Some southwest metro lake homeowners are questioning new rules that the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District expects to finalize Oct. 29.
The proposed rules include the watershed district starting to oversee the granting of permits when homeowners, developers, cities or others make changes that could affect waterways in the watershed, which includes parts of Eden Prairie, Bloomington, Chaska, Chanhassen, Deephaven, Minnetonka and Shorewood.
The watershed district, which says it’s one of the few in the metro without any rules, had them in place for decades until suspending them in 2007. Now, the district wants to reinstate rules to better preserve creeks, wetlands and lakes.
“I see it as a tool for the watershed district to protect the water bodies,” said Claire Bleser, the district administrator. “It’s just such a standard across the metro area to have rules.”
But some homeowners aren’t so sure, and say the rules will be costly to homeowners and other property owners.
“The rules are just way overreaching,” said Bob Adomaitis, president of the Southwest Metro Lakes Coalition, a group of area lake associations that formed this year in response to the watershed rules. “We see the value of the watershed district to be project-driven … vs. focusing on rules they may never be able to implement.”
About a year ago, the watershed started drafting rules and held public hearings. Outcry over a rule requiring homeowners to build a buffer after certain projects caused the watershed district to amend it so it no longer applies to single-family homes; it could still apply to homes near wetlands.
Anne Florenzano, who lives on Riley Lake in Eden Prairie, questions whether the buffers will even make a difference for urban water quality and opposes the watershed district getting back into the permitting business.
“I have a real problem with a board of managers who weren’t elected in charge of what homeowners do,” she said of the five board managers who govern the watershed district and are appointed by Hennepin and Carver County commissioners. “We have absolutely zero control … and yet they’re taxing us and imposing rules we don’t think they have the authority to do.”
She and other residents plan to be at Tuesday’s Eden Prairie City Council meeting to push city leaders to continue to be involved in the process.
Eden Prairie, the largest community within the watershed district, sent letters in March and July asking the watershed to consider making changes so the rules were consistent with rules in the Nine Mile Watershed District, which is also in parts of the suburb.
“That’s what we’re familiar with,” said Robert Ellis, the city’s director of Public Works.
Since then, Perry Forster, the president of the watershed district’s board, said rules have been revised and scaled back. The board will vote on the final rules Nov. 5.
If they are approved, the watershed would then present the rules to the seven cities over the next two years. Forster said they hope to have them implemented by next spring, when development picks back up.
“It’s part of a bigger piece of what we’re doing,” he said of the watershed’s educational efforts and responding to the spread of invasive species, among other work.
To view the draft rules, go to rpbcwd.org and click on permits.