The Lower Minnesota Watershed meeting on November 15, went very differently than expected. At the beginning of the meeting we did our usual plea of "Save and Preserve Coldwater". Again many people spoke to the importance of the Spring, the danger posed by the Southwest Loop Pond, and the horrible record of near complete destruction to similar sites in the past.

The main difference was Daniel Dorgan, spokesman for Mn/DOT, said that Mn/DOT supports "no impact" to Coldwater Spring. Specifically the wording went like this;

Bruce Malkerson of Lower MN Watershed, asked: Is it Mn/DOT's position, that it is their belief that none of the ponding alternatives will have a negative impact on Coldwater Spring?...

Daniel Dorgan: "Regarding the impact of the holding pond and Camp Coldwater Spring, as you know Kelton Bar issued a report in mid September, and we had our consultant analyze that report, Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH) is our consultant, and they are registered geologists or hydro geologists...and it is their belief that the scenario that Mr. Barr presented was highly speculative and they did not agree with the conclusions that Mr. Barr reached on the impact to Coldwater Spring from the construction of the interchange and the pond. They have done extensive studies in the area, and that is still their position. Never the less, as the watersheds, and Mn/DOT and the DNR discussed the pond, and their was...not the level of comfort from regulatory authorities that we would like to see. We agreed to look at three alternatives to address the issues that Minnehaha Creek had brought up. And that's what brought us together tonight. To look at those three alternatives and select one for the redesign for the pond. It is still our position that the original pond design does not impact Coldwater Spring. And any of the three alternative designs similarly will not impact Coldwater Spring. That is based on the reports by our consultants..."

Malkerson then made sure that it was understood that the alternative designs is what is being selected and discussed, not the original design. And soon asked if it is Mn/DOT's position that alternatives one and two that place the pond above the height of Coldwater Spring will not have a negative impact on the spring? "Yes" was the answer.

Malkerson then added to the top of the last page of the permit, after the first sentence where it says "the water elevation of the spring... that a positive gradient to the spring will be maintained" then added "Based upon the analysis of all the information submitted the board finds,...their will BE No Impact on the springs by the pond".

Then he suggested a revision to previous permits approved in June, the Lower Mn reserved the right to revoke the permit, or propose additional conditions on Mn/DOT, to "Eliminate any such impacts, should significant impacts to Camp Coldwater Spring occur, as a direct result of this pond" so it is a duty for Mn/DOT to ELIMINATE any such impacts.

Malkerson then asked if Mn/DOT understands this language? "Yes" was the answer. And Dorgan said Mn/DOT has "No Objections to this language" . Malkerson: "So if, weather it's three months from now, six months from now, or six years, or sixty years from now, there is a problem, and it is because of this, this board has reserved to it's self, the right to revoke the permit, or impose whatever conditions are necessary, to eliminate the problem. Do you understand that?"

Dorgan: "Yes I do, and I hope I'm here sixty years from now to respond."

Again more discussion took place about the importance of the spring. And again it was brought up that the pond is still to low, as it has only been raised a few feet, and even if Mn/DOT is responsible for fixing and potential damage, would they be capable of fixing a natural spring? Given that this great language is wonderful protection, it is unfortunately after the fact, if damage occurs. Also given that Mn/DOT has stated on other occasions assurances and positions that were not necessarily true (see Southside Pride, January 2000), we are somewhat apprehensive to Mn/DOT's statement of "No Impact".

As stated in Kelton Barr's report it says "Water table piezometers and monitoring wells indicate that the (original) pond level is more than 5 meters lower than the existing water table." and that in the Peer review, it states " Briefly, it is clear in the SEH (2000) report that the groundwater model constructed to predict the effects of dewatering at the interchange could not be verified experimentally shown to be correct). I also saw no indication of any sensitivity analysis to test the reliability of the initial calibration. Not including some sensitivity analysis is a major omission and atypical of what is now required of groundwater modeling. Because the model could not be validated, either the model design was wrong or the data put into it were wrong." Plus a third outside hydrologist, Michael E Schoenberg has stated that there will be permanent damage to Coldwater. So we asked why not raise up the road, so the pond can be even higher to eliminate any potential of damage. Why not raise the road, what is holding it at it's low level. The only answer we got from Mn/DOT was that Hwy 55 will go over Hwy 62 and that is why Hwy 62 is being lowered for that overpass to be.

But we were never given a reason why the overpass could not be higher too, so as to allow 62 and the storm water pond to be higher, and thereby not affect Coldwater, except for redesign cost. But Mn/DOT seems perfectly willing to spend "whatever conditions are necessary, to eliminate the problem" after they spend all the money to build it with potential permanent risk to historic Coldwater Spring the first time. The area almost sounds like it could become an unlimited budget expense.

We suggest building it at a higher height the first time, therefor eliminating the risk to Coldwater and the potential very expensive redesigns and reconstruction in the future.

The next day Mn/DOT drafted and sent the following letter to us

Minnesota Department of Transportation
Metropolitan Division
Waters Edge
1500 West County Road B2
Roseville, MN 55113

November 16, 2000

Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition
Attn: John Steinworth

Dear Mr. Steinworth:

Governor Ventura has asked the Department of Transportation to respond to your letter of October 24, 2000. Your letter requested that work be halted on the TH 55/62 interchange due to potential concerns raised by Kelton Barr. These concerns about the elevation of the pond in the southwest quadrant of TH 55/62, whether valid or not, have been addressed. A meeting was held which included technical staff from the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, DNR, FHWA, MnDOT, various consultants, and Kelton Barr. As a result of that meeting, MnDOT is revising the elevation of the pond. All attendants agreed that this revision would correct any potential program.
Many thorough studies have been made concerning the construction of the TH 55/62 interchange. The studies all conclude that there will be no permanent effect on Coldwater Springs. These studies have been given to all appropriate agencies. The project has been approved by all necessary parties. Construction has begun. A monitoring program is functioning to ensure that permanent danger is not occurring during construction. All issues have been resolved, therefore, your request is denied.


Robert Winter (for)
Richard A. Stehr
Division Engineer

cc: Governor Ventura
Commissioner Tinklenberg

t is important to note that what was agreed upon is alternative one, the alternative that raises the height of the pond the most of the three alternatives given, it is NOT an agreement that there will be no effect on Coldwater Spring. Call the agencies listed in this letter and ask them directly if you like. Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition was not allowed into the technical meeting. We are however currently drafting a response to Mn/DOT's letter.