1.5 History of the MCWD

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is a special-purpose unit of local government created to carry out watershed management and to protect the water resources of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed

The Minnesota Water Resources Board (MWRB) established the District on March 9, 1967 under the authority of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103D (formerly Chapter 112), the Watershed Act.  The Hennepin County Commissioners asked the MWRB to form the District on April 12, 1966.  They sought to form the District to conserve the watershed’s waters and natural resources.  Their goals included improving lakes, marshes and channels for water storage, drainage, recreation and other public purposes.  The County also wanted projects to reduce flooding, to keep silt out of streams and to control erosion of land.  Other goals were reclaiming wetlands, controlling stormwater and preserving water quality in the District’s lakes and streams.

The District has implemented numerous programs, policies and projects to advance its goals.  It started a permit program in 1967.  Through this program, the District has approved stormwater management plans and shaped projects in floodplains and wetlands.  The program has also covered dredging, stream and lake crossings and projects to improve shoreline.  In 1972 the District accepted authority over the eight county and judicial ditches located within the watershed.   The District completed its first Water Resources Management Plan in 1969 and its second Water Resources Management Plan in 1997.  The focus of those plans was on identifying problems and solutions relating to water quality degradation resulting from urbanization and on preventing further degradation from future development.

The District has successfully completed the items identified in its 1997 implementation plan, as well as additional items to further progress toward District goals

  • The District has completed a number of construction projects to address water quality and flooding issues.  These include major projects to improve regional resources, including the award-winning Chain of Lakes Clean Water Partnership projects to improve water quality and biological integrity in five lakes.   The District also completed projects to improve Long Lake, Langdon Lake, and various bays of Lake Minnetonka.
  • An extensive resource analysis and data gathering program was undertaken, including a number of special studies that serve as the basis for this Plan.  These include the Hydrologic, Hydraulic, and Pollutant Loading Study, which established numerical water quality goals for the lakes in the watershed; detailed assessments of the condition of Minnehaha Creek and five upper watershed streams; a Functional Assessment of Wetlands to assess current conditions of the wetland resources in the watershed; and several specialized studies such as the Painter Creek Feasibility Study, Minnehaha Creek Visioning, and floodplain evaluations for Minnehaha Creek and other major streams.
  • The hydrologic data gathering program was expanded, and easy-to-read summaries in the form of lake and stream report cards are published each year to keep the public informed about conditions of the water resources in the watershed.
  • A five-year Strategic Education and Communications Plan was developed to fine-tune and focus on the education and communication program and to identify strategies for improvement and expansion of those efforts.

While not specifically identified as an activity in the 1997 implementation plan, the District has embarked on an ambitious Land Conservation Program intended to protect and conserve high-quality natural resources in the watershed through a variety of means.