By Jason Arndt
The City of Burlington could receive more financial assistance to repair the Echo Lake Dam under a motion passed by a state committee.
Burlington native and State Rep. Robin Vos, R – Rochester, said in a May 19 announcement the Joint Committee on Finance has accepted his budget motion allocating another $1 million for the Echo Lake Dam.
The motion is now part of the budget bill and still needs to clear multiple hurdles before reaching Gov. Tony Evers’ desk for approval later this year.
Vos said the budget motion will be voted on by the full assembly in late June.
The Joint Committee on Finance’s decision comes after the city experienced several months of debate, including an advisory referendum, and becoming a recipient of a $1 million Municipal Dam Grant from the state Department of Natural Resources.
“Saving Echo Lake has been an issue of concern in the community, and thankfully after listening to the people of Burlington, the Common Council unanimously voted to modify the dam rather than remove it,” Vos said in a news release.
Last November, advisory referendum results revealed nearly 60% of voters supported retaining the Echo Lake Dam, while about 40% looked to demolish the structure.
According to the proposal presented in November, the project would include repairing the dam, keeping and dredging Echo Lake, and expanding existing park amenities at an $8.1 million estimated cost to taxpayers.
The cost takes into account a $1 million Municipal Dam Grant.
While the Common Council has not decided on a design, or contractor to complete the project, city officials said the job consists of modifying the dam to include three gates and an observation deck.
Additional preliminary elements consist of a reinforced earthen berm through Echo Park, repairing downstream river wall and installing upstream river wall near the gates, trail and lighting improvements, a flexible performance area, an ADA accessible canoe and kayak launch, along with dredging and shoreline stabilization.
“The state has already committed $1 million in grant funding to the city, and now with this approved budget motion, I am happy to share that the City of Burlington will receive an additional $1 million for Echo Lake – totaling $2 million for repairs and restoration,” Vos said. “With these funds, we can make progress to preserve and protect a beloved part of our community.”
Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty said on Monday she is happy with the additional support from the state, however, acknowledged it is still a long process before all elements come together.
While the city received some support through the Municipal Dam Grant, and potential assistance through the state budget, Hefty said city officials are still exploring additional grant options to reduce the total taxpayer responsibility.
Common Council President Jon E. Schultz II commended Vos for including the Echo Lake Dam project in the budget motion.
“Speaker Vos has always been an amazing advocate for Burlington, and we’re lucky to have him as our representative in Madison,” Schultz said. “The repair and restoration of Echo Dam and Lake is an expensive, but necessary, endeavor. The additional grant funding from the state is a great help, and we’re very thankful for this.”