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Keeping Coldwater Sacred
(Coldwater Spring) Healthy water moves. Spring water moves along tree root highways and bedrock cracks and, at Coldwater, pours out of limestone with a healthy load of calcium and magnesium.
At Coldwater, where the water comes out of the rocks has also moved.
Most of the spring water outflows just west of the old limestone Spring Housethe only place where drinking water should be collected. An increasing amount of spring water now flows a couple of feet further west, out of the back of the grotto, out of the dirt and stone hillside where the dripping water has increased to a trickle.
The outflow is moving toward the infamous "butt crack" in the hillside and the eroded hillside is slowly filling up the reservoir. This is "natural" and "good" according Eric Evenson of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District because water naturally moves. There are state politicians however, who want to reconstruct Coldwater to look as it did in an 1890 photograph.
It could be done. Fill up the hillside with concrete and dewatering pipes to channel the flow back into the Spring House which was built after the Civil War. When humans play God there are consequences. Engineering a sacred site to suit a neat-&-clean suburban aesthetic is arrogant, unacceptable and destroys the ambiance of the place.
2006 is the year that Coldwater's future will be determinedwhen the "disposition" of the "former Bureau of Mines" will be announced. Coldwater's champions will be called on to speak and to write for a vision of a "wild, clean and untamed" sacred site. We have the opportunity of our lifetimes to preserve an ancient, a 10,000-year old gift of the earth.
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Winter Solstice Ritual
(Coldwater Spring) "We send our prayers to heal and restore the Earth, and that Coldwater Springs stays wild, clean and untamed forever."
10,000 years ago, hydrologists say, Coldwater was running beneath the last glacier. Next year, the "disposition" of "the former Bureau of Mines" will be decided in the final step of the 2-year federal process to determine the future of the 27-acre Mississippi blufftop Coldwater campus.
In blazing sunshine that made you squint, Sunday's 7-degree temperature was not a problem for this year's Winter Solstice gathering of 75-100 people. For returning Hwy 55 Encampment-ers, it was nostalgia. Getting water. Doing ceremony. The cold and the fire ring, the ring of people around the fire, talking.
The ritual was the effort of three groups, Earthtones (reviewed as "fun music, not in English"); Twin Cities Reclaiming Community (the roses, the prayer, the labyrinth); and Friends of Coldwaterboasting the youngest working friend of Coldwater, the Bridge Troll. Eli is 2-years, 3-months old and this was his second Winter Solstice at Coldwater. Last year it was all about ducks. This year the Bridge Troll, and his Da, Hello-ed and smiled at every person who circled Coldwater reservoir. "Water," he told his Da. Then "park" and "water."
"We send our prayers to heal and restore the Earth, and that Coldwater Springs stays wild, clean and untamed forever."
Yes Eli, Coldwater should be parkland with a sacred sensibility. Not only is Coldwater the last spring of size in the Twin Cities, it is the LAST spring since the Great Medicine Spring (Wirth Park) and Glenwood Spring were permanently dewatered by I-394 construction in the 1980s.
"We send our prayers to heal and restore the Earth, and that Coldwater Springs stays wild, clean and untamed forever." The 2005 solstice ritual was all about water.
Since Katrina, adequate, clean drinking water has made news in America (as it does in the rest of the world). Will we go from petroleum wars to water wars? The United Nations calls water a human right. Coldwater is the last spring.
38 people signed up to be notified when the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) comments are called for during the first quarter of 2006. At year's end the future of Coldwater should be announced. Let's hope we have good news at next year's Winter Solstice celebration on Sunday, December 17.
The powers-that-be in the National Park Service planned to sell Coldwater to the Twin Cities airport for $6-million to use for parking, including a multi-story parking garage which would have been inserted into the bedrocksome of which carries groundwater to the spring. After 9/11 with the airline economic crash, the sale was called off.
"Heedless of the wind and weather" the first 2006 Full Moon Walk around the Coldwater Area, is Saturday, January 14, at 7 pm. Meet at the south end of Minnehaha Park in the pay parking lot off 54th Street. We will not get into the Coldwater campus because it is only open to the public Monday-Friday 9 am to 3 pm (we had special permission for Solstice). Unfortunately many school children and working people are excluded from visiting the spring in those restricted hoursa situation worth a comment on the Final EIS.
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Bowling Balls for Mice
(Coldwater Spring) Rabbit scat. There's a waste field of rabbit droppings on the hill above Coldwater reservoir. It is astonishing to see an area peppered with round half-inch balls. Perfect little round balls by the hundreds lie randomly abandoned as if a mysterious sport was stopped mid-game.
There are den entrances in the hillside at the top of the slope, near the big mustard-colored warehouse. Rabbits are prey to raptors, 4-footeds, snakes, "almost everything in the wild." They live in community and share a communal crap field that fertilized a community of golden rod plants whose dried stalks now rattle in the breeze.
Resident owls hunt these rabbits. From the snow tracks this is a good year for rabbits. Owls don't torture their meat (the torture of Arab "terrorists" and "insurgents" is big war news recently). At least owls eat what they kill.
Human "nature" doesn't seem so "natural" for example, in the animal world, sport-killing and wars are a waste of energy. Also notice rabbits don’t put their digestive wastes in the drinking water supply.
A woman gathered cattails today to make a cattail "down" doggie vest. She said cattail fluff was used to insulate clothing during World War II. Coldwater is a living school if you can crack the "language" codelearn by observing rather than being told.
The flow changes slightly every week. But the tendency over the past five years is that the water is digging out the hillside and depositing silt in the pond. This was especially noticeable when authorities cut a path through the (invasive) buckthorn behind the reservoir. Last summer large elm trees and buckthorns growing out of the limestone reservoir wall were cut so the back wall will become increasingly unstable without roots to hold the rocks in place.
Steam is rising up out of the limestone grotto where the main spring water outflows. In winter, steam is the breath of the spring. The 47-degree Fahrenheit groundwater is much warmer than December's air temperature and a misty curtain obscures running and dripping water. The sound is so near and clear but the view is curtained no matter where you move your head.
Hoarfrost covers the hanging roots and branches in the grotto. This could be the movie set for a water faery adventure. One big icicle fell with the slightly warmer temperatures this week. Another ice stalactite drips into the flow coming out of the rock wall.
Of all the life cycles at Coldwater, the water in winter appears most aliveice, liquid and mist all together, moving, always changing.
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A Sense of Place
(A Fine Grind, St. Paul) Since the Earth is constant and people come and go, a piece of who we are is where we areplace as identity. Place is the theme of this month's art at A Fine Grind cafe' with photographs and paintings by Jane Strauss and Cheryl Fields.
These are not the colossal landscapes of the gods. No egos to match my mountains here but quieter, more comfortable places. Fields 20 acrylic paintings and Strauss' 25 digital photographs are pieces of affordable art that one could live with on a home wall in a typical house. A few pieces even invite the seer to dive into the journey.
Mostly the sense is of being somewhere specific, being in the Buddhist sense of be-here-now with your brain-tape shut offseeing, smelling and hearing the land where you stand. This landscape art is sized for people, it is in frames small enough for the viewer not to feel infinitesimal or lost. Here are places familiar that any one of us could have seen out the car window, at the park, at the beach.
Coldwater Spring is a place both artists visit in this exhibit. Fields' includes the word "sacred" her show notes; "Moonwalk" is her bright, night snow view from a flat dreamlike perspective. A crow silhouetted in the bare branches of a winter tree dominates Strauss's Coldwater triptych. Visit these familiar places, this landscape health food for the soul, and for your taste buds, consider ordering a Berry White-Chocolate Mocha espresso.
The Fields-Strauss show is up for the month of December at A Fine Grind, 2038 Marshall, near Cleveland, St. Paul, which features breakfast all day in addition to cafe' fare.
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Wakan (Sacred) Landscape
(Coldwater Spring) The authorities responsible for the spring, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are attempting to reduce the sacred landscape to a point where the groundwater outflows. That would be like thinking a baby comes out of a hole in a woman instead of the whole woman, and the man, their personal histories, and the history of the species.
Coldwater Spring is the result of an entire watershed, supplied by falling rain and snow that oozes into the earth, and follows roots and cracks in the limestone bedrock. The force that moves water is gravity. Where does the 100,000 gallons-a-day come from?nobody knows for sure since it's underground and invisible to us. But the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) proved, in court, that a third of Coldwater's flow comes through the 55/62 interchange. During construction dewatering the flow was measured at Coldwater and found to be down by a third.
MCWD hydro-geologic consultant Kelton Barr believes the flow comes from about a ½-mile semi-circle of land to the north, west, and south of Coldwater on its way downhill to the Mississippi. Barr thinks the Coldwater watershed has its own distinct sources, just south of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) disputes the distinct watershed theory and says Coldwater receives groundwater from the general under ground trickles, rivulets, and streams from as far west as Lake Minnetonka.
Bob Brown, late chairman of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, spoke of traditional knowledge explaining Coldwater's source. "We know where the water comes from; it comes from the sacred hill." Coldwater is at the foot of Taku Wakan Tipi (Where Spirit Dwells or Dwelling Place of the Gods). Taku Wakan Tipi is described as "a small hill over-looking the Fort Snelling prairie located between the VA Hospital and Naval Air Station (at the Twin Cities Airport). (See Where the Waters Gather and the Rivers Meet: An Atlas of the Eastern Sioux, Paul Durand author-publisher, Fairbault MN, 1994, p. 86.)
When Bob Brown heard about fractures in the bedrock leading directly to Coldwater's outflowhe leaned back and grunted. He knew, he said, that the water was delivered in a sun-wise, clock-wise direction. But he didn't know how that sun-wise direction manifested until he heard the science because the water has to flow north and east to get to Coldwater. (Please see the bedrock fracture map.)
|Underground limestone fracture lines near Coldwater Spring, from Bison Geophysics for MnDOT. Groundwater is gravity-driven and follows paths of least resistance.
Large map - click here.
Dakota people do ritual sun-wisethe pipe, the Sun Dance. The earth turns the other way but the earth is a satellite cycling around the sun. To get in sync with the great planet, the Dakota worship in respectful imitation of the sun.
Coldwater is wakan (sacred) because it comes out of Taku Wakan Tipi. All the old military and pioneer maps clearly label Taku Wakan Tipi. It is the sister hill to O-He Ya-Wa-He (the Hill Much Visited)today called Pilot Knob. The hills stand on either side of the mouth of the Minnesota River where it joins the Mississippi. When the glaciers melted, it was the Minnesota that drained great Lake Agazzi for thousands of years creating a broad, fertile river valley.
Both Minnesota River hill-towers are wakan, are burial mound sites, and are labeled "precontact sacred sites" on the archival map developed by the (federally recognized) Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. During the fall of 2004, at least 55 human remains were removed from two of the Lincoln Mounds on the Minnesota bluff (Old Shakopee Road at 34th Avenue South in Bloomington).
The remains were arranged with children in the center and with adults on the outside including individual adult males lying full length along two edges of each grouping. ("The Death of a Mound: Politics and Human Remains in Minnesota, Part 9," Bruce M. White, Ph.D., www.minnesotahistory.net). The remains were dated at approximately 2000 years old. Underground parking and condos are being constructed on the burial site.
Administrator Bob Hansen of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has said "Coldwater is not a sacred site. It is federal property." For "safety" reasons FWS recently installed 73 posts and 100-feet of chain to block all vehicle access to the 27-acre Coldwater campus, except directly to the spring. Except that Federal Protective Security (a sub-contractor to Homeland Security) has keys to the four padlocks securing the four chained-off roads allowing VA traffic to the warehouses, tree-cutting and grass-cutting heavy equipment in and out.
Would that this safety concern extended to the whole of Coldwater watershed! The watershed must look something like the human circulatory systemtiny capillaries lead to veins and then arteries. Or tree rootsfrom the trunk, out the main roots, branching further out to the hair roots. Burr oak tree hair roots extend out a half mile, according to recent research. Groundwater travels along underground root and bedrock crack "highway" systems.
With the 55/62 interchange now sunk 6 ½-feet into the water table and MnDOT reputedly preparing legislation to undo the Coldwater protective law of 2001, it is time to recognize the water cycle that furnishes groundwater to the spring. An entire landscape supports Coldwater; it is not a dot on a map. In 15-years MnDOT plans to rebuild and widen Hwy 55 and they don't want another expensive environmental encampment fiasco to halt "progress."
Even with language of the lawthe state may not "diminish the flow of water to or from" the springColdwater is down about 30,000 gallons a day since Hwy 55 reconstruction. So think-round, think-systems, think about how rain from the sky travels underground and outflows at Coldwater as sweet water, life-giving water.
The hills, the trees and the water are so interconnected it is impossible to focus only on the spot in the limestone bedrock where the spring outflows. Coldwater is part of a sacred landscape, home to Un Kte Hi, the Dakota deity of water and the underworld, birthplace of Minnesota, where the soldiers lived who built Fort Snelling, and the last spring of size in Minneapolis or St. Paul. For 10,000 years, even under the last glacier, Coldwater has been flowing. Every life form on earth requires water. Consider the Coldwater cycle for the next 10,000 years.
Dakota people use cyclical thinking in their ritual "amen." They say: O Mi Takuy Asin. All My Relations.
Coldwater looked like a scene in a glass ball today with slow, fat snowflakes falling and 30 mallards cruising the pond. The reservoir discharged about 72 gallons per minute (103,680 gallons per day). However the pipe funneling water to the measuring station is plugging up again, with water over flowing on the roadway up to the state Historic Society plaque. Soon the road will be an ice rink.
In the limestone grotto where spring water outflows, a bouquet of icicles is growing.
