DNR, Lake Chapeau residents close to settling lawsuit

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 10, 2002

After 12 years of dispute, the controversial dam at Chapeau Lake that was installed by area residents may finally gain the approval of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The dam built at the southeast of the lake in 1990, under an abandoned rail track was cited as illegal by the DNR. And the department removed the structure in October 1999. But the residents rebuilt it, again without a permit.

Then the residents formed the Lake Chapeau Habitat Committee and filed a lawsuit against the DNR asking for a temporary restraining order from the court to preserve the dam.

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The primitive dam, constructed of sandbags and wood, keeps the water level higher by about two feet than would be otherwise.

While the committee believes the elevation is essential for maintaining oxygen levels in the lake and nurturing wildlife, the agency is concerned that the dam would reduce the lake’s ability to hold and dissipate storm water bounce.

Don Savelkoul, attorney for the residents, said the court case is close to a settlement. The agreement includes authorization for constructing a permanent water control structure replacing the current dam.

One condition requested by the DNR is the involvement of the county in the permit, which would guarantee maintenance in the future.

The commissioners will examine the potential financial obligation and liability that goes along with being the permit holder at the next board meeting.