BY ALEXANDRIA CARRAHER
When University of Minnesota Law School students met in late October with staff from the City of Minnetonka as part of the Resilient Communities Project, there was a lot that the staff and students needed to talk about. The meeting was focused on stormwater management in Minnetonka watersheds, and the City started by outlining three general projects: a study in illicit discharge regulation and proposed ordinance writing, rule streamlining to account for the four various watersheds in the Minnetonka area, and a study in minimal impact design standards as it relates to soil infiltration.
The meeting, part of the much larger Resilient Communities project, is one step in a year-long effort to move forward on priorities the Minnetonka City Council has identified as critical to the city’s long-term vitality and sustainability.
John Ryan, a first-year law student at Minnesota working on the stormwater project, has already found that the work provides great professional experience while contributing to the extended resilience of a community.
"The City of Minnetonka is a real leader when it comes to green cities, and this project offers us a chance to work on issues that cities across the country will be dealing with in the years to come,” Ryan explained. "This project is a great opportunity for us to hone our legal skills with hands-on experience, while at the same time contributing to a cleaner, safer community."
Additionally, the students submitted questions to the city staff drawn from background research on the topic of stormwater runoff control. The city discussed the status of its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer permits (MS4), first issued in 2003 and reissued in 2006 per the Federal Clean Water Act. The permits are required under the Act, and distributed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. New permits are currently pending due to a dispute between the MPCA and the Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition (a partnership of affected municipalities) regarding the agency’s updated compliance standards.
Although water quality and land-use priorities can often be in conflict, by the end of the meeting, city staff and the law students agreed that they could take several steps forward in making Minnetonka’s streams and lakes healthier.
Alexandria Carraher, student director of the University of Minnesota Environment and Sustainability Law Clinic, noted that “the students are really excited about the project. One of the interesting aspects of a project like this is working with city staff dealing with actual regulatory issues. This meeting was an opportunity to take what we as students knew from our background research and ask direct questions to further define what work would be the most valuable to the City of Minnetonka.”
Alexandria Carraher is a student in the University of Minnesota Law School, student director of the Environment and Sustainability Law Clinic, and a Judicial Extern in the 4th Judicial District of Minnesota.