In March, the St. Paul District Real Estate Division announced that it received approval from the Corps’ Headquarters Directorate of Real Estate, to pursue the acquisition of a non-standard estate (NSE). Kevin Sommerland, real estate chief, granted the approval for one of the district’s long-term dredged material placement sites for Pool 2 in the Mississippi River. The site, known as the Southport Placement Site, is owned and operated as a St. Paul, Minnesota, river terminal by the St. Paul Port Authority.
According to Sommerland, pursuant to the Corps’ long-standing real estate regulations, whenever land is needed for a dredged material disposal site, the standard real estate interest to acquire from a landowner is the fee simple estate. The law recognizes fee simple ownership as the highest form of ownership in real estate. It entitles the property owner to full enjoyment of the property, including the land and any structures on that land. The directorate’s approval of a less-than-fee estate, otherwise known as an easement, marks the beginning of a potential new way of doing business with some landowners located throughout the district’s area of responsibility on the Mississippi River.
“This is a game-changer for our planning process,” said Nate Wallerstedt, project management branch chief. “This affords the district with an opportunity to seek more win-win solutions that are good for taxpayers and landowners, while being able to maintain a positive public-relations image for the agency.”
Clayton Tallman, project manager overseeing the development and release of the Dredged Material Management Plan for Pool 2, said the approval is something his team has been pursuing for a long time. “We are currently finalizing the Pool 2 DMMP, and the Southport Placement Site is a key component to being able to effectively manage and maintain the navigation channel for the next 40 years. Having the authority to negotiate a less-than-fee acquisition will result in a much more stable relationship between the St. Paul Port Authority and the district.”
The approval to use a NSE is specific to each acquisition. Although the district will not be able to use the Southport Placement Site’s NSE at other locations along the Mississippi River, Sommerland said he believes the door has been opened for additional approvals in the future, especially at locations that are owned by another government entity. “We have numerous sites along the river that are conducive to a less-than-fee acquisition,” Sommerland said. “As long as we can clearly demonstrate the benefits that are to be gained by collaborating with landowners, we should be able to secure additional non-standard estate approvals more readily, because of this specific landmark approval.”
Real estate staff will now begin the negotiation process with the St. Paul Port Authority. As soon as an easement is in place, said Zach Kimmel, district channel maintenance coordinator, the district is ready to place material at the site. Approximately 45,000 cubic yards of dredged material will be unloaded annually at the Southport Placement Site. This material will later be removed from the site by the St. Paul Port Authority and other users, at no expense to the Corps, restoring capacity for the next dredging season.