Historic preservation issues could stand in way of Watertown bridge project

Carver County is still waiting on a permit to replace the Highway 10 bridge in Watertown. The State Historic Preservation office has raised concerns regarding the scope of the proposed project and its affect on a structure eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. (News staff photo by Matt Bunke)

Carver County is still waiting on a permit to replace the Highway 10 bridge in Watertown. The State Historic Preservation office has raised concerns regarding the scope of the proposed project and its affect on a structure eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. (News staff photo by Matt Bunke)

When the Watertown City Council selected its preferred design alternative for a new bridge spanning the Crow River in May, it seemed to be the final piece of a puzzle that’s taken years to assemble.

Finally, everything seemed to be in order, all decisions had been made. Construction would be ready to commence in the summer of 2014 after several years of debating where, when and how to construct a new bridge to replace one that is failing both structurally and functionally.

But as it turns out, there’s still one piece missing, and it’s a big one.

Carver County — the lead agency for the bridge project — and it’s partner, the city of Watertown, have yet to receive a permit. If things don’t start coming together soon, the project could be delayed for another year, and the possibility even exists that the city’s preferred option might not be an option at all.

The county and city won’t know for sure when they can proceed with the project until they receive a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, which will base its permitting decision in large part on feedback received from the Minnesota State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) regarding preservation of the bridge’s historic nature.

“SHPO has the potential to impact our construction timing, without a doubt,” Watertown City Administrator Luke Fischer said. “If they ask more questions or send it back to us for more plan refinements or other iterations of plans, that has the potential to slow us down quite a bit.”

To read the rest of this story, pick up a copy of this week’s edition of the Carver County News.

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