Archived Story

Board weighing need for 2nd study on water project

Published 10:54am Wednesday, February 15, 2012

While sympathizing with residents in land-locked lakes near Perham, Otter Tail County Commissioners on Tuesday said environmental protection must also be a factor when considering a using a ditch to lower water levels.

“We as a county board want to move along the lake outlet process, but at the same time, we need to do the right thing when it comes to environmental protection,” said Commissioner Doug Huebsch, who represents the Perham area.

The regulatory process is underway for the project which eventually may result in residents of Perham area lakes getting some relief from high water.

One public comment period, for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet regarding the use of Ditch 25 as an outlet for Little McDonald, Kerbs and Paul lakes, ended on Feb. 8. Now the county board must decide on whether to proceed with an Environmental Impact Statement.

The county received 10 letters and e-mails with citizen concerns during the EAW comment period. Copies were given to county board members on Tuesday by County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar.

This issue will be addressed at the next board meeting, this coming Tuesday, starting at 9:30 a.m. The EAW is a brief document prepared in worksheet format which is designed to rapidly assess the environmental effects which may be associated with a proposed project.

An EIS, if deemed necessary by entities such as the county board, is ordered for projects that have the potential for significant environmental effects.

Kalar said that if the county board decides that an EIS is required, that process must be completed before any permits for the lake outlet can be approved by the county. If the county board decides that an EIS isn’t needed, the permit process could begin unless the county board’s decision is appealed to district court.

The proposed outlet route, west of Perham, extends in a southwesterly direction. Water would discharge from Little McDonald Lake to Berger Lake, in turn flowing through Big McDonald, Round, Star, Dead, Walker and Otter Tail lakes. Then the water would flow into the Otter Tail River.

An existing 24-inch diameter pipe crossing under Highway 34 would be used to carry water flow from Rusch Lake to Little McDonald. Rusch Lake is a smaller lake, not to be confused with the much larger Rush Lake south of Perham.

The project, if it gains final approval, also would include control structures, channels and conduits.

The Board of Little McDonald, Kerbs, and Paul Lake Improvement District previously secured the services of Houston Engineering to determine and design the outlet route that was feasible within the capacity of Otter Tail County Ditch No. 25.

Landowners along Ditch 25 have been contacted about the outlet proposal. Those affected downstream, such as lakeshore owners at Star Lake and Dead Lake, are part of the discussions.

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