The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Fate of riverbank plan uncertain

A state examiner will decide the future of UW-Eau Claire’s proposed almost $1 million Chippewa River bank stabilization project on campus in late fall.

The state’s Department of Administration will hold a hearing, which does not have a date set, but is expected to begin in October or November, said Dan Koich, a specialist with the Department of Natural Resources who has dealt with the project.

The hearing probably will be held in Eau Claire and consist of a full day of testimony and then an examiner’s decision possibly a few months later, he said.

The decision from the hearing will either allow the project to go on as planned, not happen at all or be built with some adjustments to the original plans, Koich said.

Story continues below advertisement

The riverbank project, which had been planned last spring and was to be finished over the summer, addresses the university’s concern for the gradual eroding of the river bank along Garfield Avenue.

Engineers have determined that there is an erosion problem that risks eventually damaging the road and utilities pipes there, said Vice Chancellor Andy Soll.

According to current design plans, a 1,200-foot long bank of limestone rock chunks would extend from before the footbridge downstream toward Putnam parking lot. The bank would extend 32 feet into the river channel.

University officials hope either the hearing will allow the project to happen or that someone will provide evidence showing that the project is not needed, Soll said.

“We continue to believe the project is necessary,” Soll said, adding that if the state allows the project to go ahead, he thinks construction wouldn’t start until after the spring semester of 2002.

The fall hearing will provide an opportunity for all of the facts and observations to be brought together in one place, Soll said. From it, the university hopes to get a more defined direction as to the project’s design and an idea of any desired changes to it, Soll said.

“At this point, we continue to look at the design and think about changes that could be made,” Soll said. “We’re open to (changes). We’re not wedded to this specific design.”

The public hearing is due to the DNR requiring the university to post a public notice of the project for 30 days, which it did in early June, Soll said.

The DNR received various comments from citizens and university faculty. Two of the letters it received met the criteria for holding a public hearing, Koich said.

Some of the public’s concerns dealt with the need for the project, the effects of its design on flooding and erosion elsewhere, the displacement of wildlife and the look of the rip-rap bank, Soll said.

John Hibbard of the Third Ward Neighborhood Association wrote one of the two letters that required the public hearing. Hibbard said he does not think the project is needed and is concerned with the engineering procedures used to judge the project’s effects on the river.

“The whole premise of the (project) is faulty. It’s unnecessary,” Hibbard said, adding that he thinks it’s basically about the university wanting to improve the look of its campus.

The university already has agreed to adjust some of the project’s plans dealing with replacing certain types of trees and shortening the length of the bank near Putnam Park, Soll said.

University faculty members, who questioned the project extensively in the spring, also have questions with the surveying methods of the project’s engineers from Ayres Associates, said geography professor Sean Hartnett.

The hearing also will provide a chance for all questions to be answered, Hartnett said.

Despite some frustrations the faculty expressed toward university officials in spring about not hearing of the project’s plans soon enough, it isn’t a big concern now, Hartnett said.

The focus is on the river’s future, he said.

“I’m concerned, bottom line, with the river,” Hartnett said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Fate of riverbank plan uncertain