Monthly Archives: August 2013

Organized Critics Slow Planning for Southwest L R T

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the Star Tribune on August 24, 2013:

Organized critics slow planning for Southwest LRT

Hundreds of activists are raising doubts about safety and environmental impact; now they’re threatening lawsuits.

Jami LaPray, of St. Louis Park, opposes the Southwest Corridor light-rail project and leads the Safety in the Park group.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

The Southwest Corridor light rail once seemed like a done deal. The elected leaders of more than a million metro residents approved its route after years of planning and the federal government gave it the green light.

Then the project ran into opposition from determined activists in St. Louis Park and Minneapolis who have spent money and influence on campaigns with rhetoric that sometimes obscures their own interests.

At a rally along the shore of Cedar Lake in Minneapolis, a speaker asserted that they were fighting to prevent a wooded corridor popular with bikers “from being destroyed” by light rail.

At a rally in St. Louis Park, another speaker insisted that rerouting freight trains near a school to make way for the light rail would “throw children under the train.”

The activists say they like light-rail transit and support running it from Minneapolis to the southwest suburbs. But they reject plans to locate either freight trains or light rail in their neighborhoods to make it happen.

With public relations campaigns and threatening lawsuits, they have forced planners to go back to the drawing board and contemplate changes that would dramatically drive up costs of the project.

Its price tag — rising from $1.25 billion to as high as $1.82 billion — drew opposition last week from government officials who must soon decide whether to fund 30 percent of it.

“It’s coming time to … balance resources with neighborhood discomfort,” said Mike Opat, a Hennepin County commissioner who criticized spending to appease some residents. “We’d love to do a big public works project and have no one affected; that’s clearly not going to be the case here.”


Concerns arose last year after an environmental analysis said a couple hundred St. Louis Park homes might experience increased noise or vibration if freight trains were rerouted to the suburb from the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis to make room for LRT. The reroute would double or triple freight traffic on existing St. Louis Park tracks and potentially increase the speed and length of trains.

The analysis said the benefits of the LRT project for the Twin Cities outweighed its drawbacks. But some St. Louis Park residents who live or work near the planned freight reroute argued dramatically that the additional freight created a safety hazard.

“How will you feel when the first student is killed … and those cars, after the first derailment, spill into the back yards of the homes of people living along the tracks?” Sharon Lehrman asked elected officials at a public hearing. “Will you be able to sleep at night?”

Opponents threatened legal action and seized on the opinion of the Twin Cities and Western Railroad, which declared the curves and grades of the St. Louis Park track unsafe for the additional traffic.

So the Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the project, designed new freight routes for St. Louis Park costing $200 million that include berms as high as two stories to straighten the curves and smooth grades.

It satisfied the railroad’s concerns about safety.

But it still didn’t quiet some St. Louis Park residents. A group that calls itself Safety in the Park said a berm would create a “Berlin Wall” in the suburb and run too close to schools.

At a rally this month, about 100 people stood next to a playground in St. Louis Park where one berm would run.

“If it derails, it’s going to come this way,” Frank Freedman announced. Others held banners calling the spot “ground zero.”

“It is ‘safer’ to literally throw children under the train than to try to keep the train as far away as possible” from the school, complained Kathryn Kottke.

Not everyone in St. Louis Park buys the safety argument.

“People are using children as a way to enforce their point because they’re trying to protect their economic interests,” said St. Louis Park resident Greg Hannon.

He points out that some of the more vocal opponents live near the tracks where the additional trains would be routed. The back yard of Jami LaPray, a leader of Safety in the Park, faces the freight tracks. She denied his claim about economic interests. “Safety has always been paramount,” she said.

Hannon favors a reroute because he lives in a condo next to tracks that currently handle the freight trains that would be moved to make room for LRT tracks.

“When a freight train goes by … we can feel the vibration,” he said. “If we just had LRT and not freight trains, our unit’s going to become more attractive.”

“I’m trying to protect the same thing — trying to protect my investment,” he said. ‘Not in my back yard’?”

Moving freight traffic out of the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis — a wooded area between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles — became an issue because the city years ago made it a condition for accepting the LRT there. It’s surrounded by some of the wealthier neighborhoods in the city.

