Column: County lake planning process is advancing nicely

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 24, 2001

The planning process for water related activities is progressing.

Monday, December 24, 2001

The planning process for water related activities is progressing. The Board of Commissioners formed a Lake Committee that is studying scenarios for lake improvements on Albert Lea Lake. They have been meeting every other Tuesday evening at the courthouse and the meetings are open to the public.

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Much of the increased focus on our water, lakes and environmental resources has come about because of the agreement the county has with the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) in St. Paul. We have agreed to take a more aggressive role in lake and watershed management and have a lake committee made up of community volunteers working on plans for water improvement.

Before making a committee membership recommendation to the Board of Commission-ers, I spoke with each proposed appointee about who they represented and whether or not they felt the proposed committee membership was balanced so that single issue groups would not dominate or sway the committee in a narrow focus. All were in agreement that the committee we proposed (and was later appointed by the commissioners) was balanced. We also were concerned that efforts of lake committees and watershed cleanup efforts of the past were not scrapped and that the planning process was carried forward by members of the community, not special interests or single agenda interests.

The Lake Committee has brought in specialists with an engineering background and experience to &uot;teach&uot; members about lake management scenarios and dam construction. There will be other &uot;specialists&uot; at future meetings talking about their experiences to help us to avoid reinventing the wheel when management scenarios are discussed. Anyone interested should attend these meetings to learn along with the committee so we don’t have someone walk in at the last minute with what they think are new ideas, and not have the advantage of the learning curve the others have been through over the past months.

Last winter the Shell Rock River Watershed Advisory Committee worked very hard at developing a watershed plan and their work is now being implemented into the Freeborn County Comprehensive Water Plan. It is our hope that through this lake committee, we will apply the knowledge and valuable resource they are creating into a management scenario and apply it to other lakes in our county.

While the Lake Committee continues its work, we on the county level continue our efforts to improve the watershed and lake projects already started, as outlined in our Comprehensive Water Plan. Our plan talks about managing lakes to save or increase game fish populations, planting of native vegetation, reducing erosion and providing habitat for wildlife. Although some residents may not agree with everything outlined in our plan, we will not stop our activities and wait for the Lake Committee to complete their management plans. The fish could die, weeds and litter could take over our shorelines and erosion could continue to fill our waterways. We have a very good watershed management plan in place right now, and our department will continue to work on lake and water issues until the planning committees come up with new management scenarios and strategies, and they are approved by the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and adopted by the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners.

Randy Tuchtenhagen is the director of the Freeborn County Environmental Services Department.