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The Ducks are Back
(Coldwater Spring) Two pairs of mallards glide in the reservoir. Winter is coming-on. These four ducks are the first of over a hundred mallards who will over-winter at Coldwaterif it's like last year.
Staghorn sumacs sport hairy red flower clusters at the ends of their bare branches, candelabra-style. The great willow is still holding its leaves, all blonde now. The garlic mustard, the ubiquitous invasive exotic Euro-Asian culinary herb is a cheery green. The non-indigenous plants typically start and end late in the season since they evolved in a different place. One dandelion, which has "naturalized" in North America, is blooming in the seepy area near the limestone Spring House.
Marsh marigolds are hanging-on in the new wetland section of the reservoirfrom silt eroded out of the hillside. Ponds and wetlands are complimentary, but unique, habitats. It is astonishing how quickly the hillside broke down once the improvements started.
Several years ago, maybe four or five years ago, buckthorn brush was cut to make a path all the way around the back of the reservoir. Some government authority removed that brush; it wasn't the 4 Trees Spiritual Encampment folks who would not have piled the cut brush right there beside the new path. That winter the limestone west wall of the reservoir decayed significantly with freeze and thaw cycles. Without the tree roots to hold the soil in place, the hillside loosened up and the rock wall began sliding into the pond.
Last winter, the "butt crack" in the hillside expanded from 2- to 8-feet wide. The snow melt and spring rains moved a lot of silt directly downhill. The V in the land at the hilltop became more pronounced, possibly because Comstock LRT construction workers compacted the hilltop with their traffic and equipment. It could have been a change in groundwater flow with Hwy 55 construction.
In any case, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District executed a crash repair at the top of erosion problem. They filled the top part of the missing hill with chunks of reinforced concrete (from freeway bridge demolition), fist-sized rocks, and a veneer of soil. The top of the hill seems to be holding.
However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired a local tree service to cut down almost every tree around the reservoir walls. Only a hackberry tree, a small white hawthorn and a bush-like American mountain ash tree remain. All the elms and the largest buckthorns were felled. As the downed tree roots rot, look for the reservoir walls to really shift with this winter's freeze and thaws.
An extreme scenario would be silt covering the main spring outflow making water collection impossible. The result of covering the springs would be a "boiling spring" effect. Consequences are easier to see in retrospect.
Each week Coldwater Spring groundwater pours out of bedrock with a slightly new emphasis, the way the same song changes each time it is sung. Spring water's signature is movement. They say water and money are alike in that they go bad when they stop flowing.
The question du jour is: Did the squirrels get into the homeless person's food? Or, is the homeless person treating the squirrels? This is not the dog-walking part of Coldwater. Whose little plastic bags of peanuts and sunflower seeds litter the downhill side of the road?
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Coldwater is Open Again!
(Coldwater Spring) Two does looked up but didn't break. They were feeding in the meadow where the old St. Louis Hotel was 170-years ago during Camp Coldwater pioneer days. A mallard and mate are gliding around Coldwater reservoir. The great willow at the edge of the reservoir still has most of its leaves, half are yellow, half still green. Willow is not indigenous hereall the indigenous trees have shed their leaves.
It feels more like a sacred site, quiet and tranquil like this. It's marvelous the gates are open 9 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays except that school children and working people are excluded.
The posts are going in, the posts to keep insurance firms and bureaucrats happy, the posts to keep cars out of the Coldwater campus except to and from the spring. All the drive-thrus will be stopped: the folks who eat lunch in their cars and rest their eyes and souls at Coldwater, the federal employees, city park guys, construction workers, the relatives of Soldiers' Home guys out for a little drive, neighborhood residents.
Because of American causalities in the Iraq War the VA is building more care facilities in the former burr oak grove across "Mailbox Road" (now Hwy 55), across from the old 4 Trees Spiritual Encampment. Workers at the basement construction said they did not encounter any water during excavation. Whew!
The road just south of the new construction blew-out the weekend after asphalt was laid. Yes, there was a big rain event but some of the groundwater that surfaces at Coldwater runs through subterranean bedrock fracture lines that cross under this area. Sure would be nice to share medicine water from Coldwater with the vets. Tomorrow is Veterans' Day and the spring will be closed.
This long, soft fall, this maybe - Global - Warming - isn't - so - bad fall has left one cheerful dandelion in the Coldwater labyrinth and some very tiny insects buzzing around the grotto where Coldwater outflows.
It is startling to see how much silt has washed into Coldwater reservoir beside the outflow this summer. So much new earth has been deposited that a small field of marsh marigolds has sprouted and might be green all winter. Last January robins were feeding on grubs in Coldwater Creek just downstream of the water measuring station. They only need some open water.
The silt is from the "butt crack" in the hillside behind the reservoir. If all the invasive buckthorn were removed from that hill, it could just slide into the pond. If the buckthorn is not removed from the hill, it could just slide into the pond anyway because the buckthorn roots are not holding the soil in place and buckthorns shade-out and kill native vegetation. Since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired a tree service to kill all the big trees around the reservoir, erosion will increase and the limestone wall could break down with the winter freeze-and-thaws. Things are always changing at Coldwater. Water moves.
At least four lines of groundwater are creeping across the road today from underneath the warehouse just south of the reservoir. Water sprouts out the back and sides of the building too. The area should be daylighted. Congressman Martin Sabo asked the National Park Service for an estimate on removing the buildings at Coldwater.
Coldwater without buildings and asphalt would complete the contiguous green space along the Mississippi bluff top from Fort Snelling upstream to downtown Minneapolis.
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Open Access 30-Hours a Week
(Coldwater Spring) This week's surprise was Federal Security Agent W. Pyle handing each of us a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announcing the new policy for access to Coldwater. Like the old policy, Coldwater will be open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 3 pm and no "special use permit" or state-issued photo identification will be required by an armed guard at the entrance gate. The new/old policy begins Tuesday, November 8 and please note, Friday, November 11 is a federal holiday. One Veteran's Day at Coldwater an eagle visited our ceremony.
The letter read:
The purpose of this letter is to inform interested individuals of expanded opportunities for access to Coldwater Springs at the former U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Mines Twin Cities Research Center located in Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
In August 2005, access to the site was restricted due to concerns for public safety identified in a safety assessment of the Center. Since that time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken a number of actions to address many of the safety issues.
Beginning Tuesday, November 8, 2005, the site will again be open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays. A special use permit will not be required to access the site.
Please note that Friday, November 11, is a Federal holiday; the site will be closed in observation of Veteran’s Day.
Assistant Regional Director,
Budget and Administration
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"I'm With Jimmy"
(Coldwater Spring) This week's surprise was armed guards with George Bush-grins waving us into the Coldwater campus without checking paper permits and state-issued photo identifications. There was no apologyjust a new policy.
Apparently there is a three-page list of names of people coming into the sacred site with Jim Anderson, the man waving a copy of the 1805 Dakota-Pike Treaty who is cultural chairman of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community. When you get to the gate just say: "I'm with Jimmy." In America it is illegal (and depressing) to be locked out of your "home" sacred site.
The promised meeting between Coldwater supporters and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bureaucrats to discuss proposed new security measures was changed, without notice, to a map with security changes marked-up and the bids already let. How posts in the road are going to stop graffiti artists, the homeless, and dog walkers is still an outstanding question. Cars would be fenced out of every road except to the reservoir; doors would be double locked, and first floor windows in the abandoned Main Building boarded-up
The only people reported to have vandalized the Main Building were 60 local police on a week long SWAT team and bomb squad entry exercise (September 2003) using paint ball "bullets." As Reclaiming's Teri Starnes put it when vandalism to the buildings, graffiti, and the homeless were named by FWS as safety considerations: "But that has nothing to do with us."
They can't see the land for the buildings.
The land is producing the last dandelions in the labyrinth. All that rain in September is oozing out around the Spirit Tree, the old silver maple with the tipi opening in the hollow trunk, the shaman's tree. When the water table is high from rain saturation, springs and seeps all over the Coldwater campus discharge groundwaterlike pores in skin.
Although water is pouring out of the land around Coldwater, the measuring station read just 70 gallons per minute (100,800 gallons per day).
The station measures water flowing out of the reservoir, not just spring water but rain and runoff. Today's measurement was off because wetland vegetation has partially blocked the pipe carrying water under the roadway, to the measuring box. It happens about every month in wintertime as dead plant matter rots and gets caught in the pipe. Water floods into a gully near the great willow tree and across the road, driven by gravity, to make its course down the Mississippi River gorge.
Water has been flowing down the Mississippi gorge at this place for 10,000 years. Think of protection for the Coldwater watershed for the next 10,000 years. May you never thirst.
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Mike Haney passed on Sunday, October 9
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||From the Iowa Nation of Oklahoma, Mike inspired us to gather and listen to native elders who told the story of the sacred landscape from Minnehaha Falls to Coldwater Spring.
All My Relations.
Two More $125 Tickets for Entering Coldwater Sacred Site
(Coldwater Spring) Two Dakota men were ticketed after entering the Coldwater campus in order to exercise their treaty rights. Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D., professor of indigenous studies at Minnesota State University at Marshall, and Jim Anderson, Cultural Chair of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community (MMDC), each received a U.S. District Court violation notice.
The offense was described as not complying with a federal police officer. There were no arrests and MMDC attorney Barbara Nimis observed from outside the fence. Just inside the fence Anderson led a pipe ceremony with Mato Nunpa and 10 Coldwater supporters.
During the pipe ceremony 25 more supporters held a prayer circle outside the fence. Prayer, tears and head-shaking silence was the response of people who formerly had access to the Coldwater campus 30-hours-a-week until August 5 of this year. Since 1996 when the old Bureau of Mines facility was closed, the Coldwater gates have been open Monday-Friday, 9 am to 3 pm. Suddenly and without warning or negotiation, FWS narrowed open access to one hour a week and required a "special use permit" and state-issued photo identification for entrance.
The Coldwater area is a traditional sacred site according to court ordered testimony, a gathering place for Upper Mississippi native nations, a "neutral" landscape in the sense of open to all, a place for all nations to come to gather "the sacred water for the sacred ceremony." Under terms of the 1805 Dakota-Pike Treaty the United States "promise" to permit the Dakota "to pass, repass, hunt or make other uses of the said districts, as they have formerly done." There is no time limit on treaty rights.
The two citations written today plus last week's ticket occurred after three meetings between Coldwater supporters and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials. Instead of addressing the prickly "special use permit" issue and the single hour per week access, FWS Regional Director Robyn Thorson described placement options for a second fence at Coldwater. The existing fence is not keeping out the homeless who are not ticketed but simply escorted off the land by federal police.
"But that has nothing to do with us," Teri Starnes said referring to FWS concerns about the homeless, vandalism to the abandoned buildings, and safety. Since 1996 no Coldwater supporter has been injured on-site or accused of property violations. Starnes, a member of the Twin Cities Reclaiming Community, has led a Winter Solstice ritual at Coldwater on the Sunday afternoon before December 21 for several years. Planning for this year's winter rite is in abeyance pending a change of policy. Meanwhile the Midwest Labyrinth Network cancelled their October 8 ritual because of the difficulty of getting permits for out-of-town conferees.
FWS requires persons seeking access to Coldwater to phone 612-713-5306 for a special use permit to be mailed to them. People are instructed to fill out the application and mail it back. FWS staff then number, stamp, sign and xerox-copy the piece of paper and mail the original to the applicant. The special use permit is good only on Friday afternoons, during rush hour, between 3-4 pm. This exempts most working and school-aged people from legal access to the sacred site.
In fact, the permit system is only keeping out Coldwater supporters. The campus would be more secure with people coming and going, people guaranteed the right "to pass and repass as they have formerly done."
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$125 Ticket for Entering the Coldwater Sacred Site
(Coldwater Spring) Four Federal Protective Security vehicles with four armed guards were dispatched to Coldwater today to write a pricey ticket to a senior citizen who did not show a paper permit at the front gate. When non-religious visitors are found on-site they are escorted off, according to Guard Pyle (see Coldwater Journal 09.16.05).
The permit system and restricted access, begun last August by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after nine years of open access 30-hours per week, violates treaty law and the Constitution. Furthermore the permit system is not consistently enforced.
Paper permit requirements and closing the sacred site except for one hour per week is reminiscent of the record-keeping and restrictions used by the national socialists against minorities in Germany in the 1930s. Out of nowhere authorities have choked off access to Coldwater. A Catholic nun who is a retired elementary principal and long-time visitor at Coldwater, was refused admittance because her paper permit was dated.
Coldwater supporters have repeatedly asked if "the government" is hiding illegal activities at the 27-acre campus or if "they" are simply acting with authoritative zeal. Regardless of the motives of federal powers, most Coldwater supporters are unable to get to the site during Friday afternoon rush hour or they are entering the site through various holes in the fence. Those who can get to Coldwater express frustration at the new regulations.
"There were so many people I couldn't even get up to the spring today," Sue Ann Martinson said. "I wanted to pray and I couldn't."
For the first time since school started in August, Tiffany Eggenberg was able to take her sons, aged 7 and 12, to Coldwater because there were no classes today. A Mendota Dakota descendant, Eggenberg is considering pulling the boys out of school in time to reach Coldwater before 4 pm on Fridays. "They just learned how to pray," she said. "They keep asking me 'Why are they doing this.' I don't know what to say." The Eggenbergs are discussing how to balance education and religion which was never in conflict before.
"I thought Coldwater was part of the trade for parkland (destroyed by the Hiawatha reroute)," Jerry Kormanik said. One of the owners of Bridgeman's Restaurant and a plaintiff in the 1999 Park and River Alliance v. MnDOT lawsuit, Kormanik added, "Of course they said a lot of things."
