City Council Meeting on January 9th - council members accept the Watershed Petition for "water quality projects" - unknown to many constituents this included a Bike Path Along Nine Mile Creek


Watch Live Video of the City Council Meeting On January 6th where a Petition was introduced by The Watershed District for "water quality projects". This was very misleading to the constituents of Edina in terms of the posted agenda for this Council meeting. While water quality was one of the subjects, clearly the petition was about building the bike path along Nine Mile Creek. When looking at the actual text of the "water quality project petition" it states the following:

“Petitioning for water quality projects within the City of Edina with preference being given to the following projects: stream bank projects and trails; lake water quality projects; ... in addition to developing plans for the bike trail.

This meeting discusses in detail the proposed bike trail along the Creek, along with discussion of land acquisition, easements, budgeting, trails, benches, kiosks and lighting along the trail, etc. The Petition was accepted at this meeting by The City Council without notifying, consulting or asking the opinions of those most directly affected along the Creek. Council members also discussed the urgency of getting the path in place. This video offers important information about the process of bringing the path from petition to completion and the stages and and State/City agencies involved along the way. It is important for those opposed to this plan to make our opinions known not just to our City Council Members, but also the Watershed District, The DNR, and other agencies mentioned in the video and let them know about our concerns with this project.  (Refer to "officials" page for addresses and phone numbers for these agencies)

Click here to view the January 6th, 2009 City Council Meeting

RESOLUTION NO. 2009-09 APPROVED, PETITION FOR WATER QUALITY IMPROVEMENT

PROJECTS, NINE MILE CREEK WATERSHED DISTRICT City Engineer/Public Works Director Houle stated this petition was considered by the Council in October of 2008. He noted that Kevin Bigalke, Nine Mile Watershed District Administrator, and Jonathan Vlaming, Senior Manager of Planning with Three Rivers Park District, were in attendance to present potential projects, review the petitioning process and to answer questions of the Council.

Kevin Bigalke, Nine Mile Creek Watershed District Administrator, explained that under consideration was a petition from Edina to undertake a feasibility study for one or several water quality improvement projects pertaining to Nine Mile Creek and water resources within Edina. He provided a formal presentation on the petitioning process to undertake capital projects, linked to Statute 103D.905, Subd. 3, that allowed the use of District-Wide Ad Valorem levy assessment. If initiated by a municipality, this levy allowed the project cost to be spread throughout the entire Watershed District. Mr. Bigalke explained that to be considered, the projects must be identified in the District’s Water Resource Management Plan. The District preferred to be petitioned by a city to ensure cooperation and success of the project. He described the District’s policy for funding projects and land acquisition costs and presented the timeline a petitioned project would follow through acceptance of the petition, development of a feasibility report, holding of a public informational meeting, finalizing the engineer’s report, DNR and BWSR 30-day review, and public hearing on the project. Once ordered, the District would make necessary permit applications, acquire needed easements, finalize construction documents, bid and let the project, and construction would then begin. Mr. Bigalke presented pictures of projects completed within the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District and described engineering techniques used for each. In response to the Council’s inquiries, Mr. Bigalke advised there were one and one-half to two miles of stream in Edina, depending on the scope of the project since some segments may not need much restoration work. The Hopkins project cost $4 million, was petitioned for in May of 2006, and it could take a year to a year and one-half depending on public concerns, permitting issues, projects already underway, and funding ability since the District may need to accumulate several years of levy to accommodate a project. It was estimated that work on the Hopkins’ project may begin as soon as this Spring, the portions requiring frozen ground would likely start the Fall of 2009, and with completion by January of 2010. In addition, there would be agreements to ensure proper vegetation growth. Mr. Bigalke advised the Hopkins project was to start this winter but due to permitting and wetland issues, it was pushed back, which allowed time for additional public input.

Mr. Bigalke explained that once a petition was received, it became a Watershed District project sothe Watershed’s engineer would design the project and feasibility report, working closely with city staff to assure the project met the city’s objectives for the project. He noted the Hopkin’s Council had petitioned for its project before the 2007 Plan was adopted They approved a resolution in support of the project so the Nine Mile Watershed Board of Managers had been assured of the Hopkin’s Council’s support before moving forward. It was noted that the District would cover 100 percent of water-related expenses, 50% of ancillary portions of the project that may include: trails, benches, bridges and 25 percent of land acquisition costs. In Hopkins, an effort was made to locate the trail as close as possible to the Creek for aesthetic and educational purposes. Mr. Bigalke explained that in Edina, the District does not have a position on the trail’s proximity to the Creek and while a boardwalk could be considered in the wetland area, such a project may be cost prohibitive due to soils. Mr. Bigalke said the Board envisioned that the next project segment would be Edina’s stream, balancing it with the water quality projects Bloomington had petitioned for prior to adoption of the 2007 Plan. He added the District balances projects on a first-come first served basis when the petitions were received and the District’s Plan priorities. Mr. Bigalke concluded stating this was the first time the Watershed District had worked with the Three Rivers Park District.

