Lawmakers aired out a proposal on Wednesday to help Green Bay move coal piles from a riverfront site where they’ve sat for more than a century and make way for new development.
The state Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Energy held a public hearing on a bipartisan bill that would use $5 million in federal COVID-19 aid to help the city of Green Bay and Brown County pay for moving the coal piles, which now take up a quarter mile of the Fox River in downtown Green Bay.
The coal piles, which are owned by C. Reiss Coal Company, have occupied a property on the western banks of the Fox River, south of Mason Street, since 1904. Rep. David Steffen, R-Howard, said Green Bay area leaders have been working for decades to no avail to move the coal piles.
One big obstacle was removed in 2016 when Wisconsin Public Service Corp. announced it would close down its 220-acre Pulliam Power Plant at the mouth of the Fox River. The closing presented a chance for officials to redevelop the property into a working port, and move the coal piles from downtown.
“It has been a challenge for our community,” Steffen said. “Every once in a while you need some sort of bump to occur to get the stars in alignment. That happened about a year and a half ago. A big transition occurred when WPS closed down their coal fired plant at the mouth of the river.”
After WPS decommissioned its power plant, Brown County approved a plan in February to purchase 43.75 acres of the property it occupied for $2.7 million. The coal piles would occupy a 10-acre section of the power-plant property. Brown County officials plan to turn the remaining land into a working port over the next several years.
Moving the coal piles, meanwhile, could open up part of downtown Green Bay to new development. Steffen said constructing the port in the former power-plant property and redeveloping the site where the coal piles sit could bring $200 million or more in economic development to the city.
The proposals now before the state Senate would direct Gov. Tony Evers to take $5 million of the nearly $2 billion Wisconsin is due to receive in federal coronavirus aid and provide it to Brown County and Green Bay for the project.
Dean Haen, director of the Port of Green Bay, said having a port at the former power plant property will require dredging, the construction of a dock wall, the remediation of environmental contamination and other work expected to total about $21 million. Officials would redevelop the power-plant property before moving the coal piles.
“It’s quite expensive, what it will take to develop this property,” Haen said.
Committee chair and an author of the bill, Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, said directing federal COVID aid to assist in moving the coal piles would mark a key step in redeveloping Green Bay’s waterfront.
“Hopefully something like this can really give it a push to move forward in the years ahead,” Cowles said.Follow @natebeck9
Green space! Has the city of Green Bay ever heard of green space? Green Bay appears to be building a wall (of buildings) all along the Fox River. Pretty soon the Fox River shoreline in Green Bay will be one big wall. You won’t be able to see the river from the roadside of this wall.
Alternatively, leave green space. Public land along the Fox River would encourage development adjacent to the river, and city blocks into the interior of the city. Many more people having access and views of the Fox River.
There is an abandoned train switching yard within a couple blocks of the river. Use this area for the coal piles, for the short remaining lifetime of Coal usage. Turn the current coal pile area to green space.
Coal??? Are we not heavily reducing the use of coal? Green Energy? Renewable Energy? Our future is NOT coal. Why are we spending any money, my tax money, on coal? A couple of recent decommissioned smoke stakes in Green Bay, were some of the most polluting smoke stakes in the country. They used coal. Those businesses are no longer using coal. Don’t you dare use “the peoples” money to pay for coal.
The former Pulliam Plant is the entrance to the city of Green Bay. Make it beautiful. It will encourage new development into the interior of the city, and likely more tax base, and tax money than the alternative.
Lastly, why in the heck, are we spending Covid money on Coal Piles? This is unbelievably not smart people. The money was taken from the people for Covid. The people do not want to the money spent on coal.