4.1.4 Creek Visioning

The District in 2005 undertook a joint partnership with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to develop a large-scale, long-term Vision for Minnehaha Creek to serve as guidance for organizations that share Creek corridor management responsibilities.  A Citizen Advisory Committee of community representatives and a Technical Advisory Committee of agency representatives through a lengthy community input process developed a common vision and management recommendations. 

The 2005 MCWD Minnehaha Creek Visioning Partnership Final Report presents the results of that process and summarizes the Partnership’s recommendations for future Creek management. Erosion control and support of aquatic life were overall the highest ranked priorities for improvement.   However, when considered reach by reach, support and maintenance of recreation were the highest priority for the reaches upstream of the Browndale dam, followed by improvement of aquatic life and erosion control.  Erosion control and streambank stabilization was the highest priority for the reach downstream of the Browndale dam.   The Partnership recommended specific management options for the District and its partners.

An important part of the Visioning process was the discussion of several streamflow management scenarios developed by the Corps to model what would happen with changes to the operation of the Grays Bay dam.  The dam is managed to discharge water from Lake Minnetonka into the Creek only when the DNR-established runout elevation of the lake is exceeded.  During dry periods lake level falls and there is minimal discharge; flow in the creek falls to minimal flow-related aquatic habitat conditions and canoeing is not possible.   The Corps developed a number of scenarios that would provide targeted releases for recreation or habitat purposes, and then modeled the resulting impact on water level in Lake Minnetonka; the percent of time creek flow fell within optimal conditions for aquatic habitat and recreation; the percent of time potentially erosive flows could be expected; and resulting estimated water quality.  Each scenario attempted to balance these often competing interests; in the end the Partnership recommended that further study be completed to find a way to optimize and balance year round minimum flows and moderated extreme flows with recreational and lake uses.