Posted on April 20, 2017
By Tim Horan, Salina Journal
The estimated cost to restore the old Smoky Hill River channel through Salina has doubled since the master plan was approved in 2010, the project manager told the Salina City Commission in a study session Monday.
Eric Dove, with HDR, said his Omaha, Neb.-based engineering company wants to begin developing a preliminary design with a $20 million budget. He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could perform about $10 million worth of the river cleanup, reducing the city’s cost.
The Salina City Commission is expected to act on HDR’s preliminary design contract at next Monday’s meeting.
Salina Utilities Director Martha Tasker said river projects “get complicated fast.”
“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime project for our community,” Tasker said. “We want to do the best of the best. I’m excited about building something everyone wants to see. We have to meet the visions of 50,000 people.”
Dove said his company wants public input and plans to hold a series of meetings.
“Every public meeting has a different flavor, a different focus,” Dove said. “The first one will be just re-engaging people. All the downtown development is now occurring so there is a large investment. There are all these changes that have occurred since the master plan was developed so we want to re-engage the public to see if there are some different ideas.”
Changes to the plan
There are some changes to the master plan. For example, the urban area of the river would have a mud bottom instead of concrete. Also left out of the new design are a main channel bypass area, education facilities, riverside streetscape and a Lakewood marina.
“We have to get the skeletons put together,” Dove said.
The latest plan calls for a natural river throughout most of the 6.8 miles and an urban area located near Salina Community Theatre.
The first public meeting will be in June or July.
Dove said planning will take through 2019 with construction ending in 2022 to 2023.
He said the project can be done for $20 million. An additional $10 million in Ecosystem Restoration Program funding is available through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pay for the natural flowing portion of the river. The Corps money is for restoration of critical habitat loss attributable to prior Corps projects. The Corps finished adding the channel and levees in 1969, cutting off the flow through the city of Salina.
“We just have to look at what makes the most sense, which parts we want to do first,” Dove said. “$20 million is a lot of money. We can’t cheapen up the wrong things.”
However, he said every decision has a cost.
Jane Anderson, director of Friends of the River, said it’s exciting to see the project begin.
“We’ve been waiting since the master plan was developed. I think it will be so beautiful for Salina. I’m not sure any of us realize the impact it will have on Salina,” she said.
City funding will begin after 2019, when a portion of a voter-approved special sales tax to fund Kenwood Cove aquatic park ends. About $1.3 million a year will go to the river project.
Source: Salina Journal