Day #7: Minnehaha Creek Watershed District

City of Edina: Everything from this point on flows downhill to the Minnehaha Creek

“The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.” 
Luna Leopold

Since about the time of the cave man, storm water had ALWAYS been one of the bigger priorities:

1. You had to locate your home, community, or city, near a clean and replenish-able source of water (rain fed)

2. You needed your shelter far enough away from storm water run off (or at least do some clever ditch digging)
so you and your family stayed warm safe and dry

And …

3. You needed to employ practices whereby wastes from your home or community, did not wash into your water supply.

Today, we know these survival basics as the  Science of Watershed Management …

For our final day of shooting, we caught up with the folks at the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) to learn more about this Watershed approach to managing Minnesota’s most precious resource.


Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD)

Imagine a HUGE bowl that has a surface area of 181 Square Miles.

Lining the inside of this bowl you can see the topography of 27 Metro MN Cities and 2 Townships.

This bowl (if you will) represents the MCWD.

When it rains, the water makes its way to the bottom of this super bowl and into the Minnehaha Creek …

How much water you ask?

Well, to give you an idea how much rain water goes through this bowl watershed consider this:

  • One inch of rain falling on 1 acre of ground is equal to about 27,154 gallons and weighs about 113 tons
  • There are 640 acres in a square mile
  • There 181 Square Miles that make up the MCWD for a total 115,840 acres
  • Which means a 1″ rainfall will equal 3,145,519,360 Gallons of water! Which btw, is more water than will plunge over the Niagara falls … in an hour!

Telly Mamayek on the Board walk of Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital Project

Telly Mamayek

Our first conversation of the day was with MCWD Communications Manager Telly Mamayek.

We met on the boardwalk at the Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital (St. Louis Park) Creek Re-Meandering project  … a project that successfully transformed this area into a usable landscape AND helped improve water quality.

Hard to believe we were even in the City really: Wild birds, Marsh grasses, Cat-tails, Fishing holes, a Meandering creek … and … a board walk that takes you thru the heart of it all!

It wasn’t always this way though …

This particular area of wetlands, located along the Minnehaha Creek … near the intersection of Louisiana Ave and Excelsior Blvd … was filled in many years ago to accommodate new development.

(a common practice in Minnesota pre-watershed)

It was Park Nicollet Methodist that stepped up in a BIG way and joined MCWD in efforts to re-meander this part of the Minnehaha creek which resulted in (among other things) restored wetlands, storage to mitigate flooding, improved water quality ….

Not to mention …

Giving Park Nicollet patients a place to connect with nature and speed healing.


Hopkins Mayor Gene Maxwell at Minnehaha creek on Lake and Blake

Mayor Gene Maxwell

Next stop was the MCWD Urban Corridor project in the City of Hopkins at the intersection of Blake and Lake where we met Mayor Gene Maxwell.

Here you will get a look at what an MCWD project looks like before a single shovel even hits the dirt. Old industrial buildings, parking lot’s tipped wildly towards the creek, storm sewer outlet’s jutting crudely out of eroded creek embankments …

But, you know what?

That’s the way it was always done in those early pre-watershed days.

Yep …

Get the water routed out of harms way and out of the City  (as quickly as possible) was just, well … standard operating procedure.

Now we know better …

Working with the City of Hopkins the MCWD purchased these outdated buildings and have plans to restore about 1,000 feet of shoreline in one of the most degraded sections of this creek.

The plan is the same here [Hopkins] as it is in any City or Watershed …

Mimic Nature: Slow it down, Spread it out, Soak it in!

According to the Honorable Mayor, when the project is finished, this area will:

1. Become a natural buffer to help clean and slow run-off water before it enters the creek

2. Provide public access

3. Improve water quality

4. Reduce Crime

And … finally …

5. Re-coup initial investments as the rest of the property will be sold for re-development, which is consistent with the city’s comprehensive land use plan.



James Wisker Planner for the MCWD

James Wisker

For the purposes of this documentary, I suppose we could have focused on the glaringly obvious storm-water things … like:

The thousands of surface drains, catch-basins, inlets and outlets that capture and redirect millions of gallons of storm water when it rains …

Or maybe even …

The hundreds of miles of underground storm pipes and ditches that keep your home or neighborhood from being washed away …

But …

We decided (in the time alloted) the more important/interesting topic right now AND into the next decade is:

1. Where all this water ends up

2. Why it can negatively or positively impact the future of MN

3. What we can do to ensure it’s the latter

And …

4. In MN, what we are doing about it!

James Wisker, a Planner with the MCWD broke it all down for us …

Wisker also shared how Hopkins and other Communities in this Metro MN Watershed are gaining nationwide attention for their success in getting ALL stake-holders to the table, having the conversations we NEED to have … and then … making the TOUGH choices.

No small task I assure you!

(end day #7)

Oh, I almost forgot …

We also managed to squeeze in 4 more (non storm related) interviews on day #7!

Stew Thornley: Health Educator Minnesota Department of Health: Section of Drinking Water Protection

Dennis Healy: CEO Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water

Dominic Jones: Manager, Red Rock Rural Water

And …

Kyle Colvin: Eng Services Asst Manager, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services

Thank-you everyone for stepping up and sharing your experience and stories with greater Minnesota!

-andrew sullivan

PS; This was the last day of shooting and our producer is in the editing room as we speak!

PPS; We are looking to air “Liquid Assets: MN” in and around the first week of December.

Stay Tuned!



Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: