Jeffrey S. Broberg, LPG
Chairman, National Trout
St. Charles, MN
Dear Lanesboro Mayor and City Council:
The National Trout Center (NTC) passed a resolution at our April 9 Board Meeting in opposition to the proposed Lanesboro Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) location at the MN 250 bridge. I submitted NTC objections to the City Council at your June 3 meeting.
After re-reading the engineering report and hearing current updates from Lanesboro residents at the City Council meeting, I am more confused than ever how the new sewage plant site was ever selected by the City Council. NTC asks again that the City Council reconsider the location and approach to upgrading Lanesboro’s sewage plant.
Two things seem to be in conflict.
•First, the engineer report and the public believe that Lanesboro already has a functioning WWTP that meets the discharge standards and works fine. It has the benefit of being out of sight out of the public, has no impact on the floodplain, and has the capacity for renovation, growth, and added efficiency.
•Second, Lanesboro has a pervasive culture and concern for serving the visitors and tourists that come to town. I have always been impressed with how much Lanesboro is concerned with making a good first impression. Visitor impressions and service to Lanesboro visitors was part of almost every Council discussion this week, except the location and impact of new sewage plant at the City’s gateway.
I am at a loss to explain the disconnect between Lanesboro’s desire to impress tourists while proposing a massive blight on the shore of the Root River. Placing an industrial sewage treatment plant at the MN250 bridge is neither a location, nor a design, that welcomes your visitors.
Regrettably, civil engineers are rarely sensitive to land use and planning concerns. The City needs to realize that sewer plant engineers are neither trained, nor are they inclined to consider the community character. As technical experts, sewage engineers do not account for all the communities’ needs, nor do they care about the permanent impression that their sewer plant leaves on visitors. Without firm guidance, civil engineers have a general tendency to ignore existing recreational uses and land use compatibility for public works projects; these are viewed as City planning concerns, not engineering concerns. This risk of a lifelong mistake is worse when the City blindly accepts the recommendations of out-of-region engineers.
It sounds like perhaps the Council has not considered all the dramatic land use impacts of a sewer plant, is not aware how the proposed new treatment process takes much more room and will continuously have offensive odors, noise, and lights that will be objectionable to everyone within 500 feet of the plant at all hours of the day.
In the long-term, the City must acknowledge that the look of the sewer plant will decline over time. The looks of the plant will be among the least of concerns for the sewer plant operators, but over time the looks, odor, noise and lights will be the focus of concerns for neighbors and tourists. A sewage plant crammed in along the river will be a painfully obvious scar for everyone who lives in town in who or comes to Lanesboro.
This controversy looks like a classic case of Lanesboro permitting the engineers to be in charge. This proposed WWTP relocation is the sort of thing that the NTC believes needs a qualified second opinion. Before Lanesboro makes a final decision on the WWTP the NTC advises City Fathers to compare the details of a new plant and ask the community to be involved in the plans. Before making a commitment to place a permanent blight at the 250 Bridge, Lanesboro residents and users of the Root River deserve a closer look at all the impacts and costs for the plans proposed by the engineers. The City Council should have the courage to reject plans that degrade Lanesboro.
If allowed, the Lanesboro WWTP will result in the loss of tourists and will be a permanent smelly blight on the neighborhood. Everyone who comes to Lanesboro on MN250 will arrive with a negative impression. Unfortunately, the City Council, not the engineers, will bear the responsibility. Lanesboro residents and tourists will remember the City Council for the mistake.