For weeks, Monterey Dam Association members have attended city council meetings to voice concerns the city isn’t being forthcoming about the Monterey Dam removal process.
Janesville City Council candidate Jeff Navarro is one of the group’s most vocal members. As he did Monday, he often claims at council meetings the city is not yet in a position to remove the Monterey Dam.
At the request of council President Doug Marklein, City Manager Mark Freitag tried to set the record straight Monday.
Navarro began his public comments Monday by saying he heard Freitag on the radio tell listeners the city has the permits necessary to remove the Monterey Dam.
“I’m concerned because that is flat-out not true,” Navarro told the council.
In October, the state Department of Natural Resources issued the city a permit and approved a plan to remove the Monterey Dam. The permit relates to chapter 31 of Wisconsin statutes, which regulates dams affecting navigable waters.
Navarro said the city has yet to obtain permits under chapter 30, which pertains to shorelines, and that Freitag failed to mention this on the radio.
“If you’re going to have someone go out and speak for the city and get on the radio, let’s make sure that the information going out is true because that’s not,” he said.
Navarro mentioned a petition the association has filed in Rock County Court has paused the dam-removal process. The association claims the DNR didn’t properly approve the city’s plan to remove the dam. A meeting will be held May 22 to decide when a contested case hearing on the issue could happen, Navarro said.
Navarro also brought up contaminated sediment resting on the riverbed near the former General Motors plant. Contaminated soil could endanger contractors working near it, he said.
Navarro said the city should have told companies bidding on the project that the decision to remove the dam is being challenged in court and that contaminated sediment is in the work area.
“They need to know all of these things. It’s only fair,” he said.
Navarro sat down to a smattering of applause from other association members in the audience.
After an hour of public comments, Freitag addressed the council and public at Marklein’s request to respond to Navarro.
“There’s a lot of misinformation being thrown around,” Freitag said.
Freitag acknowledged the city has yet to obtain three permits.
The first permit would allow the city to create fishing habitats, restore shorelines, create canoe launches and do other work in the area affected by the dam’s removal.
The second would allow the city to work in the wetlands in the western part of the project site.
The third would allow the city to work in the Monterey lagoon.
The first two permits go through the DNR and then on to the Army Corps of Engineers. The third ends at the DNR, Freitag said.
Freitag said all three permits will be easy for the city to obtain. It’s a matter of submitting plans, getting feedback and adjusting as necessary, he said.
“This is not something that is unattainable, and frankly, I don’t think that as we work through this process, as we work through so many other permitting processes before, that we’re going to hit a major roadblock that we can’t adjust to,” Freitag said. “The city understands we have something we want to achieve, so we’ll work through the process to get there. That’s what we do.
“The major hurdle was getting the DNR to issue this first document that we received back in October for the approval to abandon and removal plan approval. We’re well on our way,” he said.
The original permit the city received is no different than other permits the city obtains for other projects, including the downtown parking plaza demolition and other ARISE work, Freitag said.
In addition to the waiting period that comes with chapter 30 permits, Navarro said the city needs to get additional permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and that the typical waiting period for those is three to six months.
Freitag isn’t aware of permits the city has to get directly from the Army Corps of Engineers, and any permit-related waiting periods won’t slow the process, nor will pending litigation, he said.
“It’s not unprecedented to continue to work your project even though there may be litigation working in parallel to the project’s process,” he said.
Concerning the contaminated sediment, Freitag said GM site buyer Commercial Development Company is looking to take care of it in July, which is before dam removal would begin.
“They want to speed the process up and get it over with,” Freitag said.
The council later in the meeting approved applying for three grants related to the dam’s removal. Only Councilman Jens Jorgensen voted against the motion, saying he’d prefer to clear up confusion before applying for grants.
Freitag said the three grants are worth up to a total of about $840,000.
“If the city is fortunate enough to receive those grants, the $1.2 million bid project comes in at about $393,000, significantly lower than what anyone has projected to date,” he said.
After Freitag’s explanation, Jorgensen said the discussion would be better suited as an agenda item.
“We get criticized many times that we’re not listening and we don’t respond,” Marklein said. “This was a chance to show that we have been listening, we have been asking questions and an opportunity for the city manager. That’s why—”
Navarro interrupted from the back of the room.
“I believe I deserve the right to—”
“No, you do not,” Marklein said, banging his gavel. “Out of order. I will ask you to be removed if you continue.”
“Don’t bother,” Navarro said before gathering his belongings and leaving with other association members.