Minneapolis Riverfront project hits DNR snag

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December 20, 2012 by Sarah M

By Nick Halter

A new plan to develop the riverfront in Northeast Minneapolis has run into an obstacle.

One of the immediate and significant projects of the RiverFirst Initiative is to restore an island at the Scherer Bros. Lumber site, just upstream of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board already owns the site and has cleared it for development of parkland and perhaps private development. But it needs a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources permit to restore the island.

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A rendering of the Hall’s Island, provided by the RiverFirst Initiative

The DNR, however, said that’s not going to happen, and even told the Park Board to stop using resources on restoring the island project.

“Please be advised that we are not able to authorize island creation in the Mississippi River in Minneapolis due to the prohibition of placing fill in a public water to create upland. We have consistently denied other such proposals over previous years and decades for the same reasons,” wrote DNR hydrologist Jack Gleason in a letter to the Park Board. “We strongly recommend that no further public resources be expended on this proposal.”

The Park Board is considering what to do next. That could include making a request that the Minnesota Legislature grant the project an exemption, said Bruce Chamberlain assistant superintendent of planning.

“They have very specific rules that they need to follow,” Chamberlain said. “Thankfully in Minnesota we have strong environmental legislation that disallows bad things to happen, but we feel in this case — as in other projects — it also disallows good things that could happen.”

Hall’s Island was dredged and removed by Scherer Bros. in 1966, according to RiverFirst documents.

Chamberlain said restoring the island would provide a habitat for migrating birds, block strong river currents so that a beach could be created on the shoreline and also set up a cove for canoes and kayaks. Boardwalks would connect the island to the shoreline.

Earlier plans for a pool barge and ice skating rink on the island have been dropped, Chamberlain said.

The RiverFirst Initiative anticipates the creation of the Scherer Bros. park in the next four years, so it would be one of the first of many projects under the initiative.

For more on the RiverFirst Initiative, visit: http://riverfirst.com/

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