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February 8, 2018 Board Meeting Minutes






February 8, 2018





The regular meeting of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board of Managers was called to order by President Sherry White at 7:20 p.m. on Thursday, February 8, 2018, at the District offices, 15320 Minnetonka Boulevard, Minnetonka, Minnesota.




Sherry White, Richard Miller, Kurt Rogness, William Olson, Bill Becker, Jessica Loftus.




Brian Shekleton.




Lars Erdahl, Administrator; James Wisker, Planning and Projects Director; Becky Christopher, Lead Planner-Project Manager; Laura Domyancich, Project and Land Technician; Heidi Quinn, Permitting Technician; Chris Meehan, District Consulting Engineer; Chuck Holtman, District Counsel.








Manager Olson moved, Manager Rogness seconded approval of the agenda with the addition of 325 Blake Road fund transfer to cover operating costs as Item 11.3, and authorization to contract for 325 Blake Road decommissioning as Item 11.4. Upon vote, the motion carried 6-0.




Manager White referenced the East Auburn Stormwater Pond Update in the packet.




Manager Becker moved, Manager Rogness seconded approval of the consent agenda, consisting of the January 25, 2018 Board minutes. Upon vote, motion carried 6-0.




Board, Committee and Task Force Reports


President White noted that Manager Shekleton would be attending the February Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting as the Board’s liaison and Manager Rogness would do the same at the March CAC meeting. By unanimous consent, Managers White, Miller and Loftus were named as Board liaisons to the Blake Road Joint Working Group.


Permit 17-576:  Blake Road, City of Hopkins


Ms. Quinn described the project consisting of road reconstruction with additional trail on 1.8 miles of Blake road that includes Hopkins, Hennepin County and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) right-of-way as well as easements on District property. The project triggers the District’s erosion control, wetland protection, shoreline and streambank stabilization, floodplain alteration, and waterbody crossings and structures rules, The City, as well, requests a variance with respect to the directional boring setback from the creek under the District’s waterbody crossings rule. Ms. Quinn reviewed how the City will comply with each District rule as well as the basis for the variance, which rests on the existence of a high-capacity subsurface natural gas pipeline in the vicinity of the required setback north of the creek. The City proposes to use additional erosion control precautions to prevent sedimentation of the creek. Ms. Quinn reviewed each factor under the variance rule.


Manager Rogness moved, Manager Becker seconded to grant the requested variance for the reasons set forth in the City’s request and the staff memorandum. Upon vote, the motion carried 6-0.


Manager Miller moved, Manager Rogness seconded permit approval with the three conditions recommended by staff as follows: Authorization from the District and MnDOT to conduct work on their respective properties; Submittal of an executed maintenance agreement for the waterbody crossing after approval of a draft by District staff; Identification of the contractor responsible to implement the erosion control plan. Upon vote, the motion carried 6-0.


Submittal of Letter to BWSR Regarding Watershed-Based Funding Pilot Program


Ms. Christopher presented proposed correspondence to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) prepared at the request of the Policy and Planning Committee and coordinated with counsel. The letter speaks to the District’s concern as to the lack of transparency and watershed organization engagement; the apparent divergence from watershed-based implementation to a county basis; the lack of incentives for prioritized, targeted and measurable projects; the lack of sufficient BWSR guidance; and a concern as to the pilot program approach becoming long-term policy for Clean Water Fund implementation. The letter requests that BWSR give its policy questions greater consideration with the involvement of metro watershed management organizations.


Staff proposes to send the letter to the BWSR executive director with copies to relevant BWSR Board members and staff, as well as metro watershed districts and the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts.


Manager Olson moved, Manager Miller seconded adoption of Resolution 18-010 as follows:


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board of Managers authorizes the Board President to sign the attached letter for submittal to the appropriate BWSR staff and board members.


 Upon vote, the motion carried 6-0.


