In a special meeting before Tuesday’s regularly scheduled work session, the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners voted to enter into a contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in order to move one step closer to receiving necessary federal and state funds for a project at County Road 12.
A long road
The project began after flooding in Kuester Slough outside Courtland resulted in County Road 12 being shut down in June 2018. Heavy rains pushed the water level to 10 inches over the roadway along about 1,200 feet of road.
Within days of the growing problem, Nicollet County began working toward reconstructing the road and addressing the problem, with plans to raise the well traveled road over floodwater level. The project extended to about 2.5 miles of reconstruction along the road north of Courtland.
This comes after years of problems along this stretch, which has continually flooded in wet years. Public Works Director Seth Greenwood pointed out that the basin of water in that area has no natural outlet, so any water that feeds into it stays there. In addition, not much water can filter through the bottom of the basin, since there’s a “really impermeable” layer of muck on the bottom, between 6 to 25 feet deep in some areas.
According to Greenwood, the project will take place in stages, since the road was built on “very poor” soil. He said once one section is completed, it will need to be monitored and allowed to “settle” to ensure it is ready for more layers of crushed rock. These settlement periods can take two to six weeks at least.
Once the road is finished, it will still need to settle for at least another six months before it’s safe to use.
Raising the 1,200 feet of road is estimated to cost about $2.24 million, Greenwood said, though that figure comes from preliminary work done in November 2018. He added that the county will be receiving federal highway disaster funds, though they’re still waiting on more reviews and approvals.
Meeting the requirements<&firstgraph>
According to Greenwood, because the project is partially funded by the Federal Highway Administration and MnDOT, the county must meet several different approvals before work can be started. One of those is ensuring that “historic” properties along the planned route are not adversely affected by construction.
“When we use federal funding, we have numerous approvals,” he said.
If the county were to skip obtaining approvals and refuse federal and state funds, the project would end up costing Nicollet “millions of dollars,” he warned.
He added that usually, the county would commission a study to look into historic sites, such as farmsteads or even “historic” trees or other landmarks. However, MnDOT will often take the lead with historic studies when federal funds are being used. This can be a benefit to the county, since that means it will receive 80 percent funding from MnDOT for the study as well. If Nicollet were to commission the study, it would be responsible for the entire cost.
After brief discussion, commissioners voted to enter into an agreement for MnDOT to take over the historic study.
According to Greenwood, the county still needs approvals regarding wetland mitigation and obtaining the necessary right of way, and it still needs to work with the Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Highway Administration. He added, however, that he is “optimistic” about the project’s scheduled timeline, which includes a planned start date of spring 2020 and a completion sometime in 2021.