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Lake Hiawatha Golf Course Pumping FAQ
Our Response

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board published an update to their Hiawatha Golf Course Pumping FAQ. We have decided to answer the same questions they posed from our perspective.

1. Is the Hiawatha Golf Course closing?
   There is no known reason to close Hiawatha Golf Course. The original DNR appropriations permit for 32 million gallons per year was for an irrigation well which was installed in 1993 and is screened in the Prairie du Chien Aquifer at 210-260 feet bgs. The pond system and additional tiling were installed in 1993 and 1999. Another permit was obtained in 2003 to allow pumping from Pond E for irrigation purposes and any pumping from the deep irrigation well was discontinued. This permit allowed 36 million gallons per year. In 2011-2012, a City of Minneapolis project was completed which separated storm water from the sanitary sewer system. This project dumped 66 million gallons of storm water per year into the pond system at the golf course. Stormwater does not have to be permitted by the DNR so apparently the City and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) saw no necessity to apply for a dewatering permit for the golf course. However, once stormwater is absorbed into the soil, the DNR considers it groundwater. In addition to the city stormwater piped into the pond system, tiling on the course collects excess water which flows by gravity through the ponds until it reaches the last pond (Pond E) on the east side of the course, very close to the west side of Lake Hiawatha. The water from Pond E is then pumped a very short distance into Lake Hiawatha. This water has been “scrubbed” by the pond system and is the cleanest water entering Lake Hiawatha. Barr Engineering concludes on page 46, Section 10.4 that “the existing pumping is likely having minimal ecological impact.”
   The DNR has indicated at the Senate Hearing on October 6, 2017 conducted by Senator Patricia Torres Ray that they would be willing to issue a dewatering permit.
2. Why is it likely that the golf course will be closing?
   The MPRB never explored any engineering solutions to mitigate groundwater pumping for dewatering of the golf course, even though the MPRB had invested taxpayer money in the tiling and pond system. Half of the pumping was attributed to seepage coming back through the berm onto the course from the lake. Fortifying the berm or installing a rubber bladder might be one solution. It was not considered. That would cut the pumping in half. Instead of allowing the City to put 66 million gallons per year onto the course, the MPRB could require them to pipe the water somewhere else to get it to the Mississippi River. It was not considered. There have been no valid reasons given for closing of the golf course. If the golf course is closed it is only because the MPRB doesn't want to keep it open.
3. How long will it take before an amendment to the Nokomis-Hiawatha Master Plan is presented to the Board and work commences on the site?
   We are watching for the appointment of a CAC (Community Action Committee) to deal with the golf course. Hopefully, the lame duck MPRB will allow the newly elected commissioners to appoint community members. If the new MPRB comprises enough commissioners who see the value of Hiawatha Golf Club, the discussion will likely be very different.
4. Will the golf course close before implementation of the approved, amended master plan?
   No, Hiawatha will remain open as an 18-hole golf course. The MPRB has no money in their current budget to make any changes to the golf course in 2018. There are no improvements planned, in spite of the fact that the Hiawatha Golf Course has had an average annual net revenue (profit) of $120,000 for the past 20 years. his includes the two years when the golf course was partially closed. If you multiply $120,000 times 20 years, Hiawatha Golf Course has made a profit of $2,400,000 in the past 20 years. (Financial information is from the MPRB Impact Assessment document, July 14, 2017, page 31). However, FEMA did allocate $1.1 million for repairs and upgrades to the golf course after the 2014 flood, and, as far as we know, this money has never been used for the golf course.
5. How can I be a part of the Community Advisory Committee?
   This process is not very transparent. The MPRB says it will consider who is affected and try to include those groups on the committee. One thing to remember is that even if you are not appointed to the CAC, you are allowed to attend every one of their meetings. The whole process needs to be daylighted.
6. Who has jurisdiction over Lake Hiawatha and Minnehaha Creek?
   The SaveHiawatha18 group is conducting meetings with the DNR, Minnehaha Watershed District, the MAC, and other governmental groups. In exploring the golf course issues and the 2014 flooding, we have unearthed a greater problem concerning the quantity of water that is being pushed down and through Minnehaha Creek into Lakes Nokomis and Hiawatha. Concerns include why the lakes are being kept at unnaturally high levels resulting in flooded homes; changing weather patterns and how these affect hydrology; and maintenance (or lack of) for installed wetlands.
7. Where is the water coming from that is being pumped into the lake?
   The MPRB seems to quote floating numbers (pun intended). Approximately 66 million gallons per year is City stormwater put into the ponds. Approximately 141 million gallons per year is seepage back onto the golf course from Lake Hiawatha. The rest is considered shallow groundwater, rainfall collected by the tiling system, similar to farm tiling, except the golf course tiling leads to the pond system which removes almost all of the impurities in the water. If we use the MPRB’s number of 242 million gallons per year, shallow groundwater would account for 35 million gallons per year. That is the water coming from the golf course.
