Great River Landing progresses

Work on the the Great River Landing in Onalaska, as photographed in late July. The discovery of the remains of 24 people, some dating to the 1400s, will mean higher-than-expected archaeological costs at the site.

ONALAKSA — Phase 1 of the Great River Landing project is costing Onalaska more than anticipated, and the $2.35 million the city originally set aside for the project won’t be enough.

Archaeological costs are set to run the city more than six times the $17,776 it set aside originally.

Onalaska will now pay Mississippi Valley Archeological Center $113,460. The city of Onalaska sits atop sensitive Native American burial grounds, and when teams digging at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue time and again have come across human remains.

MVAC expect to find some. Kathy Stevenson, MVAC’s operational manager at the site, said finding human bones is not out of the ordinary, especially given the location of the project. But when the project got underway, it quickly became clear that MVAC was going to uncover more human remains than anticipated.

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“In [MVAC’s] original estimate, they thought they’d see one to two human remains,” city engineer Jarrod Holter said last week. “They found 24.”

And given the delicateness of the materials being dug up — some bones date as far back as the 1400s, according to Holter — each artifact that’s uncovered requires additional procedures (and money).

Archaeological costs were originally supposed to be one of smallest expenses. With the added costs, it became the second-most-expensive item, adding 7 percent to the original overall cost estimate.

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