It was September when Pastor Steve King, of Northstar Baptist Church, took to Twitter to appeal to see the church’s driveway culvert installed.
The drive was the only way in or out of the church at 1315 S. Arlington Ave., and the historical culvert and cribbing were failing as well as the paved drive above it. The only problem was the Coffee Creek trout stream that ran underneath the driveway, and rules against construction disturbance of spawning season by the time the culvert arrived for installation.
After some negotiation with the Department of Natural Resources, the church reported this month that the culvert has been installed.
“We are excited, grateful and somewhat relieved," King said. "We believe God has answered prayer in this. I am thankful for their willingness to compromise.”
The DNR had previously denied an extension request on a work permit that expired as the church and its contractors waited for the culvert. King said he worried about a collapse of the driveway, and thus for his parishioners’ safety.
“In the interest of public safety, DNR staff worked with the engineer, contractor and landowner to modify the culvert installation and construction methods to lessen the impact on the trout stream so the project could proceed,” Deserae Hendrickson, area fisheries supervisor, said in a statement to the News Tribune. “There will likely be some degree of impact on the trout stream and there may be additional work needed next summer to further stabilize the sediments.”
King brought publicity to the church’s side with his tweet on Sept. 19. But in the time since, he’d come to see the DNR, despite doing its diligence by applying deadlines and adhering to policy, had come out the bad guy in some people's eyes.
The culvert is literally on site, waiting to go in. Total time in the creek is three days, and we needed an extension of less than a week. No dice. pic.twitter.com/upz3aL2uV1— Steve King (@stephenrjking) September 20, 2019
“The individuals at the DNR were and are doing their jobs,” King said. “They were on the receiving end of the heat generated by the publicity; they responded graciously, visited our site and met with our contractors on multiple occasions, and supplied a workable compromise that our contractor was able to execute without additional cost to us. I thought they were great.”
The driveway and its $80,000 price tag for reconstruction had come to represent a burden for the small congregation — dominating their attention and requiring much of their resources, King had previously said. The situation had deteriorated significantly in the years since the 2012 flood.
“The driveway has immediately been significantly improved,” King said. “It is better to drive on, a bit wider, and easier to plow. Most importantly, it will be secure throughout the winter and spring melt, a concern that is now gone.”