But many of those residents were accustomed to the freight traffic and never wanted more frequent LRT trains in the corridor. After St. Louis Park residents balked at taking the freight, the Minneapolis residents offered to keep it if the Met Council built a 1.4-mile-long subway tunnel to hide the LRT in Kenilworth. The agency said the tunnel would cost $330 million.

At a recent rally at Cedar Lake, Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein, Minneapolis DFLers who chair transportation committees, told 100 people that they talked to Gov. Mark Dayton and got an encouraging reaction.

“I don’t think the Met Council or the governor would be moving or even considering other options but for all of the great organizing you’re doing,” Hornstein told the crowd. “This makes a huge difference. The entire debate has shifted.”

Lee Lynch, the retired founder of Carmichael Lynch advertising agency who lives near Cedar Lake, encouraged people at the rally to contribute to a “Kenilworth litigation fund” to fight for the tunnel. Advocates have hired former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson to press their case.

Proponents of hiding light rail in a tunnel through the Kenilworth corridor assert that having it running above ground next to freight would crowd the narrow corridor, require moving a portion of an adjacent bike trail and damage a parklike atmosphere.

“We will not allow the Kenilworth corridor to be destroyed,” said Stuart Chazin, who organized the rally and leads the Kenilworth Preservation Group.

“It is … hard to understand how the city would agree to a plan to build a light-rail corridor through one of the most peaceful environments already developed for bikers and walkers,” the group says on its website. “It is important that particular attention be paid to the ramifications to the environment, wildlife and visual aesthetics.”

The group rejected a shorter, cut-and-cover tunnel that costs half as much, saying it would harm the environment.

But much of the support for a longer tunnel comes from people with a property interest. Signs demanding the tunnel “to protect our trails, homes and beautiful community” are particularly prominent outside homes whose back yards would face the future LRT line.

Last week, Opat questioned why the Met Council was paying so much attention to “a relative few” Minneapolis residents.

And at the rally, one woman asked, “How do we make this into the metro issue that it really is? I’m very concerned if this is perceived as a NIMBY — not in my back yard — we will have lost our message entirely.”

M P R B: Re-route Freight Trains for Southwest L R T

The following article by Bill McAuliffe was published in the August 23, 2013 issue of the Star Tribune:

Minneapolis Park Board: Reroute freight trains for Southwest LRT

The Kenilworth Trail alongside a freight train track that is adjacent to a proposed site for the Southwest Corridor light rail line.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board says it wants freight train traffic rerouted to St. Louis Park to make way for a light-rail line from Minneapolis to the southwest suburbs.

The board’s position, in a detailed resolution passed unanimously Wednesday, could complicate the already contentious process of designing the nearly 16-mile light rail line though five cities from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, with a price tag that could approach $1.8 billion.

St. Louis Park residents have opposed a reroute of freight from the Kenilworth Corridor, which would keep only light rail and recreational trails in the area between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. The Park Board indicated in its resolution that it would accept all three modes of transportation in the corridor only if the light-rail tracks were dropped into a deep tunnel to run under the Kenilworth Channel connecting Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. That tunnel could cost more than $300 million, and regional leaders have objected to those costs.

Parks commissioners also indicated they firmly oppose a cheaper “shallow” tunnel option for light rail as too environmentally disruptive. Trains would emerge from the tunnel in a trench to cross over the Kenilworth Channel, a feature that parks commissioner Anita Tabb, who represents the area of Minneapolis on the board, described as “strip mining.” The channel is a popular canoe and kayak route in the summer and ski and skate course in the winter.

The Park Board has the power to challenge the proposed route and designs under federal transportation policies, said Park Board attorney Brian Rice. Those policies were adopted a generation ago, in part due to conflicts between highway and park planners in Minneapolis over proposed enhancements to Hiawatha Avenue (Hwy. 55) through south Minneapolis, including Minnehaha Park. Under federal provisions, transportation projects cannot go through park land or historic sites if a feasible alternative can be found, Rice said.

The Park Board’s position is that the Kenilworth Corridor is part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway system, which has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. Eligibility provides special protections under transportation law, Rice said.

Parks commissioners said they didn’t think anyone would be surprised by their resolution. Board chairman John Erwin said it was in keeping with the board’s mission to “preserve and protect the parks.”

Mark Andrew Commentary on Southwest L R T

The following commentary by Mark Andrew, former Hennepin County Commissioner, was published in the August 21, 2013 issue of the Star Tribune:

Southwest Commuter Rail: Honor Previous Agreements

The way forward is to honor the agreements already made in the past.

