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 drainage
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 resource management.

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 special levies.

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 at kelmart@aol.com