Camp Coldwater Coalition Open House April, 27, 2000

The Open house was an overall success, though we had a few bumps. I'll get the bad news out of the way first.

While many people showed up at the spring, I could find only one article (Native American Press) from a media source covering the event (though I've heard that an article may be comming in the St. Paul Pioneer P newspaper). Nor were there many people who were passing by. This may have been due in part from Mn/DOT.

Mn/DOT was busy bulldozing the area in front of the spring, in preparation to the Highway 55 reroute. This in turn produced a large dip in the road to the front gates of the Bureau of Mines property. We originally had permission for people to drive in and park near the spring. However when we got there to set up, five State Troopers and one security guard were guarding this dip in the road, and would not let the general public pass into the Bureau of Mines property that was open to the public through the front gate. Instead if people wished to go to Camp Coldwater and Coldwater spring they had to take about a half-mile walk around Mn/DOT construction and enter the Bureau of Mines through the back. This confusion and inconvenience may have deterred some. At first we had one vehicle that could shuttle people in, and even the State Troopers shuttled a few in with their squad cars. However at about 3PM we were told that this had to stop. Mn/DOT made the decision. The reason that I was given was it was too dangerous to drive through the dip in the road because construction equipment was going through there. I drove the main vehicle and had to slow down for one front-end loader once during the entire afternoon. Apparently, although my drivers license allows me to drive 70MPH down some freeways, it is too confusing/dangerous to have one pickup truck drive a 100 foot stretch through a mildly used construction area with an occasional bulldozer or front end loader at 15 MPH. I saw no semi truck vehicles cross this stretch.

But we got through that, shuttling some and the others walked the long way to Coldwater.

Bruce White, Jim Anderson, and others talked about the land, the water, the history and what it means. We couldn't have asked for a better day to show off the beauty of the area. It was Sunny and warm. The grass was green, the leaves on the trees were growing and in the middle of this drought, the spring flowed freely.

We had a circle and pipe ceremony. Again people talked about the uniqueness and important nature of the area. At the end, as always everyone would shake hands and meet everyone else. Too bad Mn/DOT wasn't there; maybe if we put it on a personal level they would understand.... There STILL has NOT been a hydrologic study or dye test to find the water source of the coldwater spring.

We can only hope the construction does not destroy it, since Mn/DOT wont take the time or spend the money to find the water source to be sure that they work around it. Instead they have chosen to chance it.

After basking in the sun, and talking, and showing off the area, to anyone who wanted to see, it was time to go over to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center for the hearing in front of the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). (This is where we really shined.)

The first half of the meeting had an attorney from the Lower Minnesota Watershed District speak, A representitive from Mn/DOT, the Air Force, Navy, Army, and other officials spoke.

The main item was which watershed would have jurisdiction over the land. (See the map)

Both Minnehaha Watershed and Lower Minnesota Watershed want to claim the areas in orange. Lower Minnesota Watershed wants the area in green, and Minnehaha wants the areas in pink. The blue lines are the hydrologic boundaries (as determined by the DNR). Traditionally watersheds jurisdiction follows these boundaries. The main arguments given were a statement from Kelton Barr, a top Hydrologist in the state, tha> t the division between watersheds should follow these boundaries. The armed forces wished to be in one watershed or the other but not both. Mn/DOT had the same argument, and therefore wants the entire area, even the uncontested North end (pink) in the Lower Minnesota Watershed. Also they stated that storm sewers were going past the natural hydrological boundary and draining water from the north side of the main hydrologic boundary (part of the contested area) and running it south to the Minnesota river. The attorney from Lower Minnesota River watershed stated that because their watershed has more footage along the Mississippi than Minnehaha Creek Watershed does they should have jurisdiction over the contested area, since it flows to the Mississippi. Much more was stated in greater (but dry) detail. After that we had a break.

Then it was our turn. The Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition presented over 1000-signature petition to give the area to Minnehaha Creek Watershed. It was stated that throughout the whole Highway 55 ordeal, the Minnehaha Creek watershed was the only one who took any steps to protect the area, and they should be the stewards, not Minnesota Watershed. Jim Anderson made statements on behalf of the Mdewakanton Indians and their ties to the area. He stated that they are not invisible, that their right to the area is upheld by the freedom of religion act of 1978, and that the board should consider the traditional cultural property aspect of the area. Susu Jeffrey spoke about what happened to Big Medicine spring in Theodore Wirth Park and how that dried up after 394 construction. How Mn/DOT said it was because of a drought but in over 10 years it has not returned. The Park drilled 150 feet down to try and tap it, but all that came up was a trickle of silty rusty water. She then showed samples of Big Medicine water and Camp Coldwater. One was crystal clear and clean (Coldwater) the other was not.

If the contested area were given to Minnehaha creek the armed forces would get their request of one watershed while still giving the area to the watershed that has taken an active interest in protecting it. Four minutes was given to any citizen who whished to speak. Someone said that water does not come from the tap, or from a bottle, it comes from the ground. It comes from Mother Earth, that we are slowly killing with our poorly thought out plans and construction. While some had $1.09 bottles of water they bought from the store with them, she said you could fill up for free at the coldwater spring, a water source provided to us by Mother Earth with just as pure water (provided that we don't mess it up now with the road/sewer line).

It was stated that the Minnesota River is the dirtiest river in the state and that the steward to that should not be the steward to Coldwater, as Mn/DOT has requested. Mn/DOT's argument about wanting to only deal with one watershed was shot down since their roads go through all watersheds in the state, and dealing with multiple watersheds should be run of the mill for them. Someone who was in Vietnam talked about all the damage and poisoning of water supplies that was done by the armed forces during the war, and that because of their track record the military could not be trusted to protect the area on their own. One person said that the airport and military have been on the area longer than she had been alive, and they have done almost nothing to protect the natural resources and water in the area, so they need a watershed steward in the area. One said that with the drought and shortage of water, how could it
even be a question to protect a spring that flows at 80 to 100 gallons a minute even through drought of drinking quality water. And the arguments to protect and save the area went on and on by many different people. The meeting ended on our side, and quite strongly in our favor.

You can still participate in the discussion, the Board of Water and Soil Resources will take letters on the issue until 12 noon, May 11 at

Thanks for your support!
Thanks to all who took the time to come and speak!
We are making headway

see the spring run
Supplied by Scott Cramer