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Storm sewer plan needs public input

City engineers wanted to talk about flooding Tuesday, but not the kind of flooding that's been plaguing northern Minnesota since the snow started melting last week.

"This isn't related to the river itself ... this is more storm sewer and drainage throughout the city," said assistant city engineer John Anderson, describing ongoing steps toward developing a Cloquet stormwater resiliency plan.

It's been 40 years since the city last completed a stormwater plan, and with climate change a factor that wasn't even on the radar then.

"As we look to the future, we see larger rain events, more intense, short duration rain events," Anderson said.

Part of the project is modeling what those situations bring to the current system, and the fact that engineering standards have changed since then.

It's an issue that has been on Anderson's mind for months now. "It doesn't have anything to do with building anything, it's investigating what we have and how that fits the needs that we have now and going forward," Anderson said during a meeting last September.

After spending the past year compiling data on and mapping the aging storm-sewer system, the public works department has identified a number of projects around town that would be beneficial to lessen the impacts of climate change. But the department wants public input. Projects range from increasing the size of culverts to installing new storm sewer systems in at least one area.

Last fall, the city asked for public input on locations that may be prone to flooding. Now they're asking people to look at the proposed projects and weigh in.

"Part of this process is we're taking public input to make sure we don't miss something,"

Anderson said, explaining that the final report will map out the where, what, and how much the cost is for each of the projects.

Residents can find the storm-sewer map and other information on the city's homepage at http://www.cloquetmn.gov for the next month. Those who can't or don't want to learn how to maneuver around the online map are invited to stop by or call the city engineering department to give their input.

The city received a $106,000 planning grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to create the plan. The better the plan, the better the input, the better the city's chance of tapping into more funding to implement the plan.

"If we have it documented in a plan or report, you're much more successful in gaining those funding opportunities," Anderson said.

In other matters Tuesday, the council unanimously:

• Approved to apply water and/or sewer connection charges for three vacant lots within the 14th Street project instead of assessments for utility improvements. The connection charge would cost the same as an assessment, but would be applied only when a connection becomes active.

• Approved extending the water service agreement to provide municipal water to the Black Bear casino, hotel and golf course for another five years. The agreement has been in place since 1995. Black Bear is one of the city's 10 largest water customers.

• Approved changes to city loan, tax increment and tax abatement funding policies and applications to provide incentives to private businesses to sign private project labor agreements. If businesses qualify and execute the private PLA with the Duluth Trades Council, the city would offer an additional 15 percent in funding, if available.

• Approved the 2023 sewer lining project.

• In response to a question from the council, public works director Caleb Peterson said residents are welcome to bring branches and yard waste to the brush pile at the public works department off Armory Road during work hours. Peterson is hoping the city will be able to hire a contractor to pick up branches and brush curbside this spring, because of the extensive damage done to trees and brush by the Dec. 13-15 snowstorms. The city could be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of the costs because of the state of emergency approved by Gov. Tim Walz.

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