Craig B. Larson
Hon. Judge LaJune Thomas Lange
RE: In the Matter of Petition of City of Minneapolis, Acting by and through its Park and Recreation Board for an Order Approving the Conveyance of Land - D.C. File No. 99-6632
Honorable Judge LaJuneThomas Lange:
The purpose of this letter is to demonstrate that the Hennepin County Court was intentionally misled by representatives of the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) in the above cited case brought before you on May 25, 1999. This statement is based on review of findings by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) and observations made during construction activities which demonstrate that material impacts to Minnehaha Park were not factually presented to the court. If one considers that engineering diagrams were completed to the point that the State was ready to let bids at the time of the court case, it is clear that MnDOT would have been aware of the actual impacts to the park land and choose either not to disclose them or purposefully presented a false impression of knowledge of these impacts.
You may recall that during the hearing you afforded me an opportunity to speak on behalf of the community and Green Cities Inc. to discuss the hydrogeology of the site as both a resident and professional hydrogeologist. During my testimony I identified myself as a volunteer with limited time and resources to make a technical judgment on the environmental assessment and only then expressed my concerns associated with MnDOTís assessment. I did so because it is important for me as a professional not to overstate my knowledge and because it would have been disrespectful to the court to have done otherwise. I was also very impressed, as I hope you were, with the knowledge and honesty of many other residents who took time from their families and jobs to testify that afternoon. Therefore, I hope you can understand how frustrating it is for us to find out later that the opposing side did not offer the court the same level of respect and sincerity.
I have attached a list of misinformation presented during the hearing to highlight the inaccuracies. This list is referenced to the court transcripts prepared by Gwendolyn M. Moore on October 12, 1999, which were prepared for Green Cities Inc. appeal, which was later dropped. Any of the documents referenced in the attachment can be provided if requested. I would very much appreciate if you would take a moment to review the list. During your review of this list please note that two design engineers from MnDOT were present who were introduced by the State Attorney Generalís Office as "very responsible for all the design components" who certainly could have corrected any of these inaccuracies during the hearing.
Finally, a belated thank you for the opportunity for myself and others to speak on this important issue. Other residents who testified were also very appreciative and later stated that it was the only time they felt listened to. While of course I was hoping for another decision, I fully understand that you were constrained to make your decision based on a legal interpretation of the applicable laws and the case presented to you. I also understand that as volunteers we were at an incredible disadvantage due to extreme budget constraints and the fact that we do not have experience as expert witnesses. In light of this I find the behavior of the government bodies inexcusable and demeaning the citizenry and the judicial process. If you are aware of any further actions that we as concerned citizens can do to mitigate these injustices or prevent them in the future, please let me know. Any reply would be appreciated.
Craig B. Larson
List of Misinformation Presented by the State of Minnesota to the
Hennepin District Court - D.C. File No. 99-6632
1) Testimony: A...theres an acquisition here of a fair amount of property that will add to the parkland at 54th Street...Presently there is no real entrance. There=s a small trail there that perhaps pedestrians, possibly bicyclists, but certainly no vehicular entrance there (Mr Michaels, pg 26 lines 15 through 22).@
Actuality: a vehicular entrance was present at 54th street and a small parking lot which holds perhaps a dozen cars in addition to a roadway which parallels the river. There is a well traveled paved bicycle path in this vicinity which connects Minnehaha Park to Fort Snelling.
Comment: While subjective, it is difficult as a frequent park user that this is in the best interest of the park as stated by Mr. Michaels since the current highway is approximately 1,200 feet from this area and engineering plans reviewed by Stop the Reroute indicate that the sound wall and river bluff will limit the width of the park to approximately 100 feet when completed. The park board and MnDOT presented this Aimprovement@ to the community as a AGrand Entrance.@
2) Testimony: AThe parties [MnDOT and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board] reached a resolution in late 1983 that the Park Board felt did satisfy all five of those objectives and all 18 of the requirements (Mr. Michaels, pg. 29 lines 3 through 6).
Actuality: All of the objectives and requirements are not met.
Basic Objective five states Athat there be protection of the natural and man-made environment of Minnehaha Creek, Minnehaha Park, and adjoining neighborhoods.1@ However, when the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District=s (MCWD) independent hydrogeologic assessment determined that there was a sufficient potential for ecologic impact to the water resources of the park, MnDOT choose to sue rather than protect the environment.
Requirement five states A...Minnehaha Creek with paralleling bicycle and pedestrian paths shall flow uninterrupted under Minnehaha Parkway and over/under the Highway 55 corridor...The detailed design of these underpass(es) is critical to the success of the project.1@ The current design does not allow any access parallel to the creek under the 55 corridor.
