Leaders pitch waterways projects to senators; Groups seek $7.8M in state bonding

Published 10:26 am Thursday, October 29, 2015

Austin officials showcased three planned water projects to state legislators Thursday morning.

The Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee visited Austin as part of a southeast Minnesota tour. Vision 2020, Cedar River Watershed District and city of Austin officials spoke to them about the CRWD’s Accelerated Results Plan and projects to improve recreational capabilities near the Ramsey Dam and the Fourth Avenue Northeast Dam. The three proposals make for a combined $7.8 million bonding request.

Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, a member of the Capital Investment Committee, said it is important for legislators to see up close the great need for state investment in these projects.

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“The state investment we make in a bonding bill creates jobs for communities, repairs and modernizes needed facilities, and improves the quality of life for our citizens,” Sparks said in a press release. “Touring the facilities firsthand helps legislators understand what’s most needed for communities across Minnesota, and will help us strike the right balance in any final bill. Along with my colleagues, I will work to ensure our local projects are given strong consideration for a final bill.”

Community leaders are seeking $3 million in state bonding dollars for the Ramsey Dam area near The Old Mill Restaurant to acquire more land, build two miles of trail, restore a railroad bridge, improve the dam’s flood mitigation and build public amenities to improve the area.

Leaders are also seeking $600,000 for the Fourth Avenue Northeast dam area for flood control retaining walls, restoring the old mill site, for stream bank restorations and to study dam conditions.

Vision 2020 and community leaders also envision a canoe and kayak portage at the site, which is expected to attract visitors to town.

CRWD leaders are also seeking $4.2 million for the Accelerated Results Project, which will complete 25 water retention and quality projects in the district.

The CRWD already has half the money for the $8.4 million project. The district is providing $1.2 million, the Hormel Foundation is providing $3 million, and the district is looking for the state to match those funds.

The Senate tour also visited Riverland Community College’s Albert Lea campus to discuss $7.43 million request for the school to fund changes for reshaping its campuses.

The Austin campus will focus on liberal arts, sciences, agriculture and health care, and the Owatonna campus will focus on business and information systems, along with additive manufacturing, he said. General courses will be offered in a limited degree at all three campuses.

The Albert Lea campus will become the transportation, trade and industrial education center, relocating the truck driving and collision repair programs from Austin to Albert Lea.

The House Capital Investment Committee toured Austin sites in September.