Lake owners at odds over drawdownPublished 10:44am Friday, April 8, 2011 Updated 10:44am Friday, April 8, 2011
When Long Lake reaches a certain level, the county highway department opens a 15-inch pipe that connects Jewett Lake and Long Lake. Water flows northward from Jewett into Long. When the water level on Long Lake rises above a certain level, the pipe is closed.
The Jewett Lake Association is seeking a conditional use permit (CUP) for modification of terms and conditions of the current policy. The association is seeking an increase in operating time of the pipe and flow to relieve what it terms “excessive flooding of Jewett Lake.”
This issue will be discussed during the next Otter Tail County Planning Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, at the Government Services Center in Fergus Falls.
Long Lake and Jewett Lake are located about 10 miles north of Fergus Falls. The pipe between the two lakes was installed in the fall of 1999.
“The level that it is shut off is just below our OHWL (Ordinary High Water Level),” said Kirby Anderson, a member of the Long Lake Association.
Long Lake has a natural water release. Water goes through a small creek, flows to Reed Lake and eventually enters the Pelican River. Jewett Lake has no natural outlets. The pipe has been used periodically since it was installed.
In prior years, some members of the Jewett Lake Association have lobbied for the pipe to remain open 100-percent of the time in light of ongoing high water problems. They maintain that continual operation of the pipe would not adversely affect the water level of Long Lake. For that reason, through the CUP, Jewett lake members seek to have the pipe stay open all the time.
However, Long Lake property owners disagree.
While saying that they sympathize with many lakeshore owners at Jewett Lake, those who live at Long Lake emphasize that their lake has also reached record levels in recent years. Even though water flows from Long Lake into the Pelican River, property owners at Long Lake say this flow is not fast enough and does not prevent water from rising at Long Lake.
The original agreement dates back to 1999, between the Jewett Lake Association and Otter Tail County. At that time there was no association at Long Lake. Input also came from the county highway department, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the county’s shoreland management department.
Property owners at Long Lake believe that the agreement between both lake associations, and the designation of a party to periodically check lake levels and open or close the 15-inch pipe accordingly, has been a good policy. They also note benefits to all property owners at both lakes over the years.
However, members of the Jewett Lake Association say the policy with opening and closing the pipe needs to be revisited. Lake property owners at Jewett Lake paid for the cost of the pipe that connects the two lakes, approximately $60,000.