Commissioners to Take Permitting Concerns to Washington

By KBJR News 1

December 21, 2012 Updated Dec 21, 2012 at 9:02 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Several of the St. Louis County commissioners say that the process of obtaining permits for common public works projects, like fixing roads or bridges, is too long and too costly. Now, they're taking their concerns to Washington.

"You get done with one regulatory agency and then you start with the next and you get done with the next and you start with the next," said Commissioner Keith Nelson of the permit process.

Nelson and others on the St. Louis County board plan to take the issue to Washington D.C., where they'll meet with legislators and agencies involved in permitting. Nelson says its communication that could help them streamline the process.

"They all have to talk the same language and they all have to learn to work together," said Nelson.

Incoming Congressman Rick Nolan is hosting the meeting, which the commissioner hopes will include the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

St. Louis County Assistant Engineer Brian Boder says collaboration between the different permitting agencies would help the process.

"If one would delegate authority to another, then four different permits wouldn't be needed. It would help greatly," said Boder.

Boder says that within the last two construction seasons, six county projects have been delayed due to issues with the permitting process.

"You don't get your permit in time and it delays construction," said Boder.

Concerns should lie with taxpayers too, because delayed projects don't come cheap. According to the county, the six projects in the past two construction seasons that were delayed due to permitting issues cost $500,000 more than they would have if they had been completed on time.

The meeting is expected to take place in February.

Commissioners Dahlberg and Forsman plan to join Nelson for the trip.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.