• 82°

City eyes $3M for Turtle Creek flood projects

With the potential for flooding in Austin every year, city officials hope to secure more money from the state budget, as well.

Under Gov. Mark Dayton’s $775 million bonding capital investment proposal announced Tuesday, $20 million would be available from the Department of Natural Resources for flood hazard mitigation on a 50-50 cost share basis. Austin hopes to receive $3 million of that for projects on Turtle Creek, including property acquisition, flood mitigation structures and improvements to a sewer line that is prone to backing up. City Engineer Jon Erichson said a feasibility study that outlines the project will be complete soon.

The city already has applied for the DNR funds, but ongoing contact with the DNR and the completion of the feasibility study may improve Austin’s chances.

“You continue having your dialogue with the DNR to make sure it’s a worthwhile project,” Erichson said.

He added the DNR has provided a lot of support for projects in the past.

“We have been very appreciative of the funds that we have received from the DNR,” Erichson said. “Both Sen. (Dan) Sparks and Rep. (Jeanne) Poppe have been very supportive of it and the DNR has been really good to work with.”

While the city of Austin will try to secure funds from the capital budget, the Cedar River Watershed District may be a year away from getting any portion of capital funds.

CRWD Administrator Bev Nordby mentioned that not only do DNR flood mitigation funds usually go toward large-scale projects, but CRWD is waiting for complete hydrological modeling of the watershed before asking for flood funds. That way, officials will have a better understanding of how flood mitigation practices will affect water flows within the watershed.

“Until we understand the flows really well, we don’t want to apply for funding and put a structure some place that we could have gotten a better bang for our buck somewhere else,” Nordby said.

While the CRWD has received funding for projects like wetland restorations in the past, it has received the money from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. Nordby said the CRWD may apply for flood mitigation funds in the future, however.

“I foresee us going after funding through the DNR for some of our projects,” she said. “It just depends on where the model steers us.”