The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, with the aid of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Clean Water Partnership (CWP), took on an extensive seven-year initiative to improve water quality throughout the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. The result was a series of award-winning water quality improvement strategies implemented in some of the Twin Cities’ most- used lakes that became the nation’s largest urban lake restoration, including wetland restorations, storm sewer improvements, and public education. 

The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes draws over 5 million visitors annually. However, urban development had degraded water quality, which contributed to algae blooms and impacted recreation on the lakes. Water quality studies in the early 1990s identified that the Twin Lakes Subwatershed contributed more than 50 percent of the flow and more than 60 percent of the phosphorus loading into Cedar Lake. Water quality improvement efforts were focused on the Twin Lakes Subwatershed upstream of Cedar Lake, and then progressed down to Cedar Lake, and the rest of the Chain of Lakes. MCWD led projects with Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board and the City of Minneapolis to enhance stormwater ponds near Lake Nokomis and Bde Maka Ska, resulting in improved water quality for both lakes. Over the course of several years, the water quality projects included construction of wetland and stormwater ponds, shoreline restorations, alum treatments, and the installation of grit chambers.  

At a Glance

  • Minneapolis
  • Minnehaha Creek Subwatershed
  • Status: Complete
  • 1999

MCWD Staff Contact

Josh Wolf



Supporting Materials

EPA Success Story

A Watershed Approach to Lake Restoration

Project Cost


Project Updates


MCWD, in partnership with the City of St. Louis Park, scheduled dredging during Winter 2024 of the Twin Lakes Park Stormwater Pond, which treats water before it flows into Twin Lakes and then downstream into Cedar Lake. Due to warm weather, this dredging maintenance has been postponed until further notice. Learn more about the dredging process and postponement.

Project Timeline

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Planning Phase

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Planning Phase

1993 — Diagnostic Study for Chain of Lakes completed 

1993 — Twin Lakes Task Force formed 

1994 — Feasibility study completed

1994 Planning phase completed

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Design Phase

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Design Phase

1994 — Design phase begins

1995 — Design completed

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Construction Phase

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Construction Phase

1995 — Twin Lakes Park Wet Detention Basin built and Twin Lakes dredged

1995 — Cedar Meadows Wet Detention Basin and wetland built

1999 — Bde Maka Ska Wetland Ponds built

1999 — Construction completed

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Project completion

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Project Completion

1999 — Project completed

2004 Maintenance sediment removal occurred on Bde Maka Ska Wetland Pond to restore the pond’s capacity 

2012 Maintenance sediment removal occurred on Twin Lakes Park Pond and Bde Maka Ska Wetland Pond to restore the pond’s capacity 

By the Numbers



of annual phosphorus reduction



of annual phosphorus reduction from twin lakes park pond



of annual phosphorus reduction from cedar meadows pond



of annual phosphorus reduction from Bde maka ska ponds

Project Highlights

Over the years, the Chain of Lakes Project has received several awards for its successful improvements to local water quality, innovative partnerships, and the strategic use of community input. Given by the Conservation Fund to MCWD and its partners for the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Clean Water Partnership, the CF Industries National Watershed Award recognizes one corporation and three communities nationwide for their outstanding leadership in protecting America’s water resources. MCWD received the Minneapolis Award for Community Service for more than 10 years of protecting natural resources and cleaning up water in Minneapolis and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed. MCWD was nominated for the City of Minneapolis’ CUE Award for its design of the Southwest Bde Maka Ska Ponds, for outstanding designs that improve the quality of the urban landscape.

Additional highlights:

  • Lowered Twin Lakes outlet 
  • Increased depth of Twin Lake 
  • Created 3 stormwater ponds  
  • 3 community awards received
  • Aquatic vegetation and shoreline restorations  
  • 120-foot pedestrian bridge at Bde Maka Ska Pond 



The award-winning Clean Water Partnership (CWP) included the cities of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Hennepin County and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB). MCWD worked closely with St. Louis Park, Minneapolis, and the MPRB to incorporate watershed improvements into the Clean Water Partnership Grant that was awarded to MPRB. A cooperative agreement among the parties, coordinated responsibilities over six years of planning, hours of meetings with citizens and stakeholders, careful coordination with local elected officials, and thoughtful design work.


Project Cost: $12,400,000

The $12.4 million project was funded and sponsored by the cities of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, Hennepin County, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, MCWD and grants from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.