The conflict over the alignment of the Southwest light-rail corridor is a problem that already has a solution — the original agreement from 1997.

The agreement at that time was for Hennepin County to clean up one of the nation’s worst Superfund sites in St. Louis Park in exchange for diverting freight-rail traffic from the Kenilworth corridor running between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles to St. Louis Park.

At that time, I was chair of the Hennepin County Board and was the chief architect of the original Midtown Greenway collaboration. As the county commissioner representing those communities, I also helped broker the Kenilworth bike trail as the second dedicated bikeway in Minneapolis. Both of these projects served to make huge assets out of old rail lines.

Around that time, the city faced a major rail traffic reroute problem due to the construction of Hiawatha Avenue/Hwy. 55. The Hiawatha Avenue project severed the existing east/west rail service on what is now the Midtown Greenway, forcing it into the Kenilworth corridor. Understandably, there was concern over this unwanted traffic.

At the same time, the city of St. Louis Park was burdened with one of the worst Superfund sites in the country. The Golden Auto site was severely polluted with creosote and was a major source of groundwater contamination. Health concerns in St. Louis Park were rampant, and experts predicted long-term health impacts. St. Louis Park desperately needed help. It was clearly in the public interest to remediate the polluted site.

The County Board found a way to solve both problems at once.

Through our work with key legislators, the state authorized Hennepin County to impose an additional 10-cents-per-$1,000 tax on mortgage and deed registration. The proceeds were put into a newly created Hennepin County Environmental Response Fund to clean up polluted sites in the county, with the first priority being the Golden Auto site.

Not only was the site to be cleaned up, but we also collectively agreed that a rail traffic connection was to be developed there to divert freight-rail traffic north to an existing rail line. Rail traffic through the Kenilworth corridor was to be only temporary, and a new route was to be found through the cleaned-up Golden Auto site.

Hennepin County kept its end of the bargain and cleaned up the site. When I stepped down from the County Board in 1999, the county and St. Louis Park were on their way to a win-win partnership to trade freight rail for a major county-financed environmental solution on the Golden Auto site.

Today, that agreement languishes. In deciding the route for the Southwest light-rail transit, it is time for all parties to revisit the original agreement to move freight-rail traffic through St. Louis Park. To do otherwise would break faith with longstanding legislative, county, municipal, and community actions and agreements.

I understand that this option creates concern in St. Louis Park, a community I was proud to represent on the County Board. However, we need to look at the region as a whole. The burden of colocating light rail and freight rail next to the stunning biking and hiking trail is simply too much for Minneapolis to bear. Colocation endangers our neighborhoods, our parkland, our regional trail systems, and our lakes and waters. Additionally, projected costs of colocation are excessively high and impossible to justify.

The Metropolitan Council has said it will “go back to the drawing board” in order to find a solution to the Southwest route. The council should consider the original solution as was agreed to in 1997. Hennepin County lived up to its end of the bargain. The Met Council and region should assure that all parties live up to theirs, too.


Mark Andrew is a candidate for Minneapolis mayor.

M P R B Letter to F E R C, August 14, 2013

The following letter from John Erwin, President of Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, to FERC points out that “Crown Hydro’s latest submission is not an amendment to a license; it is a completely new, unstudied, and potentially ill-conceived idea that raises far more questions than the previous proposal.”  And he reiterates the MPRB’s position that Crown Hydro’s existing license should be terminated.

August 14, 2013

Kimberly Bose


Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First Street NE

Washington, DC 20426

RE: Project No. 11175-024 – Minnesota Crown Mill Hydropower Project

Dear Secretary Bose:

On June 14, 2012, you issued a “Notice of initiation of Proceedings to Terminate License By Implied Surrender and Soliciting Comments and Motions to intervene in This Project.” The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (“Park Board”) submitted comments on this proceeding on July 19, 2012 in support of terminating Crown Hydro, LLC’s (“Crown”) license. It is our opinion that the license granted to Crown in 1999 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (”FERC”) should be terminated. The long history of this project has demonstrated that Crown has not been able to effectuate their plans. In fact, Crown has a demonstrated history of being unable to work with local governments, state and federal agencies, local residents, businesses and other concerned parties to accomplish the project.

