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Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan FAQ Response

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) issued an FAQ document on June 8, 2019 regarding the Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan. Here is SaveHiawatha18's response to the MPRB.

There was no violation of the existing pumping permits.

You state in your recent FAQ that the MPRB was violating their 2 irrigation permits at Hiawatha Golf Course by pumping water into Lake Hiawatha.

The DNR has stated publicly, and a DNR employee has stated to me face to face, that the MPRB has not violated their 2 irrigation permits for Hiawatha Golf Course. These 2 permits allow the golf course to draw water from 2 water sources to irrigate the golf course when it becomes dry.

The DNR employee said that the MPRB did not have a dewatering permit. He said that the DNR had told the MPRB that they were now required to get a dewatering permit for the pumping of water from the golf course into Lake Hiawatha, which the MPRB applied for. We received information from the DNR indicating that the dewatering permit would be approved by the end of May.

So, the MPRB should now have 3 DNR permits for Hiawatha Golf Course: an irrigation permit for taking water from the well, an irrigation permit for taking water from the pond system, and a dewatering permit for pumping water into Lake Hiawatha from the golf course.

To perpetuate this lie, which insinuates violations that have not occurred with the DNR permits, is very unproductive. These lies just lead people to distrust anything that the MPRB says. This process has been difficult enough without the MPRB continuing to lie.

Hiawatha Golf Course loss due to the 2014 flood?

You state that Hiawatha Golf Course lost $611,822 in 2014. The insinuation you make is that this loss was due to the flood. But, the golf course was losing money before the flood. According to your consultant's report in 2013, the main reason for the losses at the golf course were mismanagement and lack of capital investment. SaveHiawatha's calculations based on 2013 revenue show that lost revenue due to the flood was $249,471 for 2014. And, if MPRB management had been more proactive in fixing the back nine, the losses could have been even less.

Hiawatha Master Plan is paid for by whom?

You state that the Hiawatha Master Plan is not being paid for out of the Hiawatha Golf Course budget, but out of the Enterprise Fund Improvements Budget. We stated that the Hiawatha Master Plan expenses were being allocated out of the Golf Department budget, of which Hiawatha Golf Course is a part. The MPRB's 2019 Budget Adjustments document dated 10/17/2018 specifically states that the charge for "Description-Hiawatha Master Plan, Design & Engineering, Balance-$275,000" will be allocated to "Division-Recreation, Budget-Enterprise, Department-Golf". So, your budget document seems to clearly state that the charges will be allocated against the Golf Department.

Your history lesson about Rice Lake.

You conveniently leave out of your history lesson about Rice Lake that much of the park land on the east side of the lake was also created from the dredged spoils. The property where the current park building stands used to be in the flood plain and was under water. I have photos of this. So, by your theory of restoring the wetland, we should also demolish this building, the ball field/ice rink, the playground and the wading pool, and let that land go back to a swamp.

Also, the building of the golf course allowed houses to be safely built on the west and north sides of the park property because it provided a large buffer of land. Without this protective dry buffer zone, these houses are at a huge risk of flooding.

And, the piece that you are missing in all of this planning is the fact that the topography and the neighborhood and the watershed are no longer the same as they were when the golf course property was a swamp called Rice Lake. Trying to make this small parcel into what it was 90 years ago would need the surrounding properties to go back to what they were. Are you saying that this will happen??? I don't think the surrounding neighbors are ready to give up their homes and businesses to turn their property into soggy wetlands. And, does the City of Minneapolis want to lose this property tax revenue? Not to mention all of the development in the watershed that can't be reverted back to what it was in the 1920's.

MPRB Investment in Hiawatha Golf Course?

You state that you did not invest long-term in Hiawatha Golf Course because of the 2014 flood and the pumping issue. SaveHiawatha18 found that the MPRB was not spending money on Hiawatha, or the other Minneapolis golf courses, before the flood, which caused the revenue to decline. This came from a study contracted by the MPRB. Your own contractor's study was done in 2013, before the flood, and stated that this lack of spending and investment had already done damage to the finances of Hiawatha and the other Minneapolis golf courses. So, to say that the flood precipitated this lack of investment is false; the lack of investment started before the flood.

Links between Lake Hiawatha and Lake Nokomis?

