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2017 Year in Review

Welcome to our 2017 Year in Review! Click here to read a nicely-formattted PDF version of the review.

2017 Year in Review and MCWD logo

From the administrator

Lars Erdahl

Our 50th anniversary in 2017 was a great opportunity to reflect on our past, revisit our history, and look forward to our future. From fun engagement events for residents and educational opportunities for policymakers to honoring our Watershed Heroes, it was a year to remember our beginnings and reenergize as we enter 2018. You can learn more about the history of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed on our website where there are blog posts, historical videos and a brochure we created to commemorate the major stories from our first 50 years.

Another big milestone this past year was the completion of our Watershed Management Plan (Plan), a road map for the next decade of our clean water work. Our Plan builds upon the previous plan’s extensive technical understanding of the watershed’s resources and emphasizes collaboration with communities to align water resource goals with local land use goals. Community input was collected throughout its development, and we have already realized enormous value from this inclusive process.

As we kick off the first year of the Plan, we are working in partnership across the watershed to make natural resource improvements that contribute to thriving communities. In the Six Mile Creek – Halsted Bay Subwatershed, the headwaters of Lake Minnetonka, we’ll begin carp management and habitat restoration to improve water quality before it enters Halsted Bay. In Hopkins, we are planning the redevelopment of 325 Blake Road. This site will be used to treat 260 acres of regional stormwater for Minnehaha Creek, while providing a key development opportunity in a revitalized part of Hopkins. In Edina, we’ll enter into the design phase for the Arden Park Restoration Project, with continued opportunities for community engagement throughout the process.

Our Balanced Urban Ecology approach guides all of our work, bringing natural resource improvements in balance with the built environment to create value and enjoyment. As you read more about the progress of the projects mentioned above, you’ll notice a common theme of upholding this framework and working in partnership with public, private, and civic sectors to achieve mutually beneficial goals.

The MCWD’s dedicated staff and Board of Managers are looking forward to the developments that lay ahead in 2018 (and beyond!) and look forward to working with you to protect and improve land and water for current and future generations.

- Lars Erdahl, January 2018

A Guide to Working in Partnership

Minnehaha Creek Minneapolis Subwatershed Meeting

In 2017, the MCWD updated its 10-year Watershed Management Plan (Plan) which sets the District’s goals and guides its activities for the next 10 years. The previous plan was adopted in 2007 and included extensive technical understanding of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed’s resources. The recently adopted Plan builds upon this solid foundation and emphasizes collaboration with communities to align water resource goals with local land use goals as part of our Balanced Urban Ecology framework. The Plan establishes clear priorities to focus our work, while providing the flexibility to respond to needs and opportunities identified in real time.

Developing the District’s Plan started with a robust internal strategic planning process with MCWD staff and Board of Managers to refine the mission, vision, and goals for the organization; evaluate MCWD programs; and define specific priorities for each program and MCWD as a whole. The external engagement for the Plan was an inclusive process, with input gathered from our municipalities, counties, agencies, lake associations, and other interested stakeholders, which resulted in broad community support.

“We commend MCWD for emphasizing partnership, and concur that close collaboration, open communication, and integrated planning are absolutely critical to meeting water resource objectives.”
- Karen Galles, Supervisor at the Land and Water Unit for Hennepin County

The themes of collaboration and partnership in the Plan were reflected in the inclusive approach we took while drafting the Plan. Our goal is to coordinate with our partners in the early stages of projects when we are best able to add value and to develop a plan for the shared benefit of improving water quality and building sustainable communities. This commitment is being recognized by our peers and partners as a trailblazing approach to planning sustainable communities that boost the quality of water and quality of life within the Minnehaha Creek watershed.

The stories that follow illustrate how we plan to implement the Plan across the watershed.

Focusing on MCWD's Headwaters

One of the areas of focus in the Plan is the headwaters of Lake Minnetonka and the entire watershed, the Six Mile Creek – Halsted Bay Subwatershed. The subwatershed’s complex system of 14 lakes and hundreds of wetlands drains into one of Lake Minnetonka’s most degraded bays, Halsted Bay.

This subwatershed presents a great opportunity for us to focus our efforts and align with our partners’ goals to make lasting water quality improvements. It is currently the least developed subwatershed within the District, but is undergoing rapid change, meaning the decisions we make now will have long-lasting effects on the future of the watershed and communities. Keeping with the philosophy of our Plan, we’ve been working closely with public agencies across the subwatershed to ensure ongoing, proactive coordination so that we can join community plans and priorities with water quality goals as development occurs.

“...the last several years has been fantastic, with staff, leadership, and the board...The big picture, strategic approach is what we needed”
- Carver County Commissioner Randy Maluchnik on the creation of the Six Mile Creek - Halsted Bay Subwatershed Partnership

Aerial of Wassermann West Island Park SiteWe are pleased to report that this collaboration has sparked two exciting projects that will continue into 2018. Wassermann West Waterfront Park in Victoria - this past year, MCWD acquired one of the last undeveloped properties on Lake Wassermann in partnership with the City of Victoria to improve water quality, preserve and enhance wetland and woodland areas, and provide public access to the lake. This unique waterfront park will be designed in 2018 with input from Victoria staff, residents, and policy makers.