Crown’s latest attempt to style a completely new project as a license “amendment” is disingenuous at best. Crown has proposed a completely new project on a new site that requires a new headrace, tunnel and tailrace, and it should be considered as such.

Crown originally conceived a project to revitalize in an old milling area using an extant building, tunnels, and tailrace as a means to produce hydro power at St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis. The core of this idea was to use an existing tunnel and tail race to provide power in an area that the Park Board and others had already begun to revitalize. At first, the Park Board was willing to potentially collaborate on such an effort, provided Crown not seek to use Park Board land without complete agreement of the Park Board. Crown has now come forward with an idea to locate a new powerhouse and create a new tunnel on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (”USACE”) lands underneath the nationally historic James J. Hill Stone Arch bridge. The Park Board is an interested party in Crown’s proposal since it owns the top surface of the Stone Arch Bridge and has invested millions of dollars in its renovation, design, operation and maintenance. We also own and maintain much of the area surrounding Crown Hydro’s proposed project site, and any development in this area will undoubtedly impact Park Board land and park users. Crown’s proposal will require involvement of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which owns the Stone Arch Bridge itself.

Crown Hydro’s latest submission is not an amendment to a license: it is a completely new, unstudied, and potentially ill-conceved idea that raises far more questions than the previous proposal. At this point, FERC should terminate Crown’s existing license. If Crown wishes to pursue an entirely new project on entirely new land with an entirely new tunnel and other facilities, they should abide by all the existing requirements of FERC for a new license application. Any other attempt to permitting Crown on USACE lands under nationally historic assets is an attempt to circumvent FERC rules. Therefore, the Park Board requests that FERC terminate the license that was granted over fourteen years ago to Crown and be done with that project.

The Park Board believes the course proposed by Crown in its June 12, 2013 letter is a completely inappropriate means to deal with what is a new project in a new location that creates a new tunnel that has endless complications for this sensitive area. I have reviewed Crown’s letter dated June 12, 2013 wherein they propose a schedule with consultation and timeline for filing an application for an amendment of the license. I find that their proposed schedule for such a major new project is both immensely shallow and extraordinarily brief.

Crown claims that they have been consulting with the USACE for over one year on this new project. I seriously question whether or not a consultation period of four months with the USACE for the multitude of issues raised in Mr. Edward A. Abrams’s letter of April 15, 2013 is sufficient to address these concerns.

Given the myriad of issues raised with Crown seeking the use of USACE lands, I am also dubious that the consultation can be accomplished in the period laid out and concerned that the public and other interested entities cannot be provided with the information necessary to fully evaluate the project. Crown’s proposed schedule in its June 12, 2013 letter has an overlap between the work that needs to be done with the USACE and the consultation period allowed with the public. Crown suggests a thirty (30) day consultation period for the pubic. Over six weeks have passed since Mr. Abrams called these shortcomings to Crown’s attention, and yet no further information is available to the public on what issues Crown anticipates with these issues.

Ever since our comments of July 19, 2012, much has changed in the Central Mississippi Regional Riverfront in Minneapolis. Usership visits in the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park for 2012 were just released. Over 1,600,000 people visit the park area around Crown’s proposed new facility in 2012. That is up over 500,000 user visits since the previously available number. Thousands of new housing units have been created in the area in just the last year, with many thousands more scheduled to be built. The Park Board is engaged in a new comprehensive planning process for this area which will involve the creation of new park amenities in the coming years. All of these developments make hydro production at the Falls of St. Anthony a matter of more acute interest by an ever larger number of stakeholders.

FERC reasonably provided a request for consultation with existing impacted parties in its letter dated April 15 2013. Crown disregarded that request. Instead, Crown introduced their own schedule; their proposed schedule is unrealistic and disregards FERC’s prior request. Given the intense interest that the Park Board, other public agencies, and concerned citizens and businesses have with this proposal, Crown’s proposed schedule is not only unrealistic, it is unfair to these affected parties as a whole, and disregards FERC’s prior request and timeline.

The Park Board maintains its position articulated in its July 19, 2012 letter that Crown Hydro’s license should be terminated. We applaud FERC for remaining diligent and rigorous in its requirements of whatever actions Crown would take, and we encourage FERC to apply the strictest standards to whatever proposal Crown puts forth in the next several months. We intend to remain fully engaged on how this project will affect the cultural and natural resources in this most important area.