Behind Bridgeman's is the fenced weed- and litter-infested railroad land that was to substitute for the burr oak grove razed for the new roadway. The reroute is long completed; the railroad "parkland" remains an inaccessible, ugly wasteland.
Despite the mean and petty federal moves to shut us out of this ancient sacred site, Coldwater remains calm and peaceful, beautiful and important in the lives of people who can still visit. In addition, two stalwart Coldwater supporters have recently received clean bills of health after scary bouts with cancer. Congratulations and blessings to Carol Kratz and Ken Bradley.
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Circular v. Linear Thinking: Federal Bureaucrats and 21st Century Religion
(Dakota Treaty Territory) Here on the sixth floor of the Bishop Whipple Building at Fort Snelling, here in the conference room of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, here in the administrative heart of the regional office directing agency budgets from Ohio through Minnesota, here above the burr oak savannah bordering the Mississippi, above the only true river gorge on the entire 2,350-mile length of the Mississippi, here we are, trying to talk to each other.
It is like two worlds in the space for one, the land versus the buildings. The water versus political authority. We all speak American English but the words don't mean the same thing. Sacred. Security. Treaty rights. Responsibility.
Today there was a two hour meeting, not a meeting of minds. It was a conflict of circular versus linear thinking. An authoritarian, top-down professional agency tried to sell a worst-case injury/law suit point of view to a group of religious Native Americas and Earth-based European-American spiritual people.
The 22 people packed into a conference room (14 of us and 8 career bureaucrats) were first shown a brief slide show. Most of the color photographs were interiors of empty buildings with comments like: "You can't see it but there's a foot of water down there." We were repeatedly told how dark it was but the flash photography looked daylight bright. The show included a photo of the square hole dug in 2000-1 by state archaeologist Dr. Robert Clouse which is covered with a wooden pallet, held in place with an old automobile tire. This summer when the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District filled part of the "butt crack" ravine in the hill behind the spring (with chunks of reenforced concrete from freeway bridge deconstruction, fist-sized rocks and a veneer of dirt), they apparently didn't notice the "dangerous" hole 10-feet away.
In concern for our safety the federal Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) wants to fence off the spring so a person getting hurt committing criminal trespass in an abandoned building cannot sue them for $2-million. In the nine years of public access to the 27-acre Coldwater campus this scenario has never happened. We have nothing to do with the buildings. We say fence the buildings not the land.
We are being kept out, not the neighborhood kids, not the gang graffiti artists, not the jerk(s) who swiped the 20-watt solar panel from the roof of the Crusher Building, not the poor homeless guy(s) who simply get escorted off the land when caught. This is "collective punishment," a hint of the treatment Israelis unleash on Palestinians.
Coldwater supporters want protection for the land feeding groundwater to the spring, and access to the sacred land. The sacred landscape was defined in court-ordered testimony by Anishinabe spiritual elder Eddie Benton Benais (March 1999) as the area from what is now called Minnehaha Falls to Coldwater Spring, "the sacred water place."
FWS didn't protect the land last May when a MnDOT subcontractor actually ripped trees apart, went through a fence, violated their contract and disregarded erosion control requirements. FWS didn't protect the land when Bratt Tree trimmers tore apart the main root of the great willow tree by Coldwater reservoir or when they began to cut down an indigenous white Hawthorne tree mistaken for buckthorn. The path from the road to the spring is an ankle-twisting, uneven path of gouged and compacted soil from heavy equipment truck tires. It was never corrected.
We have the law. They have the power.
Today is a balmy 85-degrees and humid as the tropics unusual for the beginning of October. Who knows how climate change will change Coldwater, flowing for the past 10,000 years. We are undeserving stewards of the land if we plan for less than the next 10,000 years of Coldwater's flow.
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The 1805 Dakota-Pike Treaty
(Dakota Treaty Territory) The 200th anniversary commemoration of the Dakota-Pike Treaty was exciting, empowering and informative.
Friday morning, on the day of the treaty 200 years later at Big Island (currently "Pike Island"), Indian men pulled a gill net out of the Mississippi River. Nobody got arrested for using the gill net, illegal for non-Indians. Hooray!--however the catch was leaves and a bagful of plastic.
"Trash has replaced the fish," Vernon Bellecourt of AIM (American Indian Movement) observed. "You know the Minnesota River is considered the most polluted river in the U.S.," he told more than 80 people commemorating the treaty.
"We might not have caught any fish but we got our rights," Mendota Dakota Cultural Chair Jim Anderson said.
The 1805 Dakota-Pike Treaty included Dakota peoples rights to "pass, repass, hunt or make other uses of the said districts, as they have formerly done." Dakota people formerly came to Coldwater for drinking and ceremonial water. Without arguing the sacred sites issue, historically Dakota people used Coldwater Spring as a water source. The 2005 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) closure of Coldwater to the public conflicts with water gathering rights for the Dakota (and guests) "as they have formerly done."
Coldwater Spring "is not a sacred site--it is federal property," Robert Hansen of FWS told me in a phone conversation. If we have to go to court, Coldwater will win.
At the Dakota-Pike Treaty conference Sunday afternoon Howard Vogel, Hamline University School of Law, told us two facts that capped off a wonderful weekend:
1) There is no time limit on treaty rights, it's called "laches" (pronounced la-chez). Treaty rights can be used after years of non-use.
2) Treaties were made with "nations," not "tribes," so unrecognized Indians have the same treaty rights as the federally recognized tribes who are too beholden to the casino teat to challenge the system. For that reason Indian leaders agreed it was best for an unrecognized Dakota community to challenge the 1805 treaty.
"People say those treaties are old paper," Pine Ridge Lakota Bill Means said. "What about the Constitution?" Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that all treaties "shall be the supreme law of the land."
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(Coldwater Spring) "Equivocate"--language intended to deceive--read this carefully: "Coliforms are bacteria that are naturally present in the environment and are used as an indicator that other potentially harmful bacteria may be present." What does this little textbook factoid have to do with Coldwater? Coldwater water was tested and no "bad" bacteria were found.
Since 1997, I have been drinking Coldwater water. I am drinking it as I write. Coldwater water is wonderful, tasty water, rich in calcium and magnesium because it is filtered through limestone bedrock. Coldwater is also sacred water, home to Un Kte Hi, Dakota deity of water and the underworld, the deity associated with this part of the Mississippi. And Coldwater is the last spring of size in either Minneapolis or St. Paul--the last natural water "progress" has not killed.
Human beings evolved drinking spring water, water delivered directly out of the bedrock of the earth. The European soldiers who camped at Coldwater in 1820 poisoned themselves with Mississippi River water the previous winter when one out of five men died. Water is the single staple common to all life forms on earth. There are critters deep in the oceans and in caves who live without sunlight; we all require water. Earth is the blue planet, the water planet, and we (who are about 70-percent water) are water beings. Water is the mother of life.
Budget and Administration officials in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) asked the Minnesota Department of Health to sample and test the spring outflow at Coldwater. They could not find anything "actionable" (to close access to the spring) so they erected tacky little plastic signs with scary, misleading information.
Federal FWS officials appear to have some kind of authoritarian vendetta against Coldwater supporters who are currently permitted only one hour a week to legally collect water, perform ceremony, pray, and walk the meditational labyrinth. FWS cited safety, vandalism, graffiti, and the homeless to justify their 167-hour per week closure. The most recent homeless man found at Coldwater was simply escorted off the property last week. Although he was reported to have "weapons" among his property, armed police did not feel threatened enough to arrest and charge him. Perhaps he had a kitchen knife; we know he eats canned sardines and has small fires.
Nobody associated with Coldwater has damaged property or been hurt at Coldwater. The dictatorial closing appears to be "agency behavior"--like contagious firing--policing gone berserk. This closure makes criminals of people who collect water for sacred uses but cannot get to the spring during rush-hour, Friday afternoons between 3-4 PM. People are going through the fence like water. (We get reports.) Our groundskeeper for the 7-circuit labyrinth has been refused admittance to mow and groom the land.
We are so blessed to still have good water flowing naturally out of the limestone earth bones here. May you never thirst.
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Sign-Makers Strike Again
(Coldwater Spring) The mysterious sign-makers strike again. Before it was the No Trespassing signs-posted even before they closed the Spring. Now it's the Don't Drink the Water signs.
About 10 of us were able to make it to the Spring at the odd hour of 3:00 on a Friday afternoon (what a strange time to pick-7:00 am people could come before work, or best, of all on a Saturday or Sunday, when many people could actually be there-but they don't care much about what time they picked-as long as it was convenient for them).
On the permit it says, "This is not a park or recreation area."Well, no it's not. It's a sacred site. It's a cathedral, a place for quiet contemplation, a place of beauty and inspiration.
Given that, the flow is at 60 gallons a minute. The pond is full of green algae and weeds, as it is prone to be at this time of year.
The jewel weed has grown up all around the Spring-according to our plant expert Henry Fieldseth, it's an anecdote for poison ivy,
Now back to the signs. Here's what signs posted by the limestone arches near where the water comes out of the earth say:
"Do Not Drink This Water: Do not use this water for Drinking, Food Preparation, or other contact with skin or consumptive products.
Ezekial Mark, Minnesota Department of Health, 651-643-2117."
“Water sampling results have detected coliform in "Camp" Coldwater Spring. (My quotes-we call it Coldwater Spring, not Camp Coldwater.)
“Potential Health Effects: Coliforms are bacteria that are naturally present in the environment and are used an indicator that other potentially-harmful bacteria may be present.
“Some people, including ammuno-compromised people, some elderly, and infants may be at risk if potentially harmful bacteria are present in the
I asked people at the Spring that day who drink the water regularly, if they have been sick from it. I received emphatic NOs, including from a mother of a young child.
About five years ago one day when I was at the Spring, I talked with Kelton Barr of Barr and Associates who was testing the Spring for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. I asked him if the water was drinkable. He said Yes, it is "potable," meaning drinkable. It has a high salt content, he said, probably due to road run off, and is also high in magnesium.
I wouldn't hold Kelton to his comment that the water is drinkable today-he has not tested it recently that I know of. So there are at several possibilities. One is that the water the health department was talking about was not water taken ONLY where it outflows from the limestone bedrock-the only place anyone who drinks the water gets it. The stagnant water in the limestone arches holding area and the pond water are definitely not drinkable.
Or, they are wrong (and Kelton was correct) and have condemned the water with their ambiguous wording for political reasons. Or, the quality of the water has changed, in which case the construction of the Highway 55 reroute and the bridges and other construction for the Highway 62/55 interchange and LRT have destroyed the quality of the water. And they have desecrated a sacred site.
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Holes in the Closure
(Coldwater Spring) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed the Coldwater campus to the public on August 5, 2005. Legal entrance to the 27-acre, fenced federal property is limited to Friday afternoon (rush-hour) from 3-4 PM, with official photo ID and a "special use permit." Graffiti artists, vandals and neighborhood kids get Coldwater for the rest of the week. The permit system is only keeping out people with permits.
Our people tell of visiting Coldwater at all hours--to get water, to do ritual, to walk, to just be in the presence of the spring, to listen to the birds and the music of the breeze and, at this time of year, the buzz of insects.
A homeless person cools cans of sardines in MnDOT's Coldwater measuring station. The HP cooks above a cement block oven/grill in one of the old ore troughs near Coldwater Creek. But the HP is invisible. The HP might be a vet of Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq judging by the proximity of the Veteran's Administration Hospital, the Medical Center and Minnesota Soldiers' Home. The HP(s) has/have worn a path from the flow measuring station, over the new seep, to the ore bins and berry bushes.
A Homeland Security/Federal Protective Service armed agent was secreted in his vehicle within the Coldwater campus on the evening of the recent Full Moon Walk, Friday, August 19th. As advertised, we walked up to the gate where anyone can scoot under the fence, and walked around the fence line. There are many "back doors" into Coldwater's bluff top campus dotted with 11 abandoned buildings (three warehouses and two garages are sometimes used by federal agencies). The buildings are full of asbestos or mold or pigeon guano without electricity or water but wet because the whole of Coldwater is a sieve.
Coldwater sits atop the only true river gorge on the entire 2,350-mile length of the Mississippi. The gorge runs from the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi up to the falls now called St. Anthony. The nine-mile gorge is said to be 1,273 feet deep, mostly filled with glacial debris.
Coldwater Creek is a collection of water veins that coalesce into a stream, a wetland and a waterfall before joining the Mississippi. Springs and seeps crawl and cut across the campus road, even wore away a concrete curb. Creeklets ooze out from under buildings.
Half of Minnesota points to the rivers confluence and Coldwater outflows a mile upriver of that confluence where limestone bedrock meets air, where groundwater surfaces out of rock carved vertically by thousands of years of glacial melt water. Coldwater, still flowing today at about 100,000 gallons a day, it is the last major spring in Minneapolis or St. Paul.
The Great Medicine Spring (in Theodore Wirth Park) and Glenwood Spring in Minneapolis were permanently dewatered in the late 1980s with construction of I-394. The William Miller Spring (Eden Prairie, off Hwy 212, on Spring Road, at Lions Tap), that water comes out of a pipe.
Coldwater is the last place in our area where water pours out of the bedrock of the earth. The bedrock is Platteville limestone. The water is high in magnesium and calcium. Coldwater. It's about the water. The water, not the buildings.
Coldwater was called "sacred water place" by Anishinabe people according to Medicine Society elder Eddie Benton Benais, in court-ordered testimony. Benais' grandfather came to Coldwater "by foot, by horse, by canoe to where there would be these great religious-spiritual ceremonies."
