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Pumping water into Mpls. lake possibly illegal, putting future of golf course in doubt

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The restoration of a Minneapolis golf course devastated by flooding last year is now in jeopardy because of concerns the course has been illegally pumping huge amounts of water into Lake Hiawatha.

The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board and Department of Public Works have revealed that the Hiawatha Golf Course in south Minneapolis has been pumping some 273 million gallons of groundwater each year into the nearby lake.

Golfers and neighbors at a meeting Tuesday night were told plans to restore the back nine holes at the golf course – which have been unplayable since being ravaged by floods in June 2014 – were on hold as a result of this finding.

According to MPR, pumps installed in the 1990s after complaints that the course – part of the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park – was "too wet" have been pumping seven times more water than the 38.5 million gallons allowed under its permit from the Department of Natural Resources.

This could well mean the course has been breaking the law for years, as well as potentially damaging the ecosystem in the lake, MPR notes. The restoration of the golf course will take a back seat for now while more testing is undertaken to ensure no further harm is done, the meeting heard.

Club members in attendance were expecting an update from the Parks Board on how it will proceed with plans to bring the full course back into use, only to be blindsided with the revelation, which the Star Tribune reports drew boos from the crowd.

In the meantime the course's front nine holes will remain open. Assistant park superintendent Michael Schroeder saying the discussion of renovations is pointless until more is known of the water problem, the newspaper notes.

But even then it's likely to be a long, drawn-out process.

"Once the report is presented to the Park Board in November, it will take MPRB staff several months to fully review the report and reach conclusions related to the reconfiguration of the golf course," course officials said on its website.

It's unknown what would happen to the course if the pumps were turned off, but Area Park Commissioner Steffanie Musich said the course would remain a park, even if golf can't be maintained.

CityPages points out the irony of the Parks Board's own courses apparently engaging in the illegal pumping of water into a Twin Cities lake, given that it had sued an apartment building owner for doing the same in Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles just last year.

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