Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, May 1, 2000

Board hears complaints of DNR, Army Corps delaying permits

By John Holler

On most construction projects that involve waterways of any kind, a county or local government needs to get approval from two sources - the Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers.

In the past, these permits have typically been rubber stamps - legitimizing that the process has been followed.

But at the April 25 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissiners learned that process has changed - and could affect many future construction projects.

County Highway Engineer Wayne Fingalson and project consultant Joel Schilling brought the issue to the board, expressing concerns over delays on the CSAH 14 bridge replacement project in Rockford Township.

The project was awarded March 28, almost two months after an Environmental Assessment Worksheet had been completed and determined that a costly Environmental Impact Statement would not be needed.

However, both the DNR and Army Corps have delayed issuing permits, going well beyond their own 60-day limits for such matters, leaving Fingalson shaking his head.

"Never in our wildest dreams did I think anything like this would happen," Fingalson said. "In all the years I've been here, I've never seen anything like. I'm hopeful we can get something done, but, until we have the permits in hand, there isn't much we can do."

Schilling was much more to the point.

He assigned blame squarely on one individual with the DNR, who he claimed was gunshy about making decisions after being intimidated by a group of residents along CSAH 19 that sought delays to a contruction project near Rockford three years ago.

He said both the Army Corps and DNR have changed their policies about issuing permits, with the DNR wrongfully claiming the other agencies need to approve the construction first as part of the Wetlands Conservation Act.

"It's become ridiculous," Schilling said. "They're asking for everything from approval of agencies that don't need to sign off on projects to archeological digs around the construction site. It's incredible. Governmental agencies like this were designed to speed up and streamline the process. This one in particular has done just the opposite. It's slowed it down to a snail's pace and done it intentionally."

Fingalson said he had come to the board requesting that Redstone Contruction, which was awarded the bridge contract, be allowed to begin the process of tearing down the existing bridge.

However, without the permits ready by the time that part of the project is completed in a couple of weeks, both Fingalson and the board were hesitant on giving such approval - which could leave the existing bridge gone and no way to legally replace it.

The board voted unanimously to lay the item over for one week in hopes of clearing up the issue of the permits and said it would contact the county's legislative representatives to look into the stalling tactics being employed by the DNR and one specific employee to seek relief from future problems like this.

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