Lake Hiawatha, the dumping ground



Why won’t the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board care for their own residents? Since the 1940s, people in the southeastern portion of South Minneapolis have suffered from storm water problems, and the city of Minneapolis and the Park Board have failed to implement comprehensive solutions.
In the 1940s, Harold Burnside, who lived by Sibley Park, petitioned the city to implement a realistic solution to the storm water problems. By 1979, the city of Minneapolis had developed a plan to build a storm water tunnel underneath East 39th Street to the Mississippi River to relieve South Minneapolis neighborhoods of the water. But the city abandoned the 39th Street plan, saying that it cost too much money. Instead, they just continued to send water to Lake Hiawatha.
In 1987, Harold Burnside drowned in his home when the basement wall of his home collapsed on him due to excessive flooding in his neighborhood. What did the city do? They just bought out homes by Sibley Park and on Bloomington Avenue.
When the sanitary sewage plant in St. Paul told the city of Minneapolis that they had to separate storm water from sewage because the plant was getting too much water from Minneapolis, the city did just that. The city directed the storm water into the storm sewer system, thus sending more water to Lake Hiawatha. And, in 2012, the city upgraded the storm sewers to the west of Lake Hiawatha which resulted in dumping over 60 million gallons of water into the Hiawatha Golf Course every year. This water now amounts to about 25% of the water being pumped out of the golf course.
Now, the Park Board wants to implement “watershed credits” which would allow developers to pay the Park Board to dump their water into Hiawatha Park rather than making them fulfill their legal requirement of mitigating the water on their own property.
Some people say that the golf course and some of the low-lying homes around Lake Hiawatha need to go – that they should have never been built there in the first place. Well, there are hundreds of homes that could qualify, from Lake Hiawatha to Powderhorn Lake. Should they all go? Or maybe the city of Minneapolis should finally implement real solutions to the storm water problems in these neighborhoods instead of using Lake Hiawatha as a dumping ground.
Seventy years after Harold Burnside asked for solutions, the city has not solved the problem. New storm water infrastructure has recently been built under I-35W, and the city is expanding the Franklin Avenue storm water tunnel. It is time for the city to build the 39th Street tunnel for Harold Burnside and the Hiawatha-Nokomis neighborhoods before more people and homes are destroyed.

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