You indicate that there is no engineering study that points to a relationship between pumping at Hiawatha Golf Course and high water in the Lake Nokomis area. I've never heard anyone link these 2 concepts. What SaveHiawatha18 is concerned about is that Lake Nokomis suffers from high water levels just like Lake Hiawatha. And, the MCWD has admitted that they have not been able to maintain the pond systems that have been installed there. We fear the same scenario at Lake Hiawatha where the homes would be even closer to the new "wetland". Little is known about why the homes at Nokomis are suffering from water intrusion, so why would any public official proceed with more water projects before understanding the current problems that are occurring.

Dredging of Lake Hiawatha?

You state that dredging Lake Hiawatha would not make more room for water. Dredging of the lake would do 2 things: make a cleaner lake by removing all of the built-up silt, sand, etc., and provide for more volume of water in the basin. The lake level would likely not change because of the impediments in the outbound creek, as long as the current volume of water keeps entering Lake Hiawatha.

Removal of the weir in outbound Minnehaha Creek?

You state the removal of the weir would not do anything to lower the level of Lake Hiawatha, but you fail to mention the other impediments in the outbound creek. Your Barr report stated that removing several obstructions in the outbound creek could reduce the level of the lake. So, your current FAQ statement contradicts your own documents.

Planting more trees?

You say that planting more trees would not soak up the amount of water required and it would affect playability. We say that you could re-plant 200-300 trees that have been lost on the golf course and not change the playability. Plant them where they used to be. And, it will also help with reducing the pumping to some degree; everything helps. And, you also say that you need a solution that would be "quicker to implement and more dependable." We say that you already have one that has been very dependable and cheap (continue the current pumping at the edge of Lake Hiawatha).

Are you building a constructed wetland?

You say that you are not creating a constructed wetland, but are restoring a wetland. One of the goals you have stated in the past is that you are creating this wetland to clean up pollution, which is a function of "constructed wetlands". That is why we researched constructed wetlands. You have also used this term for the wetlands that you have already created. (The term is on one of your plaques). So, are you now abandoning your goal of pollution mitigation with this project? Or, are you changing your terminology because of some push-back about the feasibility of your plan?

MCWD management of the Watershed?

Regarding the MCWD, they have admitted to me in person that they have had trouble controlling and maintaining the Nokomis ponds, so there are some open questions as to their management of this watershed, especially in this new era of climate change. Trees falling down in Minnehaha Creek and flooding all around Lake Nokomis puts into question whether they are managing the watershed for the long-term, or just hoping for the rain to quit while they open and close weirs and dams. After all, when we asked Mr. Wisker why South Minneapolis was taking the brunt of all of the rain, he told SaveHiawatha18 that "someone needs to get hurt."

The New Pumping Plan.

You say that "the Water Management Alternative of 2017 lays out a feasible pumping solution". Some of the basic engineering has been questioned by people with expertise in this area. Plus, the DNR hydrologist has stated that returning the water to Lake Hiawatha and the new pond will not create a functional cone of depression as you claim. He said that you would have to move (pump) the water past Lake Hiawatha. In other words, you would have to remove the water from the system, which is what we told you over a year ago. So, no homeowners and engineers that we have talked to are convinced that this plan will work!

Future flooding of the property.

You say that the golf course will continue to flood because of high precipitation levels. But, with the new plan you will still have a golf course that will flood. Instead, maybe, you can just build a higher berm at a much lower cost for the current 18-hole golf course? On the other hand, Rep. Wagenius found out that the upper watershed has been losing water in their aquifers, while the aquifers in the lower watershed are full. This indicates that the upper watershed is sending too much of its water downstream. This needs to be addressed, and would lessen the water coming into Lake Hiawatha. In other words, Lake Hiawatha (a very small lake) and Minnehaha Creek cannot continue to have these levels of water passing through them. This is the problem that really needs to be addressed. Increasing the size of the lake by a few acres does absolutely nothing to solve this problem.

Permitting rules for new development.

Regarding your statements about permitting rules for new development, we have not heard of any water capture solutions that actually retain the water permanently in the area of the development. Most seem to be holding tanks that will eventually release the water downstream. So, it does nothing to relieve the burden of water on the downstream communities; it just tries to control the levels. As we have seen this spring, the MCWD has been executing a valiant, but losing battle in trying to control where water is coming from and how much is released at any one time. And, we are seeing the destructive effects of this massive amount of water on communities in the lower watershed.


So, the ultimate question still is; with this new plan, what problems does it solve? I still see an answer of 'no problems solved'. Which gets us back to President Bourn's question to Mr. Schroeder last summer. "Nobody is making us do this reduced pumping. So, if we do it, we are doing it because we want to?" Mr. Schroeder's response was "Yes." And, at a cost to the taxpayers of over 60 million dollars!