New Wright City park hits federal delay

By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

Wright City officials say groundwork for a new 62-acre park on Westwoods Road could take another year to get started because of an extended review process required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Project engineers recently determined that the park’s development will have a greater-than-anticipated impact on creeks that flow into waterways controlled by USACE, according to a letter to the city from Bax Engineering. Impacts will include building a roadway over two tributary creeks and significant earth moving across the creeks.

Because the project will impact more than a half-acre of waterways the USACE has jurisdiction over, plans have to go through a much lengthier public comment, response and review process at the state and federal level, engineers told the city.

“It’s not just public comment here in this building. It’s nationwide public comment. So the Sierra Club could decide to weigh in on what they think we should do with our property,” said City Administrator Jim Schuchmann. “This could take eight to 12 months to get a decision.”

The lengthier review process will also include more work by project engineers, who will be required to submit responses to any of the public comments received.

The Wright City Board of Aldermen on Feb. 11 approved a supplemental agreement with Bax Engineering to handle the process, which will cost Wright City between $8,300 to $19,500 in added fees. Schuchmann said there’s a wide gap in the expected cost because engineers will only bill for the actual work required during the review process.

Schuchmann said that because the proposed project is a park with significant acres of preserved woodland, there likely won’t be much outside opposition to overcome.

“If it was a subdivision where we were going to go in and clear-cut 62 acres, take down all the trees and move all kinds of earth, we’d probably get a lot of blowback from other entities,” Schuchmann said.

Schuchmann added that engineers examined alternate construction plans to reduce impact on the creeks and avoid the added review process. However, they determined that the lengthy detour required of earth-moving trucks during construction would significantly increase the trucking fee, Schuchmann said.

Alderman Nathan Rohr, who works in construction, confirmed that when the USACE takes a project under review, it can create severe delays.

“We got awarded a bid three years ago to clear 100 acres for a subdivision. It’s still in this process,” Rohr said.

As one more impediment to the project, engineers told the city that USACE will eventually levy a wetland disturbance charge of $115,000 to $140,000.

“The Army Corps of Engineers has to pay their bills, I guess,” Schuchmann commented.

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