CRWD nears North Main project deal

Published 7:59 am Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Cedar River Watershed District may soon reach an agreement with the city of Austin on the North Main flood project that still has some unsettled questions.

“It seems like we’re heading in the right direction,” CRWD’s attorney Matt Benda said at CRWD’s monthly meeting Wednesday night. He added the talks throughout the next month could mean a memorandum may be approved at next month’s board meeting — the same meeting CRWD will vote to put its rules into effect.

In the meantime, Benda, Austin and the city’s engineers may have to further their discussions regarding the effects of the North Main project, particularly where the Cedar River flows under I-90 to the main street bridge near Jerry’s Other Place.

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City officials and their engineering firm, SEH, just received information they had been waiting for from Barr Engineering, CRWD’s engineer. Both sides need to reach consensus on a few issues.

One issue involves the speed and potential flow heights of water underneath the bridge by Jerry’s Other Place.

“Nothing was concluded about the potential erosive velocities that modeling predicts and what the city may do to armor or protect the river form the highly erosive velocities that currently exist or may increase as a result of the floodwall project,” Barr’s report said.

Barr’s conclusion also recommended additional surveying and modeling may be recommended near and upstream of that area.

Benda said one of the challenges all along has been incorporating the rules into the memorandum.

The city of Austin has already proposed its own memorandum, which it gave to the CRWD board. That memorandum asks for Austin to be free of any permit requirements for the North Main project, as the project was started before the CRWD was formed. It also states that Austin will take full responsibility for the project’s design and maintenance costs.

City Engineer Jon Erichson also re-addressed the recurring issue of snow dumping within the floodplain, of which CRWD has been considering placing a ban on. CRWD presented comments from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that said eliminating snow dumping in the floodplain would be beneficial.

However, Erichson displayed lab test results that indicated sediment and chemicals from the snow piles weren’t negatively affecting the river. According to him, the city’s best management practices (earthen berms, walls and jersey barriers) have effectively filtered the snow piles’ runoff before returning to the river.

CRWD will consider that information, along with more engineering results on the flood mitigation project before next month’s meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.