Aug 4, 2009


Mr. Rocky Waite appeared before the Council to discuss issues related to Savage Lake. The City Administrator began by reviewing the 2008 Goal and Action Plan related to Savage Lake water quality. He noted that the first task in the Action Plan was to address the lake level. The Administrator noted the discussion that occurred at the October 20, 2008 Special Meeting of the City Council. At that meeting the DNR and the Watershed indicated that they would not support an increase in water level feeling that the Ordinary High Water (OHW) mark set for Savage Lake was appropriate.

The next task outlined in the Action Plan was to eradicate lily pads. The Administrator noted the discussion on that topic that occurred on 10/20/08, and pointed out that the person the City had been dealing with at the DNR has moved to another department. The Administrator reported that the permitting process for lily treatment is more complicated than first thought as individual property owners must obtain permits for treatment adjacent to their property with the City obtaining a permit for treatment in the main part of the lake. Two property owners on the lake are coordinating the permitting process.

Task 3 was the dredging of the wetland at Demont & Jackson Street, and the Administrator reported that this work has been completed. Task 4 was the evaluation and installation of storm water improvements. The City Administrator reported that the City Engineer has done the evaluation portion of this work. Funding for the improvements is being sought from the Watershed District. The Administrator noted that cost estimates are over $100,000. Blesener noted the money that the City has already spent to improve water quality, i.e. dredging the drainage pond at Jackson/Demont, purchase of a street sweeper, etc.

Blesener agreed that additional water quality enhancements would need outside funding.

The Administrator indicated that the Watershed District is evaluating the potential for funding a pilot project of this nature and will report back to the City.

Task 5 was to evaluate the purchase of a street sweeper, and the City Administrator reported that the sweeper has been purchased jointly by Little Canada and the City of Falcon Heights. The Administrator reported hat Little Canada has been swept twice this year and there will be a third sweeping in the fall. Task 6 called for the evaluation of pre-wetted salt spreading, and the Administrator indicated that given the reduced amount of sand used on City streets, thus reducing sediments, this task is no longer relevant.

Rocky Waite reported that he has discussed the issue of the lake level with both the DNR and the Watershed District. Waite stated that it was his belief that the water level is not where it should be. He indicated that the DNR set the OHW level in 2004 as a result of Harold Schrunk from the DNR looking at Savage Lake, noting the level at that time, and declaring it to be the OHW level. Waite indicated that the DNR did not take into consideration the historic data relative to lake levels in setting the OHW level. Waite reported that he has those documents which include building permit information and information relative to the lake level in the vicinity of Gopher Electronics. Waite reported that when the City Engineer did elevations, he did not check the Highway Department profiles that were done prior to 1979. Waite stated that in 2004 the DNR merely looked at Savage Lake and stated that the current elevation was the OHW level.

Waite questioned previous comments made by the Mayor relative to the operation of the old gate system on the lake which indicated that after heavy rains a board or two was removed to lower the water levels on East Savage.

Blesener pointed out that determination of the OHW level is the responsibility of the DNR, and the City has no authority to determine that level. Blesener also pointed out that the Watershed shot the levels of the homes on East Savage and the weir level was set accordingly. The Watershed determined that there are a couple of homes on East Savage that would be in danger of flooding if the water level was raised. Waite referred to Council meeting minutes from May of 1963 that referenced the OHW level of Savage, and felt that information should have been taken into consideration in determining the OHW level.

Blesener pointed out that there are a lot of regulations that have changed since 1963, and again noted that it is the DNR and the Watershed that have determined the OHW level for the lake. The City has no authority in determining lake levels.

The City Administrator agreed that the DNR sets lake levels, and reported that the Watershed did a hydrological study of Savage Lake. He noted the information outlined in the 10/20/08 meeting minutes relative to the determination that the 100-year flood elevation for the lake is 897.9 and that there are a number of homes close to or below the 100-year flood elevation. The Watershed indicated that raising the weir structure would endanger two or three homes.

Waite stated that he would like to see the West Savage Lake level raised to a point where life would return to the lake.

The City Administrator reviewed the history of the weir system on East Savage and the City’s request of the Watershed to do something with the system when the old one became inoperable. The Watershed then installed a permanent weir structure that would require less maintenance than the old one.

The City Attorney reported that a lot of lake regulations have changed since the 1960’s and 1970’s and noted that ownership of lake best was removed to the State in the late 1970’s. The Attorney reported that the regulation of lake levels is unquestionably the responsibility of the DNR. The Attorney indicated that the City would only be able to lobby the DNR relative to changing the lake level. The DNR has final jurisdiction.

Waite suggested that an L-pipe system be installed that would raise the lake level of West Savage without impacting the level of East Savage. Blesener felt that a dam system of the connection between East and West Savage would result in West Savage filling up and East Savage drying up.

