Branson Landing gears up with Corps 404 approval

Branson obtains 404 approval

By Chandra Huston, BDI Staff Writer

It has taken three years and countless studies, but the city has finally obtained 404 application approval for Branson Landing from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A common joke with city officials and Branson Landing representatives has been that the approval would come in two weeks. Months later, Corps of Engineers officials still held firm at two weeks, but the 404 approval never happened. Now two weeks has finally come for the city.

Notification of the corp’s initial permit approval for the $300 million retail development on the Lake Taneycomo waterfront was received Dec. 20. The approval does include certain environmental conditions that the city must meet during Branson Landing’s construction. Those conditions include maintaining the water quality of Lake Taneycomo and preserving the wetlands of the lake and Roark Creek over which a bridge will be built.

The project has seen some delays due to the lack of the 404 permit. Construction of a seawall along the lake and Roark Creek bridge could not begin until the 404 was issued.

The Corps of Engineers asked the city to sign off on the conditions and mail the application back to Colonel Wally Walters, the corp’s district engineer in Little Rock, Ark. Dody said he signed the application and returned it by certified mail to Col. Walters, who signed the final approval on Dec. 23, 2004.

Dody said the 404 process was right on schedule until this past October. “The process worked exactly like it was supposed to,” he said. “We understood from the beginning that it would be a long process due to the tremendous amount of information, plans, maps and documents the corps and other federal and state agencies had to review.”

Dody said three events caused the 404 process to slowdown this past fall. The Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were using different high water marks for mapping. “There were about eight different measurement points established over the past 80 years and there is a variance of several inches between each marker,” he said. “Both agencies had to agree on one measurement point. That caused a delay in finalizing the engineering design for the seawall and boardwalk.”

The close of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30 also slowed things down because the corps had to focus on their own budgeting process.

A new colonel also took over the controls at the Corps of Engineers offices in Little Rock and had to review the project before approving it.

In November 2001, city officials selected the Corps of Engineers to coordinate the documents and studies required by federal and state agencies that determine water projects. The agencies include the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Conservation Department and the State Historic Preservation Office as well as the federal Environmental Projection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and FEMA.

The corps specifically examined aspects of the project related to the preservation of public waterways, including economics and aesthetics and the impact on wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife, flood plains, navigation, erosion, water quality and the general needs and welfare of the people.

“We worked closely with the corps in providing every piece of information they requested,” Dody said. “The city even hired outside engineering firms who had special expertise in these types of environmental studies.”

City Engineer David Miller said Branson Landing is being built to flood elevations recommended in the 2001 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Flood Study.

Branson Mayor Lou Schaefer said he is glad to see Branson Landing progressing. “It’s definitely full steam ahead now for Branson Landing with the city successfully completing this 404 process,” he said. “All of the requirements that guarantee that the project will not adversely affect Lake Taneycomo have been compiled.”

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