Harbor project back on track?

Marshall Helmberger

TOWER - Tower’s harbor project— stuck in neutral for the past two years due to funding shortages and permitting delays— may finally be ready to get back in gear.

Legislators have tapped surplus dollars from the taconite tax relief account to fund three shovel-ready projects, and Tower’s harbor is on the list for $1 million.

Hibbing would receive $4.7 million and Mt. Iron would receive $1.7 million for projects in those cities, if the funding provision currently included in the House tax bill moves forward.

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said he expects similar language in the Senate tax bill, so the prospects for passage would appear to be favorable.

If so, it would enable the city to complete dredging of the river, excavation and sheeting of the harbor, and some public dockage as well, according to Deputy City Clerk Linda Keith. “If we can get these dollars we’ll be pretty close to developer-ready,” said Keith.

And developers are waiting in the wings, said Keith. The city has been in discussions with at least a couple of developers who have expressed serious interest in undertaking a major project as soon as the harbor is ready.

Permitting moving ahead

The city has also been waiting to complete the lengthy permitting process for the dredging. The city had originally hoped to undertake the project under maintenance permits issued years ago by the Department of Natural Resources. But the agency rejected that, requiring the city to begin the permitting process from the beginning. While it’s been a lengthy effort, Keith said the permits should be in hand by July 1, which should allow the work to get underway by mid-summer.

So two years after completion of the new Hwy. 169 bridge, the next phase of the harbor project may soon be underway.


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