Response to the 2020 Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan
The latest Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan was put out by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) on April 9, 2020. We characterize this plan as another example of pie-in-the-sky ideas with little ability to pay for them. Plus, after 6 months, details for many of the CAC items are still not given. And, with the CAC being disbanded by the MPRB, who will hold the MPRB's feet to the fire regarding this proposal?
SaveHiawatha18 still believes that the best use of this property is an improved 18-hole golf course!
Here are SaveHiawatha18's comments and concerns.
The berm between the golf course and Lake Hiawatha has been used as a main reason why the 18-hole golf course has to go. But, it is still as prominent as ever in this new plan. It was originally deemed to be so unstable that it could break and drown golfers. Then, in the MPRB's answer to the CAC about why they want to reduce pumping they talked mostly about why the berm is bad, separating the lake from the rest of the floodplain. Now the berm will serve as a walking/bike path around the north and west side of Lake Hiawatha, still separating the lake from this portion of the floodplain, and it will be surrounded on both sides by water. Huh??? It seems very unlikely that the berm will survive being saturated with water on both sides considering the volume of water that will be coming at it from both sides, thus truly being unsafe for heavy usage by pedestrians and bicyclists. This is an example of why the MPRB has so little credibility.
And, in reality, the MPRB idea is to destroy the 18-hole golf course for a tiny amount of floodplain storage which will be a drop in the bucket considering the amount of water that goes through Lake Hiawatha each year.
Along with the retention of the berm, it appears that the MPRB will be building more little islands in a lake that is having trouble handling all of the water that is currently entering it???? These islands seem problematic at best.
The plan shows that the inlet of Minnehaha Creek to the property will now become 2 huge contained ponds with small outlets between them. This would seem to create a huge build-up of sand and debris and trash behind the "pedestrian paths" that divide the water from the lake. Plus, this seems to have the potential of backing up water behind these barriers. And, this area will need to be continually dredged and cleaned up. The MPRB has not dredged the inlet for many years; are they really going to start now? This is the opposite of what needs to be done with the inlet, which is to get the water quickly in and out of the lake considering the high volumes of water that go through Lake Hiawatha. Also, is there a plan for dealing with the trash and pollution coming from Minnehaha Creek?
While there is less water in this plan than the previous plan, there is still a good amount of a water which makes the golf course less playable, especially for beginners.
Of more concern is the fact that the plan says that all golf play spaces will be elevated above the normal water levels of Lake Hiawatha, with "elevating of critical features (tees, greens, etc.) above the 10% annual flood elevation." This will involve adding a massive amount of fill on this property, in some cases elevating the ground by 6-8 feet. This will no longer be a wetland restoration project as stated by Mr. Schroeder; it will be a massive redevelopment of this property.
You need more than "some golf carts", but it should also be walkable.
To be clear, Hiawatha Golf Course is already certified through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf. You can continue the certification and enhance the property based on the principles of the program.
The new driving range would be right across the street from the homes. A driving range has a high level of constant activity unlike the current 14th and 15th holes. This would be very undesirable to the homes across the street. The redevelopment they are planning and the driving range location are on the scale of Theodore Wirth. If you look at a map, the nearest house to the Theodore Wirth clubhouse is 9 blocks away. For comparison to the HIawatha location along Longfellow Ave, that would put the new driving range well west of Bloomington Ave, near St. Mary's graveyard. The tee box for the new driving range would literally be about 40 feet from the front doors of the houses across the street. The driving range should be inside the golf course away from the homes.
NEW BUILDINGS ON THE KNOLL
The MPRB proposes 3 new buildings on the knoll. A new restaurant, a small pro shop and a canoe rental.
We recommend that there only be one building which serves as the golf course clubhouse that would include a nice restaurant, with adequate parking. That is likely all that will fit on the knoll.
The MPRB has called this project a wetland restoration project. This project will be anything but a wetland restoration project. The amount of excavation that will need to be done to get 9 holes of golf above 814.2 feet will be massive, totally reconstructing this former wetland.
It is totally unclear how phosphorus mitigation will be done with all of this open water. Also, the MPRB and MCWD have not been diligent in maintaining existing BMPs for phosphorus reduction, for example, at Lake Nokomis. Why would they maintain this huge one any better?
The following phosphorus mitigation assessment comes from the hydrologist in the SaveHiawath18 group:
We consider the described phosphorus mitigation to be a false premise for needing to do these modifications. According to the MCWD's annual reporting, total phosphorus concentrations from sample stations along Minnehaha Creek between Excelsior Blvd and Hiawatha Avenue range from approximately 69 micrograms per liter (ug/L) and 75 ug/L. Someone should ask, are these concentrations significantly elevated and do they warrant spending $42M to mitigate at the tail end of the watershed? The phosphorus concentrations in the surface waters didn't increase overnight; they are the result of 75+ years of loading within the watershed and have been steadily decreasing and will continue to decline based on current BMPs and practices that limit the use of phosphorus in the last 10 - 15 years. Since the problem developed over the last 75+ years, it'll take longer than 1 or 2 years to reduce the problem, and the concentrations can be expected to continue to decline over time regardless of any new mitigation strategies.
IN ADDITION: The requirement to mitigate phosphorus is determined by the City of Minneapolis's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. This is the City's agreement with the MPCA (and in turn the EPA) for the outfall of where Minnehaha Creek discharges to the Mississippi River (compliance point). The City's NPDES permit limit for total phosphorus is 100 ug/L. This is important because the total phosphorus concentration in the last sampling station at Hiawatha Avenue is 77 ug/L. As such, the City is currently meeting the permit requirements with regard to phosphorus and the MPCA would not require mitigation.
