Third Ward still uneasy about riverbank project
After this summer, the lower campus riverbank could look very different, but whether construction can start to remove trees and place stabilizing rocks along the area is depending on the Third Ward Neighborhood Association.
As a group, Third Ward members are the remaining petitioner against the university’s stabilization project for the Chippewa River bank along Garfield Avenue. The other objector, Eau Claire resident Stan Carpenter, said he removed his petition about a month ago.
The Third Ward – the neighborhood around lower campus – still has questions about the new design, the group’s president Ken Fulgione said. “We’re still uncomfortable,” he said.
Fulgione and other Third Ward members met Tuesday with officials at the Department of Natural Resources to discuss their concerns.
The nearly $1 million state-funded project calls for 30-inch-wide, gravel-packed holes, known as geopiers, drilled deep into the riverbank’s top from the footbridge to the Putnam parking lot to secure the bank. It would be cleared and dug into to build a 1.5:1 stabilization slope of riprap, or limestone chunks.
Although DNR officials answered some of the Third Ward’s concerns in their Tuesday meeting, the neighborhood group still wants more information about the use of geopiers to horizontally support the bank, Fulgione said. The group hasn’t been able to find or get examples of geopiers used in such a way from the company that produces them, he said.
Dean Steines, an Ayres Associates engineer on the project, said Geopier Foundation Company, Inc., gave examples of geopiers securing landslides, which he thinks is the same concept.
Third Ward members are not satisfied with those examples, Fulgione said, because they’re not the same stabilization technique.
The DNR, Fulgione said, agreed to get more information on the stabilization technique and make sure the geopier company endorses it.
Third Ward members plan to discuss the project within a week, then with the DNR the next week.
If the Third Ward drops its petition, then the DNR would issue a permit for construction, said Dan Koich, a water regulations and zoning specialist. If the group decides not to, then a state hearing examiner would rule on the project, he said.
The group doesn’t want a hearing, Fulgione said, but wants to know the project better in case.
For more than two years, UW-Eau Claire has tried to stabilize the campus riverbank. University officials are worried that large portions of the bank and road could collapse due to high flooding.
Engineers redesigned a smaller, less-intrusive plan after the initial proposal spurred two petitions and a DNR permit denial in December 2001.
DNR studied the new design after it was completed late last March and decided it would be “acceptable at this time,” Koich said.
Koich said the new design meets all of the DNR’s prior concerns, which mainly dealt with the initial proposal’s level of encroachment into the river, which extended 30 to 70 feet out.
Facilities Planning and Management Director Terry Classen said in late March, any riprap in the river would be underwater and insignificant. On Monday, he said geopiers involve university land and shouldn’t involve the Third Ward.
“It’s our land,” he said. “We’re not having anything put into the river.”
Classen said he is “puzzled” by the issues the Third Ward is raising now, because it originally was concerned with intruding the river. The Third Ward is delaying plans, he said.
Taking the issue to a hearing would delay the project by several months, Koich said.
Carpenter said he removed his petition because he felt continuing to oppose the project wouldn’t result in any changes and would cost taxpayers more money. Many of his initial concerns have been addressed, he said.
Carpenter said: “Fighting this project any further is crazy, in my opinion.”