Dayton says No to smaller St. Croix Bridge.
Previously, TRC has discussed the proposed bridge project that is going to replace the lift bridge in Stillwater, MN. The plan as it stands is to build a “freeway style bridge” from medium-small Stillwater to little Houlton, WI across the St. Croix River. This very large bridge will be able to accommodate future growth in the area, it is argued, as well as make for easier crossing between states during rush hours. There was an alternative plan floated by a group of environmental and conservation organizations, which was also supported by citizens who thought that such a large bridge would not be necessary.
But Governor Dayton has said that the small bridge proposal will not be considered, and the larger bridge will move forward, assuming congress provides the cash. The bridge project is bringing together strange bedfellows in politics, with the support of Sens. Franken and Klobuchar, Rep. Bachmann, Gov. Dayton, and a host of others. It is too bad that what can finally bring such a group together is the repeal of environmental law.
For the “freeway style bridge” to be constructed along the St. Croix, the river must be given an exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which as Federal Law should be able to do that which the US Government intended it to do: protect wild and scenic rivers. The Rivers Act protects this stretch of the St. Croix from development that will harm the special character of the river, and bringing in a 4-5 lane bridge that runs bluff to bluff rather than above the water will certainly harm the special character of the river.
The reason that TRC finds this case so important is not that we are tied to only small projects forever, or that development is all inherently negative. Rather, exemptions from environmental laws set dangerous precedents. And bringing a monstrous bridge project that requires the end-around of a 40 year old river protection law is bad planning.