Dakota people believe one of their major deities dwells at Coldwater. Un-Kte-Hi is defined as god of the waters and the underworld. Water is considered a masculine element while earth is feminine. In Western thought, water is feminine, mother of life. Water. Coldwater was flowing even under the last glacier.
The soldiers who built Fort Snelling camped at Coldwater because they had 20-percent mortality during the winter of 1819-20. One out of five soldiers at the original fort location on the Mendota side of the Minnesota River, died from scurvy, lack of vitamin C. Locally scurvy can be cured by drinking cedar tea, rose hip tea, eating berries or drinking a tea of the leaves of any berry bush. Other sources speak of food poisoning deaths from tainted meat, packed in barrels with river water.
Even in 1819 you didn't use untreated Mississippi River water. Fort Snelling used Coldwater Spring water for 100 years. There is not a single life form on earth that does not need water. Water is the only life requirement for all life on earth. And Coldwater is the last big spring around here.
The American mountain ash and the white hawthorn tree, both growing out of the limestone reservoir at Coldwater, are both dotted reddish with fruits today. They are brave little toothpick indigenous trees saved from the tree killing orgy around the reservoir last May.
We had 3-inches of rain this morning but the flow monitor reads only 70 gallons per minute (100,800 gallons per day) because wetland vegetation is choking the pipe. The pipe gets plugged with wetland slough. The pipe feeds water from the reservoir to the flow measuring station. Some of today's reading is stormwater runoff--a rain we really needed. Soon water will fill the asphalt road and spill down the bluff 20-yards north of the pipe. The road water was 4-inches deep three weeks ago. Water. It's about water.
The labyrinth, said to attract water, needs attention.The attendant of the labyrinth needs a minimum of three hours to trim the 7-circuits which he can't do during the one hour people can legally walk the labyrinth. Guarding empty buildings and keeping out landscape workers with homeland security money is a kind of insanity. If you want homeland security the first thing you protect is your water source.
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The Gated Spring
(Coldwater Spring) The gate was padlocked shut when the first person came to the spring at 3 pm for the one-hour-per-week sacred site time allotted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). A phone call from an off-duty FWS employee brought an armed guard to unlock the damaged front gate. Yes, a volunteer federal employee on her day off came to make sure we could get in. Without Becky Bredwell, people would have been locked out.
Several people were just leaving the area, sent by Dakota elders to get sacred water for the weekend. They carried-out water jugs and left. They did not have paper permits.
Three more people came to Coldwater. One person who did not have a paper permit carried blank permits for Bredwell to authorize.
"Liability, liability," is the FWS mantra this week for the closing of the spring. Last week it was all about theft and vandalism. The Labrador retriever that drowned in Coldwater reservoir last winter is the much quoted source for the liability-safety issue. The dog, a birder, was probably going after a duck. The water was cold, it was winter with just a skin of ice for the mallards to walk on.
Since the Bureau of Mines closed in 1996 and Coldwater as an historic and sacred site was again recognized, no one associated with the spring has damaged or stolen property. Collective punishment is the term for persecution of the whole for actions of the few.
Thanks to the Friend of Coldwater who anonymously dropped off information on my front stoop including the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978:
"Whereas the freedom of religion of all people is an inherent right...
"Whereas such laws and policies often deny American Indians access to sacred sites required in their religions...
"Whereas such religious infringements result from the lack of knowledge of the insensitive and inflexible enforcement of Federal policies and regulations...
"Now therefore be it resolved...that henceforth it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for the American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions...including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rites...."
Michael Scott, Chairman of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, plans to drive the lead car at the Coldwater gate next Friday, August 19, at 3 pm. On Friday evening at 7 pm, the monthly Full Moon Walk Around the Coldwater Area will meet in the parking lot at the south end of Minnehaha Park, off 54th Street.
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Coldwater Campus Closed:
Collective Punishment at a Sacred Site
(Coldwater Spring) US Fish and Wildlife Service has closed the Coldwater campus to visitors except for one hour per week, 3-4 PM on Friday afternoons.
Entrance during that single hour requires "pre-approval," a special use permit--filled out, mailed in and mailed back--to be shown to an armed guard at a check point gate with photo I.D.
Each month a new permit would be required. Call 612-713-5306 for the form.
Vandalism of the abandoned buildings, such as gang graffiti, broken windows, the theft of a 20-watt, $600 solar panel, and partial destruction of the front gate by a drunk driver, was cited as reason for the closure by Barbara Milne, Assistant Regional Director for Budget and Administration at Fish and Wildlife. Milne also noted damage inside the empty Main Building at the former Bureau of Mines by paint balls however, that is the result of a Homeland Security exercise by local law enforcement.
No site damage or personal injury has been associated with supporters of the sacred spring and labyrinth.
Anishinabe elder Sharon Day remarked that the Coldwater closure violates at least two federal laws.
Rumors of closing off the spring water are currently circulating. The threat is that health authorities would test the spring water and issue a drinking water advisory in the form of closure.
Religious rites involving water include many uses other than drinking: washing newborns, washing the dead, asperging (sprinkling), Native America sweat ceremonies, Moslem ablution rites, Christian baptism, and a variety of ceremonies from religions around the world with water symbolizing the life-force.
Despite concern for the property, the internal road at Coldwater is flooded because the pipe carrying water under the road is plugged with wetland vegetation. The subsurface pipe is attached to court-ordered water monitoring equipment.
Anishinabe water and Dakota pipe ceremonies were held today, the last day the site was open to the public, for about 50 Coldwater supporters "to celebrate our commitment to the sacred spring."
Celebrants noted that vandals and graffiti artists don't enter the 27-acre property when it's "open" or enter by means other than the front gate. "Get rid of the buildings and protect the land," said another.
Coldwater is the last acknowledged sacred spring in the Twin Cities flowing at about 100,000 gallons per day. The other major spring, the Great Medicine Spring in Theodore Wirth Park, was permanently dewatered in the 1980s with construction of I-394.
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Tempting the Vandals
(Coldwater Spring) The flow at the reservoir monitoring station measured 67 gallons per minute this afternoon. There is so much vegetation in the spillway between the reservoir and the pipe feeding into the measuring box, it's beginning to flood and will eventually block the pipe (again). But the water is still getting through for now.
Building break-ins have been reported at the Main Building, the Crusher Building where the $600 solar panel was stolen from the roof, and at the warehouses. Gang-style graffiti adorns the Crusher Building door.
How much security money has been/will be wasted on those abandoned buildings at Coldwater? They draw vandals the way Americans in Iraq draw trouble--they're a challenge to a certain personality.
Let us, since we are paying for it, protect what is really importantthe land.
One Friday afternoon we talked to a security guard down at the south end of the Coldwater campus. She checked the two warehouses while we commiserated about two trees ripped open with their heartwood hanging out like eviscera. (It was heavy equipment construction damage from the MnDOT pond dredging fiasco of May 2005.) We showed her the trees and I asked if they just protected the buildings or if they also protect the land.
She bristled, said she was an environmentalist but (she pointed to the trees and threw up her hands) she was apathetic. She said she was paid $15 an hour and did the job she was paid to do. Isn't that too bad?for her, for the land.
I continue to think Coldwater will be parkland since that was Congressman Sabo's stated preference in his announcement of the $750,000 federal appropriation to determine the future of the spring and campus.
If the buildings are going to be removedthe sooner, the better. They are abandoned, some are toxic. They attract trouble.
Having the Veterans Administration dump storm-damaged tree parts across from Coldwater spring--why? Previously the City of Minneapolis used the vacant land between Minnehaha Park and Coldwater, along the frontage road from 54th to 56th streets. They had mountains of wood chips that rotted and caught fire--it was during the encampment. Before the fires began folks drove up on the pile for a view of the Four Trees and the Free State. It was three or four stories high. But that was before the Hwy 55 reroute and now that block is visible from the highway.
Coldwater is not a dump. It is simply not appropriate.
We have court-ordered testimony about Coldwater as traditional sacred land. Coldwater Spring is listed and pictured on the University of Minnesota's Design Institute 2003 map of Spiritual Places of the Twin Cities. Since Coldwater is commonly considered "special" land, shouldn't we operate in this transition period on the principle of do no (more) harm?
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Processing "Theft" at Coldwater
(Coldwater Spring) Friends of Coldwater buzzed all last weekend about the theft of a $600 solar panel powering monitoring equipment at Coldwater.
1) It was suggested that the cut wires (considered vandalism) and the theft are part of the same act. The theory is that the perpetrators cut the wires and waited to see if there would be an immediate response by some authority. Failing an immediate response the thieves might then have proceeded to the roof of the Crusher Building for the solar panel.
2) Since Coldwater supporters need hard numbers to continue protecting this last sacred spring and the monitoring equipment has been in place for a couple of years we assume the theft was done by an outside party who just happened to notice the solar panel on the roof of the Crusher Building.
MnDOT prosecuted those of us trying to protect Minnehaha Park and Coldwater with such enthusiasmthe 800-member police action at 4:30 AM on December 20, 1998; the Margo LaBau memo (8/9/99): "I hired a consultant on friday [sic] to do some 'research' about the protestors and the organizations they represent. I also want to find out who some of the high level environmental and native [sic] American people are who would have a vested interest in discrediting this group."
We are hoping MnDOT will investigate this theft with the same kind of enthusiasm.
3) We note that there has been much recent in-&-out activity at Coldwater lately by two groups: Veteran's Administration tree cutters who placed dozens of dead tree limbs on the pavement near the Crusher Building across from Coldwater reservoir; and VA staff working on the military handicapped athletic games.
4) With recent break-ins at the Crusher Building we wondered if it would be possible to install a motion detector camera inside the building, high up.
5) Another suggestion was to knock down the building. It seems to be attracting problems in its deserted, dilapidated, windows-broken-out state.
The section of the building behind what is left of the Crusher Building was removed several years ago. Many cottonwood trees and other indigenous volunteers are growing there now. The solar panel could be erected on a tall pole with a human baffle (like a squirrel baffle).
6) Keep visiting this last sacred spring in the Twin Cities and keep praying for 10,000-more years of Coldwater's flow. Every single life form on Earth requires water.
7) In 1820 European Americans set up camp at Coldwater and appropriated the water for Fort Snelling for 100 years. Consider practicing the older tradition of leaving an offering such as sage, tobacco, a rock, or a flower at Coldwater, especially if you are collecting water. One of the joys of visiting the spring frequently is seeing the ever-changing evidence of offerings left here.
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Theft and Vandalism
(Coldwater Spring) Somebody knows who stole the solar panel from atop the Crusher Building across from Coldwater reservoir. The MnDOT solar panel that powered monitoring equipment at the spring was valued at $600 and had to be replaced. The Hennepin County Sheriff's hotline number is: 612-348-8543.
The theft took some planning. On or about Wednesday, July 13, one or more thieves broke into the Crusher Building and removed the solar panel from the roof (which is about four stories high). In addition, wiring was cut in an act called "just malicious" by Bob Hansen of US Fish & Wildlife Service, overseeing maintenance at Coldwater.
Nancy Radle, MnDOT hydrogeologist, described the act this way: "Someone stole our solar panel at the site, and cut the wiring. Too bad. The equipment was untouched for so long. We replaced the panel and the monitoring was not interrupted because SEH (engineering firm) caught it right away."
Coldwater supporters have always favored hard numbers to take to court to save the spring.
Expect security at Coldwater to tighten up. People are being harassed for dogs off-leash and visiting the site after hours. So be warned, the Federal Protective Security folks will be On-Alert.
Another change at Coldwater is a horizontal row of dead tree limbs on the pavement opposite the reservoir. Apparently the Veteran's Administration is storing storm damaged tree parts (including burr oak) on site. A Manitoba maple that went down in the July 3 thunderstorm (and took a piece of the chainlink fence across from the Main Building with it) has been disappeared and the fence mended.
"Mature Manitoba maples can fall down repeatedly. It's how they deal with wind -- break off and regrow," horticulturalist Henry Fieldseth wrote after hearing of the July 3 storm "damage" at Coldwater. "Unless something else like disease is killing the tree it's just another phase it is going through." The tree's cycle of life, death and rebirth is being artificially cleaned-up, interrupted. Arborist Dan "Oakman" Keiser argues for allowing trees to live and die and rot in place to nourish the next generation.
Coldwater keeps flowing -- at about 67 gallons per minute today. It sure sounds different from the splash of the greater volume before construction of the Hwy 55 Reroute. Still, Coldwater lives.
We keep fantasizing about making a CD of Coldwater water-music. We would record the sound of the groundwater flowing out of the rocks, then the spill over the lip of the reservoir, the water pouring out of the measuring station, Coldwater Creek rushing down the gorge, singing past the old Perry 1837 homestead, and the Coldwater waterfall carved deeply in that soft St. Peter Sandstone at the bottom of the Mississippi bluff.
We'd tape winter and summer water music, rain and ritual, with birds and insects, perhaps a plane screaming overhead because the airport runway regulations caused the 55/62 interchange to be sunk six and one-half feet into the water table, but may save Coldwater from development beyond parkland.
Today dragonflies were feasting on mosquitoes, zooming back and forth across the reservoir like farmers plowing a field.
At last night's Full Moon Walk a Great Horned Owl glided soundlessly overhead amidst a chatter of bird warnings. First a chorus of little birdie chitters, then whoosh, a silent shadow through the trees.
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Oh the Maples!
(Coldwater Spring) The maples have taken a hit at Coldwater lately. A mature Manitoba maple went down, probably in last Sunday's thunderstorm. The tree was growing just outside (west of) the fence line, across from the abandoned main building. The tree crushed the chain link fence-- something there is, that doesn't love a fence! The tree looked healthy with a full compliment of green leaves. Hard to know why this tree fell.
