Clear Lake Association concerned with storm water plan for City Center site

(Editor’s note: The author submitted this column on behalf of the Clear Lake Association Board of Directors. The board has since engaged in discussion with Forest Lake city officials. See related article here.)


Patrick Kelly
Guest Writer

Following a recent meeting of The Forest Lake Lakes Improvement Committee, and for purposes of emphasizing Clear Lake Association’s concerns in greater detail, the association is hoping to document our expressed issues with what the city is referring to as a “Phase 2” storm water treatment plan. Such a plan would attempt to address some of the problematic storm water that enters the Northland Mall property sub-watershed before its direct route into Clear Lake.

As a purposely non-political organization, we have no expressed opinions as to who should own and redevelop this site. Our single focus for over 20 years has been on when and how the city of Forest Lake will address present storm water problems related to the mall site.

We fully understand and appreciate the storm water controls being put into place as they specifically address the redevelopment of the Northland Mall property itself. We expected such attention to run-off control through the use of an adequately sized settlement/treatment pond in addition to other mitigating efforts. The rules that govern today’s land development were put into place and monitored by Rice Creek Watershed District to protect natural resources such as Clear Lake. We trust those efforts.

The specific issue that we discussed at the July 11 Lakes Improvement Committee Meeting, with some elements of confusion, and which gave the CLA cause for alarm, was the use of the term “Phase 2,” which focuses on the Highway 61 storm water drainage. The CLA needs to be assured that “Phase 2” will actually be funded and completed, and we need to know when that will occur.

We know Rice Creek Watershed District’s documentation will show that the primary source of the phosphorus that enters Clear Lake comes directly from this storm water source, one that drains a considerable area of downtown Forest Lake and multiple areas south of downtown along the Highway 61 corridor.

The CLA has been patient in accepting what various city officials, in the past and present, have assured us of in regard to an eventual solution. We have been told by many Forest Lake city officials, over many years, that when Northland Mall is redeveloped that will be the time that the city and the watershed district will insist upon a remediation of the current situation. In this reassurance, the CLA always heard that efforts will be made to reduce the Highway 61 corridor storm water’s problematic impact on Clear Lake.

At this point, and without having access to all the fact and figures, we have a hard time understanding why this “Phase 2” project isn’t done at the same time that the area is being disturbed, that the necessary earth moving equipment is on site, and that the grading plans couldn’t be adjusted to accommodate greater storm water retention. In addition, we would appreciate a further look at the intermittent ditch that parallels the western edge of the mall, at the base of the raised Hardwood Creek Trail. Is it possible that this area could be redesigned to increase water retention/treatment, as well as improve the aesthetics of the greater site?

Aaron Parrish, city administrator, made a valid point that the entire 14-acre site could, theoretically, be dedicated to treatment of runoff from the Highway 61 corridor. Obviously, nobody is asking for that as a solution. The CLA is asking for the best solution that the reality of the site presents, and we wish it could occur now, while the site is in redevelopment.

Patrick Kelly is secretary of the Clear Lake Association Board of Directors.