Comment: A pedestrian walkway along the creek was also requested by the US Department of Interior in the Draft EIS. The response to the comment states that a pedestrian walkway will be provided adjacent to the creek. It is important to note that the EIS has a mandated public review period - thus the concerned citizens who reviewed this document were misled.
3) Testimony: In response to the court=s question concerning impacts to the creek and falls and fen [black ash seep] MnDOTs representatives stated AWe=ve measured the hydrostatic pressure in the soil and in the [Platteville] limestone and they are not connected...There=s no construction that we have had design for that impacts the limestone in any way. All our construction is limited to the soil layer (Mr. Wetmore, pg. 109, lines 2 through 13).@
Actuality: The limestone and soil are hydraulically interconnected. The MCWD hydrogeologist, Kelton Barr, reviewed pump test data collected in 1973. The data indicated the saturated soil overlying the Plateville limestone is in hydraulic connection. This is demonstrated by the hydraulic contours of the saturated overburden which reflected the fracture zone orientation of the limestone.2
At the time of testimony MnDOT would have known that grit chambers, to be installed on park land in the vicinity of 50th street, would impact the Platteville limestone. This is of special concern since these chambers are located upgradient of the black ash seeps to which the court referred. MCWD=s hydrogeologic assessment also identified road subgrade intersecting bedrock and sewer utilities intersecting bedrock (location unspecified). In reference to the grit chambers the MCWD study states Athe grit chambers, which are excavated well into the Platteville, have the potential to disrupt flow within the Platteville...this could potentially result in both extensive dewatering necessary for construction of the grit chamber and eventual blockage of flow.3" At the time of construction in the winter of 2000 extensive limestone disturbance occurred and hundreds of gallons of ground water per minute were excavated to facilitate construction in accordance with Mr. Barr=s predictions (see Attached photograph).
Comment: The findings by MCWD were the result of typical and routine hydrogeologic studies normally done for projects of this magnitude in ecologically sensitive areas. Further, most, if not all, of this information was collected from existing sources which MnDOT collected or would have had access to.
4) Testimony: AWe had a number of meetings with ... the Minneapolis Park Board to address their concerns and they did talk about the black ash weeps that occur along the bluff line. Now those weeps appear to be water coming form the [St. Peter] sandstone layer, a layer we=re not affecting at all. Again, they don=t trickle out from the top of the bluff in the soil, but they come up adjacent to the creek at the base of this [Minnehaha] glen...I think quantitatively it seems to be impossible to me that the water that=s coming from these - - in these weeps is coming from a different source than this (indicating) part of the creek (Mr. Wetmore, pg. 109, line 23 through pg. 110, line 9).@
Actuality: MnDOT had no technical basis for the above statement. The hydrogeologic assessment conducted by the MCWD showed evidence that the seeps did have a surface flow component. This was supported by evidence that:
In fact, Mr. Barr stated that ASome of these seeps can be seen to directly emerge from the Platteville. Many of these seeps are emerging from alluvial deposits overlying or laterally adjacent to the St. Peter Sandstone.3 @
Comment: Ground water piezometers which showed an upward gradient in the seeps do show that the St. Peter formation does contribute groundwater to the seeps; however, the MCWD was unable to determine the percentage. This finding is very significant with respect to the ecology of the Minnehaha Glen. It is possible that groundwater quantity will not be impacted by the roadway; however, significant water quality impacts could occur due to the existence of a nearly direct pathway for highway associated chemicals to enter this ecologically sensitive area. If the EIS included a detailed hydrogeologic assessment, it is possible that these findings would have not allowed the highway to be routed closer to this area.
5) Testimony: AThe other thing I'll point out, we have measured groundwater velocity in this area near Minnehaha Parkway where our excavation is the deepest. The velocity in that area that's had glaciation. There's mixtures of soil. It=s not uniform at all. But we've been able to measure it, it's nine inches per year (Mr. Wetmore, pg. 110, lines 10 through 21).@
Actuality: The area of construction is within deposits from rivers (alluvium) and not till (or unsorted glacial material) as referred to. The area by the Parkway is Aslack water deposits@ which are fine grained sediments (clays and silts) deposited in low velocity water environments, such as contemporary river backwaters. In the areas south of the creek much higher permeability alluvial sands occur. This is the area where the deepest excavation into bedrock occurred within parkland associated with the grit chambers. It is reasonable to assume that permeabilities and resultant ground-water velocities in this area would be several orders of magnitude higher than that observed in the slack water deposits (i.e., thousands of inches/year). The MCWD study2 showed that these higher permeability alluvial deposits occur in the area of the black ash seep and Coldwater Spring and could act as the recharge zones for these areas.