You'd think one of those 113-plus dead Dutch elm diseased trees would fall along the western perimeter of the Coldwater campus, but they are bare-branched and offer little resistance to storm winds. Manitoba maple is often called Boxelder, home to those fabulous red and black bugs that seem to be everywhere and do no harm. Boxelder maples are traditionally tapped for syrup in the spring but are not as generous with their sap as the sugar maple.
At the opposite (south) end of Coldwater campus a Japanese amur maple whose trunk was split by a Shaeffer Contracting employee (MnDOT subcontractor) in May is sending out new shoots. This maple looks to be drawn and quartered because some truck driver-- what?--maybe it's the kind of sicko who aims for bicycle riders and dogs...
Two trees, in fact, were hit, greatly exposing their white heartwood. What kind of "professional" heavy equipment drivers can't steer around living trees rooted in the ground? Please recall that entrance for pond-dredging equipment was supposed to be OUTSIDE the Coldwater campus fence, along the asphalt bicycle trail, according Dwayne Stenlund, Senior Ecologist, Natural Resources Specialist for MnDOT.
Funny, isn't it-- how the law is applied-- when environmentalists and Indians are arrested for protecting the Earth and state contractors get to damage trees for no reason.
It's 88-degrees today, 5 days since the last rain with no chance of precipitation in the forecast and weather reporters advising watering-the-garden. The only clouds are those puffy, fair weather, high altitude cirrus clouds. They float from west to east like a story diorama of witches and turtles and dragons and disappear at sunset. Humidity and sweat are ubiquitous.
Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer, traditionally July 3-August 11, when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises with the sun. Ancient Egyptians believed Sirius added to the heat of the sun.
The flow at Coldwater is seriously down-- only 62 gallons per minute (89,280 gallons per day). Remember when it was 80-100 gallons per minute (115,000-144,000 gallons per day) before construction? Who gets arrested for disappearing 30,000 gallons of sacred water a day?
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District performed a stop-gap repair on the hillside behind Coldwater Spring. What was colloquially called the "butt crack" widened this spring from two to eight feet eroding the hill, presumably into Coldwater reservoir. The repair consists of huge chunks of recycled, reinforced concrete with large gravel overlaid. But of course nature bats last and a small new erosion line is making a circle in the gravel. This is an on-going problem so long as the warehouse (Building 11) dumps all of its stormwater in the trough above the spring.
Erosion happens! The real problem is the depressed amount of groundwater feeding into Coldwater, the Twin Cities' last major spring.
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World Peace and Prayer Day
(Coldwater Spring) Always it is calming and beautiful to go to Coldwater Spring. At 1:00 the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community had a ceremony for World Peace and Prayer Day, started several years ago on the Solstice by native elders as an International Day of Peace for indigenous and other peoples. About 15 of us gathered on the hillside by the spring for a ceremony and prayer, including two children, a boy and girl, and sent our prayers for peace into the world.
On Friday, June 17, the water level was at 58, and on Friday, June 24 it was at 57. Several branches are down from the willow tree from the large storm last week. A large branch is also down behind the spring house and also near the front entrance to Coldwater.
I discovered several pink plastic markers tied on branches and grasses on Friday, June 17. After some investigation, I discovered that the makers are part of the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and mark the wetlands by the spring. I also learned that U.S. Fish and Wildlife has seen that the trunks left from the removal of diseased elm trees and buckthorn have been treated (to prevent spreading farther) and they will be treated again in the fall.
I also discovered that they have filled in the large ravine behind the spring (by building 11). They have not, however, planted grass yet, and itís in danger of erosion. A new no trespassing sign has appeared at the front entrance, by order of the federal government. Since the gate is still open its regular time of 9-3 Monday through Friday, this sign refers above all to the buildings, not to the property itself. Still, I am saddened by the notice as a sign of things to come. I truly hope not.
The land should be preserved down to the river, as Carol Kratz has said. And the whole 27 acre area should be a Green Museum. Not once again, oh please not once again, a victory of racism and greed over property in land that as a sacred site and as the birthplace of Minnesota belongs to all of us.
The labyrinth has been mowed now, and walking around it is meditative, as it is intended to be. This 7-point labyrinth is an ancient form, used by the Hopi and other peoples around the world. I always come out from walking around it feeling more relaxed and calmer.
Thank you spring,
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(Coldwater Spring) Dwayne Stenlund, Senior Ecologist, Natural Resources Specialist for MnDOT reported today that Shaeffer Contracting correctly replanted the sea of mud from Hwy 55 pond dredging last month.
The bottom land was seeded with a "wet buffer" of perennial native flowers and grasses, in a 12-foot swath. The seeds were correctly worked into the soil this time. The upper, larger part of the disturbed land, was planted in non-native flowers and grasses. Stenlund said this area will be "encroached" upon by woods, specifically, "You'll see a lot of cottonwoods there next year."
Unfortunately buckthorn will also invade. Stenlund spoke of the "perpetual maintenance" required to just keep up with buckthorn and mentioned the predominance of buckthorn in some of the Coldwater campus. He recommended a burn of the area every 10 years and mentioned the wisdom of Native America burns. Indigenous burr oaks can survive hot, fast prairie fires that kill buckthorn, Canadian thistle and other invasive plants.
The entire disturbed area was cover planted in annual rye grass which is already one-inch high Stenlund reported with glee. "Plants are jumping out of the ground."
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The Land/The Buildings
(Coldwater Spring) "They just want to save the area around the spring. They want to rent out the buildings, or profit from the rest of the land," Sue Ann Martinson said.
We were looking at erosion control treatment at the south end of the fenced Coldwater property. Last month a MnDOT contractor dug sediment out of two ponds along Hwy 55 across from the federal Whipple Building. Atop the sea of mud during this rainy season some straw was spread.
Dwayne Stenlund, Senior Ecologist, Natural Resources Specialist for MnDOT talked to Friends of Coldwater about the pond project.
1) The work was to have been done during the winter when the ground is frozen. This avoids soil compaction and greatly limits damage to the land.
2) Entrance to the work site was to have been on the asphalt bike path, to the west and outside of the Coldwater campus. No heavy equipment was to drive into or through Coldwater.
3) Replanting the area was to have followed MnDOT procedures.
Stenlund explained that the two ponds on the east side of Hwy 55 were designed to collect stormwater but that they turned into sediment ponds. Stenlund said if the ponds collect both silt and rain water that is ecologically positive, but the ponds needed to be cleaned, made deeper, in the post-construction period. The work was past due.
Why construction equipment was routed through the Coldwater campus is unknown. How or if the contractors gained permission to drive heavy equipment is unknown. Who would have given such unnecessary permission is unknown. The construction company, Shaeffer Contracting of Farmington, is reputed to bid low but include add-ons, according to an associate of Friends of Coldwater.
"Nothing took," Stenlund said describing the replanting effort. "They didn't incorporate the seed in the soil." Apparently the seed was devoured in a bird feast. With recent heavy rains the ponds are again silting up-- thus the straw on mud erosion-stopgap.
Stenlund said "We directed the contractor in an entirely different way. They didn't follow MnDOT procedures." And he wondered if the "only recourse is a law suit." Otherwise taxpayers pay twice-- first for the job, then for the job-fix. The land pays every time.
During the Hiawatha/Hwy 55 reroute encampment resistance MnDOT led with lawsuits. From 1996-on, MnDOT used the free services of the Minnesota Attorney General office in federal, state and county court to bulldoze a new road on the Mississippi blufftop. There seems to be no legal enthusiasm to preserve the land.
Lee Sammons, a Colorado contractor hired by the National Park Service to write the socio-economic portion of the up-coming Environmental Impact Statement, repeatedly asked Coldwater supporters about future use of the buildings. At several meetings he asked the group and then asked individuals, "What would you like to see done with the buildings?" Get rid of the buildings and the roads was the answer.
The consensus was that Coldwater is sacred land. This is a huge hurtle for government minds where "sacred" usually means a manmade structure dedicated to a deity like the Mary basilica in Minneapolis or the Peter cathedral in Rome. These buildings occur as dots on the map, not as landscapes such as a mountain.
Coldwater is, as a matter of fact, the home of a deity. "The spring is the dwelling place of Unktehi, God of the Waters. It is Unktehi's passageway into the world, part of the Dakota creation story" (Sacred Lands of Indian America, 2001, p. 111).
This Friday afternoon two federal agencies sent representatives to Coldwater to check on the buildings: John Hoffman from Fish and Wildlife and an armed security person from Federal Protective Services.
There are 11 buildings on the Coldwater campus, built in the late 1950s and 1960s. They are considered "historic." Two warehouses are used by the Veteran's Administration for storage of equipment for the up-coming handicapped military games. Otherwise the buildings are empty, stripped, with no warer, broken windows, unused since the facility was closed in 1995.
The Twin Cities airport planned to buy the 27-acre campus for $6-million until the airline collapse after 9/11. The 106,000-square foot main building would cost $12-million (in 2002 dollars) to rehab.
Coldwater Spring is believed to be 10,000-years-old and is widely considered to be a sacred site.
The flow from Coldwater reservoir measured 67 gallons per minute this afternoon.
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(Coldwater Spring) Another reason to burn a sage offering before gathering spring water is because it temporarily chases away the mosquitoes. Oh, what a bounty of mosquito food for the carnivorous flying ones. Where are the lace-winged, mosquito devouring dragon flies? Maybe it's too early -- summer weather just arrived.
It was cloudy with drizzle for the entire month of May and both Farmer's Almanac and the National Weather Service say it will be cool and wet until August. The extraordinary green-green-ness of the landscape makes Minneapolis look more like western Washington state than a prairie-edge city.
Today's flow rate at the measuring station is about 71 gallons per minute. For the month of May the average flow was 69.6 gallons per minute. We are still experiencing a rain deficit of at least an inch so there's hope that, in the future, the groundwater can recharge to an average of 90 gallons per minute, the pre-road construction average established by court-ordered negotiations.
The sad elm and buckthorn stumps growing out of the Coldwater reservoir wall are beginning to sprout branch-lets. It is an alarming waste of taxpayer funds to have a presumably professional tree removal service destroy elm trees infected with Dutch elm disease and leave the bark on. The Dutch elm bark beetle reproduces in the (duh!) bark.
"A living elm is not a problem," state certified arborist Dan "Oak Man" Keiser said. "Even a dying elm is not a problem. Only standing dead trees host the fungal mat existing between the bark and the heartwood" where elm bark beetle spoors are created. Keiser said that the elm bark beetles feed on the tips of branches. The beetle spoors "jump" into a tree, the leaves turn yellow and the elm shuts off nutrition to that limb. In a sense the elm tree kills itself.
If you are driving into the Coldwater campus you might notice several half-dead trees in front of the main building-- or the row of 100-some dead elms lining the road up to the mustard-colored warehouse (Building 11). Why these trees are standing while only trees around the reservoir were felled is an interesting question. It's hard to believe it's not on purpose. "Sabotage" is a term floating around Coldwater supporters.
Speaking of fixing problems at Coldwater the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has announced plans to fill (with dirt) the ravine in the hillside behind (west of) the spring. Clearly buckthorn tree roots have not held the hillside behind Coldwater Spring.
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) plan to fill the eroded ravine appears to be more of the same problem-- with the result that new lose dirt would erode faster.
Friends of Coldwater hopes MCWD will consider digging up some of the many native cottonwood tree volunteers that popped up behind the old Crusher Building (Bldg. 2), across from the reservoir, and putting dirt fill around the tree roots. One of those big tree-ball diggers could dig-up and then place the cottonwoods with care to give the ravine tree-root security. Otherwise it will be another half-job leaving greater problems for the future.
As long as buckthorn dominates the hillside, the hillside will erode quickly. Buckthorn poisons the soil around it seriously reducing groundcover plants. Additionally buckthorn shades out indigenous flora. Doesn't it make sense to remove the buckthorn and replant in one operation?
If there is any discussion about something more than a Band-Aid we haven't heard about it. Watershed district personnel mentioned that the large mustard-colored warehouse (Bldg. 11) was dumping its stormwater into the ravine. The land at the top of the hill funnels water into the ravine so some major changes would be called for if the fix is more than temporary-- for example, remove Building 11 and regrade the hilltop.
Whatever is cheapest appears to determine landscape care at the Coldwater campus. Apparently the maintenance quid pro quo is that the Veteran's Administration uses warehouse space on the Coldwater campus and takes care of grass cutting.
MnDOT tossed out millions and millions of annual grass seeds over land compacted and then filled by heavy equipment last month when Hwy 55 water ponds were re-dug across from the federal Whipple Building. The raw earth was not prepped, just sprinkled with millions of seeds.
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(Coldwater Spring) Sun. Sunshine is the BIG news today-- something like the first blue sky in two weeks-- for three hours. The heat generated by the perfect afternoon with the moisture from a month of drizzle is forecast to fire up thunderstorms tomorrow. We have just caught up with "normal" rainfall for the year so it is surprising that the flow at Coldwater is only 68 gallons per minute.
Last Monday it was 72 gallons a minute-- and this is the measurement of the whole reservoir, not just the spring. Everything that flows into the reservoir gets measured through the outflow pipe-- rain runoff from surrounding land, the little creek coming out of the wetland on the south side of the reservoir (with that empty pole barn on top of it), all the seeps that circle the main spring.
