1967-2017: Celebrating 50 years of protecting clean water

In 2017 the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

For those unfamiliar, MCWD manages the 181-square-mile area in the west metro that drains to Minnehaha Creek and covers some of the state's most popular and valued water bodies -- including Lake Minnetonka, the Six Mile Creek chain of lakes, the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Falls. In total, the watershed contains nearly 130 lakes, eight major streams and thousands of wetlands. It spans parts of 29 communities and two counties.

The communities within the watershed brought the District to life through petition in the spring of 1967. Since its inception, the District has evolved to stay on the cutting edge of protecting and improving our water resources.

Right out of the gate, we focused on longstanding flooding issues on Minnehaha Creek and Lake Minnetonka by building and operating the Gray's Bay dam according to a detailed plan developed in partnership with our communities. The dam remains a key flood control tool to this day.

Throughout the 70's and 80's we were involved in the closure of the eight sewage treatment facilities that discharged directly into Lake Minnetonka. MCWD researchers participated in a groundbreaking study of the value of wetlands that was recognized as a landmark national study by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

In the 90's MCWD was a central player in an award-winning partnership that helped make the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes some of the healthiest urban lakes in the nation. Our work to restore and expand access to Minnehaha Falls and Glen in the 2000's protected and enhanced one of the state's most visited attractions.

Today, we are more diligent than ever in addressing new clean water issues and opportunities. In particular, we focus on integrating our water work with land use planning, and leveraging the inherent value of healthy natural spaces to make our communities more vibrant and livable. Our recent focus on improving the most degraded stretch of Minnehaha Creek into a vibrant public greenspace, dubbed The Minnehaha Creek Greenway, is one such recent example. We?re also beginning a sustained focus on improving the headwaters of the watershed, the Six Mile Creek/Halsted Bay chain of lakes, as that area rapidly develops and changes.

In this coming months, we'll be highlighting some of the fascinating history of this area and the water resources that make it unique on our blog. MCWD will also be hosting a series of community engagement events to celebrate the anniversary and provide opportunities for residents who want to help keep these waters safe and healthy for future generations. 

Interested in learning more about the history of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District? Visit our History page.