Six Mile Creek Habitat Restoration - 2018 will also see the kick-off of a multi-phased approach to manage common carp, restore habitat, and reduce phosphorus in the lakes and wetlands woven together by Six Mile Creek. The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is recommending the 2018 Minnesota Legislature provide funding for the first phase of this work: managing the abundance of common carp in the system, which are stirring up the lake bottom, destroying habitat, and releasing phosphorous. In total, this project will restore more than 2,400 acres of our natural resources – one of the largest habitat restoration and water quality enhancement projects in the Twin Cities!

Balancing the Natural and Built Landscape

Another area of focus in the Plan is the Minnehaha Creek Subwatershed, which is the most-developed subwatershed in the District. Before MCWD began focusing on this area, stormwater runoff from the urbanized landscape in Hopkins and St. Louis Park contributed more phosphorus to Minnehaha Creek than any other stretch of the 22-mile stream. We’re proud to say that the projects we’ve completed to date have decreased the amount of phosphorus entering the creek by nearly one-third, and we’re not done yet! The District is continuing to work with private and public sector partners to restore the creek through this area and further expand the Minnehaha Creek Greenway, a regional amenity that treats stormwater, improves wildlife habitat, adds green space and connects communities.

During the summer, we completed the construction of a new trailhead providing access from Excelsior Boulevard to the Minnehaha Creek Preserve in St. Louis Park to enhance community connection to the Minnehaha Creek Greenway. This project would not have been possible without the generous donation of four acres of land by Japs-Olson Company for the trailhead and stormwater management. The project was the final piece of the company’s expansion, which the District helped facilitate with innovative solutions to the site’s challenges.

View of the boardwalk at the Japs-Olson expansionIn addition to providing trailhead access to the Minnehaha Creek Preserve, the Japs-Olson Company expansion created a series of stormwater ponds that will capture 25 pounds of phosphorus per year.

We also improved user experience and outreach at two of our keystone projects in the Minnehaha Creek Greenway. There are new wayfinding signs at the Minnehaha Creek Preserve, and new educational signage at Cottageville Park which describes the stormwater management features in the park and the benefits of our work throughout the Greenway.

In 2018, we’ll be focusing on the redevelopment of 325 Blake Road. A Request for Qualifications for a Master Developer was released in mid-December. Once a developer is chosen in the spring of 2018, redevelopment will get underway. Approximately four acres of the site at 325 Blake Road will be used to treat more than 260 acres of regional stormwater and to provide access to restored green space along Minnehaha Creek. There will be opportunities for community involvement throughout the redevelopment process.

Adding Value in Our Communities

Minnehaha Creek at Arden ParkAs we join with others to pursue our watershed management goals, the MCWD’s Plan extends the restoration work in the Minnehaha Creek Greenway downstream to Edina’s Arden Park. The District’s collaboration with the City of Edina on this project truly embodies our commitment to partnership and integration of the built and natural environment to enhance communities and the environment.

It is part of the District’s long-term vision to leverage public and private investments to restore Minnehaha Creek from Minnetonka to Minneapolis in a way that connects people and communities to the creek. Due to urbanization, the creek has been ditched and dammed, wetlands have been filled and urban runoff has increased, resulting in Minnehaha Creek’s inclusion on the State’s Impaired Waters List.

The Arden Park Restoration Project will complement the restoration work that’s been done upstream in the Minnehaha Creek Greenway by enhancing wildlife habitat, treating polluted stormwater that flows to the creek from approximately 100 acres of surrounding area, adding natural areas to collect floodwater, and improving public access for recreation.

Through a 12-month public input process co-led by the City of Edina and MCWD staff, a draft concept plan was developed for the park. In total, five community meetings were hosted to gather public input and to ensure we understand the community’s goals. The plan is a balance of enhancements to the park that improve fish passage, wildlife habitat and water quality, while retaining the park’s natural character. Proposed project elements include replacing the 4-foot dam at 54th Street with a rock rapids upstream, restoring curves to the creek, providing more access for fishing and other recreation, and replacing aging park facilities.

Project design will continue to be refined throughout 2018, with additional opportunities for the community to provide input. Construction is expected to begin in early 2019.

Getting Results with Sound Science

Two people in a canoe near the zebra mussel study site on Lake MinnetonkaIn our quest to improve understanding of threats to our natural resources and how to manage them, we have assisted our partners with studies throughout the watershed and shared the District’s research with the scientific community.

