Coldwater, MAC and Roosevelt

Much has happened recently. At the Roosevelt meeting on Thursday July 13th, it started with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District facilitating the meeting. They did a great job of this. There were about 500 residents that showed up. Each speaker were given two to five minutes to talk.
MAC (Metropolitan Airport Commission) talked and said that they feel confident with their original plan, but will listen to public comment and adjust their plans accordingly. Again the consultants disagreed about how much the dewatering would affect the area. With so little real data, it is no wonder there are differing answers in different reports. For example only lake Nokomis has had a lake bottom boring done to it to find out what it's made of. This boring was only 4 feet deep as well.

Then the city council spoke. Though many council members used lines, and ideas, from residents, and Leslie Davis, from the meeting a week earlier, they unanimously said that a coffer dam should be in place (or other similar mitigation) so that the dewatering would not need to be so drastic (4000+ gallons per minute). Then Mayor Sharon Sales Belton gave her strong position on the topic stating that "we cannot accept any potential risk to our wetlands or lakes...we cannot afford to take a chance, any chance, that the work on the tunnels will affect our lakes, environment, or property values in South Minneapolis".

Then the residents spoke. Every last one!!, said the plan is too risky, in many, many articulate ways. Hundreds stayed in the 95 degree heat of the Roosevelt Gym, even though there was a cool breeze outside, to state their personal opposition to the plan. Unfortunately not all the city council members stayed to listen to the residents, that had only two minutes each, to speak, many council members left for much of the meeting, to the hallways, or outside. They did talk to some residents there, but still missed listening to the public, like they should be doing.
However Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton did stay for the entire meeting. She talked with the coalition afterwards. She has also wondered where our "environmentalist" governor has been, keeping silent on the hot button issue, like he has.
Belton also talked with us about the upcoming acquisition of the Bureau of Mines property, which includes the Coldwater Spring. The MAC is acquiring the land as part of the sacrifice zone for the new North South runway. As part of the contract with the city, MAC can put in a 7 acre surface parking lot, and some maintenance buildings. MAC will also tear down the existing buildings.
Jeff Hamiel of the MAC also stayed very late to talk with us. He stated that the primary concern for the MAC was that the land not have tall buildings on it, to keep the area safe for the low flying planes that would be overhead once the runway is completed. The parking lot and other uses for the area is NOT a top priority for the airport. He said that the MAC may be willing to let the Coldwater area go, for use to
the general public and the Indians as a Traditional Cultural Property. It was said that if the property eventually goes to Fort Snelling State Park, that this would get the area open to the general public, allow for an interpretive center for Indian culture, Minnesota historical site, and keep it as a no build zone for the airport. Jeff also said that he would bring this up to the full MAC council at their meeting on Monday, July 17th. He also invited the Coalition to come and speak at the meeting. (Huge!!)

At the July 17th meeting, the MAC council agreed that a coffer dam, with metal pilings caulked up to keep water out of the tunnel be planned on, and designed. The plans should be done sometime in August. This should also include a final price as to how much this will cost (expected to be around $5 million) and at that time in August, it will be voted on weather or not to do it. Unless something unexpected comes up, it looks like they will approve this plan. It should also be noted that a petition by 86 south Minneapolis residents seeking an environmental review of a tunneling project at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport has been referred to the MAC by the state's Environmental Quality Board (EQB).

The Bureau of Mines property was then discussed. The MAC will buy it for $6 million. It was stated that the primary concern for the MAC is that the Bureau of Mines (Coldwater) area is kept as a no build zone, and the airport buying the land will ensure that.
Both John Stienworth and Jim Anderson were allowed to speak for the Coalition and the Mdewakanton Dakota's respectively. John gave a speech to preserve the area, and Jim talked about what the area means to the Indians, and how they would like an interpretive center to tell people what the area is. They want people to see, feel, smell, and touch it. We do not want to preserve Camp Coldwater for what it is today, but for what it has been; the Birthplace of Minnesota, and land held most sacred to Native Americans.
It was in general agreement that one of the Bureau buildings could be used for the purpose of an interpretive center to do this. This would cost MAC almost nothing.
It is unclear at this time if, because of contractual agreements, that a building could be saved though. It was also stated that a federal law might prevent the MAC from "giving" away land that will not be used for the airport. But when you consider that the airport already sits on 600 acres of Minneapolis Parkland, I would think something could be worked out for the 27 acres of the Bureau of Mines Property, even under the FAA's and Feds watchful eyes. (Just for interest, if the facility ever ceases to be an airport, the land reverts to the Park Board.)
After all was said, Jim Hamiel reiterated the fact that a no build zone was the airports primary concern, and that getting the land to Fort Snelling State Park would be a compatible use as far as the airport concerns go. The other Commissioners seemed open to the idea. Some have asked for more info. We told them if they would like a tour, come to the Monday Pipe ceremony, and they would happily be given one. Also they may call the Mdewakanton office for more info, or a personal tour.

ANYONE reading this, feel free to come to the Monday Pipe ceremony, this offer extends to you too.
JoAnn Kyral of the National Park Service was also present (a very pleasant surprise, thank you Sharon!) She is requesting the Coalitions and Indian involvement in a Traditional Cultural Properties Study, that her office will initiate, once the papers are signed.
In conclusion to all of this, the MAC is in a position to do something exceptionally positive for the community with protecting the Coldwater area. Hopefully they will change the wording in the contracts, so that the parking lot and maintenance building zoning is removed. Hopefully they will also find a way to either get the land back to the Dakota, or to Fort Snelling State Park, so an interpretive center can
be created. This would not impact airport activity in any way, and everyone can enjoy, and understand the Camp Coldwater area too!

Time will tell....

Much more work needs to be done to make this happen, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all who have worked so hard to get things to this point, your continued work and efforts are greatly appreciated!!!