Many questions remain with UMore development planPart 1: Before development can begin, university must find out what contaminants a gunpowder plant left behind
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
About this series: The University of Minnesota has big plans for 1,600 acres that straddle Rosemount and Empire Township. And while the UMore Park plans look good on paper, now that things are moving forward a lot more questions have to be asked.
Several forums held in August answered some questions but also created more as the university moves forward.
The Rosemount Town Pages will do a three part series on the project and some of the issues that are coming out of it. The first story will focus on the environmental assessment and cleanup of the former gunpowder plant that sat on the property. The second story will discuss concerns the city and residents have with the mining and addition of up to 30,000 people in the area and the third story will be an overview of what’s to come.
The University of Minnesota currently is requesting proposals to assess the environmental impact on the 3,500 acres of the property that made up the Gopher Ordinance Works plant.
During World War II the property was a smokeless gunpowder production facility. The United States government took the land for the construction of the plant in 1942.
Original plans called for two production lines, but the second line was never finished. The first line operated for nine months, from January to October, 1945.
The university acquired the land in two parcels- one in 1947 and one in 1948. Relics of the plant can still be seen on the property. The university has used parcels of the land to conduct agricultural research. While other projects have been proposed over the years, nothing of significance has taken shape on the property.
The university now plans to develop a sustainable community of 20,000 to 30,000 people over the next 30 years. The university’s board of regents approved a master concept plan in December, 2008. To fund the project, the university has partnered with a private company to mine gravel from areas within the property.
Before the university can move forward on the project though, it needs to be clear what the environmental impacts of the former plant could be and how much of an undertaking it will be to remediate.
“Given the future plans for UMore Park, we need to make sure we understand the full impact of past activities there, before the university owned it. As a good steward of its property and a good neighbor in the region, the university will determine level of contamination at the site and after reviewing the outcome, will evaluate next steps toward remediating the site,” said Kathleen O’Brien, the vice president for University Services.
What’s to be found at the site is anyone’s guess. As the responsible government body, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents will review assessment and determine the appropriate cleanup measures.
The public process to choose a contractor to conduct the assessment will end in October. The chosen company will start the assessment process immediately with hopes of finishing sometime in late 2011.
Depending on the results the university will work with the Army Corps of Engineers and other appropriate entities to conduct the cleanup, which will include removing the large concrete structures that sit on the property. Additionally, based on the results, the board of regents will decide whether to move forward with gravel mining on the property.
According to Charles Muscoplat, president of UMore Development LLC the university has pledged up to $1 million dollars to begin the cleanup project.
The university has also vowed to make the process public.
“We appreciate the university keeping us up to date and we’ll work with them to keep our residents informed of the process and eventual findings, said mayor Bill Droste.