Eric Evenson, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District administrator, was the third watershed district person at Coldwater this week. He saw the tree-trimming fiasco and the mud wash from the MnDOT invasion with heavy equipment to dig out a larger pond. What really rattled his erosion bell is the ravine washed out of the hill behind the reservoir. The ravine seems to be furnishing more silt to coat the reservoir floor hosting duck weed.
What was an 18-inch wide crack in the hill is now eight-feet wide with a hunk of new turf fallen in the hole so it's only 3-feet deep. It is an impressive land slump. Expensive was Evenson's thought. "It's going to cost them a lot of money to fix up that ravine." That would be in today's dollars. If "they" wait until the conclusion of the National Park Service 3-4-year process to determine Coldwater's future, the hill could be past fixing. But who are "they"?
Coldwater is rather homeless if you ask which public agency is caretaking the land. The National Park Service is in charge of "the process" while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for maintenance. Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has oversight of the spring outflow, while the area furnishing water to the spring is the responsibility of the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District.
Since the end of the Cold War (remember the end of the Cold War and the threat of the Peace Dividend?), since 1991 Coldwater has been a place changing from an R & D industrial campus back to bluff top habitat with a myriad of seeps washing out roads, crawling out from under buildings, sprouting mini wetlands. As the 2-leggeds left, the 4-leggeds moved back in.
Evenson was delighted with every seep, called them "healthy," and spoke of how water moves creating new seeps as cracks in the bedrock appear. He particularly noted a seep that wore through a concrete curb and a growing-by-the-week seep below the reservoir, about ten feet north of the measuring station. Ideas offered so far about the source of this minor flow are: a crack in the reservoir; water pouring out of the measuring box that's following a tree root before surfacing again; or, a new seep.
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To Whom It May Concern:
During the week of May 9 we noticed heavy construction trucks lumbering past the Coldwater reservoir and followed their muddy trail.
||Truck tracks thru the Coldwater campus.
big image - click here
Why is the Coldwater campus being so horribly damaged durning the beginning of a process to determine the future of Coldwater? These are changes that may permanently affect the Coldwater area.
Who gave permission for access of heavy construction equipment through the Coldwater campus, past the reservoir, down to Hwy 55?
Why was access for the pond digging (or enlarging) not taken from the highway?
Is there a water problem on Hwy 55? Where is all this water coming from? Is this groundwater that would have flowed to Coldwater Spring?
Why were trees splintered for access?
Where is the erosion control equipment?
What is the replanting plan? This is an opportunity for burr oak/savanna replanting NOW while the land is raw.
for Friends of Coldwater
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(Coldwater Spring) It's May. It's 36-degrees. Snow fell here today. The flow from the reservoir is down-- 62 gallons per minute. Last Friday it was 66 gallons per minute. A week ago, on Monday, the flow was a strong 70 gallons per minute.
The readings at the Coldwater measuring station are taken every minute and averaged into 30-minute intervals-- so, two reported flow rates for every hour, everyday (although science cannot tell us where the water comes from, or its path to Coldwater).
For the month of April the "spring pool outlet pipe flow rate" averaged in the upper 60s gallons per minute. The optimistic expert best-guess was 80 gallons per minute after construction of the Hiawatha reroute. To have the flow average below 70 gallons per minute is a bite.
State certified arborist Dan "Oak Man" Keiser visited the reservoir today to view the tree-cutting bonanza from a week ago. He was delighted with the openness and wanted to transplant indigenous cottonwood trees around the reservoir right away. Also, of course, Keiser wants to see some of his burr oaks on the Coldwater campus.
"The worst thing they did," Keiser said, "is to rip the bark off the main artery (root) of the willow. They crushed it, getting-in their big machinery." He examined the tire marks and found abrasions in several places along 10-feet of the gnarly root stretching from the willow to the Minnesota Historical Society sign. "They should have protected the tree roots at least out to the drip line. This is where disease goes in," Keiser said.
Starting from the willow we circled the reservoir clockwise. The intertwined "lovers" elms are gone, the double tree near the reservoir lip, the tree that lifted a huge chunk of limestone wall. "Has to be debarked," Keiser explained.
"Standing dead elm trees host the fungal mat that exists under the bark" where the beetles breed spoors. The tree actually kills itself because it cuts off nutrition to infected branches and limbs.
Continuing around the reservoir spillway Keiser wanted to groom the native hawthorn tree I saved from the chain saw. (The tree cutter said he thought it was a buckthorn.) "They only took the forward vertical branch." Keiser suggested trimming offshoot branches to focus the energy into the main stem of this small round-topped tree with three-inch thorns. Native people used hawthorns to poke holes in leather, a leather awl.
"Last year," Keiser said, "this little tree had one red fruit, like a rosehip, a little apple. Don't you remember?" Then "Look! It's in flower. Look at all the flower clusters."
Also in flower is the skinny, bush-like American mountain ash growing up through the limestone reservoir wall. Freed from elm and buckthorn competition, the small tree that likes cool Northern Hemisphere temperatures should take off this growing season.
Near the creek that comes out from behind the oozing warehouse (Building 4), Keiser saw another American mountain ash in flower; several tiny volunteer evergreen junipers (the kind that produce berries that flavor gin); honeysuckle (not indigenous but not horribly invasive), and lots of buckthorn-- a carpet of buckthorns.
Today's surprise is a set of limestone stairs leading down to the dividing stone wall between the two reservoir sections, on the back (west) side. A duck nest is visible from this new entrance for walking the wall. The mysterious stairs were hidden by an aggressive buckthorn which will sprout malignantly if not treated.
Two more cut elms "have to be debarked," Keiser says and points out more large buckthorn trees removed. Every buckthorn stump made Keiser smile. He wondered if the tree removal folks had "painted" them to stop the sprouting of dozens of branch-lets which are very labor-intensive to control. Buckthorns poison the soil around the base of the tree so other plants cannot grow. In addition the buckthorn, a small understory tree with dense foliage, shades-out native plants.
The epidemic of buckthorn on the hillside behind the reservoir has overtaken native plants; buckthorn roots are not holding the soil in place and the hillside is greatly eroded.
There was another set of stairs behind the Spring House that has washed out; now spring water pours from the Platteville limestone at that place. Exotic burdock, with its giant leaves, is showing above the spring outflow where water gathering is done. Burdock with its amazing burrs was the inspiration for Velcro, developed by NASA.
One tree still stands on the north side of the reservoir, a hackberry. A member of the elm family, there are giant old hackberry trees growing down the Mississippi gorge along Coldwater Creek. Keiser said some of the oldest trees in England are hackberry and look like more ancient versions of the old soft maple at Coldwater between the spring and the labyrinth. The great old maple, "the Spirit Tree" with its shamanic opening into the underworld, is leafing out on new branches.
The tour of the reservoir done, Keiser advised a thank you note to the Fish and Wildlife administrator who contracted for the tree removal asking when the elms would be debarked, the buckthorn stumps painted, and the heavy equipment tire marks smoothed out. Keiser was pleased with the work so far and wants it completed.
The row of dozens of dead elms stretching from the entrance to the Coldwater campus southward toward the spring are painted with dead-red stripes and ready to remove. Congressman Martin Sabo (whose website features Coldwater) has secured $30-million for Dutch elm removal and replanting in Minnesota.
Two bald eagles circled above Coldwater as we left. It is a good day to plant trees.
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Coldwater Journal Special
Public response from the owner of Bratt Tree Company (unedited)
(Coldwater Spring) I am the Owner of Bratt tree Co. I want to let you know that the only reason the Elms were removed from the Fish and Wildlife area around Camp Coldwater was to prevent the spread of Dutch Elm disease (DED). In your journal it is stated that two reasons were "proffered", one being that there was a danger of the trees falling into the pond. This was in no way a reason for the removal of the trees. If any tree should be removed for that reason it would be the large maple with a lot of decay at its base. I expect that tree will topple in a summer storm very soon. Dutch Elm disease is spreading explosively throughout Minneapolis due to a variety of factors, but in my opinion the main cause is the long ,mostly beaurocratic, delays in removing infected trees. Dutch Elm disease(DED) is a fungus which clogs the vascular systems of Elm trees. Elm bark beetles feed on these systems and when the trees die and dry out the beetles move off to healthy trees to feed on, carrying the Dutch Elm fungus with them. So it is very important to remove these trees in a timely fashion. I would have greatly prefered to do the work during the winter but we were not contacted until the middle of March and scheduled the work as soon as we were given the OK to procede. If your group is serious about protecting the remaining trees, you could act as scouts, looking for early signs of DED and badgering the proper authorities into removing individual trees quickly. I would also suggest cutting out the buckthorn yourselves. Many groups such as
Becketwood, Diamond lake homeowners and Friends of the Mississippi organize buckthorn cutting days. The Bratt tree Co has many times provided a crew and chipper at no charge to these groups to haul away the buckthorn trees, and we may be able to do so for Camp Coldwater also. In any case expect to see orange rings on huge numbers of Elm trees all over the city this summer and be aware that the longer they stand, the more the disease is spreading to healthy trees.
PS I hope you will add my commentary to the Journal as we are not reported fairly in what is now written.
Friends of Coldwater replies:
Let's see Bratt Tree Service work in the three photos.
One photo shows the double trunk of an elm tree, cut, but not debarked. Dead elms with bark are where the elm bark beetle produces spoors which infest other trees. Several large buckthorn trees were also cut but not "painted" which means they will sprout a huge number of new, smaller branches that are so labor-intensive to hack off, they are nearly impossible to control.
Another photo shows the Coldwater Spring sign at the gate entrance and many, many dead elms lining the hill. Why cut the trees surrounding the Coldwater reservoir and not dozens of other nearby diseased elms?
The third photo shows the Bratt tree removal trucks and damage to the turf around Coldwater. Our state licensed arborist, Dan Keiser, stated that the worst thing Bratt Tree Service did was to damage the main root of the great weeping willow tree beside the reservoir.
The trees were cut and the turf damaged on April 25, 2005. The elm bark remains on the dead tree trunks, the buckthorn has not been newly cut and "painted," the land damage has not been corrected. Of course you cannot "correct" willow root damage or soil compaction from heavy equipment.
We have learned that management of the land is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish a Wildlife Service with a specialist in government contracts, not land management.
Friends of Coldwater believe the National Park Service rather than the Fish and Wildlife Service would be better caretakers of the Coldwater campus. The National Park Service is the expert in parkland management of our nation's special landscapes and is running the Coldwater process to determine the future use of the site. Would it not be more efficient to have one agency caretaking the land now and planning for its future?.
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(Coldwater Spring) Today nine "diseased" Dutch elm trees were clear cut around the limestone reservoir at Coldwater. It looks like the back (west) wall will slide into the reservoir.
The story (thus far) is that the Minneapolis Park Board volunteered to tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which trees should be killed. Two reasons were proffered: first, one of the elm trees (which all leaned into the reservoir) might hit someone because "the trees are going to die this summer." Since the reservoir is filled with groundwater that is 47-degrees year round, it's unlikely a swimming person would get hit by a tree at COLDwater. Maybe a duck.
The second reason is because the beetle that carries Dutch elm disease might breed out into south Minneapolis. Directly across the street from the reservoir are a number of sparsely-leafed elm trees with the profile of Dutch elm disease. It seems bizarre that disease carrying beetles from 30-feet away wouldn't also be a potential threat to south Minneapolis elms. The Minneapolis Park Board has no jurisdiction at Coldwater, which is federal property.
The crew hired by Fish and Wildlife, a "licensed, insured Mpls tree company, 721-4153" called Bratt, did not know the difference between a buckthorn and the single, indigenous hawthorne tree which they started to kill. A crew member told me the elm trees on the other side of the road did not have Dutch elm disease "because they aren't marked" with day glow red-orange paint. Fish and Wildlife did not have the elms cut during the normal winter tree removal months when the ground is frozen. The heavy equipment gouged deep scars in the spring-soft earth with the new grass coming up. The tree company said the turf would be repaired.
The hill behind the reservoir has been softening since a buckthorn removal operation opened up a path behind the reservoir several years ago. It is the roots that hold the dirt in place. This past winter the crack in the hillside opened up to about 8-feet wide; elms on the hillside have also been clear cut. Now the trees holding the limestone back wall have been removed and there is a huge chunk of muck in the pond as well as tree debris and gasoline or oil floating on top.
||Crack in the hillside and a few tree stumps on the edge of the reservoir.
big image - click here
Two foreseeable effects from the clear cutting will be more sunlight in the pond and more algae, and greatly improved growing conditions for the buckthorn, the exotic invasive understory tree that now dominates the immediate Coldwater area. Buckthorn berries are used in Europe for constipation-- so when the birds eat those little purple-black berries, they squirt out viable seeds all over. Buckthorn shades out native vegetation and the critters who feed on indigenous flora disappear.
Two lessons come to mind out of this erosion problem. Maybe this is nature's way of cleaning up the consequences of the Hiawatha reroute, because the Coldwater reservoir is being filled by silt and becoming a wetland. Wetlands clean stormwater runoff and provide a rich habitat for animals and vegetation, and wetlands are an endangered landscape in Minneapolis. Jimmy Anderson, Cultural Chair of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, performed Pollyanna duty by finding the one good thing about the 9/11 World Trade disaster-- the airport couldn't afford to buy the 27-acre Coldwater campus.
The second lesson is that people who don't know the land at Coldwater are making myoptic, environmental decisions.
Minneapolis Congressman Martin Sabo, on the Homeland Security committee, has made $30-million in Homeland Security funds available in Minnesota for Dutch elm removal and replanting afterwards. Sabo also secured the $750,000 appropriation for the 3-4 year Coldwater "process" to determine the future use of the Coldwater campus. Whether the Fish and Wildlife people can get it together to replant the Coldwater hillside before it runs into the reservoir is at issue.
