Public comment sought on watershed plan

Map of the Shingle Creek and West Mississippi watersheds. The area contains 16 lakes, 26 miles of streams and 6,000 acres of wetlands. (Map provided courtesy of Wenck Associates)

A management plan for two watersheds is trickling its way to completion.

New Hope residents have until Dec. 21 to comment on a proposed 10-year management plan for the 67-square-mile joint watershed area run by the Shingle Creek and West Mississippi Watershed Management Commission. The watersheds cover an area from Plymouth in the west to the Mississippi River in the east, containing 16 lakes, 26 miles of streams and 6,000 acres of wetlands.

New Hope’s portion of land covered by the watershed is 3.2-square miles.

“A watershed is an area of land that drains into a particular water resource,” said Diane Spector, a water-resources planner for Wenck Associates, an engineering company consulting the commission. “For Shingle Creed, the entire area eventually drains to the Mississippi.”

The district’s management plans assess water quality issues, flooding problems and wetland conditions. Plans also determine what kinds of actions need to be taken to protect the good quality bodies of water and to restore the degraded ones.

The joint-powers commission is governed by boards of citizens appointed by city councils in the 10 cities covered by the district.

New Hope City Council Member Dan Stauner is the Shingle Creek commissioner for New Hope. Water problems on Meadow Lake got Stauner into local politics, he said. He and his wife became involved with the Shingle Creek Commission in 2005, after an algae bloom covered the lake.

When the commission created its first 10-year management plan in 1990, Stauner said that it focused flooding issues and getting water off the land as soon as possible. The second plan, adopted in 2004, focused more on water quality issues.

“Part of what is happening in this  (third) plan is that it is a re-writing of the rules,” Stauner said. “They focus on how you treat run-off. There are watershed rules that all cities abide by (in terms of how water) is dealt with before it is sent downstream, with the idea that you will reduce negative impact downstream.”

Spector said that many of the improvement activities are coordinated with street improvement projects. Each little rain garden included in a boulevard, she said, provides water quality treatment.

“It comes from a change in thinking about how we handle storm water,” she said. “The philosophy is to try to use it as a resource and handle it on sight. Instead of creating big regional ponds, you’ll see neighborhood rain gardens. It’s about keeping it closer to where the rain falls.”

Stauner describes the plan’s impact on New Hope as “somewhat limited,” because there is only one large body of water in the city.

A drawdown of Meadow Lake has been proposed to “provide an opportunity for the native seed bank to reestablish a more beneficial aquatic vegetation community.” The $100,000 project has been “postponed pending further study.”

“My view is that (draw-downs) are good for knocking down curly leaf pond weed, but other than that, I’m not sure,” Stauner said, referring to the project. “It has to be done very carefully.”

Spector said additional work needed to be done to see if the project was possible, “let alone the desired option.”

Comments

A capital improvement plan allows the commission to share 25 percent costs (up to $250,000) on projects shared with cites. Funding for that, she said, comes from a county property tax within the watershed. Several projects have also been funded up to 50 percent through grants.

Spector said that 13 of the watershed’s 16 lakes do not meet state water quality standards. The improvements, she said, can be costly, and public input on management plans can let the commission know about areas needing attention.

“Usually, the only feedback comes from people with a vested interested,” she said. “Water management is something that most people assume someone else is taking care of for them, unless they see significant problems. It’s kind of invisible to them … There is a lot of work behind the scenes, but there are opportunities for people to get involved. We’re always looking for volunteer monitors, for people interested in taking on projects. There’s a lot that people can do to do their bit.”

The Third-Generation plan can be reviewed online at shinglecreek.org. Written comments can be sent to: Judie Anderson, Watershed Administrator, 3235 Fernbrook Lane North, Plymouth, MN 55447, or by email to judie@jass.biz.

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