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Gulf oil spill holding up Stillwater bridge review

The Gulf oil spill is holding up the latest review of a controversial bridge project in northwest Wisconsin.

The National Park Service was supposed to give a federal judge its latest evaluation of a new St. Croix River bridge near Stillwater, Minn., by July 1. But Chris Stein of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway says the Park Service has been tied up with the oil slick - and it might not provide its review until the end of the summer.

Federal Judge Michael Davis wanted a better explanation of why the Park Service approved the bridge, after it rejected the same project in 1996.

Davis says he won't approve the project until he's convinced it won't hurt the river - which the Sierra Club claims in a lawsuit which seeks to kill the new bridge.

Jim Rickard of the Sierra Club said his group lobbied federal officials this month to uphold the 1996 rejection of the Stillwater bridge - and they've sent 2,000 e-mails to the Scenic Riverway to try to stop the project.

The Sierra Club says it hopes the government will order a smaller bridge that meets community needs while minimizing damage to the St. Croix Scenic Riverway.

The new structure would replace a lift bridge that runs from Houlton to downtown Stillwater.

The new bridge would go south of Stillwater, putting drivers on Hwy. 36 toward the Twin Cities.