A Northland Arboretum request for support will have to wait as Crow Wing County commissioners sought more information about a wetland project.
Tuesday, the board voted to table a request for a letter of support. The Northland Arboretum is seeking grant dollars to cleanup the Whiskey Creek watershed, which it reported has pollution entering from multiple sources. The Arb is seeking $385,000.
In a project description, the Arb said it wants to make the Whiskey Creek watershed, which flows through the property, “cleaner, healthier and more ecologically productive.” The Arb reported the cleanup would also make the center a more effective environmental learning site. The total project area covers 540 acres in the Whiskey Creek/Mississippi River watershed.
The project proposes using a series of ponds to reduce or eliminate pollutants before they reach the wetlands, which feed public wells in Brainerd and the Mississippi River.
Also proposed are a series of educational signs and kiosks and data streaming from monitoring equipment, available to visitors to the Arb and online. The Arb reported it had more than 28,000 visitors in 2011 and several hundred thousand website visits.
“Pollution is entering the Whiskey Creek Mississippi watershed from a few point sources and many non-point sources,” the Arb reported. “The fish, amphibians, birds and other wildlife are suffering or have completely been killed. The pollution is from sources created by the urban growth sprawl and highway expansion in the area, including general run-off, petroleum/fuel products, heavy metals, salt, silt and other general pollutants.”
With its project, the Arb reported it wants to identify the incoming pollutants, reduce it and educate the public about the process along the way with a goal of a return of fish, frogs and other wildlife.
The city of Baxter also received a request for a letter of support earlier this month. Like the county, Baxter officials expressed displeasure at the last minute timing of the request. Council members supported the idea of seeking funding to monitor and resolve water quality problems noting the water flows from the city’s commercial and residential area through the former golf course.
Crow Wing County Commissioner Paul Thiede questioned if the request had the county administering the grant and said he wished someone would speak to the reason why the Crow Wing County Soil and Water District wasn’t administering the grant.
County Administrator Tim Houle said the board was only being asked for a letter of support and the Arb was requesting the grant.
Thiede said he heard an earlier presentation for the project at the Mississippi Headwaters Board (MHB) and if it’s the same, it was the worst and most poorly prepared presentations he’s heard.
“Thanks but no thanks,” Thiede said, adding before he could support the project he wanted to see something different than what was presented at the MHB.
“The presentation I heard was dismal,” Thiede said. “I just want to see a little better detail.”
Houle said the board’s options were to support it or politely decline at this time or ask for more information with the knowledge that it may not meet the Arb’s timeline.
Thiede declined to make a motion for any option, saying he expressed his opinion.
Commissioner Phil Trusty moved to table the request and ask for more information. When Thiede didn’t verbally vote, acting chairwoman Rachel Reabe Nystrom asked for clarification saying Thiede didn’t vote one way or the other.
Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said if Thiede doesn’t say anything, it is voting in favor.