Tight funds strain plans for Blue River reclamation in Breckenridge
The town of Breckenridge may back out of a possible partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers to reclaim a segment of the Blue River after the corps implemented a new policy that would put a bigger financial burden on the town.
The two entities have been in talks for several years to jointly fund the project — to return a northern section of the river to its pre-dredge mining glory — but when the corps announced the town would be responsible for half of the cost of a feasibility study, local officials indicated they might back away from the partnership.
“We are still trying to figure out what that really does to affect us and what are some of our options,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo said. “Nothing’s been decided yet.”
The project would focus on one of several portions of the Blue River harmed by dredge mining. In some areas the water disappears, seeping through the damaged river bed. The restoration work has been on the town’s to-do list for decades, officials said, and represents the last and most complicated segment of the Blue River slated for reclamation.
Dykstra-DiLallo said the work is “one of our ways to conserve water as well as just beautify it through the town.”
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The Army Corps of Engineers had what was referred to as a “loose” agreement with the town to pay for the majority of the restoration project with federal funds. But in past years, there has never even been enough money available to complete the feasibility study. The new policy, corps officials say, is intended to encourage local partners to get involved early on.
“Very little money has been available,” Army Corps of Engineers project manager James Baker said. “There has been an ongoing effort in Washington, by Congress and by the various administrations to try to get the local potential beneficiaries of these project involved early on a financial basis.”
But with the policy change, Breckenridge officials are talking about striking out on their own with the project instead.
Early estimates put the total cost of the restoration for the last section at approximately $7 million, a big bill for the town to foot alone. On projects like this one the corps would traditionally fund 75 percent of the cost, asking the local actor to contribute the remaining 25 percent. However, even if the town did pitch in for half of the feasibility study, it wouldn’t guarantee federal funding for the project itself.
Members of the Breckenridge Town Council said moving away from the corps could present an opportunity for a new conversation regarding reclamation.
Town officials will address the issue again at their next pre-meeting work session May 28.
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