Skip to main content

Water Levels Update

(Updated Tuesday, May 21)

Map showing rainfall totals across watershedMay 18 - 19 Rainfall Summary and Water Level Update

Rainfall totals across the Twin Cities metro were lower than the National Weather Service (NWS) had anticipated for this past weekend. Rainfall totals in the Minnehaha Creek watershed ranged from approximately 1.1 - 1.6 inches. The map (right) shows rainfall totals from the Hennepin West Mesonet weather stations across the watershed.
 
The NWS is predicting approximately 0.70 inches of rain tonight and potentially an additional 0.50 inches of rain on Friday.

Since the beginning of 2019, the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport has received a total of 12.64 inches of precipitation, which is the 8th wettest start to any year since 1872 and is 4.25 inches above normal. Any additional rain we receive will further stress water bodies across the watershed. MCWD anticipates water levels will remain high for at least another month assuming we receive “normal” precipitation amounts moving forward.

Lake Minnetonka Water Levels GraphLake Minnetonka and Gray's Bay Dam

  • The May 18-19 rain caused Lake Minnetonka’s water level to jump 1.4 inches to an elevation of 929.93 feet above sea level
  • Today’s level on Lake Minnetonka is 929.92 feet, which is 0.84 inches below the top (930 feet) of the 202-foot-long emergency spillway located north of Gray's Bay Dam and is 6.24 inches above the ordinary high water level of 929.40
  • It is likely that Lake Minnetonka’s water level will continue to increase over the next few days if additional rain falls across the watershed and as upper watershed streams drain into Lake Minnetonka
  • The Gray’s Bay Dam discharge was increased from 75 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 225 cfs on Sunday, May 19 as soon as the rain stopped. The dam discharge was increased again this morning to 250 cfs as the Minnehaha Creek headwaters wetland (located immediately downstream of the dam) still has additional storage capacity. MCWD is trying to mitigate the inflow into Lake Minnetonka while also trying to balance the maximum carrying capacity of Minnehaha Creek
  • “Zone 1” of the Gray’s Bay dam operating plan (see blue section in the graph below) requires a discharge of “maximum creek capacity” when Lake Minnetonka is between the elevations of 929.60 feet and 930 feet
    • The dam discharge will remain at a minimum of 250 cfs until Lake Minnetonka drops 3.96 inches to an elevation of 929.60 feet or until a large precipitation event is predicted

Gray's Bay Dam discharge zones graphMinnehaha Creek

  • During the rain this past weekend, Minnehaha Creek peaked at 315 cubic feet per second (cfs) at 2:15pm on May 19 according to the USGS gauge at Hiawatha Avenue
    • The reduction of Gray’s Bay Dam to 75 cfs on May 15 ahead of the weekend's rain helped create storage capacity in Minnehaha Creek and helped keep the creek within its banks
  • Minnehaha Creek is currently flowing around 248 cfs near Hiawatha Avenue
  • High flows will continue on the creek as water levels in water bodies across the watershed are high and drain into Minnehaha Creek
  • MCWD is advising people that it is unsafe to paddle the creek at this time. Ideal creek flow for paddling is between 75 - 150 cfs. Flows above 150 cfs can make it difficult to react to obstacles (downed trees, branches, etc) in the creek and to pass under some bridges. Learn more about paddling conditions

Lake Nokomis (Minneapolis)

  • The May 18-19 rain caused Lake Nokomis' water level to increase 3.48 inches to an elevation of 816.36 feet above sea level as of May 20, which is 11.52 inches above the ordinary high water level of 815.40 feet
  • Minneapolis Park and Recreation (MPRB) staff closed the weir on May 15 ahead of the rain to prevent Minnehaha Creek from entering the lake
  • After the forecasted rain this week, MPRB and MCWD staff will look for an opportunity to re-open the weir

Lake Hiawatha (Minneapolis)

  • The May 18-19 rain caused Lake Hiawatha's water level to increase 4.32 inches to an elevation of 814.98 feet above sea level as of May 20, which is approximately 2.18 feet above the ordinary high water level of 812.8 feet
  • The current lake level of 814.98 feet is approximately 8.64 inches below the berm that separates Lake Hiawatha from the Hiawatha Golf Course

Mooney Lake (Plymouth)

  • The May 18-19 rain caused Mooney Lake's water level to increase 1.2 inches to an elevation of 990.05 feet above sea level as of May 20, which is approximately 2.05 feet above the ordinary high water level of 988 feet
  • The Mooney Lake emergency pump is turned on whenever the lake level reaches the elevation of 990 feet between March – September and will remain on until the lake falls below 989 feet
  • MCWD in coordination with the City of Plymouth and the City of Wayzata collectively determined that all the necessary parameters had been met and the emergency pumps were turned on April 19 and continue to operate
  • During the pumping, MCWD will monitor downstream water bodies to see if any high water conditions exist  

College and Galpin Lakes (Excelsior)