If someone comes back and says, "but because Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha are considered Class 2B waters and the total phosphorus limits were set at 50 ug/L" (which is actually really strange because the phosphorus limits in these lakes were only recently designated in the state statute for some reason, and the state statute only specifically calls out about 10 of the 15,000+ lakes in the state), I would argue that these are not the compliance points for the entire watershed, the compliance point is the Mississippi River outlet. If the MCWD or the MPCA want to consider these lakes to be the compliance point, then they need to mitigate the phosphorus upstream of these waters in order to meet their cleanup goal. As referenced in the Barr Report, Lake Hiawatha is just a section of the creek that has been widened, but the MPCA called it a lake because it's over 15 feet deep (or something like that).
PROTECTING THE HOMES FROM FLOODING
This is the most important item to the CAC, and absolutely no engineering details are given as to how the neighborhoods will be protected from flooding.
It is stated that the golf course will be elevated above the normal water level of Lake Hiawatha, which would be above 814.2 feet. This will put an enormous amount of fill on this property which will totally change the current flood plain. This would also appear to trap water in the neighborhoods rather than having the current downward flow into and through the golf course. Is the golf course a new berm?
The statement that this new design will "better accommodate the complicated hydrology and anticipated flows resulting from our changing climate, including more frequent extreme rainfalls" is highly suspect. The tiny amount of extra water storage is unlikely to accommodate the increased water due to increased infrastructure development in both Minneapolis and the suburbs, and expected climate change. Plus, part of the plan states that it expects to get money from "watershed credits" which means that the MPRB will be selling water storage to developers and other communities to make money off of the Lake Hiawatha neighborhood, and thus, dumping more water into Lake Hiawatha.
The "complicated hydrology" of the area is a concern considering that the MPRB and MCWD have not effectively solved the problems of too much water in South Minneapolis over the past 40 years. For more information see, Lake Hiawatha, the Dumping Ground."
THE 43RD STREET PIPE
This plan would change the 43rd street pipe that runs under the golf course to Lake Hiawatha to an open channel starting at 43rd St. and 19th Ave. S.
The statement that this new channel will include "an opportunity to reduce flooding in the watershed to the north" is concerning. This indicates that the City and Park Board will allow even more water to be dumped into Lake Hiawatha which the lake already struggles to handle. This continues the last 40 years of using Lake Hiawatha as a dumping ground for water because it is a cheap solution. This can't continue!
Plus, the original Barr documents stated that no grading analysis had been done to see if this channel would even work. Has this been done? Because, if it doesn't work, the houses on 19th and 43rd will end up being the water repository.
It has been stated that this will allow trash mitigation to be done, but the trash mitigation can be done on the current pipe without making this change.
It is unclear how an open channel will substantially reduce pollutants to Lake Hiawatha when the whole system is really one bigger lake. To remove 100 pounds of phosphorus in the channel, you will have to dredge the channel to remove the plants that take up the phosphorus before they die in the fall. Otherwise, the plants will just die and release the phosphorus back into the water, and thus, into Lake Hiawatha.
It is true that the whole system will "require long-term maintenance to be successful." The problem with this is that the Park Board has been woefully inadequate at maintaining current infrastructure (like tennis courts, Nokomis constructed wetlands, park buildings, golf courses), so why would we expect that they would maintain this complex system?
Pumping has been a main theme of the MPRB's reason to get rid of the 18-hole golf course. So, let's talk a little about pumping.
First of all, let us remember that the linchpin reason given for reducing pumping was that Hiawatha Golf Course was violating their pumping permits. SaveHiawatha18 proved that Hiawatha Golf Course has never violated the only 2 permits that they had which were for irrigation of the golf course. The pumping was to dewater the golf course, for which the DNR had not required a permit.
The MPRB was asked to answer the questions of "Why do they want to reduce pumping?" and "Why is Pumping Bad?". They have published a response that did not answer either question. So, they haven't fulfilled this CAC request yet.
Let's talk about saving money on pumping. Based on electric bills provided to SaveHiawatha18 by the MPRB for Hiawatha Golf Course, we are spending $42-62 million to save a few hundred dollars per year in pumping cost. From 2011 to 2018, the TOTAL ANNUAL electric bills for Hiawatha Golf Course ranged from $993 (2017) to $2,375 (2013) PER YEAR. The Pump House portion of that bill ranged from $174 (2012) to $252 (2016) PER YEAR. So, for $42 million dollars we can pay the whole electric bill for at least 17,684 years. For the same $42 million dollars we can pay the whole pump house bill for at least 166,666 years. Thus, the cost of pumping is not an issue!
In the new plan, the pumping will be moved into the neighborhoods. But, there are few details given as to how this will work and how much water will be pumped. Thus, the CAC request for detailed engineering plans is unfulfilled at this time.
There is a bit of discussion about using the pumped water for golf course irrigation and snow-making. This brings up the following questions about groundwater pumping distribution as specified in the plan:
REVENUE & CAPITAL COSTS
GOLF COURSE REVENUE:
NO DETAILS FOR OTHER CAC REQUESTS
After 6 months, the MPRB has not provided any details on the following items (just the same old stale statements):
Regarding honoring Hiawatha Golf Course's African-American history, the only way to honor this history is to retain a championship level 18-hole golf course, rather than giving the Black community a sub-standard 9-hole golf course which says, like always, that the Black community is not important enough to deserve a full 18-hole golf course like other communities.
You say that the golf experience should be available to all people; well, a 9-hole golf course is not the full golf experience! And, a good fostering of youth golfing requires an 18-hole golf course, not a partial experience.