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(Coldwater Spring) The flow is down again this week-- 64-65 gallons per minute. During winter, the driest time of year, the flow averaged 69 gallons per minute. A 5 gallon per minute difference is 7,200 gallons per day. Significant.
In springtime when the snow melts and frost goes out-- water is unlocked, it moves and awakens the landscape. Despite the fact there is no one-to-one relationship between rainfall and flow rate (because groundwater seeps slowly through the bedrock, and requires days or years to travel into daylight) springtime is supposed to be juicy.
Today's surprise is a big white egret. The common egret has a 55-inch wingspan, an undulating ballet-arm slow motion take-off. The egret's exit and pan out into the sky has me holding my breath, and then panting. An egret at Coldwater means there must be aquatic animals in the accumulated sand and muck on top of the reservoir floor. Wading past the immediate outflow area, the reservoir is very muddy with fine particles that stick in every crease of my feet.
There's not been much snowmelt here but there sure is a lot of erosion. Perhaps it's because the volume of water has decreased with construction so the slower water is dropping its sediment sooner. The crack in the hill behind Coldwater is now 8-feet wide-- it seems the reservoir is becoming a wetland. Of course this spring water moves through the Platteville limestone bedrock, not through soil. So the new load of muck is from snow and stormwater runoff, not part of the (under) groundwater flow feeding the spring.
On Monday of this week it was 80-degrees. Today it's 50 and dropping with 20-25 mile-an-hour winds out of the north and a possible freeze tonight. Still the seasonal flora is beginning to bloom: the labyrinth is hosting its first cheery dandelion under a leaden sky. Little purple flowers are popping up in the creeping charlie (which herbalist Matt Wood says has anti-cancer properties). And the elder bush is happening, the "Queen of Herbs" with large creamy-white, flat-topped flowers. The elder stands just south of the reservoir, on the other side of the creeklet that comes from behind "Building 4," the warehouse that oozes.
National weather seers have predicted a cool, wet May-June-July for much of the upper Midwest. Wet is good for Coldwater's future.
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(Coldwater Spring) The flow is down today, measuring only about 63-64 gallons per minute. That's about 91,500 gallons per day when the average low should be no less than 100,000 gallons per day. This is the spring snow melt that was to have recharged the Coldwater watershed. Before the Army Corps of Engineers dammed up the Mississippi, this was the only time of year paddleboats dared the run up to Minneapolis instead of stopping at St. Paul. The sound of water spilling over the reservoir wall changes with less flow, looses its thunder.
We are half way through April and we've had 15 consecutive days with above average temperatures-- and 300 grass fires this spring. It was 70-degrees today. It seems so warm to have teeny-tiny leaves on the trees offering no real shade. The great willow at Coldwater wore a spring green bridal veil today. On close inspection the tree was in-flower with a scent so sweet-- sweeter than honeysuckle, a scent to make you close your eyes and determine to remember it.
Lots of women were at Coldwater to gather water for Bridging the Water Gap, a conference to kick off the U,N. Water for Life--Decade for Action. It's an honor and a pleasure to share Coldwater water. People at the conference commented on the "taste" of calcium and magnesium-rich water that picked up nutrients running through cracks in the limestone bedrock. One water connoisseur said spring water carries minerals that the body is designed to absorb (as opposed to pill supplements).
A few feathers still mark the place where a lovely yellow Eastern Meadowlark was eaten about nine days ago-- on the hill behind the spring. A state Department of Natural Resources guy thought the eater must have been a feral cat. Apparently about 90,000 Minnesota songbirds are killed annually by house pets and their progeny gone wild. In Minnesota shooting feral cats is legal; in Wisconsin it's a raging debate just now.
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(Coldwater Spring) Suddenly it's green! Last week it was brown around Coldwater Spring with a hint of yellow-green on the great willow. Today the willow is in full baby-leaf with a thousand slender branches breathing in the slightest breeze. It is uncommonly warm for early April, about 15-20-degrees above "normal." We had one good rain this week but grass fires are in the news.
||(click here for a few more images)
photo © 2005
The Spring House Snow Person, "Coldwater Frosty", built by a dad and two daughters, has transformed itself into the body of the land sucking at shoes on the path to get water. (click here for a few images of Frosty.) This season's snow melt is supposed to be the time we'll see if there is any permanent reduction in the flow to Coldwater, according the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District's geo-hydrologic consultant. The flow today is about 65-gallons per minute (or 93,600 gallons per day). That's lower than the 69 gallon per minute average for the past several months. It's a lot lower than the 80 gallons per minute (115,200 gallons per day) considered low-average pre-construction.
Remember rain doesn't determine the groundwater flow which could be a couple of years getting to Coldwater. Of the dye tests done at what is now the intersection of Hwy.s 55 and 62, one dye test took 45-minutes to arrive at the Coldwater Spring outflow. Another dye test required 16 travel days to run one-half mile of mysterious water path cracks in the limestone bedrock. As Jimmy Anderson (Cultural Chair, Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community) would say, "We're thankful this spring is still flowing."
There is a lot more sand around the spring outflow. Sand as in sandstone, or the sand part of cement, freeze-and-thaw showing up as a sand "painting" the land. "Water is the chief of the elements, being the most humble and the most powerful." (Lee Brown, from a speech on Indian prophecies at the 1986, Continental Indigenous Council, Fairbanks, Alaska.) For the third week, a pink rose offering still hangs above the spring's outflow between limestone cracks. Every week something changes at this spring which has been flowing for 10,000 years. Humble and powerful..
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(Coldwater Spring) April Fool's Day but no kidding, it was one little stick that bollixed the whole flow measuring system. It sounded like a waterfall from the top of the bluff with water pouring out of every tub and box of the measuring contraptions and it felt like digging in diapers to get the stuck muck out of the exit funnel. The little stick instigator was only 7-inches long. Two minutes of thundering release flow and the level was back down just below 70 gallons per minute.
Two pairs of mallards grace the reservoir for the second week so these may be the only duck residents until next winter. Coldwater looks and sounds stark during the mud and pre-leaf season when most ducks have flown off to establish nesting sites and the insects aren't yet out tempting songbirds. But green time is coming, in fact it's coming-on too hot too quick-- 70-degrees at the end of March.
Sugar bush was a disappointment this year. To get maple sap really running requires big snows furnishing water to tree roots, the snow melting slowly on warm days with cool nights. We didn't get enough snow and a good snow cover reflects our almost 13-hours of daylight while cooling down night temperatures. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is worried about low humidity, windy spring days and grass fires.
Good news for bees and 90 other kinds of insects-- the dandelions are up around the base of Coldwater's Spring House. Bane of suburban lawns this hearty exotic in its pre-flower stage is a tasty salad green with lots of vitamin A. Soon scores of happy dandelions (lion's tooth) will dot the labyrinth path. The 7-circuit labyrinth is the Hopi symbol of Mother Earth. Of the 50-or-so labyrinths in the Twin Cities, this is the only one at an ancient, acknowledged sacred site.
According to the Minnesota Reclaiming Collective, the people who laid-out and care for this labyrinth, once a labyrinth is established it never vanishes and is connected with all other labyrinths around the world. Now that the snow is gone the trodden path is conspicuous. Several years ago when the fed's questioned whether Coldwater was actually used by people nowadays they drove in and saw a footpath in the snow from the road to the Spring House. Our walking prayer is visible.
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(Coldwater Spring) Spring water from Coldwater, and from Red Lake, and other sources, was used in the Anishinabe water ceremony at the State Capitol on Tuesday when Minnesota Indian and non-Indian people gathered after the tragedy of 10 deaths and 7 injuries at the reservation high school up north. Hundreds of people attended the pipe ceremony and heard speakers say: "Our people are strong. We will survive this. We need to come together and support each other." There was no dwelling on individuals or on blame.
Three eagles circled above the crowd. Later a single eagle was seen. It is said that eagle flies prayers up to the creator. The Capitol grounds were heavy with grief during the 3-hour ceremony.
When a tract of land in northern Minnesota is clear cut, surrounding trees are susceptible to blow down from straight line winds during summer thunderstorms. In front of the forest of people at the Capitol stood a very young woman holding the Red Lake Nation flag in the breeze.
Friday evening's Full Moon walk around Coldwater was done in solidarity with the people of Red Lake. It was the solemn evening of Good Friday, a night so clear the moon made shadows.
At Coldwater Spring snow melt has boosted the flow rate to 72 gallons per minute. But the ground is still frozen showing shallow puddles, mud or crusty snow. This second springtime after construction dewatering is the crucial period when we see how permanent the reduction in flow will be, hydrologists tell us. The hope is that meltwater will recharge the Coldwater watershed and the flow will rebound. But it's been so dry the State DNR is predicting grass fires here in central Minnesota. So we wait.
After dewatering for Interstate-394 in Minneapolis the Park Board waited 10-years for the Great Medicine Spring in Theodore Wirth Park to revive. In 1999 the Park Board drilled down 150-feet and came up with barely a dribble. The medicine spring is permanently gone. Coldwater, the sacred water source, still flows and meetings to determine the future of the 27-acre Coldwater campus begin next week.
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(Coldwater Spring) "Since the death of David Brower," the National Public Radio program pontificated as Coldwater came into view, "there hasn't been a national environmental spokesman." Brower moved the Sierra Club from a California outing cult to American environmental consciousness. When the Sierra Club got mushy he quit and formed Friends of the Earth. I met him once, near the end of his life at Carlton College-- I wanted to shake his hand.
"You can't just put catalytic converters on every car and solve the problem," the radio opined. What a great idea!-- reduce-toward-removing transportation pollution. That would keep money rolling around the world and people employed. When a problem is "complicated" the obvious answer is often subverted.
Coldwater is an environmental problem because it is a still-functioning pre-discovery sacred site.
Despite the "separation of church and state" in this country "church" is usually visualized as a building-- something that people make. Meetings to begin a 3-to-4 year long process to determine Coldwater's future are scheduled for Wednesday-Thursday, March 30-31, in St. Paul at the Four Points Sheraton, at 400 Hamline (NW corner of I-94 and Hamline Avenue). The event is an open house-type informational meeting from 1-3 in the afternoons and 6-9 in the evenings. The National Park Service is the host and the federal agency charged with the "disposition" of the 27-acre Coldwater campus to another public agency: federal, state or university.
This week the Boys' High School State Basketball Tournament tournament-blizzard seems to have more testosterone than the girls' tournament blizzard last Friday. Warnings have been broadcast for 3-days, schools are cancelled in southern Minnesota where up to 2-feet of snow is forecast and the interstate is closed. 20 mallards in Coldwater reservoir paddle around with snow coats, then dip into the water and bob-up changed. Visibility is down to a quarter mile. No birds vocalizing, no paw or hoof prints mark the new snow. The air is moving. The usually invisible air is a movie.
Only the water sounds the same: the outpouring where Coldwater spring surfaces from Platteville limestone bedrock; the waterfall from the reservoir into the wetland ditch; 70 gallons per minute released from the flow measuring box; and the rapids of upper Coldwater Creek.
Things are backwards today: see the air, hear the water.
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(Coldwater Spring) The annual Girls State Basketball Tournament blizzard is beginning with horizontal snow out of the northwest and temperatures dropping from the mid-30s, fast. Even in a dry winter with only 20-inches of our expected 45-inches of snow by this date, even now we get a half-inch cloudburst for Friday afternoon rush-hour. Hey-hey, nature bats last!
Coldwater under a new coat of corn snow is quieter, intimate with limited visibility. 20 ducks in the reservoir turn their backs to the snow bursts--like people. Buffalo face into the weather with their great, shaggy heads and shoulders.
Looks like the pipe from the reservoir to the measuring station got plugged again-- a clump of frozen vegetation near the problem and a line of debris on the road. It has stopped-up at the beginning of each month this year. Must be the normal sloughing-off of old wetland stems in preparation for new growth.
The flow out of the reservoir today is about 67 gallons per minute. Beyond the bluff top drop with the flow measuring paraphernalia, Coldwater Creek meanders through less steep land into the snowy distance. Invasive garlic mustard is poised for another growth spurt; environmentalists urge people to eat this culinary herb as an exotic containment strategy. But the wonder is the marsh marigolds in green clumps all winter in the ripples of Coldwater Creek, up to their chins in water that doesn't freeze.
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(Coldwater Spring) The flow out of the Coldwater Spring reservoir is 68 gallons per minute today. Last evening the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) voted to continue monitoring the flow rate after the May 2006 deadline for MnDOT-mandated monitoring ends. This great news is tempered by differences about what the numbers mean.
The memorandum presented to the board stated that the flow "has been steadily in the 70-75 gallons per minute range for approximately the last year and a half." Board President Lance Fisher pointed out that the flow rate illustrated in the graph "looks like 60-65 gallons per minute." Both are correct. The two-year average from December 2002 to December 2004 is higher than the 2004 flow readings. The graph clearly shows that each time MnDOT conducted major construction dewatering, the flow never recovered to its previous rate.
"An appearance of a gradual downward trend in flow over the past 6 or 7 years" was explained by the difference from manual monitoring (bucket and stopwatch) to continuous electronic monitoring in late 2002. Nevertheless, the flow in 2003 before another round of MnDOT dewatering is higher than the average 2004 flow after dewatering stopped and the road was paved.
Manual versus automated measuring brings into question the court ordered baseline flow agreement that stated an average of 80-100 gallons per minute (gpm) during the manual measuring period when MnDOT's figures were higher than MCWD's. Asked if the flow rate would recover to 90 gpm, District Engineer Mike Panzer said he hoped the rate would "eventually" rise into the 80s gpm, the lowest pre-construction average. One longtime member of Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition doubted the flow would recover because all the new impervious surfaces of roadway and building construction funnels rainwater into storm sewers instead of allowing it to soak into the ground and recharge the groundwater supply to Coldwater Spring.