Very truly yours,

John Erwin, President

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

cc: Mr. Donald H. Clark, Counsel to Crown Hydro

Minneapolis Park Board Commissioners

Mr. Edward A. Abrams

Charles Zelle, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Transportation

Coming Up At The Park Board


The following MPRB outline was compiled by Shawn FitzGerald from the 2nd Quarter goals progress report, “MPRB 2013 Goals & Performance Measures Report on Second Quarter Results”, attached to the August 21, 2013 Regular Meeting packet.

Aug. 30 2013: Conduct research to assess needs, review scholarship options and draft MRPB scholarship program. The draft will be written by 8/30/13.

Sep. 2013: Start Central Riverfront Mississippi Regional Community Engagement.

Sep. 15, 2013: Grant/Donation Committee to Develop and define MPRB donation strategies and goals for 2013-2014.

Oct. 2013: Draft Above the Falls Plan presented.

October 16, 2013: Presentation of Supt. budget

Oct. 13, 2013: Grant/Donation Committee to Develop donation program policies and procedures including recognition guidelines in collaboration with MPRB divisions and departments.

Oct. 1, 2013: Complete draft format and table of contents for full spectrum performance standards recognizing that only lighting and building sustainability will be completed in 2013. Present to the Board for feedback.

Oct. 2, 2013: Draft Urban Ag plan presented to Board

Oct. 15, 2013: Complete the Urban Ag community outreach for the plan that will provide a baseline understanding of community needs and develop communications plan for the project

Nov. 20, 2013: Final Urban Ag Plan presented to Board

Nov. 30, 2013: Grant/Donation Committee to Develop and execute implementation plan for the new policies and procedures including timeline and staff training.

Nov. 30, 2013: Develop cost-benefit analysis for purchasing or leasing the golf course equipment fleet. Review results of analyses with Finance Department and present report and recommendation to MPRB leadership team.

Late Fall: Development of Recreation Facilities Assessment will begin in late fall of 2013

Dec. 1, 2013: Create draft standards for outdoor lighting and building sustainability and present to Board for feedback.

Dec. 18, 2013: Completion of draft skatepark plan

Dec. 31, 2013: Audit of social media, MPRB website, and external communications presented.

Dec. 31, 2013: Present to the MPRB Leadership team a 10-year capital improvement, customer service and program offering plan based on community engagement for golf operations and allow for comments. Revise plan based on MPRB Leadership team comments, present to the Board and include in the 2014 Recommended Superintendent’s Budget for Board approval.


The following commentary by author and Kenwood resident Louise Erdrich was published in the August 12, 2013 issue of the Star Tribune:

Louise Erdrich: Southwest Commuter Rail

Some bad ideas have momentum because federal funds are on the line. But this area has a better legacy to protect.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

The Kenilworth Trail alongside a current freight train track that has been a proposal site for the Southwest Corridor light rail line in St. Louis Park.

Inertia has gotten me into lots of trouble. Not the sort of inertia where I am matter at rest tending to remain at rest. That keeps me out of hot water. I’m talking about the other kind of inertia — where I just can’t stop because I started something, where I keep going because to turn back would mean all my effort was a waste. I’ve written whole books that way. They are sitting in plastic tubs in my basement — rejects, but harmless rejects.

My inertia books are not going to create the sound and the fury that the Southwest light-rail transit route currently under consideration has aroused. That’s because, after 40 years of writing, I can admit when I’ve got a stinker on my hands.

This particular SWLRT process began with reasonable options like routing the rails adjacent to or on centerline piers within a highway corridor. That idea was rejected by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Yet this is the preferred way to locate express transit rails in many cities, including Chicago. But maybe we didn’t need express transit.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak proposed running the route through the Midtown corridor, which has gained so much in population that his idea now seems even more sensible than in 2006. Maybe he thought we needed a route that would serve the city and its people. There were further proposals to follow the Midtown corridor — rejected by the Southwest Alternatives Analysis committee because of the cost of relocating utilities on 10th Street.

One last proposal seemed the path of least resistance — after all, it just involved relocating people by kicking them out of their houses, rerouting freight rails to pass through the pretty streets of St. Louis Park, ruining a cherished greenway system, disrupting precious city beaches, and now proposing fixes like deep tunnels or vast berms that inflate the original costs, already outrageous, by hundreds of millions. All this for a plan now much worse than all the previous ideas, and with far fewer potential riders.

