MWMO and Partners Gear Up for 2020 Green Infrastructure Projects

This year, once again, we at the MWMO are excited to update you on a slate of green infrastructure projects in our watershed. The MWMO and its partners will break ground and/or finish construction in 2020 on a wide range of projects — both large and small — that will help protect the Mississippi River from pollution and provide new habitat and green space.

Unfortunately, this start of this year’s construction season comes with a caveat that some projects could be delayed due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is evolving rapidly, and we will do our best to keep you informed as plans and timelines change. (Read the MWMO’s updated statement on COVID-19.)

As of right now, here’s a snapshot of what’s planned in our watershed this year.

Northern Columbia Golf Course and Park Stormwater BMPs

An updated design for the Columbia Golf Course stormwater improvements.
An updated design for the planned stormwater improvements at the Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park in Northeast Minneapolis. (PDF Version)

Capital Improvement Project — Northeast Minneapolis
Partners: Board of Water and Soil Resources; City of Minneapolis; Hennepin County; Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Following extensive outreach and engagement in 2019, the MWMO and its partners are gearing up to install new stormwater best management practices (BMPs) at the Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park. The project will expand an existing wet stormwater pond and construct one dry pond and one bioinfiltration basin at the golf course and nearby park, along with the necessary stormsewer improvements to convey the stormwater in and out of them.

Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment logoPart of the Northeast Stormwater Management Initiative, these upgrades will improve water quality, restore habitat, enhance the playability of the golf course, and improve the flood resiliency of the park, golf course and surrounding neighborhoods. Construction and habitat restoration work is expected to continue into early next year. We invite you to learn more about the project and check out our updated landscape design plan (PDF).

Hoyer Heights Tree Trenches

Map of planned street improvements in Hoyer Heights.
A City of Minneapolis graphic detailing planned street improvements in Hoyer Heights, including a series of tree trenches that will capture and treat stormwater runoff from the street. (PDF Version)

Capital Improvement Project — Northeast Minneapolis
Partners: Board of Water and Soil Resources; City of Minneapolis; Hennepin County; Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

As the second project to be generated by the Northeast Stormwater Management Initiative, a series of stormwater-absorbing tree trenches will be constructed in Hoyer Heights (part of Minneapolis’ Waite Park neighborhood). The City of Minneapolis is reconstructing the streets and utility lines in the area. Three of the roads, which are currently wider than typical residential streets, will be narrowed, providing an ideal opportunity to install new stormwater BMPs in the expanded boulevard space. The city held three open-house meetings regarding the project in general and contacted the individual homeowners on the streets where the tree trenches will be constructed.

Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment logoCurrent designs call for curb cuts that will allow stormwater runoff to feed directly from the street into the tree trenches, which then filter out pollutants. The pilot project is intended to improve water quality and flood resiliency in the neighborhood, which drains through the Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park. It will also help the city and the MWMO evaluate the effectiveness of tree trenches as a stormwater BMP, assess their maintenance needs, and determine their life cycle costs. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer.

Old Bassett Creek Tunnel Phase II Cleanout

Workers use loaders to remove sediment from the Old Bassett Creek Tunnel.
Workers use loaders to remove sediment from the Old Bassett Creek Tunnel during the first-phase cleanout in 2018. (Image: City of Minneapolis)

Capital Improvement Project — North Minneapolis
Partners: City of Minneapolis; Barr Engineering

The Old Bassett Creek Tunnel (OBCT) is a 1.5-mile stormwater tunnel that extends under the North Loop, Near North and Harrison Neighborhoods of Minneapolis. (Learn about the OBCT’s history.) The tunnel contains several decades’ worth of accumulated sediment and debris that could potentially be mobilized and flushed into the Mississippi River. Since 2012, the MWMO has been working with the City of Minneapolis to study and ultimately remove these potential pollutants from the tunnel.

A first-phase cleanout of the OBCT was completed in the summer of 2018, when contractors removed 935 tons of sediment and debris from a 1,080-foot-long section of the upper portion of the tunnel. In January, the MWMO Board of Commissioners approved funding for a second-phase cleanout of the tunnel, which is expected to remove 1,100 tons of sediment from a different, 810-foot section of the tunnel. The project was let out for bid and should begin this summer.

(Bonus: Read Minnesota Public Radio News’ 2017 story about the OBCT project.)

Islands of Peace Habitat Restoration

Capital Improvement Project — Fridley
Partners: Anoka County Parks

The MWMO will work with Anoka County Parks to stabilize riverbank and restore habitat at Islands of Peace County Park in Fridley. The project will use bioengineering techniques to stabilize shoreline, and increase the diversity of the native plant community to be more beneficial to pollinators and other wildlife that inhabit the park and larger natural space in the area.

The project will restore 7 acres of habitat in the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA). Anoka County Parks is reconstructing trails and culverts at the park; this will result in a 34 percent reduction of impervious surfaces on the island. The project will also include enhancements to a back-channel for improved fish passage. A start date has not been set, but the project is expected to be completed next year.

