EAW AND EIS
Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW)
The purpose of the EAW process is to disclose information about potential environmental impacts of the project. In addition to the legal purpose of the EAW in determining the need for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the EAW also provides permit information, informs the public about the project, and helps identify ways to protect the environment. The EAW is not meant to approve or deny a project, but instead act as a source of information to guide other approvals and permitting decisions. The EAW is completed by the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU) [in this case, the City of Eagle Lake] designated according to Minnesota Rules 4410.0500. There are four major steps:
1. The proposer (Bradford Development) supplies all necessary data to the RGU (City of Eagle Lake) to conduct the review according the the Environmental Quality Board's (EQB) rules.
2. The RGU (City of Eagle Lake) prepares the EAW by completing the standard form supplied by the EQB.
3. The EAW is distributed with public notice of its availability for review and comment. The comment period runs 30 calendar days. Certain state, federal, and local agencies always received EAWs for review. Any person may review and comment in writing on an EAW. A public meeting to receive oral comments is optional at the discretion of the RGU, but is not commonly held. (There was not one for this project)
4. The RGU responds to the comments received and makes a decision on the need for an EIS based on the EAW, comments received and response to comments.
From March 2nd to April 1st public comments were being accepted for the review of the Environmental Assessment Worksheet and included appendices.
They received 17 comments in support of the project and 350 concerns and questions. I myself submitted 16 pages total: 10 with concerns/questions and 6 with photos/documentation. Comments were also received by other residents and MN Department of Transportation, MN Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Blue Earth County Public Works and Blue Earth County Property and Environmental Services. (all available at https://eaglelakemn.com/city/stay-informed-about-privately-funded-motorsports-development-project-proposed-eagle-lake under "Draft FOF and ROD")
After a 30 day extension, on May 28, 2020 a special city council meeting was held (online) to determine whether or not an Environmental Impact Statement would be necessary. Those of us who had submitted comments were given the "Findings of Fact" (answers to our concerns) - 221 pages - with 24 hours to view them. (Note: while they don't have to give us reasonable time to view the documents before the decision is made, a few residents felt it would have been conscientious given our repeated concerns about transparency and being informed. I made the request before the meeting and other residents asked during the meeting). Along with what were were given to view, a Resolution for negative decision was included. While we were told that is standard - and if the decision was yet to be made - why wasn't there a document for a positive decision?
By a vote of 4 (Terrell, Short, Ries and Steinberg) to 1 (Mayor Auringer) a decision was made to forgo an Environmental Impact Statement.
Among the numerous concerns discussed here on this site, the EAW was full of careless errors. Conflicting descriptions of the project, mislabeled maps, referencing the wrong land use plan, missing discussions about wetlands, grading, local residents, etc. Since the EAW comment period passed, we learned that the hotel and entertainment center are no longer a part of the project, a 10 foot wall has been added to the 10 foot berm, there may be changes to the shoreland area, etc. We were NOT given the opportunity to view the true project and comment accordingly. This EAW should have been returned to the developer to complete.
The Findings of Fact left even more questions, with decisions to be made in "the final design" or "will be designed", and some references that led to nowhere or were just plain inaccurate.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
The EIS provides detailed information about the extent of potentially significant environmental impacts of a proposed project, presents alternatives to the proposed project, and identifies methods for reducing adverse environmental effects. The final EIS requires detailed analysis of the environmental, economic, employment and sociological impacts of the project, alternatives to the project, and mitigation measures for the project.
While the Findings of Fact claim the creation of jobs through the construction (for a period of time), clubhouse, restaurant/bar, driver training and maintenance staff, this is the extent of the employment and economic discussion. The sociological impacts were completely ignored. There has been no consideration to the effects a development like this might have on surrounding residents, rural or urban.