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FRIENDS OF COLDWATER 10,000-year-old Sacred Springs—GREEN MUSEUM—Birthplace of Minnesota.


10,000-year-old Sacred Springs—GREEN MUSEUM—Birthplace of Minnesota

1063 Antoinette Avenue    Minneapolis MN 55405-2102    612-396-6966

Amanda Gronhovd

Office of the State Archaeologist
Fort Snelling History Center
200 Tower Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55111


Sarah Beimers, Manager

Government Programs and Compliance

Minnesota Historical Society

345 Kellogg Boulevard West

Saint Paul MN 55102



April 16, 2018


Dear Ms. Gronhovd and Ms. Beimers:


Another construction project that might reduce the flow to Coldwater Springs is being planned by the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services. The project is now called “Minnehaha Park Area Regional Sewer Improvement Project.”


The sewer reconstruction project would cross groundwater headed to sacred Coldwater Springs according to MnDOT’s assessment of Coldwater sources—Lake Minnetonka.


Geo-hydrologist Kelton Barr theorized that the Coldwater flow comes from an approximate ½-mile circumference to the north, west and south of the spring.


The late Bob Brown, chair of the Mendota Dakota Community, said the traditional source of Coldwater was the top of the bluff between the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, Taku Wakan Tipi (the hill called Something Sacred Dwells Here), linked to the Dakota water spirit Un K’te Hi.


U-MN hydrogeology Prof. Calvin Alexander, PhD, reported that one of his graduate students studied the outflow under Coldwater’s Spring House for months and found that it is actually three (3) distinct sources, each with different chemistry.


So, the groundwater sources of 10,000-year-old Coldwater remain part of the mysterious unknown. Coldwater is the last major natural spring in Hennepin County, site of the first civilian Native/European/African American community and considered the Birthplace of Minnesota. Dred Scott drank Coldwater when he was stationed at Fort Snelling (1836-40), met and married his wife Harriet at the Fort, and used his residency in the then-free Wisconsin Territory as part of his famous case for freedom from slavery.

Friends of Coldwater was shown the email below (March 7, 2018) from public relations firm Zan Associates regarding a sewer pipe just north of Minnehaha Park.

Sender Name: Rebecca Lieser
Sender email:
Sender IP:

“I’m working with the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services and we have a project (Minnehaha Park Area Regional Sewer Improvements Project) that could begin in 2019 that will rehabilitate sections of the existing wastewater sewer system around Minnehaha Park.

“Currently, thin ventilation pipes to allow the construction workers to breath[e] while working underground are recommended to be installed through the [P]latteville limestone north of Minnehaha Park that feeds water into Coldwater Spring[s]. However, based on hydrology and geotechnical studies, there is no risk of dewatering Coldwater Spring.

“There will be a public hearing for the project in April and then in May or June the Met Council will vote to approve the project.” (Emphases added.)


Friends of Coldwater finds it democratically problematic when a public relations firm announces a vote on a proposed government project and declares it affirmed when that vote has not been taken.


Back story:

A couple of years ago (1/14/2016) Met Council’s P.R. person, Tim O’Donnell (Project Citizen Liaison/Sr. Info Coordinator, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, P. 651.602.1269  |  C. 952.451.4689  |  F. 651.602.1477) and John Hemming, “principal engineer,” met me at Coldwater and asked for my “blessing” for a huge, destructive version of a new sewer pipe project including an underground 40 X 60-foot building for odor control and pumping mechanics.


At a Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) meeting I suggested they put the new sewer pipe where the old one is and they said, “No, too hard to access.” By March of 2016 the initial plan had been scrapped.


For two more years Met Council engineers and consultants did “more study” and decided to down-size the project to replacing the old pipe in situ. Included in this latest plan is drilled ventilation holes in the limestone bedrock to furnish oxygen to underground construction workers. The tunnel lies below Minnehaha Creek.

We can send men to the moon (I was a newspaper reporter in Florida at Cape Canaveral and wrote color for some of the moon shots) but we can’t get oxygen to the sewer workers!

The Metropolitan Council is sponsoring two meetings about the sewer construction project just north of Minnehaha Park that it claims “will have no impacts to groundwater flow to Coldwater Spring” however “daily monitoring of water flows will still occur during construction.”

Coldwater supporters may remember the last time we were guaranteed no reduction in the flow to Coldwater and we lost 46,000 gallons-a-day as measured by MnDOT post Highway 55 reroute/Hiawatha LRT construction.

In late March the Met Council sent out another update with no mention of drilling permanent air holes through the bedrock for a temporary project and also no plan for post construction monitoring.

If “the Met Council will approve the project” what is the point of engaging public participation? And what about the 2001 state law protecting Coldwater?


Our area is blessed with an abundance of surface and groundwater. In this time of climate chaos with too much or too little water we want to be mindful of considering that water is life now and in the foreseeable future. It is a shame that Met Council and MCWD regional and state authorities are not preserving and protecting this historic site where red, white and black peoples lived together.



Susu Jeffrey for Friends of Coldwater

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