Independence gets new storm water permit

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) has approved a new storm water permit for the city of Independence, thus ending the potential for legal action against the city, according to water resources consultant Shane Nelson, of Hakanson/Anderson.

Nelson brought this news to the Independence City Council Tuesday, June 25, during his storm water pollution prevention report. He explained that Independence was operating under a five-year storm water permit that expired in 2011. The PCA allowed the city to operate without a permit since 2011.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Cities Storm Water Coalition, a subgroup of the League of Minnesota Cities, filed a petition pertaining to Independence’s lack of a permit before the state. The petition will go nowhere, because on June 25, the PCA approved a new five-year storm water permit for the city.

“The permits… continue to ramp up the requirements over time,” Nelson said. He will bring the new requirements to the City Council for its information.

Mayor Marvin Johnson asked about the Storm Water Coalition, and Nelson said it is sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, but it has its own function mechanisms. “They really deal with the storm water permit,” he said. “They negotiate with the MPCA on the permit requirements that we all have worked together as a group to try to implement.”

On June 25, the City Council also took up other business. Here are some meeting highlights.




City Councilor Brad Spencer said he and City Administrator Toni Hirsch had met in May with Kate Drewry, area hydrologist for the Minnesota Department of Resources, about the possibility of redesigning the Lake Independence outlet project. Also in the meeting were representatives from the Three Rivers Park District, Hennepin County Environmental Services, Hakanson Anderson water resources consultants and the Pioneer Sarah Creek Watershed District.

Cities surrounding Lake Independence and citizen and government groups have been discussing what to do about persistent high water levels in the lake. They have resulted in the washing out of lakeshore improvements designed to prevent erosion of shore line and the resulting deposits of nutrient rich soils into the lake. A proposed project would have involved dredging of the lake’s outlet channel between Independence Road and Pagenkopf Road at an estimated cost of about $300,000.

Spencer said that at the meeting in May, the group discussed a different way to unclog the Lake Independence outlet while minimizing the environmental impact on the channel and the lake. This redesigned project would not have dredging involved. Instead vegetation would be removed down to three feet in the channel bottom, shredded and cast to the side.

The vegetation removal project would probably have “a little less impact on the overall water levels and might help the concerns of some folks who were worried about their water levels dropping too low,” Spencer said.

Because dredging would not be involved for a vegetation removal project, intrusive pods would not be needed for hauling materials out of the channel, he said. Also, the newly redesigned project could be done more quickly over a four day span.

A vegetation removal project would have a cost advantage over the originally proposed dredging project. Instead of the originally estimated cost of near $300,000, the new proposal would cost roughly $46,700, according to approximate figures from water resources consultant Craig Jochum.

At the May meeting with the DNR, “it was determined, on the basis of overall environmental impact, to define the project as a vegetation removal with sidecasting of spoils which will result in a reduced impact upon the ecology of the surrounding wetland and reduce overall project duration and costs,” Spencer said. “The runout elevation would be repaired at the present elevation and the resulting water levels will be monitored to gauge effectiveness of the project to return water levels to historically normal ranges.”

Spencer said he needed authorization from the City Council for the next steps in proceeding towards the newly defined vegetation project. These included meetings with cities that would be involved, the watershed district, the Lake Independence Citizens Association and other interested parties to find out “how we would pay for this,” he said. One possibility would follow the same cost-sharing formula that would have been used for the more expensive dredging project.

Another step would be hosting an informational open house, so that the public can get information and ask questions about the newly designed project.

A key step would be applying for a permit from the DNR for vegetation removal, Spencer said. Because the watershed district cannot apply for this type of permit, the name of the city of Independence would be on the application.

“I think we got a real break from the DNR,” he said. “I think we should jump on it.”

The City Council agreed with him and authorized the meetings and application for the vegetation removal permit.



The City Council also:

CANCELLED its regular meeting scheduled for July 9 due to lack of an agenda.

DISCUSSED proposed revisions of the ordinance pertaining to the size of accessory buildings on properties in Independence.

APPROVED rearrangement of the lot line between properties owned by James Meyer at 2015 Nelson Road and John and Annette McClelland at 2035 Nelson Road.

LEARNED that Independence residents can bring brush from the recent storm to a brush pile near the public works building behind City Hall during daylight hours. Commercial debris is not allowed. West Hennepin Public Safety is monitoring the brush pile.


Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]