Comment: It is apparent that MnDOT was either unaware on the actual geologic conditions in which they claimed knowledge or choose to be willfully ignorant on the hydrogeologic conditions with the highest potential for ecologic damage. In your decision you stated that AThe Department of Transportation has hired special technical expertise, including hydrologists and geologists to minimize the harm to the Park and address the concerns of the public (pg. 9).@ Therefore, your decision was made, at least in part, on inaccurate and misleading testimony made to the court by individuals presenting themselves as experts in the field with knowledge of the site. As a member of the public who spent hundreds of volunteer hours to get these issues addressed, it is disheartening to not have them addressed before the court in such a hap-hazard manner.
6) Testimony: In reference to the permanent construction associated with the tunnel design it was stated that it is MnDOT's intent to not drain away groundwater (Mr. Wetmore, pg. 111, lines 1 and 2).@
Actuality: In the MCWD assessment of the hydrologic effects of highway's construction, concern was expressed over permanent dewatering associated with high ground-water table overtopping the tunnel's liner which Acould potentially affect adversely the groundwater interaction with the creek and the bluff seeps.3@ Further the memorandum cites inadequate record of water level fluctuations making it impossible to determine the severity of these impacts. Again, information was presented to the court in which a reasonable technical basis did not exist for the statement.
Additionally, during a private discussion I had with a MnDOT engineer during a community meeting, the engineer indicated that the tunnel is designed to remove thousands of gallons of groundwater and that provisions were made to properly dispose of potentially contaminated groundwater collected during this dewatering process. Therefore, if the engineer I spoke with understood the system, it is MnDOT's intent@ to drain away groundwater, at least under certain conditions.
7) Testimony: During testimony a MnDOT employee stated that Ain the entire corridor, not the parkland itself, but in the entire corridor, there are approximately, actually, a 130 notable trees (Mr. Pafko, pg. 121, lines 6 through 13).@ (Note: Mr. Pafko referred to notable trees during testimony as those with diameters approximately 10 inches or greater). Later in the testimony Mr. Mattson of the Minneapolis Park Board stated AWe are losing 40 trees in the area that=s being transferred to MnDOT (Pg. 138, lines 19 through 21).@
Comment: An unverified tree count by Neighbors of Minnehaha Park in a flyer distributed to residents surrounding the park stated that the latest count included A70 trees lost by the lagoon, 250 trees lost between 50 and 52nd, and 300 trees between 52nd and 54th are currently in the in the path of the proposed road.@
8) Testimony: A representative of the Attorney General=s office stated that Afederal law requires that the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] be done for the entire project and the entire project goes from trunk Highway 62 or the Crosstown clear up to Interstate 94 (Mr. Vanderlinden, pg. 105, lines 2 through 25).@ The representative further stated that MnDOT had responded to every environmental allegation and every cultural allegation and every historical allegation in previous court cases.
Actuality: Review of the EIS will show that not all areas potentially impacted by the highway were addressed. Specifically, the potentially impacted historic Camp Coldwater settlement receives no mention, although it is located in close vicinity to the rerouted highway. The importance of this area to the history of Minnesota is documented in a plaque placed on the site by the Minnesota Historical Society which mentions the spring as the only remains of the camp.
Further, the EIS does not discuss any of the potential hydrogeologic impacts to the Park=s black ash seeps or Coldwater Spring. The EIS also makes no mention of the remnant mesic oak savanna which also is located in close vicinity of the rerouted highway. This oak savannah was identified in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage database as a status AS1@ or in the greatest need of conservation action in the state4.
Comment: It is my opinion that the court was misled that the entire corridor was adequately characterized by a carefully worded statement citing only the law, rather than the contents of the EIS. Further, it is my understanding that the federal case cited was based on the statute of limitations and not the adequacy of the EIS. While outside of city parkland, it is important to note that the court specifically asked about Camp Coldwater due to citizens concern about this area (pg. 111, line 14 through 16).
1. City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Department of Transportation. TH 55 (Hiawatha Avenue) Final Environmental Impact Statement/(4f) Evaluation and Alternatives Analysis.
2. Handouts supplied at MCWD Technical Workshop by Kelton Barr, date unknown.
3. Kelton Barr Consulting Inc. Memorandum - Areas of Potential Concern Regarding the Hydrologic Effects of the State Highway 55 Construction on the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. October 21, 1999.
4. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Request for Natural Heritage information for vicinity of proposed Highway 55 Reroute; Hennepin County; T28N R23 W S.17,18. May 17, 1999.