Northeast Stormwater Management Initiative

Project Background

1NE Priority Habitat Corridor Map (Thumbnail)
The MWMO has identified large portions of the 1NE Watershed as priority area for making ecological improvements. (Click for full-sized PDF.)

The 1NE Watershed drains 2,150-acres of northeast Minneapolis and southern Columbia Heights into the Mississippi River. The northern and eastern portions of the watershed drain toward, and through, Columbia Park (which includes Columbia Golf Course). From there, the stormwater flows west, in a large pipe, toward the Mississippi River. A low-spot on the landscape, Columbia Golf Course once contained historic Lake Sandy and remains a natural spot for water to accumulate.

The MWMO has been monitoring the amount and quality of stormwater runoff from the 1NE Watershed since 2006. The watershed contains a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial development, with a large park, golf course and railyard lying in its center. Stormwater management challenges within the 1NE Watershed include: pockets of localized flooding within residential and industrial areas; large areas of the landscape being untreated for water quality; and a golf course and park with significant flooding issues. The 1NE Watershed also provides opportunity for significant ecological improvement, with large swaths of existing (degraded) habitat and the presence of historic waterbodies that allow for some level of restoration.

The completion of detailed stormwater models and installation of two additional monitoring locations in the 1NE Watershed, in 2015, provided the MWMO significant tools for use in planning and prioritizing improvements within the area. These considerations, along with upcoming City of Minneapolis street projects (providing easier access to the underlying infrastructure) and MPRB park planning efforts make the 1NE Watershed a priority location for MWMO capital project planning and provide a unique opportunity to fold project outcomes into the capital project planning of our partners.

Project Planning and Implementation

1NE Watershed Untreated Areas Map
A map of areas on the 1NE Watershed that are currently not treated for water quality. (Click for full-sized PDF.)

In 2016, the MWMO approached the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and asked them to partner with us on this effort. The first task was to clearly define each partners’ goals (in terms of watershed management) for the area, noting where those goals overlapped and where they diverged. The partners agreed that overarching themes for our work in the 1NE Watershed are: increased flood resiliency, reduced pollutant loading to the Mississippi River and improved ecological function.

The first phase of planning started in 2017, when the MWMO hired SRF Consulting and Applied Ecological Services to assist the project partners in developing and vetting stormwater management and ecological improvement scenarios for the watershed. Work performed under this effort focused on solutions that reduce flood impacts, improve water quality, and have the potential to be constructed by 2022. Strategies to improve ecological function were layered into the solutions developed as part of this effort.

Document – Partner Goals and Consultant Role (PDF, 0.7 MB, 1 page)

Over the course of many months, the project team worked through various potential projects in the watershed, exploring the likelihood of each to be implemented and quantifying their benefits and costs.  Due to the size of the watershed and number of options identified for improvements, the project partners agreed to focus our efforts on the northern and eastern portion of the watershed, those areas upstream of Columbia Park and Golf Course, given the large amount of flooding that happens in that location.

Map of 1NE Watershed study focus areas for improvement.
Map of 1NE Watershed focus areas for improvement for localized flooding and water quality treatment. (Click for full-sized PDF.)

The southern portion of the focus area is the site of historic Lake Sandy and other wetland features. This area has a high groundwater table and the potential for significant groundwater-surface water interactions. Given the lack of information on this area’s groundwater, design solutions were further focused on infrastructure improvements in the northern half of the study area. It was determined that solutions in the southern portion of the watershed would be addressed under a future study, once additional data is gathered.

Phase one of the 1NE Watershed Stormwater Management Planning and Preliminary Design study was completed in the summer of 2018. Results of this effort include the identification of broad opportunities for improvements across the 1NE Watershed. Conceptual designs were developed for those projects that were shown to result in significant improvements and advanced the stated goals of the project partners. Projects include modifications to the City’s stormwater infrastructure in the north-central and northeastern parts of the watershed, the addition of regional stormwater best management practices in Columbia Park and Columbia Golf Course, and the integration of distributed green infrastructure within the northern and eastern half of the watershed.

Document – Preliminary Design Projects (PDF, 13 MB, 1 page)
Document – Project Restoration Zones (PDF, 1.6 MB, 1 page)
Document – Future Restoration Opportunities (PDF, 1.9 MB, 1 page) 

To date, three of these projects have been prioritized and are moving forward, with the goal of implementation by the end of 2021.

The Northern Columbia Golf Course BMPs project includes three large biofiltration and infiltration basins, associated stormsewer improvements and ecological restoration in the northern portion of Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park. The Hoyer Heights stormwater management project includes the addition of green infrastructure — in this case, tree trenches — as part of street reconstruction that is happening in the area. In both cases, the BMP projects will capture and treat stormwater from areas that are currently untreated. The Northern Columbia Golf Course BMPs will provide treatment to an area of over 600-acres and have the potential to remove up to 100 pounds of total phosphorus and 20 tons of sediment annually. The improvements will also help mitigate flooding. While the Hoyer Heights Tree Trenches will capture and treat stormwater runoff from a smaller area, they will treat runoff from some of our dirtiest urban sources – runoff from streets and sidewalks.

Projects that were not able to be implemented within the priority time frame (completion by 2022), were folded into each partners’ capital project planning. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s East of the River Park Master Plan includes many of these concepts. The City of Minneapolis and MWMO are considering the opportunities as part of their planning processes.

Other Ongoing Work

MWMO Capital Projects Intern Madeline Hankard checks and records the water level in a pond at the Columbia Golf Course.
MWMO Capital Projects Intern Madeline Hankard checks and records the water level in a pond at the Columbia Golf Course.

To inform the next phase of project planning, in the southern portion of the 1NE Watershed, the area was outfitted with piezometers (to track groundwater levels) and staff gauges (to track pond elevations) in 2018. MWMO and MPRB staff will continue to monitor groundwater and surface water elevations within the golf course, in addition to the monitoring that MWMO was already doing in the area, through at least 2019. Phase II of the 1NE Watershed project planning is anticipated to start in 2020 or 2021.

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Latest Updates

Slides from June 12, 2019, Ward 1 Stormwater Forum (PDF, 2.8 MB, 12 pages) — Posted June 13, 2019
Hoyer Heights Tree Trenches Graphic — City of Minneapolis (PDF, 2 MB, 1 page) — Posted July 9, 2019
City of Minneapolis Flood Mitigation Graphic — City of Minneapolis (PDF, 2.7 MB, 1 page) — Posted July 9, 2019
Ward 1 Current Stormwater Improvement Project — City of Minneapolis (PDF, 0.6 MB, 1 page) — Posted July 9, 2019

Staff Contact

Stephanie Johnson, PhD, PE
Projects and Outreach Director
612-746-4978
Email Stephanie Johnson
View Bio

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