Springtime is changing the look of Coldwater. Fewer ducks are hanging out, many have left to stake out breeding turf. The ducks still at Coldwater pond are pairing off. Daylight lasts three and a half hours longer now than on the day of Winter Solstice.
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(Coldwater Spring) John Anfinson of the National Park Service returned my phone call today during the weekly Friday, 2-3 pm Coldwater gathering. The National Park Service (NPS) is legally responsible for the 27-acre Coldwater Spring campus-- legally means financially. NPS wants to relinquish ownership to another government agency: federal state, or university.
Talk about private development at Coldwater is a misunderstanding, Anfinson said, explaining that the "Upper Bluff" area is under consideration for development. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources received the land in 1971, with the old officers homes atop the Minnesota River bluff. The historic buildings are in disrepair. Anfinson noted that any development must "respect the character of the land" and suggested business offices or hotels.
At this time, Native American and environmrntal protectionss are stronger at the federal level than at the state level. It was the powerful Minnesota Department of Transportation that built the Hiawatha reroute with tree-cutting sub-contractors from out of state, a barrage of legal maneuvers in county, state, and federal courts, an army of lobbyists in the state legislature, and more than a million dollars in police time.
The state cut into Minnehaha Park, the first state park planned in America, for a road including a boulevard where the Four Trees once stood in the four cardinal directions. In federal court MnDOT tree expert Dan Gullickson was quoted as saying the four burr oaks were only 137-years-old and state lawyers said that wasn't old enough for those trees to be sacred.
It was Friday, December 17, 1999, in Chief Judge James M. Rosenbaum's St. Paul court. The next day the Four Trees were cut.
Subtract 137-years from the year 1999-- 1862. 1862 is the year of the Dakota War. After hostilities the Dakota people were imprisoned, hanged and/or removed to reservations. Winona LaDuke says a bounty was offered for Indian scalps in the wake of the Indian war. Dakota elders repeatedly explained that the Four Trees were typically planted in a specific, deliberate manner as a signal to the children and grandchildren that it is a sacred area. Other locations of four trees in the four cardinal exist in Minnesota.
Federal--state, it's hard to know who to trust with separation of religion and government.
The flow from the Coldwater reservoir measured 70 gallons per minute today. More than 50 mallards stirred the water. A large snowperson with a 5-button smile, purple scarf, red knit hat and red rose heart, and twig arms waving-- stands in front of the Spring House.
Wednesday evening's Full Moon Walk included the best Group Howl ever. It sounded family-- organic, dynamic. Wow!
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(Coldwater Spring) Today's eye-surprise is the smoky purple of canes of native blackberries. The sky is dark white, great big fat snowflakes are drifting down, the ground is whitening over the old snow and bare earth. The dusky colored shoots arch out of the ground-- it's the angle that's eye-catching, too. These indigenous berries root by gravity, their flexible stems allow the tip to fall to the ground where roots can anchor. But it's the color of change, the hint of the season to come, the color of hope in middle-winter, that color of our planetary clock showing-off today.
However, it feels strictly winter. Serious winter coats, the kind that feel suffocating in a car, are required. The footing down the short, steep path to Coldwater's measuring station is much easier on frozen ground. The flow is about 67 gallons per minute. Since construction dewatering stopped the flow has averaged just below 70 gallons per minute, about 20 gallons a minute less than before the Hiawatha reroute sunk the road under the Hwy 55/62 interchange 35 feet below the natural land surface and about 6 1/2-feet into the groundwater table.
But groundwater travels in mysterious underworld paths and the missing water could be leaking out near the submerged grit chamber in Minnehaha Park at 50th Street. Or who knows where? The recovery theory goes like this: wait for the spring snow melt to recharge Coldwater's watershed and see how bad or permanent the damage appears to be.
Chirpy robins that have been feeding in Coldwater Creek bed are absent. Perhaps the insect larvae they were harvesting are quiet. Robins use their acute hearing to locate prey, they cock their heads and aim with their beaks for a tasty meal moving underground.
A couple of fist-sized chunks of concrete were laying where the main spring outflows. Recent freeze and thaw is dislodging something manmade around the Spring House. The flow is taking a slightly different path out through the limestone. But things change all the time with moving water. Icicles, one at least 18-inches long, are growing out of the seeps in the spring's grotto.
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(Coldwater Spring) No coats. Mud boots recommended. Whatever happened to winter? No one is complaining. People are out squinting in the sunshine. It's 47-degrees, 20-degrees above "normal" mid-winter February temperatures. The snow cover remaining is splotchy and melting, running downhill over mostly frozen ground. The flow at Coldwater, including snowmelt, is 68 gallons per minute today.
There are more than 100 mallards in the reservoir but the robins that have been feeding in the creek bed for weeks are absent. So I decide to hike down and clean out some eye-sore litter: half a glass bottle, black plastic, a large broken clay pot and metal scraps. >From below the measuring station the creek burbles downhill in a series of shallow waterfalls that are indistinct from up on the Coldwater campus road. The creek spreads out perhaps 20-feet wide and an inch or two deep. Each mini waterfall adds to a symphony of water music. Minnehaha, the Dakota word for waterfall, deconstructs into mi-ni "water" and ha-ha, "the noise of waterfalls or rapids" (Paul Durand, Where the Waters Gather and the Rivers Meet: An Atlas of the Eastern Sioux).
The original Minnehaha is what is now called the Falls of St. Anthony. Present day Minnehaha Falls was named Little Falls, Ha-ha Ci-stin-na. To name a land feature for sound is an astonishing world view. At one point Minnehaha Falls was called Brown's Falls. Indian people didn't "own" land and did not name hills and water courses after people.
Coldwater is one name that did not change. Mni Owi Sni (mni "water," owi "spring," sni "cold") is noted on archival maps researched by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Mni Owe Sni, Coldwater Spring, still flowing after 10,000 years-- even under the last glacier.
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(Coldwater Spring) The flow at Coldwater measures 70 gallons per minute this afternoon, the spring flow plus melting snow. It's 51-degrees-- record high temperature-- puddles everywhere. Yesterday the pipe from the reservoir under the road to the measuring station plugged-up again. As it did one month ago, water filled the ditch and ran over the road. Vegetable debris litters the road and appears to be re-blocking the pipe. The debris is dead plant matter from the mini wetland just beneath the 2-foot falls at pond's edge.
Cheery robins were bathing and eating in Coldwater Creek bed where green stuff is growing. Could be (invasive, exotic) garlic mustard; people collect watercress here too. In a "normal" year, today's weather would be in April. A phoebe whistled and whistled; there must be insect food available but nothing is buzzing in the air. With the trees bare, snow on the ground and the creek meandering into the bush it's a postcard scene-- almost a black (trees, creek) and white (snow) photograph. Then a robin hops across the tree bridge fallen across the creek.
Time is different in a place like Coldwater. Only three ducks today. This week the icicles around the grotto at the major outflow have melted and new offerings have been left on the limestone ledges and up at the labyrinth. The Federal Protective Service guy who comes to lock the gates at 3 pm says he looked up Coldwater on the web. He nods and sweeps his eyes around the landscape, breathing it in. Coldwater captures another aesthete!
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(Coldwater Spring) A January thaw has reduced the snow cover by evaporation and melting. Some meltwater is seeping into Coldwater reservoir temporarily boosting the volume of water to just above 70 gallons per minute (102,000 gallons per day). It's a cloudy, mild 27-degree day brightened by a male cardinal feeding in Coldwater Creek bed with a flock of robins. Yes, a seed-eating cardinal and insect/worm/fruit-eating robins in Minnesota in January.
In the 38 days since Winter Solstice we've gained 52-minutes of daylight. Backyard bird feeders could explain the songbirds' over-wintering here, or maybe global warming. This week a study in the journal NATURE reported a catastrophic doubling of the predicted average temperature rise due to carbon dioxide levels. Chief scientist of the study, David Stainforth of Oxford University, England, said processing the results from 95,000 people in 150 countries showed the Earth's climate is far more sensitive to increases in man-made greenhouse gasses than previously realized.
Coldwater's historic temperature records indicate a rise of half to one-degree since about the 1820s. Somewhere in Fort Snelling archives I read that the water temperature at the main Coldwater outflow was 46-degrees in winter and sometimes varied as high as 46 1/2-degrees in summer. Now Coldwater is 47-degrees with little variation, hydrologists tell us. Groundwater that supplies springs reflects the average day/night-winter/summer temperature of the area. At Mystery Cave in Forestville, Minnesota, 120-miles south of the Twin Cities, spring water is 48-degrees.
Last Tuesday was the monthly Full Moon walk, scheduled early in order to catch the 5:21 PM moonrise over Coldwater. The moon came up huge and blood red through the Earth's atmosphere, then disappeared behind a cloudbank. About 15 minutes later a great white moon rolled out of a horizontal line of clouds smiling like Mona Lisa.
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(Coldwater Spring) It is perfect weather for a blizzard, mid-20 degrees, almost horizontal snow. A flock of robins is digging insect larvae out of the creek bed, barely visible through the blur of snow and not very vocal. Mallards are cruising the reservoir, many flatten down with their beaks in the water; they wear snow coats and crowns. It is one month since Winter Solstice and the Twin Cities are receiving the first snowfall of the season above one inch! It's a weather record for late snow. Farmer's Almanac predicts a hot, dry summer for this area in 2005.
The flow has returned to its post-construction average of 69 gallons per minute (about 100,000 gallons per day). Before construction of the Hiawatha reroute the flow averaged 80-100 gallons per minute-- a figure decided in court-ordered negotiations between the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Both government agencies seem to be hedging on those numbers now, calling them "numbers," blaming the dry weather. However hydrologists say it's too early for conclusions about loss of flow to the spring. Coldwater needs at least one more spring melt to see how the watershed recharges.
There is unanimous disagreement between the agencies about the size and shape of land that feeds groundwater to the spring. MnDOT says the Coldwater charge area is part of the general water table from Lake Minnetonka and the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes.
MCWD reports a specific, local charge area, about 2/3s of a circle, perhaps half a mile around, from the northwest just below Minnehaha Creek watershed, from the west, part of the airport and the Veteran's Administration downhill toward the river bluff, and from the southwest running through the 55/62 interchange. The interchange area used to be 35-feet higher; a prairie swell disappeared to comply with height restrictions for the proposed runway extension. MnDOT removed land and submerged the roadway 6 1/2-feet into the water table.
Since the disastrous Indian Ocean tsunami Dr. Masaru Emoto, the Japanese water crystal guru, has urge people to pray for the healing power of water. He reminds us that water is the symbol of how we are all connected. The thinking about where water comes from has changed in my lifetime from-- We live in a closed universe, the water we have is all there ever will be, and we're drinking dinosaur piss-- to: Most water came to earth as ice meteors. Ice meteors continually enter earth's atmosphere, melt into clouds, fall as precipitation, and move through surface water and underground channels to the oceans-- the water cycle. The oceans are rising-- is it all melting polar ice?
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(Coldwater Spring) It is the coldest day of winter, minus-1 is today's high, but no wind and a blazing sun. Steam is coming off the pond like duck soup. Dozens of mallards are stirring the water very slowly. Icicles grow wherever groundwater seeps into the reservoir. A recent inch of snow makes footing here much easier than the frozen crust of last week.
The flow is slightly less than last Friday, about 63-65 gallons per minute. Water is pouring out of the measuring box through an ice straw or tube. Splashes freeze in drops on rocks, trees, vines and dead vegetation-- ice dots sparkle in the sun under a high, hard blue sky. Robins are again eating in Coldwater Creek bed-- must be insects or worms, something yummy in that clean shallow stream.
At the water gathering place (the major spring outflow) a circular grotto has formed. The west wall is eroding back, groundwater pours out of a low limestone crack on the north rock wall. Apparently there used to be a circular stone stairway here that washed out with water pressure. When the 47-degree spring water pours into minus-1 degree air, mists rise. It is the breath of the spring.
Trying to see through it-- my breath gets in the way. Sounds of drips and gurgling water getting born out of the earth continue but the view keeps clouding. Then I notice my breath is mixing with Coldwater's breath. I think of cats I have breathed together with, face-to-face.
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(Coldwater Spring) Somebody cleaned the mat of grasses clogging the pipe from Coldwater reservoir, under the road, down the bluff to the measuring station. Water had filled the ditch and overrun the asphalt roadway. A clear path of wetness turned part of the road into an ice rink, the other part melted. Spill water meandered across to the northeast, toward the old crusher building which is now just a skeleton from the Bureau of Mines/Cold War days of metallurgy and mining research, 1960-91. Taconite pellets salt the site despite a decade of clean up.
Coldwater has been everything from a sacred site, to a military camp, pioneer town, water station serving Fort Snelling for 100 years, candidate for a nuclear power plant (1959), industrial site, and around again to sacred site.
Last weekend the measured flow rate dropped below 50 gallons per minute. Today the rate was about 66 gallons per minute (95,040 gallons per day). A cluster of robins was feeding in Coldwater creekbed below the measuring station-- singing and eating and hopping around and eating.
Wonder what they were eating?
Of course mallards filled the reservoir. It's mesmerizing to watch the ducks weaving around each other. In the grotto where the main spring empties, the only safe place to gather drinking water, hoar frost outlined strings of moss. Water droplets fell out of the back wall beside a long, fat icicle, a water faery stage.
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