Efforts to gain approval for a four-lane bridge over the St. Croix River not only represent a significant threat to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, but if successful would set a dangerous precedent for Wild and Scenic rivers nationwide, according to a national rivers advocacy group.
At issue is a new bridge across the St. Croix River that divides Minnesota and Wisconsin, one that is expected to cost at least $700 million to build, and which would require an exemption to the Wild & Scenic River Act as that section of the scenic riverway is covered by that act.
Last fall the National Park Service, after considering the project for a fourth time, refused to permit the new bridge, holding that it would present direct and adverse impacts to the river that could not be "avoided or eliminated."
But U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican representing Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, has been pushing legislation in Congress to, in effect, overrule that Park Service decision. Her legislation would dictate that the proposed bridge is "consistent with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act."
American Rivers, in its annual Most Endangered Rivers list, today said that effort "would undermine the values that make the river a regional and national treasure – and set a dangerous precedent for other Wild and Scenic Rivers nationwide."
While the group doesn't deny there's a need for a new bridge over the river, it believes that "(A)lternative designs with less impact on the river and lower costs should be evaluated..."