County board delays lake outlet decision [UPDATED]Published 9:46am Wednesday, March 28, 2012 Updated 11:49am Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners and county staff members need more time to address concerns over a proposed outlet on Little McDonald, Kerbs and Paul lakes, west of Perham. Those concerns were raised during a 30-day public comment period as part of an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW).
County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar and staff members will provide responses to those concerns, in a packet, to county board members on April 10. The county board, in turn, will study those responses before deciding on the need to move forward with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on April 24.
County Board Chairman Lee Rogness on Tuesday said he hopes the board can see the need to preclude moving forward with the EIS.
“My concern is that this (environmental process) is burning up good time that could allow for work to begin on the outlet project,” said Rogness.
Kalar agreed, but said even the Little McDonald-Kerbs-Paul Lake Association sees the need to go through the environmental process, as long as necessary. Roger Neitzke, president of the association who was present at Tuesday’s meeting, concurred with Kalar.
Board members asked Kalar for his prediction on whether an EIS would be needed. At the present time, Kalar said he leans for establishing an EIS process. He added, however, that circumstances could change, if all environmental questions can be adequately answered prior to April 24.
The proposed outlet route west of Perham, making use of Ditch 25, 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.
Commissioner Doug Huebsch, who represents the Perham area, agrees with Rogness by saying he doesn’t like to see further delays. However, he agrees that certain environmental issues need to be addressed before the county board votes on whether or not to proceed with the EIS.
“The reality is that it’s time-consuming to address all of the concerns that have been raised,” said Commissioner Wayne Johnson who represents the Pelican Rapids area. “We as a board need to make sure we have enough information in order to make a proper decision on the EIS.”
Three of the issues addressed during the public comment period include monitoring of phosphorus, the topic of lake sediments and potential downstream flooding. The project, if it gains final approval, would include control structures, channels and conduits.
County Attorney David Hauser reiterated Tuesday that it’s necessary for the county board to consider all the substantive and timely comments addressed during the EAW comment period. He also outlined environmental rules as criteria for making decisions, such as what the county board will need to do regarding whether or not to proceed with the Environmental Impact Statement.
If the county board decides that an EIS is required, that process must be completed before any permits 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.