WASHINGTON – Congress continues to inch forward on authorizing a replacement for the aging bridge crossing the St. Croix River in Stillwater. The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to mark up a bill sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann allowing construction of a new bridge.
If the bill passes through the full committee, it will then head to the House floor for a vote. A companion bill in the Senate authored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar has not yet received committee approval. Bachmann’s bill is co-sponsored by fellow Minnesota Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack, as well as Reps. Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Ron Kind (D-WI).
If passed, the bill would be most significant piece of legislation authored by Bachmann, who’s running for the GOP presidential nomination, to receive Congressional approval.
A replacement bridge requires Congressional approval because the St. Croix River is protected by the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which generally prohibits significant new structures around protected rivers.
Congressional sources have told MPR News that to speed the process, Bachmann has agreed to substitute Klobuchar’s bill language for her own at this upcoming hearing.
Last month, Bill Berndt, a lobbyist for the coalition advocating for a new bridge, told MPR News that he anticipated significant Congressional action on the bridge in October.
Over the summer, Gov. Dayton had set a Sept. 30 deadline for Congress to authorize a bridge in order to allow MNDOT to redirect the funding set aside for the span to be used for other projects. Last week, MNDOT told MPR News that the Sept. 30 deadline was “no longer valid” and that the agency was working with Minnesota’s Congressional delegation to push through passage of the authorizing legislation.