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City seeks funding to cover storm water projects


Galen Wittrock of the South Platte Natural Resources District and representative of the Joint East Sidney Watershed Authority was given approval by the city council on Tuesday for his request that the city apply for funding for storm water quality and mitigation projects. These would cover east Sidney’s watershed, which flows into Lodgepole Creek.

Upcoming development projects, including the new hospital and Cabela’s, have prompted the need for the city to address any storm water and water quality issues in that area. Wittrock and City Manager Gary Person stressed the necessity of seeking out funding for the large project now, rather than later.

“Before we can move forward we need to kind of firm-up a funding source,” Wittrock told the council.

The city is requesting funds from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the State Revolving Loan Fund, or SRF, for a portion of the cost of the proposed water quality measures. These measures include construction of bio-swales, bio-retention areas and drainage structures.

The initial watershed study conducted by Olsson and Associates identified over $4 million in potential projects. Due in part to the city’s storm water ordinances, which place costs upon private developments to address storm water issues, this project cost is greatly reduced.

The remainder of the funds required is estimated to be a little under $1.9 million. The SRF loan is a low interest loan that the city of Sidney is eligible to apply for, but that the NRD on its own is not.

The city and the NRD are also exploring grants. One opportunity for funding is through the new Legislative Bill 1098, which requires that the Water Sustainability Fund contribute to suitable water-related projects.

“There’s some pretty good potential we could get some funding through that,” Wittrock said.

In the short term, the need to apply for for a loan from the SRF is more pressing than grant application.

“This low-interest loan...would lock in those dollars specifically for the Sidney projects and we just borrow against that as needed,” Person explained. “Anything we don’t have to borrow, we’re hoping to supplement through the different grant applications, but those are not due until September. The loan application is due in July. So we’ve got to request those funds now.”

Funds that end up being granted can be used to pay back the loan over the 20-year payback term, and there is also the possibility of loan forgiveness for up to 6.96 percent of the total projects.

Wittrock stated that the funds are available, and all that is needed is approval by city council to officially go forward with a request for the State Revolving Funds. Then the design phase process can begin.

“I think once the request is made by the city, that just starts that ball rolling,” he said.

Councilman Mark Nienhueser voiced concern about not having a clearer idea of the design and its estimated cost before budget discussions in July.

“I would like to see us get a project, at least on the west leg, the Fort Sidney leg of this thing, planned and in this year’s budget if we can get this put together,” he said. “Our interest from a city standpoint is that we get Olsson and Associates engaged in moving on at least the initial design phase, so when it comes to the budget conversation later in July, we have a fairly good idea what the first phase would look like.”

Nienhueser added that he believes the funds are currently available to begin on a design.

The council approved the request to apply for the SRF loan and, according to Wittrock, the watershed projects could begin next spring. He offered to submit an update report to the council next month.


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