City adjusts plan to address phosphorus runoff

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city will take advantage of an opportunity to make its plan to comply with phosphorus runoff reduction requirements easier to accomplish.

City Administrator Brian Yerges and Public Works Director Cathy Austin outlined the plan for the City Council’s Public Works and Utilities Committee Tuesday.

Two years ago, the city adopted a plan to reduce phosphorus levels in the Mullet River to meet new standards set by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The city, Yerges said, faced three possible options – capital improvements at the wastewater treatment plant, adaptive management practices or water quality trading. The latter two would impact the entire Mullet River watershed, not just the portion in the city.

In 2016, the city had opted for the water quality trading plan. Under that, the city would take measures to reduce phosphorus in storm and waste water runoff into the river, while also seeking improved farming and other practices on private property throughout the watershed.

While that option remains the least expensive to the city, Yerges noted that the city would have to have all private property management agreements in place by 2020 in order to meet the DNR requirements.

If the city changes to the adaptive management plan, the DNR has said the city could take up to five years to fully implement the necessary measures, Yerges reported.

“They’ve basically extended our compliance time frame,” by allowing the plan change, Yerges told the committee.

“It’s nice we get a couple of extra years to work on it,” Mayor Donald Pohlman stated.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” added Council President Charles Hansen.

The city could still pursue water quality trading plans and have more time to implement them as a result, he added.

The adaptive management plan would be more expensive than water quality trading because it has to be applied to every property upstream of the wastewater treatment plant, Austin said, instead of just on enough properties to reduce phosphorus discharge to acceptable levels.

“We’re looking for that sweet spot where we can do different things with water quality trading that would be less than $180,000 a year,” Yerges said.

By contrast, capital improvements at the wastewater treatment plant to meet the new phosphorus levels could range from $1.8 million to $4.5 million or more, according to a report in 2016 from the city’s consulting engineers on the issue, McMahon Engineers/Architects.

The committee declined to take any action on a request from the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad and the state Department of Transportation for a temporary authorization permit.

The permit would allow in- stallation of “Welcome to Plymouth” banners on either side of the railroad bridge over East Mill Street between Milwaukee and Caroline streets.

The banner is being proposed by the Redevelopment Authority, which has expressed willingness to pay to make, install and maintain the banners.

The railroad and the DOT would approve their installation, Yerges said, but only with a signed permit.

He said he believed the RDA would not have the authority to sign the permit but that it would have to be approved by the City Council and signed by the city.

Committee members raised questions about the design, installation and maintenance of the banners that they would like to have answered before moving forward on the permit.


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