People will argue with my squeezing down the long dollar-sucking parade of expert opinion and desperate logic this way. But let me squeeze it down even farther into what all that really is: forward motion inertia. A law of physics gleaned from personal observation is that bad planning increases acceleration when federal funding is offered.

What is really at stake is much, much larger than those dollars.

Minneapolis is one of the most beautiful and livable cities in the world. As a small bookstore owner in the vicinity of a SWLRT proposed stop, I might realize a plus for Birchbark Books — an increase in traffic.

I live far enough away from the present rail system that I get nostalgic when the wind carries the faint bleat of freight train whistles. So this could be a win for my own back yard. But the thing I take personally about all of this is the identity of the city I have come to love.

Our chain of lakes is celebrated. Our parks, even beaches, free to all. Our bicycle trails and wandering paths give us extraordinary distinction. The SWLRT proposal would utterly disrupt and probably destroy a regional jewel, the Kenilworth Trail, a connector vital to the Cedar Lake Trail — the first federally designated bike highway — which had at least 620,000 users in 2012, likely up to a million, including suburban bicycle commuters. It has been built, maintained and improved by more than 20 years of selfless citizen efforts.

This loving care of the physical world is something I am proud our city fosters. People come to our bookstore from all over the world. They say, “You don’t know what you have.”

Charles Loring, Theodore Wirth, Horace Cleveland and other visionaries of the late-19th-century city did know. They looked forward a hundred years and worked to preserve for Minneapolis a relationship with nature rarely equaled in other urban settings. Let’s do what they did.

Loring believed that the people of Minneapolis should be able to “walk in the shade of a fine tree without having to pay for the privilege of seeing a piece of natural woods.” In a heavily industrial age, Cleveland fought ardently to preserve access to natural beauty for working people. He struggled to make the city “a work of art.” Let’s continue their fight.

Forward inertia is hard to stop. But when a plan snarls so badly that it makes no sense, and then starts eating at our legacy, it is time to summon the courage to go back to square one.


Louise Erdrich is owner of Birchbark Books. Her most recent book is “The Round House.”


The following article by Nick Halter was published in the August 14, 2013 issue of the Southwest Journal:


Photo By Nick Halter

Meg Tuthill and Anita Tabb hold a press conference today on the shore of the lagoon between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles

City Council Member Meg Tuthill and the city have given developers of an Uptown mixed-use building until Sept. 27 to find a solution to deal with groundwater that they’re pumping from their basement into the lagoon between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.

If that solution doesn’t satisfy city concerns before the winter freeze, Tuthill says the city is prepared to file a lawsuit against the developers.

“If they do not come up with criteria that is satisfactory to the city we will start a lawsuit,” said Tuthill said.

The developers, Nick Walton and Daniel Oberpriller, are pursuing an injection well to deal with the problem, according to the deadline letter the city sent to their property manager, Lynne Wyffels.
Wyffels was out of the office today, so details of an injection well weren’t immediately clear.
However, Barr Engineering was hired by the city in April to study possible solutions. That report [attached below] details what an injection well would do: It would take water and pump it back into the aquifer via a 60-foot well.

“In this concept, the pumped groundwater would need to be monitored very closely for any contaminants and a system to bypass the injection well would need to be available in case of contamination,” the report says.

An injection well would cost $1 million to $2 million, according to the report.

Tuthill said the developers have been given notice of the deadline and the criteria needed to satisfy the city. She could not list all the criteria, but said that the building could no longer pump water into the lagoon.

“If we let one developer start putting water into our lake system or our river, we’re suddenly going to be totally out of whack because where do you say no? So you’ve really got to set a precedent.”

Deputy City Attorney Peter Ginder said City Council approval is needed before the city can file a lawsuit.
Construction on the 65-unit building ruptured the groundwater table and now requires the building to pump 100 million gallons of groundwater per year from the garage into the lagoon, according to the Barr report. Last winter, the relatively warm groundwater water created a hole in the ice on the lagoon, and a cross-country skier fell into the open water.

The water flows at 204 gallons per minute and the Department of Natural Resources is concerned that the flow will contribute to flooding during heavy rains.

“With the water being pumped into the lagoon, we really don’t know how that will affect the ecosystem,” said Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb (District 4). “That’s a really big concern for us.”

