Corps comes back with levee project authorization

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. Michael Price told Stillwater’s city officials Thursday afternoon that the Corps Engineers had the money and authorization to begin the riverfront levee project next spring pending a partnership agreement with the city.

“I asked to get that in writing, but I should’ve asked him to sign it in blood,” Harycki said with a laugh. “Right now we’re going to wait for the letter to come and see what the rest of council feels about it.”

This levee project has been discussed for 20 years with the Corps of Engineers saying earlier this year that the project would begin in the fall, then delaying it again in July after moving project start dates throughout the summer.

On Wednesday, the Gazette reported that city council decided to move ahead with the levee project on their own using grant funds, tax levy and TIF money to pay for the project without cost to taxpayers pending information from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office on whether traction was gained with the Corps of Engineers on the project.

Harycki said many calls were generated from the offices of Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, and the Corps of Engineers, leading to Thursday’s development.

“That TIF money would stay in the district and if we decided to wait (for the Corps of Engineers) we’d use it for another purpose,” said City Administrator Larry Hansen. “But I think council is as tired as I am with how this project has proceeded, though I don’t know it may change their minds. With the water down right now we feel we can make  significant accomplishments on this project on our own.”

Hansen has advised Public Works Director and City Engineer Shawn Sanders to work on the project as if the city was proceeding on their own until more feedback and information can be gained from the council and the Corps of Engineers.

“This does put us in a tough position since we had decided to go full-steam ahead on Tuesday, but we’ll see what the sense of the council is about this and make our decision going ahead,” Harycki said.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Hansen said he did not know the exact amount the Corps of Engineers has budgeted for the levee project.