Council approves support of water management plan

Published 9:18 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved a motion supporting the submission of a draft comprehensive watershed management plan created through the Shell Rock-Winnebago One Watershed One Plan partnership to the state Board of Water and Soil Resources.

The plan, which has been in development since 2018, combines the water plans for the Shell Rock River Watershed District Board of Managers, Freeborn County, and Freeborn County Soil and Water Conservation District into one plan, said Courtney Phillips, program and project manager for the Shell Rock River Watershed District. 

Phillips said the process started off with a public hearing, which brought people’s concerns to the table, and local staff met to address issues they have for the watershed area. 

The planning committee has worked with consultant firm ISG out of Mankato to implement the plan and create a final draft plan. It has also worked with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Water and Soil Resources for various checkpoints along the way. 

The draft went out for a formal hearing and comment period that ended Dec. 31, and received no local comments but did receive comments from all of the state agencies. 

Phillips said the plan has been funded by the Board of Water and Soil Resources and once complete is expected to bring in $1.8 million in funding over 10 years from the agency to support water quality through projects identified in the plan.

She said the plan breaks up the Shell Rock and Winnebago river watersheds into four areas — a Fountain Lake tributary; Albert Lea Lake tributary; the area south of the watershed, including Upper and Lower Twin Lakes and the Glenville area; and the Winnebago watershed. 

A lot of the projects they’d like to start with are upstream of Fountain Lake and Albert Lea Lake, so those are their two priority areas. They would also like to work with farmers to implement cover crops and help with wetland restoration, and do what they can to help water upstream, with the goals of helping water quality and water quantity.

Phillips said the Board of Water and Soil Resources has 90 days to approve the plan, and once approved then it will come back to all of the entities involved for final approval. 

In other action, the council:

• Approved the purchase of a Larue D50 loader mounted snow blower. It will replace a 2002 version of a similar unit. The machine is used to blow downtown snow, widen streets and remove snow in other areas of town that need snow loaded and hauled or blown, according to the city. 

The old blower will be traded in, and the total cost of the new blower will be about $175,000 including the trade-in.

• Approved the purchase of a 2022 Jet Factor combination truck. It will replace a 2014 truck with 6,321 hours on it. The machine is used to clean sanitary sewers, sanitary sewer lift stations, locate sewer lines, repair water main breaks, repair water service leaks and locate underground utilities. 

The old truck will be traded in, and the cost of the new blower will be about $340,000 with the trade-in.

• Approved corrections to the legal descriptions on the paperwork for the annexation of properties from Albert Lea Township near Wedgewood Cove and Trail’s Travel Center. 

• Accepted a feasibility report and called a public hearing for Feb. 28 regarding the reconstruction of portions of Pillsbury and Freeborn avenues. 

The project includes Pillsbury Avenue from Johnson Street to Sheridan Street and Freeborn Avenue from Ramsey Street to Sheridan Street. It will include total street, sidewalk, and curb and gutter reconstruction, as well as new sanitary sewer, storm sewer and watermain.

Sixty-six properties will be assessed as part of the project, each totaling a proposed $7,776 because all of the properties are the same size. 

The total project is estimated at $1.94 million and would be paid for with assessments, sanitary sewer funds, water funds and city funds.

• Approved a resolution correcting an inadvertent meeting notice error for a meeting on Jan. 12. The planning meeting was with city staff and interested members of the public regarding updating the comprehensive plan. Because a quorum of councilors attended, a notice of the meeting was required. 

The city manager said a quorum of city councilors was not expected, so notice had not been provided ahead of time. 

• Approved the second reading of an ordinance that amends the zoning and land use map for 209 Ninth Ave. N. From R-3 multi-family residence district to R-O multi-family residence office district. 

• Approved a donation of $2,100 for the placement of a memorial bench in honor of Art and Helen Rudolph in the southeast corner of New Denmark Park.