The developers hired their own engineering firm, Braun Engineering, to conduct its own testing and analysis.



The City of Minneapolis and Park Board staff have been meeting with the developer of the apartment building at 1800 West Lake Street to resolve the issue of groundwater discharge into the lagoon between Lakes Calhoun and Isles. The following press release was issued by City Council Member Meg Tuthill on August 14, 2013:


City of Minneapolis and Park Board staff have been meeting with the developer of the apartment building at 1800 West Lake Street to resolve the issue of groundwater discharge into the lagoon between Lakes Calhoun and Isles. Council Member Meg Tuthill has announced the City has set a deadline for the developer to implement a solution. The developer needs to provide a proposed solution by September 27, 2013. The proposed solution must satisfy all City concerns, including being implemented before this year’s freezing to avoid public safety issues this winter. If the City’s deadline is not met, the City’s recourse will be to initiate a lawsuit. City Council approval is needed to initiate the lawsuit.

Tuthill said “Over the past three years, I’ve worked closely with City staff, Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb and concerned residents on issues to protect the City’s natural resources. Resolving this groundwater discharge issue is important to preserve our Lakes, which are the jewel in our crown, and protects public safety. Stewardship of our environment is very important to me.”

Park Board Commissioner Tabb added, “This issue has caused great concern for the Park Board both because of its unknown impact on the ecosystem of the lagoon as well as its known impact on the safety of our residents and winter recreation users. I am delighted that Council Member Tuthill has championed bringing a resolution to this issue with the strong support of Mayor Rybak.”


5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers can call 612-230-6400 before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting to sign up or they can sign up at the Board meeting prior to the start of “Open Time.”


–Accepting the Non-Appointed CAC Recommendations for Playground and Site Improvements at Waite Park

–Regarding the Draft Master Plan for Washburn Fair Oaks Park

The following topics are some of the agenda highlights:

–Requesting the Board of Estimate and Taxation Set the Maximum Certified Tax Levy for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for the Year 2014

–Approving the Proposed Master Plan for Washburn Fair Oaks Park and Directing Staff to Prepare a Memorandum of Understanding with the US-China People’s Friendship Association’s Minnesota Chapter to Raise Funds for a Northern China Theme Garden in the Park

–Approving Amendments to the 2014 Regional Park Capital Funding Allocations

–Capital Improvement Program Development Part 2

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday August 21, 2013 is at

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects. The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. Look for the links to these reports under Petitions and Communications in the agenda for the first Regular Meeting of the month.

View Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast Cable. You may also view live meetings online on the Channel 79 webpage:

Regular meetings are typically re-telecast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Telecast schedules are subject to change.

Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the MPRB website two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the recent two months, at

Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on two business days prior to meetings.

The Park Board’s website is The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried

Co-founder of Park Watch

Two Crown Hydro – Related Letters From July Of 2013

During July, there were two letters exchanged between Crown Hydro and FERC.  We are posting them here.  The following item is an introduction, written for Park Watch by Doug Verdier, to the JULY 3, 2013 letter to FERC from Crown Hydro: (See below for the link to the letter.)

ON JULY 3, 2013, Donald H. Clarke, counsel to Crown Hydropower, wrote to Edward A. Abrams at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) essentially challenging FERC’s authority to regulate the proposed Crown Hydro project and to require Crown to complete a mandated three- stage consultation process. In part, the letter states: “…Crown Hydro requests clarification confirming this determination and specifying the regulatory authority that authorizes the imposition of this requirement.”


The following is an introduction, written for Park Watch by Doug Verdier, to the JULY 15, 2013 letter from FERC to Crown Hydro: (See below for the link to the letter.)

FERC’S JULY 15, 2013 response to Thomas Griffin, President, Crown Hydro LLC, rather strongly outlines (again) the reasons for requiring Crown to complete the three-stage consultation process, noting that “Fourteen years have passed since the issuance of your license, and the area surrounding the project has undergone significant redevelopment.”  FERC also notes “…it appears that you are developing your draft license amendment application without prior consultation with federal and state resource agencies, stakeholders and the public, with the exception of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”FERC further emphasizes to Crown that “…your proposed amendment application must address all items outlined in our April 15, 2013 letter and attached Schedule A (i.e. impacts to cultural, recreational, and aquatic resources, threatened endangered species, site access, water quality certification, revised project boundary, etc.)”