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Board approves laser contour-mapping project

St. Croix County supervisors voted last week to combine $30,000 from a St. Croix River Crossing fund with other grants to pay for a laser contour-mapping project that’s expected to cut the time and cost of detecting areas that cause water pollution.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Supervisor Andy Brinkman of the high resolution Light Imaging Detection and Radar (LiDAR) data terrain analysis. “It’s cooler than Star Wars was in the 70s.”

Community Development Director Ellen Denzer said the project involves a flight service and computerized data. The LiDAR process provides elevation data for land-use planning, conservation planning, construction site planning and estimating, farm field applications, zoning enforcement, wetland delineation and flood plain mapping.

The data will be collected over the entire county, said Supervisor Agnes Ring, and with its two-foot contour mapping, will provide good background data for planning development.

The project will cost $165,000. The $30,000 approved last week will come from St. Croix River Crossing Growth Management Mitigation funds. Other funding includes $55,000 from land information fees; $50,000 from a Department of Natural Resources protection grant; and $30,000 from the St. Croix Basin Team River Crossing Mitigation grant.

Both Wisconsin and Minnesota have designated the Lower St. Croix River as an impaired water resource because of excess phosphorus blamed on rapid population growth, development and farming practices.

Supervisors were told the LiDAR data terrain analysis can reduce the time needed to detect critical areas that contribute to pollution so their effects on water quality can be minimized or mitigated.

Bike trail planning

Supervisors also voted unanimously to proceed with a second-round application for funding for a bike and pedestrian route plan. This would be an update that would combine two existing plans into one and would also incorporate local municipal bike planning.

The Transportation Alternatives Program provides 80-percent grants for bicycle and pedestrian plans.

The Stillwater bridge project, now under construction, includes building an interstate bike and pedestrian trail, called the loop trail and scheduled to open in 2017. Communities on the western side of the county are interested in planning bicycle routes that would connect with the loop trail.

Bicycling is a $900 million a year industry in Wisconsin, but the state has few trails in this area, said Mark Gherty of the St. Croix Bike and Pedestrian Coalition, a new organization that promotes multiuse trails. He said bicyclists who use the Elroy-Sparta State Trail spend an estimated $30 per person per day in that area.

Gherty said the St. Croix River crossing could be a hub with trails leading out into the county.

“That’s families, that’s tourists, and tourists spend money,” he said.

Getting this grant enables the development of a plan that would allow the county to apply for funds to actually do trail improvement projects, Denzer said. If the planning grant is approved, the Community Development Department will come back to the County Board to ask for permission to proceed.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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