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Water Levels Update

(Updated Friday, May 24)

Map showing rainfall totals across watershedMay 21 - 22 Rainfall Summary & Potential for Flooding May 27 - 28

Rainfall totals on May 21 - 22 were higher than expected and totaled between 1.2-1.4 inches across the watershed. Rainfall totals for the past seven days have totaled between 2.3 - 2.9 inches across the watershed (see map below) and pushed the Lake Minnetonka water elevation above the emergency spillway on May 23. The water receded overnight, but is expected to go over the spillway again with additional rainfall.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting another 1 – 1.5 inches of rain over May 27 - 28 . Any additional rain we receive will further stress water bodies across the watershed, therefore, we are advising communities about the likelihood of flooding.

MCWD anticipates water levels will remain high for at least another month assuming we receive “normal” precipitation amounts moving forward.

Record Setting Precipitation

The spring of 2019 has been exceptionally wet which has continued a record setting wet trend that started in 2013. The MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) State Climatology office has observed that 2013-2018 finished as the wettest six-year period on record since record keeping began in the 1870s. During those six years an extra year’s worth of precipitation fell (~30 inches), meaning we have received seven years’ worth of rain in a six-year period.
The start of 2019 has continued this wet trend not only across Minnesota but across the entire contiguous United States. In May alone it has rained for eight of the last 10 days in the Twin Cities. Thus far in 2019 the Twin Cities is 5.03 inches above average for the year:

The 2019 spring flooding has resulted in over $32 million in estimated damages to public property and infrastructure across 50 counties and four tribal nations across the State of Minnesota.

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

  • Over 2 inches of rain over the past week has kept Lake Minnetonka water levels high
  • Today's lake level reading is 929.99 above sea level, which is 0.12 inches below the top of the 202-foot-long emergency spillway located north of Gray's Bay Dam (noted as the red line at 930 feet on the USGS graph) and is 7.08 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 as additional rain is expected to fall across the watershed and as upper watershed streams drain into Lake Minnetonka
  • As noted above, Lake Minnetonka began to flow over the emergency spillway unrestricted on May 23, but receded overnight. Water levels are expected to rise again and go over the spillway with additional rainfall on Monday-Tuesday, May 27-28. When this happens, MCWD is unable to control the discharge out of Grays Bay Dam. This scenario is noted "Zone 7 - Unrestricted Discharge" in the dam operating graphic below
  • Yesterday the flow over the emergency spillway was minimal, however, any rise in the lake level will result in additional unrestricted flow and additional water being released into Minnehaha Creek
  • In an effort to estimate how much water is flowing into Minnehaha Creek, through the dam itself and over the spillway, next week MCWD will begin measuring the flow at the McGinty Road culverts, which are the first “pinch” point and bridge structure along Minnehaha Creek

Gray's Bay Dam discharge zones graphMinnehaha Creek

  • Minnehaha Creek is currently flowing around 366 cfs near Hiawatha Avenue
  • High flows are expected to continue on the creek as high water levels persist across the watershed and with the Lake Minnetonka water level hovering around the top of the emergency spillway
  • 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)

  • Today's Lake Nokomis level reading is 816.62 feet above sea level, which is 1.22 feet above the ordinary high water level of 815.40 feet
  • Due to expected ongoing high water levels along Minnehaha Creek, Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and MCWD staff opened the weir today to allow the lake to drain into Minnehaha Creek while still protecting the lake from inflows from the creek

Lake Hiawatha (Minneapolis)

  • Today's Lake Hiawatha's level reading is 814.5 feet above sea level, which is approximately 2.05 feet above the ordinary high water level of 812.8 feet
  • The current lake level is approximately 10.2 inches below the berm that separates Lake Hiawatha from the Hiawatha Golf Course

Mooney Lake (Plymouth)

  • The elevation of Mooney Lake is 990.5 feet above sea level, 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 Monday and Tuesday and the two-week outlook calls for above average precipitation as well.

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:
Carver County Emergency Management:

Water Level Resources