Independence to seek bids for unclogging lake channel

A sign at the public access in Baker Park notifies boaters of the no wake ordinance that is in effect on Lake Independence. (Pioneer staff photo by Amanda Schwarze)
A sign at the public access in Baker Park notifies boaters of the no wake ordinance that is in effect on Lake Independence. (Pioneer staff photo by Amanda Schwarze)

The Independence City Council Tuesday, July 23, decided to request proposals and advertise for bids for the proposed unclogging of the Lake Independence outlet channel between Independence Road and Pagenkopf Road.

City Councilor Brad Spencer said it would cost Independence up to $3,500 to go through the RFP/bid process. He asked the council’s permission to give water resources consultants from the Hakanson Anderson engineering firm the go ahead for soliciting proposals and advertising for bids. He also asked for authorization for Independence to spend the $3,500.

Spencer noted that Independence has not committed to doing the outlet channel project. So far the city has agreed to cost sharing for the overall project with the Three Rivers Parks District, the Pioneer Sarah Creek Watershed District and the city of Medina. Independence also has approved the submission to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources an application for a permit for under an acre of vegetation removal down to a depth of no greater than three feet.

As the Independence City Council discussed Spencer’s request, City Councilor Norm Wenck commented about the proposed outlet unclogging. “The city shouldn’t have to pay for it,” he said.

He went on to say that benefitting property owners should pick up the costs. “If it (high water in Lake Independence) is an issue, they should pay,” Wenck said.

City Attorney Bob Vose said it would be difficult to determine how much a property owner would benefit from this type of project in terms of dollars. Also, not everyone is likely to want the project.

Spencer answered, “We can determine the damage amount” that high water is doing to the Lake Independence shore line.

“Three Rivers Parks, the watershed district, the DNR and LICA (Lake Independence Citizens Association) all think something needs to be done,” he said, adding that the city of Medina has decided that the project is important enough for it to contribute money.

Mayor Marvin Johnson said he supported Spencer’s request to solicit proposals and advertise for bids. “We at least need to find out how much it would cost,” he said.

Current cost estimates are approximate, in the neighborhood of about $46,000, said Becky Wozney, water resources specialist for Hakanson Anderson last week, as she prepared for a July 25 open house to inform the public about the proposed outlet project.

A previous proposal for unclogging the Lake Independence outlet called for dredging the channel, at an estimated cost of $277,000, according to LICA President Mike McLaughlin.

The City Council also took up other business at its meeting. Here are some highlights.


City administrator Toni Hirsch asked the City Council’s approval for a new process of applying for what would be called “non-city assembly permits.” This type of permit would replace the old large assembly permit which required City Council approval. City staff would approve the new non-city assembly permits.

Hirsch said that Independence has had problems with people asking for large assembly permits at the last minute — leaving staff with little, if any, time to bring the request before the city council. Last year she asked the council for permission to experiment with granting assembly permits at the staff level.

During the past year she consulted with the West Hennepin Public Safety Department and came up with a new non-city assembly permit application. The application asks for fees of $250 for large assemblies of more than 200 people, $100 for a medium assembly of 100 to 200 people and $50 for a small assembly of 50 to 100 people. Nonprofit groups would pay $25. The application also asks about plans for security, severe weather, outdoor music, sound amplification and control, food and concessions, serving and selling of alcohol, restroom facilities, lighting and parking.

Hirsch said she has been using the new application and has had no complaints about the process. She has been successful with turn around time.

Mayor Johnson commented, “I am bothered by this right away. When my family gets together, we have more than 50 people.”

The City Council and WHPS Sgt. Gary Kroells discussed different types of gatherings. Kroells said that as a police officer he was more interested in some types of gatherings than others.

“It depends upon what the event is,” he said. He was interested in whether the event would involve things like liquor, live bands and fireworks. These types of issues might be more important than the size of the gathering.

The City Council then decided that the assembly permit policy needed more work and directed city staff to bring a revised policy back to a future council meeting.


The City Council decided to revise the policy for renting the Independence Community Center to groups — at least on a temporary basis. Independence will honor current rental agreements that the city has made with community groups. Then, going forward, the new policy will limit the size of gatherings to 200 people, forbid the serving of alcohol and require groups to clean up and be out of the building by midnight. The City Council will review the policy to see how it is working.

Sgt. Kroells said WHPS does not have enough police officers to control crowds when groups rent the community center — especially when alcohol is served. At one event, he told the crowd that alcohol was not permitted in the parking lot, and this helped. But then children began running around unsupervised outside.

Also, having the police department in the same building has been a problem, he said. For example, after one gathering, WHPS discovered that someone had cracked the spotlights on all of its squad cars.

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]