A couple county commissioners said they’d better not see any bills for channelization paid out of the county’s general tax receipts in the future; as they hesitantly voted last week to approve hiring an engineering consultant for additional channel study. The Chisago Lakes Lake Improvement District (LID) Board had sent a request for the county commissioners to release about $34,000 for study of a removeable weir, that could theoretically be opened when water levels are adequate to fill the channel between North Center and North Lindstrom lakes.
One of the LID goals in its mission statement is to restore boat navigation between the lakes. The LID has been researching property lines, wetland location, permit rules and many issues related to this channel for at least two years. Individual LID Board expenses greater than $10,000 must be authorized by the County Board so the weir contract was on last week’s agenda. County Commissioner Mike Robinson and Commissioner Rick Greene didn’t hide the fact that they look at this lake connectivity issue as a localized matter.
Both expect local taxpayers within the Lake Improvement taxing district to fund costs associated with this. “Tax them (LID residents) all you want,” Robinson remarked. Greene said the County Road 20 bridge, that currently goes over the channel, is on the replacement list and rightly so. But he also said anything “extra” done to the bridge related to channelization won’t be getting his support in the future. Commissioners George McMahon and Ben Montzka joined in voting yes. Commissioner Lora Walker voted no on the request for weir analysis funding.
She said the process seems odd and felt the bridge and the channel planning ought to be happening concurrently, so she can understand the county’s total financial commitment. She said she doesn’t oppose doing the channelization study but the county board was being asked to “put the cart before the horse.” County Board Chair Montzka said the weir study funding request “seems reasonable” and not any different from any other appointed entity pursuing a public project. McMahon said the LID needs to flesh out the costs for the weir, and its functionality in order to better understand a channel project. This Emmons & Olivier Resources Inc. engineering study will be done by March 2014.
It still won’t be the final channel analysis, however. According to the administrator’s memo that accompanies commissioner information packets, the information will only “...help the county board make an informed decision on the next step, which is to complete (an estimated $24,000) Environmental Assessment Worksheet.” In the public comment portion of the meeting, prior to the weir study vote, citizen Joe Tromburg spoke about on-going efforts to restore navigation throughout the Chisago Chain.
He said the North to South Center Lakes channel has been improved and the North to South Lindstrom Lakes channel has also seen improvements as part of the one-way pairs project in Lindstrom. This channel in the middle of the chain, is “the most important part” to fully restore connection through the chain of lakes, he stated. And, Jim Koubitschek also used the public comment time to ask if the Board could put Cedarcrest Trail (County Road 8) onto the road plan for next year. He said there’s only two miles left that need attention. “It costs money I understand that, but there’s not that much left,” he pointed out. The #8 bridge, by Goose Lake, was done this summer and is scheduled for completion soon. Bridge approaches are getting final finishing touches right now.