Archived Story

Dredging not included in governor’s bonding proposal

Published 3:45pm Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Albert Lea’s request to dredge Fountain Lake was not included in Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding proposal released Wednesday, though local officials said they will work diligently for its inclusion in the House and Senate bills.

Dayton proposed $986 million in state-backed construction projects, from civic center upgrades to college campuses, in what he said would create more than 27,000 jobs.

Dayton said in a press release that the bill gives priority to many projects that have been delayed for several years and are needed to revitalize downtown business centers, modernize the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system and U of M buildings and classrooms, and improve parks, roads and local infrastructure.

It includes $37 million for the Rochester Mayo Civic Center expansion, $14.5 million for a new addition to the Mankato Civic Center and $80 million in repairs for the state’s higher education campuses across the state. Though the specific campuses were not identified, one project being considered is $500,000 to remove asbestos at Riverland Community College in Albert Lea.

The biggest single project on Dayton’s list is $126 million to complete the restoration of the state Capitol. Higher education construction is the largest category, consuming $233 million of the plan.

Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Brett Behnke said he was disappointed the district’s request for $7.5 million to go toward the $15 million dredging of Fountain Lake was not included.

Watershed and city officials have said previously the project is necessary because the lake has become filled with sediment — as much as 5 to 8 feet in some areas. The accumulation has resulted in water quality impairment and large algae blooms.

“We knew that the governor was going to put out a fairly big bill,” Behnke said. “His speech was about rural development and rural growth, and we say you missed the boat on this one not including this project.”

Though disappointed in the governor’s proposals, Behnke said he is not discouraged.

“We’ve been here before and still brought home the bonding dollars,” he said.

He said after reading the bill, he still thinks there is room for the project, and he and others will be working hard to push for its inclusion.

“To us this is our civic center,” he said.

District 27A Rep. Shannon Savick said in a news release she will be advocating for funds for the Fountain Lake project and the Blazing Star Trail in the House version of the bill.

She called Dayton’s proposal a “good step in the right direction.”


Blazing Star Trail

A $500,000 request to extend the Blazing Star Trail from Myre-Big Island State Park to Hayward was also not included in the governor’s proposal, though the project could gain funds through a pot of money designated for asset preservation, parks, trails and land restoration.

Dayton’s proposal included $54.6 million for natural resource projects.

The Blazing Star Trail joint powers board had submitted the request, which would have gone specifically to covering the last mile and a half stretch of the extension — from the edge of Albert Lea Lake to Hayward.

The Blazing Star Trail presently begins at Frank Hall Park in Albert Lea and goes to a point on the northeast side of Myre-Big Island State Park, about a three quarters of a mile from the western shore of Albert Lea Lake’s northern bay.

The extension would be 2.9 miles and would include a bridge over Albert Lea Lake. Once it is completed, it would be turned over to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for maintenance.