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Anderson Lakes project OK'd, but delayed
Anderson Lakes project OK'd, but delayed
Lyn Jerde, Sun Newspapers, 9/26/2007

The northwest and southwest basins of the Anderson Lakes will remain full to the brim at least until next August, the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District Board of Managers has decided. But come late summer of 2008, Southwest Anderson Lake in Eden Prairie will be drained almost completely, while about 19 acres of open water will be retained in Northwest Anderson Lake - mainly in an eastern bay, along which nine Bloomington homes are located.

The drawdown, combined with chemical treatment of any undrained water, is designed to eradicate curlyleaf pondweed, an invasive, non-native plant that has expanded exponentially in the lakes. The managers made the decisions at a meeting Sept. 19 at the Eden Prairie City Center.

Watershed district officials had originally planned to begin the project this year.
However, several delays prompted watershed district Administrator Kevin Bigalke to recommend waiting until next year. Some of the reasons to wait, Bigalke said, include:

- The migration of wildlife, such as reptiles and amphibians, would take place in the fall, thus endangering them if they settle in or around waters that are about to be drained.

- The drawdown would need to be finished before a hard winter freeze. Unpredictable weather, including heavy rains or an early freeze, might jeopardize the success of the project, prompting the need to repeat the drawdown next year.

- Permit requirements, from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other entities, could delay the start of the drawdown, leaving even less of a window of opportunity to complete it in a timely manner.

- Unforeseen problems with contractors, such as equipment malfunctions, also could slow the work at a time when there's very little time to spare.

The managers' vote calls for applying for the permits now, for a drawdown and chemical treatment to take place in 2008.

Most likely, Bigalke said, the water would be allowed to drain from the lakes into Nine Mile Creek starting in August 2008, with electric-powered pumps on rafts coming in a month later to remove most of the remaining water.

A winter freeze would solidify the sediment in the dry lake bed and kill the curlyleaf pondweed.

In addition to chemical herbicide application, however, the water that remains in the lakebeds after the drawdown would possibly have to be treated with alum to inhibit the phosphorus that might come from lake-bottom soil in the undrained portion, which would not be exposed and allowed to solidify.

The total cost of the project, including possible alum treatment, would be about $347,000, said Bob Obermeyer, the watershed district's engineering adviser.

The money would come from the taxes paid by all property owners in the watershed district, which includes parts of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina, Hopkins and Richfield. There would not be any extra assessment charged to the lakeshore landowners, including the Three Rivers Park District and the nine lakeshore homeowners in Bloomington.

The watershed district managers (Floyd Laumann of Bloomington was absent) voted unanimously for a resolution accepting the findings of an environmental assessment worksheet on the project.

They also approved, without dissent, a resolution to go ahead with the project and a motion to delay it until 2008.

Manager Corrine Lynch of Eden Prairie said she believes district officials have adequately addressed concerns that have been raised, including the impact of the drawdown on the lake's aesthetic appeal and on the property values of lakeshore homes.

"The additional information has only made it clearer to me that this project should be undertaken, with modifications," Lynch said.

Manager Geoffrey Nash of Edina said he believes residents and the district's technical staff would have preferred to have the project proceed this year.

But, as Manager Bob Kojetin of Edina noted, "By the time we get the permits out, I don't see us getting started much before the first of November. For the success of the project, we have to wait."

LuAnn Tolliver of Minnetonka, president of the board of managers, said she is "thoroughly disappointed" that the project would not occur in 2007. However, she said, a successful project is more important than a quick one.

"We want to do a project, and we want to do it right," she said. "I want this project to be in the record books as a successful drawdown."

In adopting the EAW, the managers also decided that there was no need for an environmental impact statement, a more in-depth study of the project's potential environmental effects.

Comments on the EAW were received not only from the public, but also from the DNR, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Council and the Office of the State Archaeologist.

To obtain DNR permits for the project, the watershed district would need to have approval from all the owners of lakeshore land. The Three Rivers Park District, which owns most of the land, has signed off, Bigalke said. As for the private homeowners, six of the nine have gone on record with their approval before the meeting.

Two others, who attended the meeting, offered their approval after asking for, and getting, clarification on why the district proposed the Northwest Anderson Lake partial drawdown at a lower level than they would have preferred. Bigalke said a lesser drawdown would have left about 30 acres of water, but it wouldn't have been confined to the bay where the homes are located. This would result, he said, in less exposed lakebed, and possibly more extensive chemical and alum treatment.

The ninth homeowner was ill as of Sept. 19, but a neighbor, Linda Goetz of Bloomington, said the neighbor approved of the project and would sign a statement to that effect after recovering sufficiently.

Bids for the project are out, and are scheduled to be opened Oct. 2. Prospective bidders will be notified that the project would not take place until next year, Bigalke said. Bids could be awarded as soon as Oct. 5.

Meanwhile, other water quality projects that the city of Eden Prairie requested from the watershed district - involving Bryant and Birch Island lakes - are proceeding. However, the delay of the Anderson Lakes project will likely result in a delay in curlyleaf pondweed eradication in Normandale Lake in Bloomington, which district officials had hoped to undertake in 2008. Because Normandale Lake is a man-made body of water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would also have a say in the project.

Southeast Anderson Lake, which lies entirely in Bloomington, is not included in the Anderson Lakes drawdown and chemical treatment, because the city of Bloomington did not request a project for that lake.

Anderson Lakes timeline

Here's a chronology of events leading to the Sept. 19 decision on the water quality project in Northwest and Southwest Anderson Lakes.

December 2006 - The Nine Mile Creek Watershed District holds a public hearing Dec. 7, on an array of water-quality projects requested by the city of Eden Prairie. Included in those projects is a proposal to eradicate curlyleaf pondweed from Southwest Anderson Lake (entirely in Eden Prairie) and Northwest Anderson Lake (partly in Eden Prairie, partly in Bloomington) by drawing down the lakes and allowing the dry lakebed to freeze over the winter. The public hearing is continued to Dec. 13, when the decision is made to go ahead with the projects.

April 2007- Eden Prairie and Bloomington residents living on or near Northwest and Southwest Anderson Lakes raise concerns about the project, and contend that they were not adequately notified or consulted before the decision was made.

May 30, 2007- In response to the concerns, the watershed district managers hold another public hearing on the Anderson Lakes project. The managers decide to delay the project pending the completion of an environmental assessment worksheet.

June 2007 - A new Anderson Lakes Association is formed, to offer neighbors of the lakes opportunities to have more of a say in management of the lakes.

July 18, 2007 - A public hearing indicates divided opinion among Anderson Lakes landowners on whether curlyleaf pondweed should be addressed with a drawdown or chemical treatment, though most seem to agree that something needs to be done.

August 2007 - Delays in publication of the environmental assessment worksheet push back the deadlines for public comments, and for a final decision on the project.

Aug. 29, 2007 - Nine Mile Creek Watershed District managers propose a compromise plan, which calls for partial drawdown and chemical treatment of remaining water. The scenario that leaps to the forefront calls for near-complete drawdown of Southwest Anderson Lake and a drawdown of Northwest Anderson Lake that would leave about 19 acres of water in an eastern bay, on which nine private homes are located.

Sept. 19, 2007 - The watershed district approves the environmental assessment worksheet and gives the go-ahead for the project - but delays its start until 2008.

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