Judge Rules In Favor Of Minnehaha Creek Watershed
District Lawsuit Against Mndot To Allow Testing Of Highway 55/62 Construction
Site To Prevent Harm To Camp Coldwater Springs; Final Dye Test To Begin
As Early As This Week
MINNEAPOLIS, MN., May 30, 2001 - Judge Frank Knoll of the Fourth Judicial
District Court of Hennepin County ruled in favor today of the Minnehaha
Creek Watershed District (MCWD) in its lawsuit filed May 22 against the
Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). The decision restrains
MnDOT from dewatering (pumping groundwater from the site) the drain and
stormwater pond areas at the Highway 55 and 62 interchange construction
site in order to conduct a groundwater test. The legal decision allows
up to four weeks for the dye test procedure to take place.
The test could begin as early this week, say MCWD officials. MCWD has
already conducted two tests near the springs, one of which indicated that
the flow to the springs could be reduced as much as 30-percent. A dye
test (where an environmentally-friendly dye is introduced into groundwater
in order to map the direction of its flow) will help determine whether
construction at the interchange site will harm the flow of groundwater
to Camp Coldwater Springs.
"We are grateful that the court understands the complex hydrology and
cultural significance of this fragile watershed system in and around Camp
Coldwater Springs and the need to help preserve the integrity of the springs'
historical character," says MCWD Board President Pam Blixt. "The lawsuit
will help the district determine more conclusively with its final test
whether the groundwater does indeed move from the interchange site toward
the springs. If the test indicates that it does flow in that
direction, then we think MnDOT should deliver - without delay or ambiguity
-- a standard drainage system design alternative, which will completely
satisfy our concerns raised in the lawsuit."
On May 15, a state bill (Senate File number 2149) protecting Camp Coldwater
Springs' flow and history was signed into law by Governor Jesse Ventura.
While the new law aids in the protection of the springs, the court appeared
more interested in "the hard science about the springs area" contained
in the lawsuit, according to MCWD legal counsel Louis Smith of Smith Parker.
"The judge's decision says it's likely that we would succeed on the merits
of our lawsuit," Smith notes. "We are pleased to move forward now and
hopefully get the test results soon so the highway project can continue
without further delay."
Camp Coldwater Springs is located at the old Bureau of Mines site near
Fort Snelling in south Minneapolis and is considered the birthplace of
Minnesota. The Camp Coldwater Springs area is a highly unique water resource
and network, with a valuable fresh water spring located near Minnehaha
Falls and the site of much known and unexplored history and archeology.
The Minnehaha Falls gorge and surrounding Mississippi River bluff is not
only the subject of Longfellow's poetry, but also the site of several
groundwater-fed seeps and springs, including rare Black Ash seeps, which
the Department of Natural Resources classifies as a critical natural area.
For more than 33 years, MCWD has monitored and investigated the lakes
and streams that feed Minnehaha Creek across two counties and 29 cities
and towns, from the upper watershed North and West of Lake Minnetonka
to the Lake itself, through the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, to Minnehaha
Creek and Minnehaha Falls. The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, working
in partnership with cities, townships, and citizen groups, has helped
to improve the water quality in most of the lakes and streams in the watershed.
Recent lake and wetland restoration projects include Gleason Creek, Long
Lake, Painter Creek, Twin Lakes/Cedar Lake, Lake Calhoun, Pamela Park,
Lake Nokomis and others.
The MCWD designs and builds projects to protect water resources including:
lake restoration, wetland enhancement, erosion repair and flood control.
The District also coordinates cities, counties, park districts developers,
and others within watershed boundaries for compatible and efficient water
MCWD is run by a volunteer Board of Managers who govern for staggered
three-year terms. Six are appointed by Hennepin County and one is appointed
by Carver County, with full-time staff and engineering, legal, and financial
consultants. The autonomous government body is funded by small additions
to property taxes from those households in the District that
benefit from water resource management, with occasional interim funding
from cities, counties and the state. The District is also funded through
For more information, or to interview Pam Blixt or another MCWD spokesperson
about the lawsuit, please contact Martin Keller at 612-729-8585, or online