In 2017, the District helped the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) continue researching a potential new method of reducing zebra mussel populations. The copper-based product EarthTec QZ targets zebra mussel larvae and was tested in Lake Minnetonka last summer. Researchers want to learn more about the success of this product to impact zebra mussel larvae survival, with the hope that it will be a possible tool in the AIS toolbox.

The coordinated response to the discovery of zebra mussels in Christmas Lake in 2014 was published in the journal Lake and Reservoir Management in 2017.  MCWD’s AIS Program Manager, Eric Fieldseth, and AIS Technician Jill Sweet were listed as co-authors with individuals from MAISRC and the Minnesota DNR. Their paper, “Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) eradication efforts in Christmas Lake, Minnesota” demonstrates the importance of early detection, immediate response, post-treatment monitoring, and effective cooperation among partners. This rapid response model has informed current response protocol at the Minnesota DNR for new infestations.

As we begin implementing the District’s Plan, we have made a strategic focus to better align our internal resources towards diagnosing issues and their drivers in high priority areas to inform project development.  As projects progress, we gather pre and post-project data to evaluate the effectiveness of our projects and create positive clean water benefits throughout the watershed.

At a larger scale, with the District’s new E-grade tool, we are looking at a broader range of criteria that will give us a more holistic assessment of the ecological health of the watershed’s natural resources.  The first E-grade reports will be released in 2018 for the Schutz Lake, Six Mile Creek – Halsted Bay and Minnehaha Creek Subwatersheds.  Reports for the District’s eight other subwatersheds will be released the following year.

Kudos to Our Citizen Advisors

Brian Girard volunteering at the kid's fishing clinicA dedicated group of citizen volunteers met monthly in 2017 to provide input to the MCWD Board of Managers on water quality issues and District projects and priorities. They are also ambassadors for clean water across the watershed. We appreciate the generous donation of time and talents by these dedicated members of the 2017 Citizens Advisory Committee:

Bill Bushnell, Minnetrista
Sliv Carlson, Woodland
Gerald Ciardelli, St. Louis Park
Bradley J.  Coulthart, Minneapolis
Colin Cox, St. Louis Park
Elizabeth Crow, Minneapolis
Jacqueline Di Giacomo, Tonka Bay
Brian Girard, Orono
John Grams, Minnetonka
Linda Jahnke, St. Louis Park
Richard Manser, Edina
Steve Mohn, Eden Prairie
Richard Nyquist, Minneapolis
David Oltmans, Minneapolis
Cassandra Ordway, Long Lake
Peter Rechelbacher, Wayzata
Marc Rosenberg, Minnetonka
Neil Weber, Long Lake
Craig Wilson, Minnetonka

Earth Day Photo Contest

We were blown away by the quality of the entries in our 50th anniversary and third-annual Earth Day Photo Contest - an equal testament to the skills of our residents and the beauty of our resources! Our first place winners are shown here.

View full size versions and submit entries for the 2018 contest.

Brianna Prahl's photo of bridge of creek into Lake Hiawatha

Mike Joslin's photo of two people canoeing at sunset


2017 Watershed Heroes

The Watershed Heroes awards, which have been given out annually since our 40th anniversary in 2007, were restructured in 2017 to reflect the guiding principles of the District: Partnership, Innovation, Excellence, Sound Science and Service. They also include a Young Naturalist Award and a Lifetime Stewardship Award in memory of Cynthia Krieg, who dedicated her life to natural resource protection and public service. Additionally, the Watershed Heroes awards ceremony will now be held every five years, rather than every year.

Sherry White and Peggy KnappThe 2017 Watershed Heroes award recipients are:

Partnership Award:  Japs-Olson Company
Innovation Award:  Lennar Corporation
Excellence Award:  Park Nicollet
Sound Science Award:  Dr. Peter Sorensen
Service Award:  Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA
Young Naturalist Award:  The Blake School Fourth Grade Class
Cynthia Krieg Lifetime Stewardship Award: Peggy Knapp

You can learn more about the award recipients on our website.

Highlights from the Sunset Celebration

The Watershed Heroes awards were given out at our Sunset Celebration on November 2, 2017.

Collage of photos from Sunset Celebration

Thank You for Celebrating with Us!

The District marked its 50th anniversary in 2017, and to celebrate the occasion, we provided opportunities for the public, policymakers, and our partners to join in the fun. We planned ten events for the general public across the watershed, running the gamut from a creek clean-up in St. Louis Park to a prairie seed collection in Minnetrista, and two events for policymakers in Wayzata and Minneapolis to help them to learn more about water quality issues and the District’s work. Additionally, we produced a series of videos and a historical brochure to commemorate our first 50 years. We also posted regularly on social media with information about our anniversary events, historical photos, and blog posts chronicling the history of the Minnehaha Creek watershed.

Our final event, the Sunset Celebration, was held on November 2, 2017 which was proclaimed by Governor Mark Dayton to be Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Day in Minnesota. It was a great way to wrap up our 50th anniversary year!

Collage of photos from 50th Anniversary Year