The MWMO previously worked with Anoka County Parks on a similar stabilization/restoration project at Riverfront Regional Park.

Metro Transit Bus Garage Reuse System

The MWMO is working in partnership with Metro Transit to create a stormwater reuse system for their planned Heywood Bus Garage. The building will be constructed in 2020 on the corner of North 7th Street and Lyndale Avenue in North Minneapolis, adjacent to the current Metro Transit hub. The new bus garage will not only house the buses, but will also have a floor for maintenance and bus washing, as well as one for parking for staff.

Metro Transit and MWMO have been collaborating over the last three years to design a system that can reuse stormwater in the bus-washing system. The capture, filtration and reuse of the site’s stormwater will conserve roof runoff as well as offset a continuous potable water demand. The innovative system will have the ability to reuse/replace up to 2.5 million gallons of water per year. The system will feature a 40,000-gallon cistern with a robust filtration system to ensure that the reuse of stormwater will not damage the buses.

Project funding was approved in 2019, and construction is set to begin in spring 2020.

26th Avenue Overlook

Capital Improvement Project — Minneapolis
Partners: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board; Minneapolis Parks Foundation

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is building a river overlook at 26th Avenue North. Also known as the Great Northern Greenway Overlook, the project consists of a large beacon and cantilevered viewing platform to connect North Minneapolis residents to the river. The overlook, beacon and plaza will be an iconic and dynamic community place that serves as a catalyst for future park development to follow.

The MWMO is partnering with MPRB to enhance restoration of the site. This includes minor grading, soil amendments and native plants to capture site runoff, while adding pollinator habitat within the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA). It also includes further slope stabilization through bioengineering techniques, which will take place within the 100-year floodplain. The project will incorporate cultural and historical interpretive opportunities in collaboration with the community and Juxtaposition Arts.

Projects Continuing from 2019

An underground cistern being installed at Water Works.
An underground cistern being installed at Water Works in November 2019. The new City of Minneapolis park will feature a stormwater reuse system that captures and cleans roof runoff and uses it for flushing toilets in the park’s new pavilion.

Several projects that were approved or that broke ground in 2019 will continue work this year:

  • Construction and planting will be completed this spring at the Masjid An-Nur “Eco-Mosque,” where a redesigned landscape will solve persistent drainage problems and create new opportunities for engaging the community. (Watch the KSTP-TV story on the project.)
  • Water Works, the new riverfront park in Downtown Minneapolis, is slated to be completed later this year. The MWMO funded construction of an underground cistern and stormwater reuse system that will repurpose captured rainwater for flushing toilets in the new park pavilion.
  • Construction is continuing on the East Side Storage and Maintenance Facility in Northeast Minneapolis. With the underground stormwater treatment system now fully installed (see feature photo above), the new City of Minneapolis public works complex will be outfitted with rain gardens and native plantings. The MWMO and its partners will also be working to finalize interpretive signage for the facility, which will be completed later this year.
  • The stormwater planters installed on South 8th Street as part of a green infrastructure pilot project in downtown Minneapolis last year will be planted and outfitted with water quality monitoring equipment.
  • The social services organization FamilyWise will construct a unique underground stormwater treatment system that will used tire-derived aggregate (TDA) instead of traditional crushed rock.
  • The soon-to-be-built Minneapolis Apprenticeship and Training Center in North Minneapolis will be outfitted with a series of rain gardens as well as new gutters, storm pipes and underdrains. The MWMO approved an Action Grant for the project in 2019.

New Action Grant Awards for 2020

An aerial view of Juxtaposition Arts' Skate-Able Art Plaza.
Last year, the MWMO collaborated with Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) and City of Skate to build rain gardens into JXTA’s Skate-Able Art Plaza in North Minneapolis. A similar project is planned for Elliot Park in Downtown Minneapolis.

In March, the MWMO Board of Commissioners approved a new slate of Action Grant projects.

  • Big Brothers and Big Sisters will receive up to $50,000 to construct rain gardens at its new location in North Minneapolis, capturing and treating roof runoff and providing open space and habitat.
  • The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will receive up to $50,000 for rain gardens at a new skate plaza in Elliot Park in Downtown Minneapolis. The project follows in the wake of a similar successful collaboration for the JXTA Skate-Able Art Plaza last year.
  • Riverside Plaza will receive up to $50,000 for a reconstructed parking lot island to manage runoff and expand on the owners’ work to create a new parklet for their residents. Residents of the affordable housing complex will be included in the design, installation and care of the new landscaping.
  • The Southeast Como Improvement Association will receive up to $20,000 for a pilot project to reconstruct a traffic diverter to function as a rain garden, capturing stormwater from the street and improving habitat with native vegetation. The City of Minneapolis will provide a new catch basin and pipes to allow water to drain into rain garden.

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