by William Skink
There are increasingly stories I read in local media that make me want to crawl through the words in the article to the people speaking them and shout loudly in their face, BUDGET CRISIS, BUDGET CRISIS, BUDGET CRISS!!!
That was my immediate reaction when reading that Mayor Gimme-Gimme Engen wants Max Wave so bad that he’s put the City of Missoula on the application, unbeknownst to City Council members. From the link:
The Max Wave is a proposed man-made wave, similar to Brennan’s Wave, that would be built near the Silver Park boat ramp. Included in the project would be fish screens, structures to help fish bypass the wave and improvements to river access and the natural area.
It needs an Army Corps of Engineers permit, along with permissions from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the Missoula City floodplain authority; consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks; and a lot of money. The group has already spent about $400,000 on the permitting and design process, and expects to need about $2.2 million for actual construction.
Engen said if the permits for the Max Wave are approved, he would recommend the city take ownership of the whitewater park, and ask the Missoula Redevelopment Agency for financing, and Parks and Recreation for oversight.
The first piece of confusion — the City of Missoula is listed as the applicant for Max Wave permits, which prompted members of the City Council to ask Wednesday: We are?
I guess Mayor Engen didn’t learn his lesson about keeping City Council in the dark about things he wants, like demolishing the Merc for a hotel. And to make things worse, Missoula doesn’t even have its shit together to provide ongoing management of the first play wave, Brennan’s wave. That point was brought up, thankfully:
John DeArment, the science director for Clark Fork Coalition, said the group sees the benefits of that section of the river becoming an “engineered whitewater play-park.”
“We’re looking at a badly degraded section of the river,” DeArment said. But he asked council to consider also the idea of trying to remake the river into its more natural state, as has been done around the Milltown Dam site in Bonner.
He also cautioned against adding another wave before figuring out ownership and management details, which have become confusing with Brennan’s Wave over the years.
“Until we have a way to guarantee long-term operation and maintenance of the first wave in downtown Missoula, is it wise to build a second one?” DeArment asked.
Brennan’s Wave board chairman Trent Baker told the council that they have taken care of the wave since its construction, and it is in fine condition.
Sure, Brennan’s Wave may be in fine condition now, but it wasn’t like that a few years ago. Here is some great reporting from the UM’s Kaiman about the six figure fix Brennan’s Wave need in 2015:
With Brennan’s Wave beginning to crack and fall apart, Missoula City Council met last week to discuss its maintenance and potential problems with the planned Max’s Wave.
Marilyn Marler, city council chairwoman, said that agencies involved in the waves were present during the discussions, including a representative from Brennan’s Wave, Max’s Wave, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and members of the public.
Marler said Brennan’s Wave is in need of $200,000 in maintenance fees that the city doesn’t have, and he isn’t sure where the money will come from.
“We shouldn’t be building things and not maintaining them,” Marler said.
Trent Baker, president of the Brennan’s Wave nonprofit, the organization that raised money to build the wave, said the $200,000 is not an official estimate.
Unusual circumstances damaged the wave, and it only needs a one-time fix, Baker said. He added that the fix could be broken down into a yearly cost of about $20,000 per year over 10 years, making the amount comparable to maintaining a city park.
In the last few years, the Clark Fork River’s higher water line knocked supporting rocks off of the structure and cracked the grout holding it together. The city has already invested $240,000 into Brennan’s Wave in the last decade, Marler said.
“If we already have one, we should take care of it before we build a second one,” Marler said, referring to the planned Max Wave.
I hope City Council stands up to Engen on this. They are being blindsided by a secretive Mayor and a constrained timeline for a complicated permitting process. And they should not believe Trent Baker, who obviously is not going to bring up the problems with Brennan’s Wave that have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to address.
Mayor Engen’s priorities for his utopian fiefdom are ridiculous. Max’s Wave is not some great opportunity for Missoula, it’s a stupid waste of money at a time of painful budget cuts impacting the most vulnerable in Missoula and across Montana.