County to forego EIS on McDonald outlet [UPDATED]Published 10:40am Wednesday, April 25, 2012 Updated 10:40am Wednesday, April 25, 2012
In an unanimous vote Tuesday, the Otter Tail County Board voted to forego the Environmental Impact Study on the proposed Ditch 25 outlet for Little McDonald, Kerbs and Paul lakes, west of Perham.
The project will now move into a 30-day waiting period as appeals can be filed with the district court.
If the project is not met with appeal, it could still take several months before ground is moved as a studywill be done of Ditch 25’s capacity and the repairs that need to be done to make it a proper outlet of drainage. Commissioners will also have to approve several permits involving the project before construction can begin.
The vote on the EIS was to determine whether the board had enough information to make a knowledgeable decision on whether to use the proposed outlet project.
“You can do bathtub studies until you’re blue in the face, but you will never know until you turn (the outlet) on,” said District 2 Commissioner Wayne Johnson.
Prior to the vote, McDonald Lake resident Diane Alm said she was concerned about the recent lack of public involvement. “There has been a lot of time and effort by the public spent on a project that has now become private,” Alm said.
Alm also said she wondered why no property owners were involved in the investigative meetings on the outlet.
Commissioner Doug Huebsch of District 1 said they were not trying to hide information and was willing to expand the committee to involve property owners.
Commissioners reiterated before the vote the need for a specific operation plan for the outlet prior to construction.
“The operation plan needs to be more than just a few bullets on a sheet of paper,” Johnson said.
“We have the most water in the United States,” Commissioner John Lindquist said. “We don’t want to screw it up.”
County Attorney David Hauser told the board that the EIS decision was not directly related to the operating plan and that if they wanted to make suggestions on the operating plan, it can be done before the approval of the plan.
Huebsch saw concerns for lake residents, but stated that the need for public safety and health were higher priorities.
“The EIS would not add sufficient data to the project,” Huebsch commented, “it would add fear and delay.”