The City of Casper will try again in the spring to obtain a grant from the state for rehabilitating a portion of the North Platte River, two city officials said.

Thursday, the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board -- comprised of the five statewide elected officials -- upheld the recent decision by the Wyoming Business Council to not recommend a $500,000 community development grant.

The grant would have partially funded a $3.8 million rehabilitation project from the Poplar Street Bridge to the BNSF bridge. Of that amount, $2.6 million already is funded through optional one-cent sales tax revenues, the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board, and the Wyoming Wildlife & Natural Resource Trust.

This third phase of the rehabilitation will enhance channel form and function, improve fish and wildlife habitat, stabilize eroding banks, improve passive treatment of storm water, and improve aesthetics immediately downstream from the former BP-Amoco refinery site to the BNSF bridge, project manager Jolene Martinez has said.

Despite the denial of the $500,000 grant, other aspects of the project will begin soon, and the contractor has arrived in Casper, she said.

The grant money would have been used to buy property, install a boat ramp and add amenities, but the lack or it will not affect the overall project, Martinez added.

For 13 years, the city has been rehabilitating the river and its banks. The first two phases have improved habitat for fish and in turn water quality, stabilized the banks, saved water wells, and moved the river by 80 feet near Morad Park, which in turn saved Wyoming Boulevard from being washed out, Martinez has said.

In the past, the Business Council has granted and won approval from the SLIB for two $500,000 grants for the river restoration, Martinez told the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board in April. The city made a similar request for this phase, but the Business Council wanted a further commitment from the community, hence the $200,000 request from the ARAJPB in April.

After the SLIB hearing, Martinez and Casper Community Development Director Liz Becher complimented the five elected officials -- the governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, and superintendent of public instruction -- for their interest in the project.
Becher said representatives from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department attended the hearing to support the city's request to speak for the need for the river project.
Martinez said she and Becher didn't have the time to clarify what they sought for the complex rehabilitation project, but were encouraged to try again next year.
"They were very generous and very kind, and asked us to reapply and asked the Business Council to reconsider the grant," Martinez said.
The city's grant deadline would be March 1, the Business Council would consider it in May, and SLIB will meet again in June, she said.

Besides the decision about the river rehabilitation project, the SLIB agreed with the Business Council and approved a $2.3 million request from the Town of Alpine for upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant.

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