   Lake Hiawatha also receives water from another City storm drain, on the northeast side of the lake. This water is untreated and also dumps garbage into the lake. The City should be required by the MPRB to install a system (grit chambers, flocculation system) to mitigate this damage. Minnehaha Creek also flows into Lake Hiawatha. The inlet is larger than the outlet, resulting in higher than normal lake levels. The delta from the Creek entering Lake Hiawatha has not been dredged since 1984. Lack of maintenance from the MPRB seems to be a recurring theme.
8. What would happen if the pumps were turned off?
   Without the current level of pumping to keep the golf course dry, shallow groundwater on the golf course property would rise until it reaches the elevation of Lake Hiawatha (812.8 ft.). This would result in a significant portion of the golf course being under water and unplayable. Adjoining areas would also be unusable due to water seepage and would be considered wetlands. If the MPRB does no maintenance, as they have not done for the Nokomis wetlands, it will be overrun with invasive species and create an expanding swamp. Additionally, approximately 18 nearby homes would be at risk for groundwater intrusion with 300 more at possible risk. In the neighborhood adjoining the Nokomis swamps, we have identified more than 70 homes with water intrusion. Notice the dewatering taking place on Edgewater Boulevard.
9. Would dredging Lake Hiawatha reduce the amount of pumping?
   Dredging of the lake makes it deeper, but doesn’t lower the water level of the lake so it will not reduce pumping. But, dredging of the lake can improve the water quality by removing much of the silt and contaminants that have accumulated in the lake over the years. Plus, the inlet of Minnehaha Creek used to be periodically dredged to remove the build up of junk coming in from the creek. This allowed the water to have a more direct flow from inlet to outlet rather than the current situation, which pushes the water flow further into the lake. This dredging has not been done for years.
10. How was pumping identified as an issue?
   A study commissioned by the MPRB, conducted by Barr Engineering, realized that the MPRB had failed to apply for a dewatering permit during and after installation of their tiling and pond system.
   A side note: Meadowbrook Golf Course was also flooded in 2014. It has been reopened and their “irrigation” permit has been increased from 36 million gallons per year to 90 million gallons per year. This course pumps water into Meadowbrook Lake which flows into Minnehaha Creek, which comes down to South Minneapolis. Apparently this pumping into Meadowbrook Lake is considered stormwater which does not have to be regulated. There is no reason why the golf course would use 90 million gallons per year to irrigate 18 holes. The course does not have a dewatering permit.
11. Is there any evidence that the lake is higher than it used to be thereby making the golf course water issues worse?
   The MPRB does allow that lake levels have increased, making groundwater issues worse and increasing the risk of flooding. Changes in the Minnehaha Creek Watershed, loss of flood plains and increased stormwater dumping have all affected the water problems in South Minneapolis. SaveHiawatha18 is working with legislators and government agencies to prevent our area from becoming the dumping ground and cesspool for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed.
12. Could the golf course be sinking thereby make the golf course water issues worse?
   The MPRB has backed off from their claim that the golf course is sinking at the rate of ¼ inch per year. Now they are quoting that unknown “golf course employees” have seen sinking. Their Barr Engineering report states that there is no way to know the rate as there is no historic data. In another paragraph they state that if the golf course were sinking, the subsidence rate is likely less than ¼ inch per year and too small to measure.
   The ball fields at Lake Nokomis were created at the same time as the golf course, from dredged material. Yet, the MPRB plans to invest money to rebuild those fields. If this type of soil were to continue to sink, those fields are used several times a year for parking cars. Logic would dictate the ball fields would be more likely to sink than the golf course.
13. How much groundwater is being pumped into Lake Hiawatha?
   This question has already been addressed. The MPRB states it is 242 million gallons per year and allows that 141 million gallons (one-half by my calculations) is seepage back onto the course from the lake. Again, this is the cleanest water that enters Lake Hiawatha and does no ecological damage.
14. Is there a water quality impact on Lake Hiawatha from the pumped water?
15. Is pumping depleting the deep groundwater supply used for drinking water?
   No. Pumping tests show there is no connection between shallow groundwater at Hiawatha and the deep regional drinking water aquifer (the Prairie du Chien aquifer). State Representative Jean Wagenius indicated that the Prairie du Chien aquifer in the west metro is low and needs recharging, but that is not the case in south Minneapolis.
16. Can the elevation of the golf course be raised to eliminate the need for pumping?
   The MPRB states that if the ground were raised, it would reduce the flood storage, which would raise flood elevations around the lake and upstream of the lake. Yet, they propose to permanently fill this same area with more water. If the basin is already full of water, where will the flood water go and why would that be any different than if the basin had more dirt in it?
17. Does the park board have permission to pump this water?
   The MPRB has a permit to pump 36 million gallons per year ONTO the golf course for irrigation purposes. They are in the process of applying for a dewatering permit to allow the lift station pump at Pond E to pump water into Lake Hiawatha.