The Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners permitted two lake improvement districts in the county to continue for another five-year period after a commissioner expressed his concerns.
The board authorized at its Tuesday, Jan. 22, meeting the continuation of the Kimble and the Sibley lake improvement districts, but Commissioner Paul Koering worried about the costs.
"The purpose of the LID, as stated in their founding documents for Kimble, is to effectively manage Eurasian watermilfoil and other aquatic invasive species," said Jacob Frie, land services natural resource manager.
A lake improvement district, or LID, is a local governmental unit established by resolution of a county board that allows for greater local involvement in lake management activities. The board approved the establishment of the Kimble district in 2008.
"The people that come in and enjoy that lake probably are the ones that might have caused the problem to the lake and now all the owners are having to pay for that to try to fix the lake, and I just don't think that's fair. It just doesn't make any sense," Koering said of the districts.
Lake improvement districts
The original approved assessment amount for the year 2009 when the Kimble Lake Improvement District was first established was a maximum of $200 per parcel. Last year, 101 properties were assessed $115 per parcel for a total of $11,615.
"They've obviously been successful at treating Eurasian watermilfoil, to the point where I think it was broad treatment down to more spot treating now, so I think that's positive," Frie said of the Kimble LID.
The Sibley Lake Improvement District was established in 2008 to improve the water quality of Sibley Lake through lake management, aquatic vegetation control and related services.
The original approved assessment amount for the year 2009 when the Sibley Lake Improvement District was first established was a maximum of $110 per parcel. Last year, 170 properties were assessed $108.40 per parcel for a total of $18,428.
"I think the LID has helped us control the spread of Eurasian watermilfoil. Is it gone? No. We've had one year, maybe two, where we had no plants found, but in the last year, I think we found three plants throughout the year," said Jim Schultz, who lives on Kimble Lake's south side.
"If you go one lake downstream-Ossawinnamakee-you not only have Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels but currently pondweed. For a lot of years, we were able to control our Eurasian watermilfoil ... because of the activities of the LID."
A petition to the local government for the establishment of a LID must have a majority of the affected property owners within the proposed boundary, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. There are eight lake improvement districts in the county.
"We've engaged with a contractor, who comes in and inspects the lake four or five times a summer and then treats the plants that are found," said Schultz, who sits on the aquatic invasive species committee for Kimble Lake. "We have to sort of work with the DNR as to whether we're going to pull those plants or whether we're going to chemically treat those plants. And depending upon which year you talk to the DNR and what their philosophy is that year, you act accordingly."
A five-year lake improvement district report was submitted to the county in September by the Kimble LID and in October by the Sibley LID, and both reports were reviewed by land services staff in November. The previous five-year reports by the districts were published in 2013.
"We have a policy in the county that states that every five years our lake improvement districts shall create a five-year report. Every year, they do an annual report summarizing their activities and hopes for the future," Frie said.
Schultz said, "Last year, I think we did find four or five plants. They were treated. We don't use the term 'eradicate' Eurasian watermilfoil ... but we would say it's definitely under control, and we haven't begun to do anything about zebra mussels at this time."
According to the DNR, a lake improvement district does not have any taxing authority; the board specifies the funding arrangement when it establishes the district and a LID typically must pass its budget recommendations through the board for approval and actual collection.
"We're very pleased with the performance of the LID. We're pleased that it was able to help us with our access-monitoring program-afforded us to buy more hours from the county in past years to have more people at our access on a regular basis," Schultz said.
"We're in a chain of seven lakes of which five are upstream and are uninfested, and trying to get access monitoring done there helps us prevent people from going upstream and spreading Eurasian watermilfoil or the zebra mussels we now have to the upstream lakes."
Not all the lake improvement districts in the county, however, are as pleased with county government. The Ossawinnamakee Lake Improvement District is suing the county, and the lawsuit claims the county does not have the authority to limit the LID to a five-year period, according to County Administrator Tim Houle.
"That issue is currently, potentially getting litigated, and we may need to change those policies in the future depending upon the outcome of that litigation," Houle said of the county's LID policies.
Land Services Director Gary Griffin added, "There is a disagreement on the original petition that created the Ossawinnamakee LID and which parcels should be in and which ones should be out."
A county may assess costs to benefited properties, impose service charges, issue general obligation bonds, levy an ad valorem tax solely on property within the district or any combination of those to finance LID projects, services and general administration, according to the DNR.
"An ad valorem tax is a tax based on the assessed value of an item such as real estate or personal property. The most common ad valorem taxes are property taxes levied on real estate," according to Investopedia.
"It's been working very, very well for us," said Mark Jurchen, a member of the Sibley LID. "It's been a valuable tool in our challenges with our phosphorus levels, curly-leaf pondweed, and all of that is going to take a substantial amount of money."
A LID can also be the recipient of grants from state and federal agencies and private foundations.
"At the same time, grants are becoming harder and harder to get. ... As that dries up, we're going to end up having more and more of that financial responsibility," Jurchen said.
Koering made the motion to authorize the continuation of the Kimble LID for another five-year period, pursuant to the county's policies on the districts, which was seconded by Commissioner Bill Brekken, and it was approved unanimously.
Commissioner Steve Barrows made the motion to authorize the continuation of the Sibley LID for another five-year period, pursuant to the county's LID policies, which was seconded by Commissioner Doug Houge, and it was approved unanimously.