Residents beg Champlin Council to include private property in Mill Pond drawdown project

By Megan Hopps
Sun Press Newspapers

The Champlin City Council hosted a public hearing regarding the 2017 Mill Pond drawdown.
Seven private property owners who live along the oxbow of the river near the Mill Pond expressed their concern for the project stating that in the past, when the city has done drawdowns in the Mill Pond, it’s impacted their property value for the worse.
The project is part of the Mill Pond and Highway 169 improvements. It is proposed that the Mill Pond be drained in September of this year and it would not be brought back up to water level until 2019. The project requires a blessing from 75 percent of the affected properties. Affected property owners include those near the Mill Pond and Elm Creek.

Mill Pond Drawdown
The city council authorized the design of the Mill Pond Shoreline and Aquatic Habitat Restoration Project to move forward in February. Since that time, city staff and WSB engineers have begun working towards permit approvals for the project. The city is requesting that the Minnesota DNR permit the drawdown of the Mill Pond to accommodate the reconstruction of the Highway 169 and the Mill Pond Shoreline and Aquatic Habitat Restoration projects.
“What’s proposed in this general project is the Mill Pond shoreline and aquatic habitat for the pond area,” said Associate City Engineer Todd Tuominen. “We received grant funding and we also expect to receive funding from the state of Minnesota for this project. The Mill Pond drawdown is a requirement so that we can construct the Mill Pond and Highway 169 during the 2018 summer season. The drawdown would go into affect in September 2017 and be brought back up to water level in 2019.”
The Mill Pond project is expected to restore the lakeshore, upland buffers, in-lake fish habitat and migratory bird and wildlife sanctuary habitat and bring back natural ecological function of the Mill Pond and native diversity. The city promises to monitor plant community diversity, fish and wildlife populations on a yearly basis to ensure abundance and diversity levels that occur within the project are recorded yearly and make this data available to the public.
“Currently, there is a lot of phosphorus-laden sediment in the Mill Pond that impairs the native habitat and gives the creek and Mill Pond very poor water quality,” Tuominen said. “The goals of the project include the restoration of the native habitat, improve upland riparian shallow and deep water aquatic zones, water quality improvements that would include dissolved oxygen, total suspended solids, clarity and phosphorus levels. It would also provide educational opportunities for the public as well as recreational purposes.”
As part of the project, Tuominen said, the city plans to excavate most of the sediment, add vegetation mats, logs, sunken Christmas trees and boulder piles to increase fish spawning habitat and habitat for zooplankton which will reduce algae.
Collaborating agencies include the city of Champlin, the Minnesota legislature, the LCCMR, Isack Walton League, Minnesota DNR fisheries, Elm Creek Watershed, Hennepin Conservation, Environmental Resources, West Mississippi Watershed, Mill Pond property owners, the Bee Friendly Task Force and the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce.

Public Comment
The city hosted an open house for affected property owners at the end of March. Generally most landowners supported the project, but residents living upstream on the oxbow requested that their shoreline be addressed in the project as well.
City staff explained that the Mill Pond project scope and funding only covers the Mill Pond. Furthermore, the oxbow area is privately-owned land that cannot be constructed under the terms identified in the project scope. The grant funding also stipulates that it be used only on public land.
“This drawdown does impact private property,” said resident Todd Desheper. “Our backyard is now a cesspool of algae and has new invasive weeds that continue to grow. By doing this, you’re going to fix part of the problem, but not all of the problem. I understand there’s a conflict when it comes to using government aide to improve private property, but you’re not improving our property, you’d be restoring it to what it was before you started doing these drawdowns.”
Tuominen said that while there could be some environmental benefits associated with the oxbow area, the primary benefit would be realized by the adjacent private homeowners in re-establishing water access to the Mill Pond and the aesthetic benefit of having private property improved adjacent to their homes.
“Philosophically and certainly politically, it would be difficult to justify expending public funds to improve private property,” he said.
Tuominen suggested that the oxbow could potentially be included as part of the project by way of assessments. Property owner William Campbell said he owns an island, referred to as “Outlot A.”
“I would be willing to donate the island to the city,” he said. “No longer then would you have the excuse of having private property on both sides of the creek. But I will not do it unless I get some assurance that you’re going to go ahead with the project and improve the creek. If I can get guarantees from the council that you’re going to be moving in that direction, I would be glad to donate that land.”
Resident Dick Brown pointed out that the creek feeds the Mill Pond and, unless the city addresses the issues in the creek, the water quality in the Mill Pond won’t be improved much.
“People need to take care of their yards when they’re on water property,” he said. “Before any government aide is brought in, I think that needs to be addressed. That being said, I think these people do have a case. The drawdown triggered massive vegetation growth in the Mill Pond and the oxbow and this vegetative growth causes unintended consequences. Dredging will alleviate the Mill Pond problem, but it won’t fix the oxbow. Unless work is done on those properties you’re going to remain with a mess.”
Resident Gary Persons recalls the days when he purchased his house on the oxbow.
“In 2004 the water level was four to five feet deep,” he said. “There were canoers, kayakers, people would fish in the creek, kids were even in there swimming. We were eager to sign off on the earlier drawdowns with the expectation that a plan would be adopted to restore the water quality of both waterbodies. We never imagined that our oxbow wouldn’t be included in that plan and that we’d be worse off than we were before.”
The council approved a resolution by a 4-1 vote requesting the DNR to approve a permit to allow the 2017 Mill Pond Drawdown necessary for the construction of Highway 169 and the Mill Pond Shoreline and Aquatic Habitat Restoration project.
Councilor Jessica Tesdall opposed the motion stating she would like to see the city remedy the situation with the seven private property owners whose property values are affected by drawdowns.

Other
The mayor and council also:
APPOINTED Tom Moe to fill the vacant Ward Two Council position. Ward Two City Councilor Eric Johnson submitted his resignation to the city effective March 27. The city council interviewed six applicants that had expressed an interest in filling the vacancy. The city council appointed Tom Moe as the new ward two city council representative. Moe joins the council after serving on the Environmental Resources Commission.
HEARD from Anoka-Champlin Fire Chief Charlie Thompson who presented the fire department annual report. Chief Thompson reported that the department responded to 703 calls in 2016 which is up 107 calls from the previous year. Most of the calls for service come from the city of Anoka. The chief also reported in depth regarding inspections, training public education, estimated fire loss, response time and per capita cost. For more information visit qctv.org.
APPROVED the pledge to residents.
AWARDED the contract and accepted the bid for the 2017 street improvement project which involves the reconstruction of River Shore Lane, 122nd Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, Nevada Circle, Maryland Circle and Louisiana Avenue. It also involves Bradford Avenue, Mississippi Drive, Pribble Street, the service road to West River Road, Hennepin Landing and Sherwood Street.
APPROVED preliminary plans to construct five single-family homes on Depue Drive to be known as Galloway Estates.

Contact Megan Hopps at [email protected]