House bonding bill includes dredging of Fountain Lake

Published 1:28 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A portion of Albert Lea’s request for $7.5 million to dredge Fountain Lake was included in the DFL House construction proposal released this morning, according to Shell Rock River Watershed District officials.

Though the proposed bonding bill did not cover the full request, it did support $1.5 million toward the project, said Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Brett Behnke.

“That’s excellent news for us,” Behnke said. “It would really get the project up and running.”

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The announcement came a day after Gov. Mark Dayton announced his bonding proposal, which did not include the project.

Dayton’s wish list included substantial funding for new labs at public universities, a new building on the Minneapolis Veterans Home campus and civic center improvements in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud. He also committed $109 million in funding for improvements to the Capitol.

In all, he would finance $812 million worth of projects, relying on more than $720 million in state borrowing.

Local leaders have lobbied the dredging project would increase economic development for Albert Lea and the state through increased tourism, spending and strengthening the economy of southern Minnesota.

Behnke said there is about two years of engineering work that still needs to be completed, so to be included for even a portion of the request this year helps the community for funding requests in upcoming years.

The dredging project has been gaining momentum since the Shell Rock River Watershed District last fall purchased a 2010 IMS 7012 HP 51-foot Versi hydraulic dredge for about $340,000, along with the pipes, pumping and other equipment necessary to pump the dredge material away from the lake for $435,000.

Officials have stated the entire project is estimated at $15 million, with half of the cost coming from a local-option sales tax.


Other projects

In the Albert Lea area, Dayton included the second phase of Riverland Community College’s heating ventilation and air conditioning project as part of a $35 million package for infrastructure improvements at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses across the state.

The area was also included in Dayton’s proposal of $24 million dollars for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to be shared for asset preservation across the state.

The bonding bill is a rare example this year of where GOP buy-in is necessary. It takes a three-fifths vote to pass one; Democrats are short of that margin on their own.