southside Pride, southsidepride.com.

The Park Board can stop the flooding of basements in South Minneapolis and the flooding of the Hiawatha Golf Course, and it won’t cost taxpayers a dime. The flooding is caused by the dam/weir at 27th Avenue at the outlet of Lake Hiawatha. It backs up about 4 to 5 feet of water, and that has raised … It turns out the abandoned gas pipeline at 28th Avenue is only 809.73 feet above sea level, so it is almost a foot lower than the boulder dam/weir:

16” CAST IRON NATURAL GAS PIPELINE INSTALLED IN 1917. PIPE WAS TAKEN OUT OF SERVICE & LEFT IN PLACE IN 2013 PIPE ELEVATION IS 809.73

file:///Users/edfelien/Downloads/28th%20Av%20S%20at%20Minnehaha%20Creek.pdf

As you are no doubt aware, the MPRB intends to reduce pumping on the Hiawatha Golf Course. This will result in damage to homes in the neighborhood and millions of dollars in permanent damage to a treasured public golf course. Allowing the dam/weir to continue to artificially raise the water level of Lake Hiawatha and the surrounding water table would seem to make the MCWD liable for damages.

What is the purpose of the dam/weir?

Why don’t you have it removed?

Sincerely,

Ed Felien

I didn’t get an answer, so I sent this on Sept. 21:

Hello James Wisker,

I am disappointed that I haven’t received a communication from your office regarding the Boulder Dam at 30th Avenue. I asked, “What is the purpose of the dam/weir?” and “Why don’t you have it removed?”

I believe I am well within my rights to ask these questions of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and I believe `it is your responsibility to answer them. As you know, this dam/weir will play an important part in the flooding of South Minneapolis and the Hiawatha Golf Course when the Park Board reduces pumping. If I do not hear from you by next Tuesday, I will assume you intend to ignore my inquiry, and I will have to file a motion for a Writ of Mandamus in District Court to compel you to answer.

Thank you for your serious consideration,

I got an almost immediate response from Michael Schroeder, the assistant superintendent for planning:

Ed,

I have a meeting with MPRB staff next week to look into this further. I understand the boulders were placed to mitigate a head cut in the stream, but I don’t yet know when–perhaps ten years or more ago. There might have been some displacement since they were originally placed, perhaps through playful creek activities… I’m not sure.

If there’s a way for us to remove or relocate the boulders without creating an issue for the stream, we’ll look further into how we get that to happen.

If there is some obstructing quality to the boulders, I understand it might mitigate some of the water elevation fluctuations in Lake Hiawatha. I need to look into that further. In discussions I’ve had so far, the removal of the boulders would have very minimal, if any, influence on the volume of groundwater pumping.

I’m sorry to be responding to you after your missive to James Wisker, but I needed to look into this and only made some minimal headway this morning.

Michael

That same day I received this from James Wisker:

Good afternoon, Mr. Felien.

My apologies for the delay in responding directly to your inquiry. After receiving your initial message I reached out to connect and coordinate with staff at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which I believe has ownership of the area in question.

It is my understanding that MPRB staff have responded to you, and are actively evaluating your inquiry. They have indicated that the boulders may have been placed as part of an effort to mitigate a head cut in the stream, and are determining if they can be removed or relocated without creating other issues. They have also noted that the boulders would likely have minimal, if any, impact on groundwater pumping.

Thank you for taking the time to send your questions, and for your follow up. MPRB and MCWD staff will coordinate further on this and be in touch as soon as we are able. I look forward to following up with you when we have more information.

Warm Regards.

James Wisker

I wrote back:

Thank you very much for your reply.

The third Community Advisory Committee meeting for the Hiawatha Golf Course Property Master Plan is scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, 6-8 p.m. at Pearl Recreation Center, 414 E. Diamond Lake Rd.

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