Workers next week will begin restoring sections of Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis damaged by historic flooding more than four years ago.
The rains that made the first half of 2014 the wettest in modern history for the Twin Cities eroded several areas of the creek, which originates at Lake Minnetonka and empties into the Mississippi River. Some of the worst damage occurred downstream of Minnehaha Falls after a record-setting flow.
The flooding undercut banks, exposed stormwater pipes and destroyed trails and wildlife habitat. The creek was clouded and polluted by the sediment that washed into it. Damage across the watershed was estimated at more than $1 million.
“You’re losing trees, you’re losing parkland, you’re losing habitat,” said Tiffany Schaufler, project and land manager for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. “Literally, pieces of land are washing off into the water.”
The watershed district pinpointed 10 areas to repair starting next week. Seven are just downstream of Minnehaha Falls, and three are near where the creek flows under Interstate 35W.
Excavators will even out the banks, Schaufler said. They will then be rebuilt using what she called “soil burritos,” fabric sleeves filled with soil and stabilized with seeds and vegetation. Sections of surrounding trails will also be rebuilt.
The work will continue through the spring and will require the temporary closing of some trails.
The repairs will cost $215,000 and will be paid for with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The watershed district hasn’t started the work earlier because, after the deluge of 2014, the rain and snow kept coming — 2016 was the wettest year in the Twin Cities since modern record keeping began in 1871.
The repairs and future restorations are being coordinated with the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
In the next couple of weeks, crews also will begin to dredge a pond that filters sediment and other stormwater runoff before it enters Bde Maka Ska. Dump trucks will haul away about 2,000 cubic yards of sediment, according to the watershed district.
This is the third time the pond has been dredged, the last being in 2012. The sediment has since been less contaminated, thanks in part to a state law that banned the use of coal tar driveway sealants in 2014, Schaufler said.
“It’s good to see that ban start to bear some fruit,” she said.