Watershed officials talk tree removal
Local officials plan to see if they have any chance of getting state bonding money this year to remove dozens of trees that fell along area waterways during the June tornado.
On Wednesday night, the Cedar River Watershed District's board discussed the need for tree removal in the watershed, mainly in Austin, related to the June 17 tornado that tore across the city's northern areas and caused millions of dollars in damage.
CRWD board members directed staff to talk with state legislators about seeking the funding and whether the watershed district or city of Austin would be best to lead the effort.
Several CRWD officials expressed concern with the district taking the lead on what board member Mike Jones called a "major undertaking."
Chairman Harlen Peck said the bottom line is the CRWD doesn't have the money for tree removal, noting the district's top priorities are to reduce flooding and improve water quality.
Downed trees along waterways can be good and bad, depending on their location, said Bev Nordby, the CRWD's administrator.
State Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, and Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, both say they'll carry a bill this year to seek money for tornado-related tree removal along waterways, said Nordby.
Some people from the Royal Manor neighborhood, an area hit hard by the tornado on Austin's north edge, have asked the CRWD about removing fallen trees from or near the Cedar River out of concern for the potential effect on their property during a flood, officials said.
Board member Dan Regner, Mower County's assistant highway engineer, said the county spent about a month in the water and woods near Royal Manor cleaning up tornado debris on its flood-acquisition land. The county owns much of the land now in Royal Manor, he said.
CRWD officials are looking at a three-mile stretch along the Cedar River near Royal Manor, where there are many trees down from the tornado, Nordby said. The Rose Creek area also might have some along waterways, she said.
Partner with others
If possible, the CRWD would like to partner with the city of Austin, Nordby said afterward.
Earlier this month, the Austin City Council unanimously rejected its only bid for removing trees along Dobbins Creek.
The city, which plans to seek other bids, has a $12,500 grant from the Hormel Foundation to remove the trees, but the lone bid was for $17,180.
Nordby, who doesn't have a cost estimate for removing trees under a CRWD project, said she's not optimistic about the chances of getting bonding money this year for tree removal, especially with the tough economy.
This year, the watershed has a $250,000 budget, with $71,000 of it already earmarked for projects, Nordby said.