A small creek damaged by stormwater runoff in 2018 at the site of the former Zavoral gravel mine in Scandia will not be fully restored.

Instead, the Scandia City Council last week agreed to allow BHE Renewables, the company that operates the Argo Navis solar farm on the site, to purchase wetland mitigation credits to offset the damage.

According to council documents, a Technical Evaluation Panel—comprised of officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Conservation District, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Carnelian Marine St. Croix Watershed District— recommended the mitigation credits, suggesting that additional on-site work could do more harm to the small creek than good.

The panel noted that BHE Renewables has done considerable work at the site since the incident to repair and improve stormwater retention ponds and stabilize slopes in the area. The panel also found that the creek is “still viable and recovering.”

“Based on the site review on July 30, 2019, the denuded slopes have begun to self-stabilize and with the removal of the surface water flow, the TEP feels this trend will continue,” the document stated. “Bringing in heavy equipment to remove trees and attempt to install erosion blankets may worsen the condition and the TEP no longer recommends additional stabilization.”

The company will purchase about 13,000 square feet of credits through the Minnesota Wetland Banking Program, offsetting the approximately 6,500 square feet of damage. The company will also pay $29,836 to the watershed district’s restoration fund.

Councilman Steve Kronmiller and Mayor Christine Maefsky commended the company for being responsive to the community’s concerns throughout the process.

In September 2018, heavy rains fell over a five hour period, causing stormwater at the solar farm site to flow over the top of a retention pond, sending tons of sand and sediment down nearby Middle Creek and into the St. Croix River.

BHE Renewables is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. The site is owned by Dr. James Zavoral and formerly housed the Tiller Corporation gravel mine.

Other business:

• The council granted a temporary liquor license to Scandia Fire Relief Association for the Scandia Fireball on Feb. 29.

• The council approved a step wage increase for City Treasurer Colleen Firkus following a satisfactory performance review. Firkus will make $21.98 per hour.

• The council appointed 17 city residents as election judges for the March 3 presidential nomination primary.

• The council designated The Country Messenger as the city’s official newspaper for 2020.

• The council appointed Councilman Chris Ness to serve as Acting Mayor. The council also reappointed Greg Amundson to the city’s planning commission; and Peter Nora to the wastewater advisory committee. 

The next Scandia City Council meeting will be held Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

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