The Council discussed whether portions of the trail could be constructed prior to stream bank restoration, the difficulty should alignment of the Creek necessitate relocation of the trail, and the cost benefit to use stream bank equipment to lay the trail’s foundation, which could be incorporated into the stream bank project construction costs. This would also result in less disruption for residents and the wetland. The engineering feasibility would include aspects from the Three Rivers Park District. The Council reviewed the language contained in the Council’s draft resolution and the Bike Edina Task Force resolution, noting the language contained in the Council’s draft resolution was more vague and the Task Force’s resolution indicated: “Nine Mile Creek Watershed District had budgeted funds for streambank stabilization, corridor management, and the construction of an off road multipurpose trail accompanying the Creek in their 2007-2016 Capital Plan.” Discussion ensued regarding the merits of both resolutions. Mr. Bigalke clarified that the Watershed District had identified funds for projects in its ten-year Watershed Plan, which allowed them to levy for project costs. However, the funds were not in hand. He pointed out that the Council’s draft resolution was worded to allow consideration of a number of projects including lake restoration, storm water treatment and quality, not just Creek restoration projects. If the Watershed Board decided to accept Edina’s petition, it would break the general resolution into two or three separate projects, which could be prioritized.

Mr. Vlaming suggested that while the Bike Edina Task Force resolution was well intended, it was premature because the Park District was still in the process of determining the preferred alignment of the trail through Edina. He advised that Edina’s trail project would be complex and significant portions would not be located adjacent to the Creek. Mr. Vlaming stated the eastern portion would be completed first and described a trail alignment from the Promenade, moving west. He stated the trail, no matter the alignment, would cross Highway 62 on a pedestrian bridge to connect to the High School campus, which would be an expensive proposition. Because of this, they were trying to get funding from the Federal stimulus package and a grant. If awarded a grant, they could not build the bridge until 2012. He advised that timing of Edina’s trail would be consistent with what the Three Rivers Park District wanted to accomplish.

Based on Council inquiry, Mr. Vlaming described the project that was constructed as a package that Richfield brokered with the Met Council Environmental Services when they reconstructed the streets to include a regional trail, bike lanes, sidewalk, and beautification. He said the regional trail segment was constructed as a side path alongside but separated from the roadway. In response to the Council, Mr. Vlaming stated he does not know the number of driveways the trail would cross but would provide that information to staff. He said the trail ended at 75th and Xerxes but, later this month the Board would consider a trail segment from the York Avenue tunnel to Xerxes. Mr. Vlaming noted Three Rivers Park District would not want to construct the entire trail until the YMCA plans were known. He advised Three Rivers could work concurrently on more than 50 projects in a given year. Regarding timing of the Edina project, Mr. Vlaming explained if the preferred alignment was considered by the Edina Council in April of 2009, it could be budgeted into Three Rivers’ 2010 Capital Improvement Program and would compete with other projects the Board was considering. He advised that if the City was insistent regarding a trail alignment, without rational justification, the Park District may elect not to construct the trail because it was not a preferred alignment for the Park District. It was noted that while Three Rivers Park District operated no facilities within Edina yet, Edina taxpayers paid about $3 million in taxes each year to support the Park District. The Council discussed whether the project timeframe in Edina could be accelerated noting, however, that it would be limited by the Watershed’s limited staff and budget. Mr. Bigalke explained that due to other projects under consideration, they do not have the budget capacity to begin construction in Edina prior to 2011. He stated they have not requested funding from the Federal stimulus package but it was a valid option to consider. The Council again discussed the language contained in the two resolutions with concern expressed that changing the language of the Council’s draft resolution to be more trail specific could result in a lost opportunity to receive 100 percent funding for water quality projects. It was noted the priority should remain with the bike trail since residents had indicated recreational facilities, bike trails and pedestrian paths were important. The Council agreed with the priority of connecting to the Hopkins trail. Mr. Bigalke stated the Watershed District budget does not specifically spell out funding for off-road multiuse trails. However, since they could cost-share on park benches and kiosks, if petitioned they have the ability to include trails in the scope of their work. If not petitioned for, then the Three Rivers Park District could consider it. He suggested the resolution retain the initial, generic language indicating: “Petitioning for water quality projects within the City of Edina with preference being given to the following projects: stream bank projects and trails; lake water quality projects; and, storm water utility projects. Then, if additional funds become available to address phosphorus levels in the lake, they could proceed in addition to developing plans for the bike trail. With the Task Force resolution language, an additional petition would need to be submitted to the Watershed District to get a water quality improvement project. The Council discussed amended resolution wording and agreed to: “water quality improvement projects in the City of Edina including but not limited to: streambed stabilization, off-road multipurpose trail accompanying the Creek to the extent possible, corridor management, lake water quality improvement.” Member Swenson introduced Resolution No. 2009-09 accepting petition for water quality improvement projects, Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, as amended. Member Bennett seconded the motion.

Rollcall:

Ayes: Bennett, Brindle, Housh, Swenson, Hovland

Motion carried