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 and 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 without stormwater quality treatment, 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 City of Minneapolis street projects (providing easier access to the underlying infrastructure) and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) planning efforts made the 1NE Watershed a priority location for MWMO capital project planning and provided 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 stormwater quality. (Click for full-sized PDF.)

In 2016, the MWMO approached the city and MPRB and asked them to partner on this effort. The first task was to clearly define each partner’s goals (in terms of watershed management) for the area, noting where those goals overlapped and where they diverged. The partners agreed that overlapping themes included 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 in developing and vetting stormwater management and ecological improvement scenarios for the area. Work performed under this effort focused on solutions that would reduce flooding impacts, improve water quality, and that could 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)

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. 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, the project team focused on design solutions in the northern half of the study area. Therefore, the project partners agreed to focus planning efforts on the northern and eastern portions of the watershed and areas upstream of Columbia Park and Golf Course, given the large amount of flooding that happens in those areas. It was determined that solutions for the southern portion of the watershed would be addressed under a future study, once additional data is gathered.

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.)

Phase one of the 1NE Watershed Stormwater Management Planning and Preliminary Design study was completed in the summer of 2018. Results of this effort included 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 green stormwater infrastructure in Columbia Park and Columbia Golf Course, and the integration of additional projects 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 either in progress or completed. The Northern Columbia Green Infrastructure project includes an enlarged wet pond and two stormwater basins, associated storm sewer improvements, and ecological restoration in the northern portion of Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park. There are also nearby pretreatment projects to help ensure the long-term functionality of the wet pond and basins at the golf course and park. The Hoyer Heights Tree Trenches project created additional green stormwater infrastructure as part of street reconstruction project in the area. In both cases, the projects will capture and treat stormwater from areas that are currently untreated.

The Northern Columbia Green Infrastructure will provide treatment to an 813-acre area (75 percent of which currently receives no stormwater treatment) and has the potential to remove up to 170 pounds of total phosphorus and 37 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 — streets and sidewalks.

Projects that were not able to be implemented within the priority time frame (completion by 2022), were folded into each partner’s 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.

Projects Implemented

Northern Columbia Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure at the Columbia Golf Course and Park will protect water quality, reduce flooding, and improve habitat.

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Hoyer Heights Tree Trenches

A pilot project in Northeast Minneapolis installed tree trenches in boulevards to capture and treat stormwater runoff directly from the street.

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Columbia Stormwater Pretreatment

A stormwater pretreatment unit helps ensure the long-term functionality of green infrastructure at the Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park.

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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 for the southern portion of the 1NE Watershed (Phase 2), the area was outfitted in 2018 with piezometers to track groundwater levels and staff gauges to track pond elevations. MWMO and MPRB staff 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.

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Latest Documents

Staff Contact

Nancy Stowe
Projects and Outreach Director
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Project Update: Northern Columbia Golf Course and Park Stormwater BMPs
MWMO Blog Post - Dec. 10, 2020

Construction has begun on stormwater management and habitat improvements on the northern portion of Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park.

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Columbia Golf Course undergoing $7.4 million in drainage work
Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal - Nov. 10, 2020

Columbia Golf Course will dry out better after rain, but it's going to take some time.

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Northern Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park Project Update – February 2020
MWMO Blog Post - Feb. 6, 2020

Project partners are working with engineers from SRF Consulting to finalize designs and prepare construction documents for this first phase of work in the northern portion of the golf course and Columbia Park.

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Field Work Continues at Columbia Golf Course
MWMO Blog Post - Aug. 7, 2019

The MWMO and its partners are moving forward with field work to aid in the design and decision-making process at the Columbia Golf Course and Columbia Park.

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Columbia Golf Course gets stormwater funds
Northeaster - Jan. 21, 2019

The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) will begin to address flooding issues and water quality in Northeast Minneapolis, thanks to $800,000 from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

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Golf course upgrades meant to reduce pollution in Mississippi
KSTP - Jan. 2, 2019

A new project is meant to keep polluted water out of the Mississippi River, and reduce flooding in Northeast Minneapolis and Columbia Heights. The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) has been awarded $800,000 from the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources.

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$800,000 Grant to Help Reduce Pollution in Northeast Minneapolis
MWMO News Release - Jan. 2, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS — The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) announced today that it has been awarded $800,000 from the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR) to address water quality and flooding issues in Northeast Minneapolis.

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