Watershed board takes over ditch jurisdiction

The Coon Creek Watershed District now has jurisdiction over a county ditch that covers 4.94 miles and is the principal storm water outlet for some 2,900 acres (5.4 miles) of residential, commercial and industrial land in Blaine, Coon Rapids, Fridley and Spring Lake Park.

Without comment at its meeting April 9, the Anoka County Board approved a resolution transferring jurisdiction of County Ditch 17 (Springbrook Creek) to the watershed district.

At its prior meeting, the board had a public hearing on the proposal, at which no one spoke.

The watershed board of managers voted to accept County Ditch 17 at its meeting April 22 and then the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) have to be notified of the change of jurisdiction, according to Tim Kelly, Coon Creek Watershed District Board manager.

In a letter to the county board Kelly said that back in 1959 the county board transferred to the watershed district all county public drainage ditches within the district’s boundaries, giving the watershed district the power to repair, maintain and improve them.

Until last year, Springbrook Creek was under the jurisdiction of the Six Cities Watershed Management Organization (WMO), which has dissolved.

BWSR in 2012 added 15 square miles of Blaine, Coon Rapids, Fridley and Spring Lake Park, which had been part of the Six Cities WMO to the Coon Creek Watershed District.

This included County Ditch 17 (Springbrook Park), but it needed county board action for the watershed district to assume control of the management of the ditch.

“The ditch has suffered from a lack of maintenance and oversight leading to a host of flooding and water quality problems and interfering with development and redevelopment,” Kelly wrote in his letter to the county.

“The district wishes to acquire all the tools necessary to adequately assume management responsibility for the ditch…”

According to Kelly, the watershed district has inspected the creek and repair and maintenance work is planned this summer.

Specifically, there is an area of the creek in the extreme southwest Blaine as well as Coon Rapids and Fridley, generally between 94th and Highway 10 where there are a lot downed trees impeding the flow of the creek, Kelly said.

They will be removed as well as other debris, he said.

A citizens group in the southwestern part of Blaine has been in touch with the Coon Creek Watershed District with an offer to help in the clean-up of the creek, Kelly said.

But in doing the clean-up, the watershed district has to be cognizant of federal and state laws and strike a balance between preserving the natural habitat of the creek, while preventing flooding of homes and properties adjacent to the creek, according to Kelly.

This work will be paid for from the watershed district’s general fund, which derives its revenues from an annual property tax levied against properties within the district’s boundaries.

A second project planned this summer will use a restoration and assessment grant that the watershed district has received from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for data collection and modeling of the needs of Springbrook Creek, including water quality and flood control, Kelly said.

“That may lead to some changes,” he said.

According to Doug Fischer, county highway engineer, the creek originates north of 99th Avenue in Blaine travels under Highway 10, passes through the Northtown Mall area, crosses Highway 47 into Coon Rapids, then goes under East River Road into the Mississippi River in Fridley.

As a metropolitan watershed district, the Coon Creek Watershed District, under state law, has the powers and duties over the works of the district, including the public ditch systems, Kelly wrote in his letter to the county.

The district has parts of seven cities within its boundaries – Andover, Blaine, Coon Rapids, Columbus, Fridley, Ham Lake and Spring Lake Park.

The district levies an annual property tax on properties within the district’s boundaries.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]