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Why Save Coldwater Spring

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

By Susu Jeffrey @ Friends of Coldspring

I was tapping my way through one of those tiresome online enviro surveys designed to boost, in this case, the Sierra Club when I simply hit the X button. The US Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter.

Duh, folks! The US military is the greatest petrochemical user. Despite photos of dirty air in Beijing or fires in the Amazon rain forest or in California, the American military machine with 1,000 foreign military bases in more than 170 countries staffed by 199,485 “personal” with nearly 2-million more at home (not including civilians) is the dirtiest little secret in the world. “Little” because it is so little reported.

So why doesn’t the Sierra Club or talk about military pollution fueling global climate chaos? Because it is a threat to their funding. All our nice friends would lose their non-profit jobs with benefits.

The Flood

Every culture traces its history back to a mythological flood. Seems like the glaciers are melting again. Two-hundred-million people live along the world’s coastlines. It’s about water—too much or too little, wrong temperature—whatever. There is no life on earth without water. Not simply “water” people require clean water.

The only water safe to drink is cleaned and nutrified by percolating through the soil where impurities are filtered out and minerals from rock are picked up. That is spring water, water that seeps directly out of bedrock. “Spring water is sacred,” says Dennis Jones of the University of Minnesota’s Indian Studies Department.

Tap water is processed water, only fit for human consumption after mechanical cleaning and chemicalizing. And thank goodness because we all drink it. But what happens if the process breaks down, is overwhelmed?

In 1805 Lt. Zebulon Pike paddled up the Mississippi to see what the Louisiana Purchase (of 1803) had purchased. He “treated” with Dakotas and for $200 of gifts (and 60 gallons of whiskey) he assumed possession of 100,000-acres, nine-miles on either side of the Mississippi-Minnesota confluence up to the great falls, for the establishment of a (as in one) fort.

Then nothing except the usual fur trading until1819 when Euro-American soldiers were ordered to establish a fort at the confluence. At Fort New Hope on the Mendota side of the B’dota, the meeting of waters, one-of-five of the troops perished due to “unsanitary conditions” over the winter of 1819-20. They were using river water.

A Dakota gentleman showed Lt. Col. Henry Leavenworth’s troops Mni Owe Sni, Coldwater Springs. Or, soldier-scouts discovered an Indian path atop the Mississippi gorge to Coldwater. The military simply expropriated the water source pouring out of the bluff a mile upstream of the confluence. From 1820 to 1880 they carted barrels of the spring water in constantly cycling water wagons and then piped it to Fort Snelling until1905. It was a military takeover. Pike’s treaty was never legally proclaimed and has never been tested in the courts.

Furthermore, the treaty states “The United States promise, on their part, to permit the Sioux to pass and repass, hunt, or make other use of the said districts as they have formerly done….” I

n 2001 our federal 1805 Dakota Treaty Rights case ended with the dismissal of “failure to obey a legal order.” Lead defense attorney Larry Leventhal joked that the order wasn’t legal. It was the third 1805 treaty rights case that got wiped from the federal courts which seem reluctant to return Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington including the Mall of America and the Twin Cities airport land to the Dakota.

The Last Spring

Of the four major springs in Hennepin County, Coldwater is the only natural spring remaining. The Great Medicine Spring in Theodore Wirth Park and nearby Glenwood Spring were permanently dewatered in the late 1980s with the construction of Interstate-394 west out of Minneapolis. Two and a half-million gallons of groundwater per day are siphoned into holding ponds and then piped away and dumped into the Mississippi by the Stone Arch Bridge.

The William-Miller Spring in Eden Prairie comes out of a pipe on the downhill side of Spring Road. Coldwater is what’s left of nature’s gift of clean water here and it is polluted with road salt. For insurance purposes, the National Park System has posted scary DO NOT DRINK notices.

Do not drink the water that comes out of the pipe on the reservoir side of Coldwater. The sacred water flows directly out of the limestone bedrock inside the northwest corner of the Spring House. In 1999 Coldwater measured 130,000 gallons a day. Now it’s down to about 66,000 gallons a day.

It’s hard to jump down into, and out of, the Coldwater Spring House and humbling to bend over and collect the water pouring out of the earth. It tastes rich with calcium and magnesium. It’s clear and cold. It’s the last big flow of sacred water in our county. Mni Wiconi (pronounced wi-cho-nee), water is life.

Originally published in the Friends of Coldspring Newsletter… Read Full Newsletter



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