BY ED FELIEN
Somehow, as mysteriously as it appeared, Boulder Dam has disappeared.
For more than a year, Southside Pride has called for the removal of the boulders under the 30th Avenue footbridge. The Barr Engineering study of Minnehaha Creek identified this rock weir as the control point for the water level of Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha. Finally, frustrated by the lack of action by the Park Board and their refusal to answer my questions, I filed suit in Hennepin County District Court to compel the Park Board to remove the boulders:
Edwin Felien, Petitioner
Brad Bourn, President
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
2117 West River Rd. North
Minneapolis, MN 55411, Respondent
A WRIT OF MANDAMUS TO COMPEL THE MINNEAPOLIS PARK AND RECREATION BOARD TO PERFORM THEIR DUTY TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC WELFARE
With the authority of Minnesota Statute 586.01, ISSUANCE OF WRIT, we ask the Court to enjoin the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (Defendant) to remove boulders that are raising the level of Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha and causing flooding of area homes and the Hiawatha Golf Course.
The Barr Engineering Minnehaha Creek Survey: http://savehiawatha18.com/commentary/mprb_documents/February-2017-Stormwater-Surface-Water-and-Groundwater-Analysis-Summary.pdf, commissioned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on February 6, 2017, says that the control point of the water level of Minnehaha Creek is a rock weir under the 30th Avenue footbridge. That high point is 810.7 feet above sea level. The highest point of a sewer line crossing Minnehaha Creek is 808 feet above sea level. If there were no other obstructions and the backfill, sand and silt flowed naturally downstream, removal of the rock weir could lower the water level and surrounding water table by 2.7 feet.
The Barr study said the purpose of the weir is “unknown.” Perhaps the best summary analysis of the weir is by Tiffany Schaufler, Project and Land Manager for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District in an email sent to me and Michael Schroeder, Assistant Superintendent in charge of Planning Services:
“In your November 19, 2018 Southside Pride article http://southsidepride.com/2018/10/16/down-with-boulder-dam/ you quoted Michael Schroeder saying: ‘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 10 years or more ago. There might have been some displacement since they were originally placed, perhaps through playful creek activities … I’m not sure…’
“In looking at John A. Week’s bridge inventory for Minnehaha Creek (https://www.johnweeks.com/minnehaha/pages/f10.html) the pictures posted on his website from 2010 show riprap located under the bridge embankments along the creek bank but no rocks across the creek itself. In looking at the picture you posted on the November 19, 2018, Southside Pride article, it looks like perhaps these rocks may have been moved from the bridge embankment to the center of the creek. This certainly is a possibility as Michael Schroeder noted above. In my experiences on other creeks across the state, I have observed people often playing in the water and moving rocks around.”
According to experts who have studied the problem, there is no legitimate reason to obstruct the flow of Minnehaha Creek with a rock weir at the 30th Avenue footbridge. We know that the raising of the water level of Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha has caused serious financial hardship to homes in the immediate neighborhood and to the maintenance of Hiawatha Golf Course.
Therefore, be it ordered by this Court that:
A hearing on this matter shall be scheduled by this Court;
The respondent shall explain to this Court why the boulders that control the level of Minnehaha Creek should not be removed;
Without justification of a legitimate purpose, this Court shall order the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to immediately remove the boulders and allow for the natural flow of Minnehaha Creek.
Dated: June _________, 2019 Judge, Hennepin County District Court
Now that the rock weir/dam is gone, the suit probably doesn’t have to go forward. However, the photos don’t convince me that all the rocks are gone and that this point is no longer the control point for the water level.
I wrote to the Park Board to ask Superintendent Bangoura for an interview to clarify. I received this from his staff member, Robin Smothers:
Thank you for your request. We will let you know the Superintendent’s July availability for an interview next week.
Robin Smothers, Media Relations and Social Media Manager
I sent this email in reply:
Thanks for getting back to me.
I look forward to an opportunity to sit down with the Superintendent for an interview.
As you may know, I have filed a motion in District Court for an order of a Writ of Mandamus ordering the Park Board to remove the boulders at the 30th Avenue footbridge that was the control point for the water level of Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha, according to the Barr Engineering study. Miraculously, the boulder dam has disappeared. It is difficult to know if the removal is complete and the site is no longer the control point for the Creek and Lake. If the removal has eliminated the boulder dam as the control point, then a court action would be unnecessary and moot. We have a court date set for August 12. I have to serve papers on the Park Board before July 12 in order for the action to go forward. If I could get confirmation from Barr Engineering or some other reputable engineering firm that the boulder dam is no longer the control point for the water level by early next week, then I will withdraw my action.
Attached are photos of the present condition of the remains of the rock weir. It is difficult to tell from the photos if the remaining boulders continue to impede the flow of the Creek. We need a hydrologist to confirm or deny that the weir no longer acts as the control point.
Thank you very much for your efforts in resolving this matter.