BY TERESA ENGSTROM
Here I go again, banging my head against the brick wall that is the Minneapolis Park Board. Staff and commissioners all inclusive.
I was totally gobsmacked at the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting held at Powderhorn Park Thursday night, March 7, 2019. The Park Board had the temerity to spend taxpayer money on a concept of a four-hole golf center when the directive for Hiawatha Golf Course clearly stated a minimum of nine-hole golf. Then, they took the flexible part of the directive and tried to pass it off as immutable, considering ONLY a 70% reduction in pumping. Attempting to claim they are only doing what the Park Board commissioners directed was contemptible.
On Aug. 1, 2018, I spoke with Michael Schroeder concerning the directive that had been passed by the commissioners, thanks to an amendment put forth by Commissioner Vetaw. Michael had worked with her to craft this compromise amendment.
If you view the video of that meeting where the amendment was voted on, it is absolutely clear from Michael Schroeder and President Brad Bourn that there is no reason for the pumping to be reduced. No reason at all. Brad Bourn states that if pumping is reduced, it is on the Park Board, not by reason of the DNR. The DNR has repeated that no reduction of pumping is required.
So, I asked Michael on Aug. 1, 2018, if when we talk about reduced pumping, did it have to be 96 million gallons or if the directive was just about the “concept” of reduced pumping. Michael said that was what he had been trying to convey to the commissioners, that there is a whole range of pumping options that were less than the 242 million gallons per year. And that the first objective has to be keeping the homes and the neighborhood safe. The parameters would be determined by elevations and groundwater locations and what freeboard requirements were required by home mortgage programs.
Then, the proposals for the CAC came up with ONLY 70% reduced pumping. This reflects none of the parameters described by Michael Schroeder. We already know there is no reason for the reduced pumping. The Park Board is giving $175,000 of taxpayer money to Barr Engineering, who is only giving us the same old reports that were already paid for. No new science was presented to the CAC. The Park Board just expects homeowners to take their word for it when, clearly, not even written promises are kept, let alone verbal ones. Even if we accept Barr Engineering’s studies to be competent, the Park Board’s interpretations of Barr reports have been deeply flawed.
Even the prospect of state senators and representatives telling the Park Board and their lawyers and their lobbyist that a comprehensive study of the entire watershed must be done before any decisions are made does not deter them. Senator Patricia Torres Ray stated that the water issues must be studied and resolved before any changes are made, and that didn’t dent their hubris. Immediately after the senator addressed the Park Board staff, two commissioners and the CAC, Commissioner Musich spoke about changes being made along Minnehaha Creek without a comprehensive study. Steffanie Musich clearly just does not understand the problem and she has no concern about the people in her district. She has stated, “The people of South Minneapolis will just have to get used to water in their basements.” All because she has personally decided Hiawatha Golf Course has to go.
No changes should be made to Minnehaha Creek, Lake Hiawatha or Hiawatha Golf Course until a comprehensive hydrological study is done. This is not Park Board money Steffanie Musich is foolishly spending, it is taxpayer money. And even hearing state senators say that the money faucet will be turned off does not sink in. The arrogance and the lack of transparency and the absolute lack of consideration for veracity is simply appalling.
The comprehensive study of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed and the volumes of water coming down the Creek into Lake Hiawatha simply must be studied before the Park Board does further irreparable damage to South Minneapolis. Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board is throwing away tax dollars and they don’t care. We will continue to shine a light on their actions.