Contract with Springsted for Human Resources Plan Implementation


Mr. Wisker presented the proposed resolution authorizing the District Administrator to contract with Springsted Incorporated for human resources assistance consisting of a review of job descriptions and job classifications and a market salary review. This request follows the discussion at the Operations and Programs Committee meeting held earlier this evening. In addition, the proposed resolution would formalize the Board’s subdelegation to Mr. Wisker of all authority related to human resources plan implementation delegated to the District Administrator.


Manager Rogness moved, Manager Olson seconded adoption of Resolution 18-011 as follows: 


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board of Managers hereby authorizes the District Administrator to execute a contract with Springsted Incorporated for human resources planning services for an amount of $30,900, with a not to exceed amount of $33,300.


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Managers affirms that Planning and Projects Director Wisker has the responsibility and administrative authority to implement all aspects of the adopted organizational chart and Human Resources plan.


Upon vote, the motion carried 6-0.


325 Blake Road Fund Transfer


Mr. Hayman presented a proposed Resolution authorizing a transfer of funds from the 325 Blake Road capital account to the operations account. With the conclusion of facility leases, there is no longer revenue coming into the operations account and additional funds are needed to continue to provide basic facility oversight and decommissioning.


 Manager Miller moved, Manager Rogness seconded adoption of Resolution 18-012 as follows:


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board of Managers authorizes the transfer of $78,531.74 from the 325 Blake Road capital account (fund ending 017) to the 325 Blake Road operations account (fund ending 025) to uphold standard operating expenses.


Upon vote, the motion carried 6-0.


325 Blake Road Decommissioning Cost


Mr. Hayman noted that the District engineer is reviewing issues related to mercury that previously had been injected into the ammonia refrigeration system as an anti-corrosion additive and the need to review and potentially take action with respect to ammonia gas that had been removed from the system and shipped off site.


Manager Miller moved, Manager Olson seconded to authorize the District Administrator to execute contracts relating to the disposition of materials from 325 Blake Road decommissioning not to exceed, in aggregate, $150,000, with consent of the Board President and on advice of counsel.


Manager Becker asked for a further description of the issue. Mr. Hayman related that after the ammonia gas had been removed from the system by a firm retained by the District’s refrigeration system management subconsultant, the subconsultant observed liquid mercury in the refrigeration system. The mercury was immediately contained and the ammonia gas that had been sent off site was tracked down.  At this time the firm that took possession of the ammonia has had sampling of the gas done to determine whether there is mercury in the gas that affects its regulatory classification and its use. That analytical work is presently being done in Iowa. Depending on the results, the District engineer may recommend action that should be taken before the Board’s next meeting. Mr. Holtman clarified that the ammonia gas shipped offsite remains contained in tanks and there has been no release or application.


Upon vote, the motion carried 6-0.



Comment on District Water Management Planning Process


Manager Miller commented that the District should send a copy of the color-printed plan summary to each person who participated in the plan development process. Mr. Wisker proposed that the summary be sent with a thank-you letter. The Board concurred.


District Administrator Transition


President White reported that at the direction of the Board, she, Manager Loftus and Manager Miller talked with Mr. Wisker and Louis Smith regarding Mr. Wisker’s interest in the Administrator position following Administrator Erdahl’s departure. President White reported that Mr. Wisker is willing to take the job and that areas that Mr. Wisker would like to discuss, including District culture, expectations and mentoring and growth resources, will be discussed at the Board retreat tomorrow. Manager Miller concurred that an excellent discussion was held. 


Big Island Nature Park Easement and Orono Planning Update


Ms. Domyancich reviewed the past year of occurrences relating to planning and conditions on the Big Island Nature Park. The District initially was involved through staff with the Big Island Committee brought together by the City of Orono. Over the summer District staff observed violations of the District’s conservation easement, following which District and City staffs coordinated to develop an approach to addressing the violations. In December, a concept plan for limited site improvements was produced and a meeting was held on January 31 involving District and City staff, a representative of the City’s park commission and the City’s consultant, Bolton and Menk, for an initial review of the master plan. In the spring, staff will review site conditions to formulate final restoration conditions relating to the violations.