  • College and Galpin Lakes are experiencing high water levels.
  • There is a MnDOT weir at the outlet of Galpin Lake that controls the flow out of the lake into Lake Minnetonka
  • MnDOT removed trees and some debris from around the weir in an effort to improve the flow
  • City of Excelsior staff continue to monitor the situation and are coordinating with MnDOT as necessary

MCWD's Effort to Reduce Flooding

This winter was unique. We experienced a wet fall and the ground froze to a deep depth while soils were still saturated. Additionally, the amount of snow we received held 2.5 - 4.5 inches of water content, much of which melted quickly due to early March rains. MCWD is trying to balance the water budget across our entire 178 square miles and is working hard to reduce and prevent flooding. The balancing act this spring has been one of diligent timing:

  • With assistance from creek communities and MPRB, MCWD tracked and responded to ice jams along Minnehaha Creek to prevent flooding
  • MCWD got the Gray’s Bay dam operational while over 4-feet of ice surrounded the dam structure
  • On March 21, 2019 (one month before ice-out) MCWD began discharging water at the Gray’s Bay dam as soon as the risk of ice jams along Minnehaha Creek had diminished
  • MCWD has gradually increased the discharge at the Gray’s Bay dam as soon as Minnehaha Creek started to gain additional capacity  
  • MCWD is now trying to balance forecasted precipitation and its impacts on water levels and making adjustments when we can
  • Significant winter snowpack (11th snowiest season on record), deep frost, increased soil moisture, quick spring thaw, and the above average precipitation this spring have caused high water levels across the state of Minnesota

Looking Ahead and Coordination with Agency Experts

The seven day forecast from the National Weather Service shows that the unsettled spring weather continues. Rain is predicted tonight, Friday, and possibly Monday.

Since March, MCWD has been actively coordinating with staff from the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Hennepin County Emergency Management to understand spring flooding predictions, water content of snow, current stream flows, and emergency coordination efforts. Prior to snowmelt, MCWD ran several hydrologic snowmelt modeling scenarios to identify the locations that could face potential spring flood risk. We coordinated the results of this modeling, as well as modeling for the upcoming rain event, with all 29 communities in the MCWD.
 
MCWD will continue to coordinate daily with agency partners, National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Hennepin County Emergency Management to consult and review data to help inform Gray's Bay Dam operations.

The National Weather Service provides MCWD with seven-day precipitation forecasts and a prediction for how that precipitation will affect water levels. With this information, we can proactively create storage for the forecasted precipitation. Dam discharge can then be reduced before rainstorms and that storage is used to prevent flooding on Minnehaha Creek. MCWD also uses real-time weather data provided by Hennepin West Mesonet weather stations installed on MCWD properties and real-time water level data from the U.S. Geological Survey gauges on Lake Minnetonka and Minnehaha Creek.

Tips for Property Owners

Get the latest information by visiting our website and signing up for email updates.

Review your insurance coverage. There is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect. Learn more about flood insurance. Check to see if your policy covers sanitary sewer back-ups. More information is available from the Insurance Information Institute. Other resources include:

For specific questions about local flood response, including where to find sand bags and other resources, contact your city.

Minnehaha Creek

  • Edina – Dave Goergen, Public Works Coordinator, 952-826-0312
  • Hopkins - Hopkins Public Works, 952-939-1382
  • Minneapolis - 311 or 612-673-3000
  • Minnetonka – Minnetonka Public Works, 952-988-8400 between 7am-3:30pm
  • St. Louis Park – Steve Koering, Fire Chief, 612-790-4019

Lake Minnetonka

  • Deephaven – Dana Young, City Administrator, 952-358-9936
  • Excelsior - Tim Amundsen, Public Works Superintendent, 952-653-3676
  • Greenwood - Dana Young, City Clerk, 952-358-9936
  • Orono – 952-249-4600, after hours call Dispatch at 952-258-5321
  • Wayzata – Mike Kelly, City Engineer/Director of Public Works, 952-404-5316

2019 Spring Flood Damage Assessment

Significant winter snowpack (11th snowiest season on record), deep frost, increased soil moisture, quick spring thaw, and recent snow and rain have caused high water levels across the state of Minnesota. Currently 66 of the 87 counties across Minnesota are impacted by flooding, including Carver and Hennepin. Due to this flooding, yesterday Governor Walz sent a letter to President Trump indicating that Minnesota intends to seek a disaster declaration for the recent storms and spring flooding. Due to this situation, Governor Walz has signed Emergency Executive Order 19-30, which declared a peacetime emergency in 64 counties and 3 tribal nations. Because this declaration included Carver & Hennepin counties, both of those counties need to start assessing and documenting damages.

What does this mean for you as a homeowner?

If your home experiences flood damage this spring please contact your city and copy the county emergency manager to notify them:

Hennepin County Emergency Management: emergency.management@hennepin.us
Carver County Emergency Management: emergencymanagement@co.carver.mn.us

Water Level Resources