MPRB approves contract with Barr Engineering

At its October 7, 2015 meeting, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Barr Engineering Company to assess the hydrologic conditions at Hiawatha Golf Course. In September, the MPRB learned that it might be pumping as much at 273 million gallons of water from the golf course property into Lake Hiawatha. In order to fully understand storm water and ground water conditions, Barr will be performing a number of investigations during the next several weeks and updating existing hydrologic models with information gained from their investigations. Barr’s work in anticipated to be completed within three months.

Work to be performed

Specifically, Barr will install flow and area velocity meters on pumps and pipes to better understand current flows of storm and ground water through a series of ponds on the golf course property. Monitoring devices intended to measure ground water conditions will also be installed as a way to calculate separate volumes for storm and ground water flow as well as provide a more accurate measurement of storm water passing through Hiawatha Golf Course from nearby neighborhoods. Pumped water will also be sampled at the pump outlet to determine the quality of the water being pumped into Lake Hiawatha.

A short-term ground water recovery test will be performed to understand the impacts of turning off the two 1,200 gallon per minute pumps for up to eight hours. The results of this test are important in framing answers to questions about the need for the pumps. The MPRB is concerned that turning the pumps off may pose a hazard for nearby private properties during conditions of intense storm water flow through the golf course.

With the information gained from these tests, Barr will refine hydrologic models intended to demonstrate the several possible conditions, including scenarios where the pumps are no longer used to move storm water and ground water from the golf course property. Because several nearby private properties have been subject to flooding in the past, the MPRB believes these models are critical in framing answers about the future of the system of ponds and pumps that were created to assist in relieving flooding from storm water in the neighborhood.

Gathering historic information

Barr is also assisting MPRB staff in assembling historic information related to water conditions and Hiawatha Golf Course. During a public meeting on September 15, members of the public suggested that the golf course was not subject to flooding before the two large pumps were installed. The MPRB believes that having more complete historic information related to changes in the watershed are important in understanding not only what has happened on the golf course in the past, but how it can remain a good steward of public lands in terms of accommodating storm water as nearby and, in particular, upstream changes have occurred.

The Board of Commissioners, in approving a contract with Barr, also authorized staff to engage a peer review consultant to evaluate Barr’s work as it proceeds. Because the answers gained by Barr’s investigations and modeling has the potential to impact properties beyond Hiawatha Golf Course, commissioners believe it is most prudent to have an independent expert review Barr’s methodologies and responses.

Meeting with DNR

MPRB staff met with representatives of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on October 6, 2015 to review ground water appropriation permit requirements and the MPRB’s intended course of action following its discovery of significant storm and ground water pumping into Lake Hiawatha from the golf course. The scope of work proposed by Barr was reviewed and DNR representatives suggested an additional investigation related to the interaction between shallow and deep ground water. This investigation was added to Barr’s contract when the Board of Commissioners approved it.

The DNR encouraged the MPRB to prepare and submit an application for a ground water appropriation permit related to pumping of storm and ground water into Lake Hiawatha from the golf course. Staff submitted the application to the DNR on October 7, 2015 and, as requested by the DNR, will update its application as information from the Barr investigations becomes known. The permit, if approved by the DNR, would allow the MPRB to continue pumping ground water during a period of investigations and implementation of any necessary responses. As part of the permit, the MPRB would be responsible to pay fees for any appropriated ground water.

Recognizing that the impacts of turning the pumps off are not known, the DNR representatives suggested they will not be asking the MPRB to turn the pumps off. The MPRB believes having full information from the Barr investigations is necessary before taking any actions related to the current storm water and ground water pumping, particularly because the impacts to nearby private properties is not known.

Next report to Board is November 4

MPRB staff is assembling information describing the sequence of changes on Hiawatha Golf Course related to ponds, pipes and pumps implemented in 1992 and 1999. As Barr moves through its investigations, the MPRB believes it is important to revisit its past actions, the partnerships related to those actions, and the underlying reasons for those actions—particularly because the changes to the golf course in the 1990s seems to be largely related to accommodating storm water from areas near Hiawatha Golf Course. This information will be shared with the Board of Commissioners on November 4, 2015.