Ms. Domyancich reviewed the initial concept plan that includes the following elements:  crushed rock foot trails for access under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); refurbishing a small building for a simple visitor center and constructing a toilet facility; safety measures such as cameras; means such as bollards to protect areas against improper vehicle use; a modest veterans memorial and several simple overlooks to the lake. Ms. Domyancich reviewed the steps toward City approval of the improvement plan and how the District’s own review and decision-making process might be incorporated within that.


Manager Miller criticized local newspaper coverage of the District’s role and observed that the article diminished the importance of the violations that the District observed, including the shoreline damage where the District had invested hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. He urged that the District be involved in any City grant applications for funds for its improvements. Mr. Wisker replied that the District needs to formalize the process of its engagement that insures proper review and decision points by the District.


President White asked whether the Board wishes to be involved in the City’s design process. Managers Becker and Olson suggested that this engagement is more technical and therefore more appropriate for staff.


Manager Miller emphasized the District and State funds invested in the park and the need for the District to be attentive. Ms. Domyancich indicated that the intent is for the Board to review the concept plan and approve the actual design.


Manager Becker observed that all the proposed improvements are within the recreation area except for the bollards and ADA trails, which would be at least in part within the conservation area. He suggested that staff ask the City if these proposals reflect the City’s current ADA plan and, if not, the plan should be amended.


The Board concurred that staff should represent the District in the next phase of the process. Manager Loftus added that while she agrees with this, this has been the approach to date and there remain gaps in the City’s understanding of the District’s values, so the channels of communication that have been used to this point have not been sufficient. She does not place responsibility on District staff but notes the issue.


Manager Becker observed that the District should communicate to the newspaper its unhappiness with the coverage, as that typically will help improve future coverage. Mr. Wisker also added that the District should have a strong presence at both the Park Commission and City Council levels and not rely on others to carry the District’s positions to these bodies. He advised that staff will develop a proposed engagement framework and present it to the Board on February 22.




Mr. Erdahl noted the “2017 Year-End Review” at the managers’ places. He gave kudos to Ms. Mamayek and Ms. Bhimani among others for their work on this. He noted that on Monday he met with City of Wayzata representatives who are planning a STEM program related to the Lake Effect project. Mr. Lochner will be involved in this. He also noted that the research and monitoring department has budgeted a small amount of funds for carp removal from Lake Wassermann. The catch has occurred but is not yet weighed; staff hopes for some 20,000 pounds of removal. Mr. Erdahl noted that the current University of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center publication prominently features the District. He will send the managers copies. He noted that he met recently with Joel Carlson about legislative matters and that the District’s auditor, Redpath, currently is in the District offices preparing for the 2017 audit report.


Mr. Wisker updated the board on discussions involving the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the District with respect to groundwater issues in the Nokomis neighborhood. Three to five residents and Representative Jean Wagenius will meet with the parties on February 15 to discuss. The Board indicated it is comfortable with Mr. Wisker attending to represent the District.


Mr. Wisker also updated the Board on the Carver County financing agreement. He noted that the County Finance Officer (CFO) continues to want an additional mechanism to protect against District default. Mr. Wisker related that Carver County bond counsel initially felt that the County could partner with Hennepin County to exercise certain levy authorities within Hennepin County if necessary, but the Hennepin County attorney does not agree. The CFO is proposing an additional mechanism by which the District could certify multiyear levies for debt service. The District does not favor this mechanism as it would superimpose a separate levy process over the District’s structured annual levy, and in the District’s opinion is not necessary because the already-incorporated mechanisms remove essentially all County risk. Mr. Wisker advised that the parties will continue to talk and the Board will be briefed as to whether the matter has been resolved.


Finally Mr. Wisker noted that Michael Schroeder, MPRB Assistant Superintendent for Planning Services, presented the prior Meadowbrook project to the new MPRB planning committee, which did not object and offered some support. Possibly at the end of March, the parties may look to bring together a revised cooperative agreement that would allow the District to proceed with its desired stream corridor improvements.




There being no further business, the regular meeting of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board of Managers was adjourned at 8:48 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,


Kurt Rogness, Secretary

Minutes Type: 
Board of Managers