BELOIT - Some residents in Beloit have expressed concerns about the potential impact a downtown stadium for the Beloit Snappers might have on the natural environment of the Rock River, and state officials say any changes to the Rock River bank would need state approval.
Designs for the project, proposed for 217 Shirland Ave., are preliminary and no official plans have been submitted to the Beloit City Council for review. If the developer on the project, Hendricks Commercial Properties, chooses to alter the Rock River bank, an additional permit outside of the already-required environmental review would need to take place, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources South Central Region Director Mark Aquino.
The city is responsible for enforcing flood plain ordinances and development via the zoning approval process, while the WDNR has jurisdiction of the river itself at or below normal water levels, Aquino said.
Aquino stressed that no plans have been received at the state level for an additional permit, noting that none of the conceptual drawings suggest alterations to the river bank.
"It's very early in the process," Aquino said. "We don't have specific project applications submitted to us or final drawings or plans. All we have is an idea of the big picture concept. That's not unusual, and applications come in when (developers) are certain when they know what they are going to build."
Any special permitting process could take, depending on the request, a couple of weeks to 90-120 days, Aquino added.
At a meeting on Sept. 30 project officials told the Beloit Daily News that any construction, following city review and action, would require environmental review ahead of time. Residents voiced concerns about affecting the wildlife in the area with a new stadium.
The site itself is a former brownfield area that had past uses as a manufacturing gas plant in the 1950s and a sewer treatment facility in the 1990s. In 2007, the city closed out the site by adding a soil cap to the property to contain any contaminant that still remains in the area. Project plans for the downtown stadium would include adding two feet of additional soil cap on the property, with all footing and foundation construction to require special removal of dirt to be taken to a site capable of properly disposing of contaminated soil.
Senior Vice President of Development and Hendricks Commercial Properties John Gackstetter could not be reached for comment by press time.
Of the stretch of the Rock River that runs past the proposed stadium, Aquino said the area was home to a "decent fishery" and a number of game and non-game species in the immediate area.
"The flow of water is good there and there's a fair amount of shore fishing that takes place in that area," Aquino said. "(WDNR) would definitely want to minimize or avoid any negative impact on those public access points to those resources."
Wildlife Biologist Jason Kotter, who oversees Green and Rock counties for WDNR, said the department conducts an annual wildlife count in the area. In the last two years, Kotter said the area near the Shirland Avenue bridge at the state line has picked up a higher number of Canadian Geese and various species of ducks, but noted there's no recorded spring breeding survey route through the area.
"But that doesn't mean they aren't along the river bank," Kotter said.
In terms of bald eagles, Kotter said the department has reported multiple eagles in the area. Just south of the border at the confluence of the Turtle Creek and Rock River, an active eagles nest is plotted by the department.
"Their proximity to the site for development wouldn't necessarily affect them," Kotter said.
A federal requirement states no development can take place within 300 feet from a bald eagle nesting site.
"Nothing else is showing up in our database as an active nesting location, or specific state-threatened species as a concern," Kotter said. "The river is definitely a route for bald eagles. We see a lot of them up towards Janesville."
Kotter said he's been brought on to consult for environmental analysis in the past, but has yet to be contacted to share his expertise.