Lawmakers view options for lake improvement

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 7, 2002

Sen. Grace Schwab, R-Albert Lea, and Senate Environmental Committee member Dennis Fredrickson, R-New Ulm, toured Albert Lea and Fountain lakes to see firsthand how future lake management projects might work and exchange information about possible funding mechanisms.

They stopped at dam sites of both lakes. Proposals for replacing those dams did not pass the last legislative session.

County Watershed Technician Andy Henschel explained the Albert Lea Lake management plan adopted by the county board. One of the goals in the plan is to build a new structure that has a water level control function so that it can draw the water down in winter primarily to prevent shoreline erosion. The estimated cost for the construction is around $400,000.

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Fredrickson said, “The dam seems to be a good start for improving the lake management.” And he exhibited various funding mechanisms available to the county.

An Army Corps grant proposal totals $7 million. But 35 percent of that grant needs to be matched by a local funding. There are many funding options: a citywide half percent sales tax, bonding, service charges, special assessments, and special tax levies by governmental units other than the county or city. None of these are definite at this point.

Schwab said, “We will support the community to reach a final decision by placing all information about what’s available and how they affect residents in the county.”

Henschel made clear the county’s position not to support establishing other governmental units like the Watershed District and Lake Improvement District.

He is confident that the county can implement necessary lake projects with the help of sales tax. “I believe the sales tax is the best way to bring in the fund without increasing a burden,” he said. And even without the sales tax, the county would be able to pursue other grants and bonding to generate enough funds, Henschel added.