MnDOT gets city, county support on permit request

Move comes after Oak Park Heights council offers no comment on request to DNR

The Washington County Board of Commissioners and Stillwater City Council are racing the calendar to send letters to one state agency supporting a permit request on the St. Croix River Crossing bridge project from another state agency.

The County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning directed staff to write a letter to the state Department of Natural Resources supporting a state Department of Transportation’s permit requesting DNR permission to work in the St. Croix River.

The Stillwater City Council Tuesday night approved sending a letter to the DNR supporting the MnDOT permit. In the letter, the council expresses concern about further project delays.

“Any delay in issuing a permit could delay the project and dramatically increase the taxpayer cost of this badly needed infrastructure project,” the letter said.

Stillwater and the county have until Oct. 10 to submit their letters MnDOT’s permit request to the DNR.

The actions by the city and county come about a week after the Oak Park Heights City Council acknowledged receiving MnDOT’s permit request to the DNR, according to Oak Park Heights City Administrator Eric Johnson.

“At this time the city acknowledges receipt of the documentation and has no comment/recommendation,” writes Johnson to Molly Shodeen of the DNR in an Oct. 2 letter.

County Engineer Wayne Sandberg said the permit MnDOT seeks from the DNR gives MnDOT permission work in the St. Croix River and modify the river bottom.

Johnson said Oak Park Heights’ officials and the council treated MnDOT’s request similar to other planning and zoning issues. He added that MnDOT’s permit request was lengthy.

“The city has received documentation that’s 500 pages,” he said. “We received the application and its been disseminated to the council.”

Under state law, Oak Park Heights accepted MnDOT’s DNR permit application, setting up a timeline for council action, Johnson said. The council could accept, reject or let MnDOT’s application proceed without action or comment, he added.

Johnson said copies of MnDOT’s request for the DNR permit were given to all city council members to study prior to the group’s most recent meeting.

“They did not say at that meeting that it was not incomplete,” he said. “They did not say if there was any problem. The council had no recommendation on the DNR permit request. Collectively, they had no comment.”

The public comment period on MnDOT’s permit request closes in one week. The County Board is expected to approve its letter to the DNR regarding the permit at its Oct. 9 meeting.