Waite felt the water levels would even out between the two lake segments.

McGraw questioned how the L-pipe would cause West Savage water levels to increase when the lakes are not spring fed. McGraw pointed out that the lake levels are decreasing because there has been no moisture. Every lake in the metro area has been drying up.

McGraw stated that he hears what Mr. Waite is saying, but did not agree with taking water from East Savage for the benefit of West Savage. He did not believe this was fair and equitable. Blesener indicated that he would support Mr. Waite’s request if all property owners on East Savage supported it. Blesener felt that was doubtful.

Waite did not believe the L-pipe would result in East Savage drying up, pointing out that eventually the water level would reach a point where it would overflow the pipe and the excess water would go into East Savage.

Blesener noted that the lake level is currently 2 to 3 feet from the weir, and pointed out the lack of precipitation over the summer. Blesener suggested that Mr. Waite approach the DNR with his request to raise the lake level, as it is the DNR that regulates lake levels.

Waite indicated that he is trying to find a solution for the lake. He noted that there is little wildlife left in or on West Savage. He was also concerned that there were chemicals coming into West Savage.

Blesener noted that the Watershed is responsible for water quality. The City Administrator pointed out that at the October 20th meeting Cliff Aichinger stated that it was very expensive to test for chemicals when you do not know what you are looking for. The City Attorney reported that Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) has a program wherein homeowners gather water samples and MCES will test them.

Blesener suggested that the City Administrator check into this program and get the information to Mr. Waite.

Mr. Waite then presented pictures of the property conditions at Gopher Electronics which showed a discarded tire, leaves and other debris. He noted that there is a MN DOT storm water discharge pipe that is filling with sand. There is also a sand bar going out into the lake from a freeway outlet. Waite pointed out that MN DOT had indicated that there was no freeway storm water being discharged into Savage Lake. The City Administrator reported that the Public Works Superintendent contacted MN DOT and was told that the storm water pipe at the northeast corner of West Savage is an abandoned pipe. There is a small sand delta in this area, but it is MN DOT’s position that removing the delta would do more damage than good.

Waite asked how deep the sand deltas were. The City Administrator pointed out that the City Engineer had done some analysis of the deltas and agreed that removal would cause more damage than good. Waite felt that the lake was so low at this point and a better analysis of the depth of the sand deltas could be done. McGraw noted the damage that would be done in removing the sand deltas as the property around West Savage is fully developed. Waite felt the deltas were deep and if the lake could be dredged to a depth of 15 feet, West Savage would be restored to a lake again.

McGraw asked Mr. Waite to outline his requests.

Waite replied that he would like to see the weir raised. He was unsure as to how much but suggested a range of 1 ½ to 3 feet. He felt the lake level should be raised to a point just under the top of Don Smith’s wall. Blesener suggested that if the lake level were raised 1 ½ feet, the water would be over the top of this wall.

McGraw asked how Mr. Waite proposed that the City cause the weir to be raised. Waite requested that the City get behind his request and propose it to the Watershed and the DNR. Blesener noted that it is the DNR that has the authority to control lake levels. The City Administrator indicated that even if the City could support the increase in lake level, the property owners around East Savage will likely not support it given the Watershed’s study that shows two or three homes would be at risk.

Waite noted that when the Watershed did their study they did not take into consideration the historical levels of the lake. Waite pointed out that the freeway fence was never moved and the culvert was never moved.

Keis asked if Waite’s position was that raising the West Savage water level will resolve all other concerns. Waite thought that was true as raising the water level will cause the lilies to go away.

McGraw suggested that the City contact the DNR, its State Legislators, and the Watershed and indicate its support for raising the water level. McGraw noted that the DNR has the ultimate control and will respond to the City’s letter documenting their position on this issue. McGraw felt that this response should be the final decision and put the matter to an end.

Waite again commented on the actions of Harold Schrunk from DNR in visually looking at Savage Lake in 2004 and declaring that the level of the lake at that time was the OHW level. Keis stated that this is what Waite believes was done, but there may have been more analysis into the OHW than that. Waite indicated that he has Schrunk’s field notes.

Blesener recommended that the City Administrator write a letter to the DNR and Watershed requesting that the OHW level be reviewed. Blesener also noted that Savage Lake is not considered a lake.

Waite asked about the Gopher Electronics property concerns. Blesener directed the City Administrator to contact Gopher Electronics and ask that they clean up their site. The Administrator reported that Gopher Electronics had indicated in 2008 that they would work with the Watershed about the issue of surface water from their parking lot flowing into Savage Lake. The Administrator indicated that he would follow up with Gopher Electronics.

The Council reported that City staff would keep Mr. Waite informed as to the status of letter to the DNR and Watershed.

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