‘An economically significant resource’

County Board looks at linking lakes together

With open-water fishing season wrapping up, warm summer days on the lakes seem far away, but members of the Chisago County Board of Commissioners already have boating on their minds.

By a 4-1 vote Oct. 16, the board approved a request by the Chisago County Lakes Improvement District to conduct a $34,000 study that would research the feasibility of linking North Center and North Lindstrom lakes together by a channel that would go under the County Road 20 Bridge in Lindstrom.

The LID, which has its own taxing authority, has to seek County Board approval for actions that exceed $10,000.

Commissioner Lora Walker, who cast the dissenting vote, said she wasn’t opposed to the feasibility study, but she wasn’t comfortable with the timing of it.

“I would like to know where the county stands with the reconstruction of the County Road 20 Bridge,” she said. “These projects are intertwined. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. I’m going to decline to support it at this time until I get more information about the bridge construction.”

Commissioner Mike Robinson said he would support the study and later the project as long as the funding for making a channel between the lakes didn’t come from the county’s property tax levy.

“The bridge is in bad shape,” he said. “One way or the other, it needs to be fixed. I just don’t want anything extra going to the taxpayers. It’s kind of a luxury deal – if LID wants to spend the money on it, let’s do it.”

County Administrator Bruce Messelt said under the county’s Transportation Improvement Plan, the County Road 20 Bridge is scheduled to be considered for construction in 2015. The possible funding sources for that project would come from state aid and state bridge bonds.

Messelt noted the bridge likely wouldn’t be modified to accommodate a channel.

Instead, if the LID decides to move forward sometime next year after the feasibility study is complete, then trenching and building of a weir (a device that controls flow characteristics in channels or rivers) would be used to make the channel navigable.

If North Center and Lindstrom lakes were linked, they would be part of a chain of lakes that also includes Chisago, Bull, South Lindstrom and South Center.

Chisago County Water Planner Jerry Spetzman said that would make the chain of lakes the second largest contiguous waterway in the metro area behind Lake Minnetonka.

“I think it’s an important study of an economically significant environmental resource in our county — the chain of lakes, if connected, would be one of the largest, longest connected waterways in the entire state of Minnesota,” County Board Chairman Ben Montzka said. “That’s a significant economic asset and environmental asset. We need to study it.”

Construction updates

Also during the meeting, County Engineer Joe Triplett gave the board an update on county road improvement projects.

He noted:

• The 2013 paving maintenance project is almost complete. All paving is done, and there is just minor shouldering work and striping to be completed.

• Workers recently finished the County Road 8 Bridge but still need to complete the approach to the bridge. That project should be completed in another couple of weeks.

• MnDOT is starting to do its cable median project along I-35. They hope to have that project wrapped up by mid-December.

• Plans are in the works for a County Road 30 reconstruction project between Stacy and Wyoming. The county hopes to have a set of preliminary plans to MnDOT within a couple of weeks.

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