As far as Missoula County is concerned, Brennan’s Wave is a go. The proposed whitewater feature in the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula, which would replace a crumbling irrigation weir, was granted the long-awaited 310 permit Aug. 10. But the state still has to sign off before it can become a reality.
Trent Baker, president of the nonprofit Brennan’s Wave Inc., says he’s nervous but hopeful that two outstanding documents—a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit related to the construction work and a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) easement—will come through in time to allow the project to proceed as planned. Envirocon, an environmental remediation firm, has pledged to do engineering and construction on the Wave for a screaming deal. However, there’s a narrowing window during which the company can commit its resources, since Envirocon is heavily involved in the cleanup and removal of the Milltown Dam, which begins next year. Another hurdle comes from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, which contributed the bulk of the project’s funds, but requires that they be spent by next June. In combination, these mean that Brennan’s Wave needs its permits and it needs them fast if the current funding and action plans are to be executed.
Baker says acquiring the DNRC easement may be troublesome since the DNRC has made clear its concerns about liability.
DNRC Director Mary Sexton says the department is figuring out what might be required and will send a letter to the group in the next two weeks. An indemnification agreement is one possibility on the table, as is the long-term maintenance issue. The possibility of an insurance policy has even been raised, which Baker says presents its own problems.
Sexton says she recognizes the urgency of the project’s timing, but says everything needs to be evaluated carefully and thoroughly since nothing like this has been done here before.
Then there’s the cost of the easement. Easement applicants are typically charged for the project’s square footage at the adjacent land’s rates, minus 50 percent since it’s underwater. In this case, that means downtown Missoula, where real estate is already high and rising.