BY JOHN HOLLER
This summer has been stamped by the incredible destruction caused in and around Duluth, as torrential rain caused unprecedented flooding. Last July, it was Wright County that was in the bulls eye, continually getting pounded with a handful storms of in a two-week period that each brought approximately two inches of rain – with localized totals for some of the storms being significantly higher. It was during this time of extreme rain that pushed area lake levels dangerously high.
In conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Wright County Board of Commissioners enacted a temporary emergency no-wake zone on several lakes in Wright County.
At the July 3 meeting of the county board, the process of putting more teeth – and more permanence – into the temporary ordinance put in last year began.
Assistant County Attorney Greg Kryzer came before the board at the request of Commissioner Rose Thelen to set a public hearing for a proposed Water Surface Use Ordinance for a list of lakes that would enact a means of impose a 300-foot no-wake zone at times of high water levels.
Last July, 15 lakes had temporary no-wake zones imposed – Albion, Augusta, Bass, Caroline, Clearwater, East/West Sylvia, Henshaw, Locke, Louisa, Marie, Mill Pond, Nixon, Pleasant, Swartout and Sugar. In addition, a 300-foot no-wake zone was put in place on Cedar Lake. Kryzer said the purpose of the proposed ordinance would put the emergency rules unexpectedly put in place last year be part of county protocol in the event of a repeat occurrence.
"Last year, we used emergency procedures that the DNR had in place," Kryzer said. "The purpose of the ordinance proposal is to make those procedures permanent and have a plan in place when lake levels hit a certain point above normal high-water marks. The ordinance would call for a 300-foot no-wake zone when those levels are hit."
Kryzer said the purpose of the ordinance is not to create another level of bureaucracy. In fact, the county would have little to do with the actual imposition of no-wake zones. Rather, it would put rules in place for lake associations to determine when their own lakes are in danger of sediment degradation.
"The ordinance is being tied closely into individual lake associations," Kryzer said. "They are the ones that are bringing this forward and doing the groundwork to set the parameters for their lake if the ordinance is adopted. We’re setting up the framework for the ordinance, but it is the lake associations that are the driving force behind it. High water levels result in the erosion of the fine sediment that is on the shore and, combined with waves help pull the sediment into the lake and decrease the water quality. It’s up to each lake association and the residents on each lake to determine what the level at which restrictions would be put on."
To date, four lake associations have informed the county that they want to be of the ordinance if it is approved – Cedar Lake, East/West Lake Sylvia, Sugar Lake and Howard Lake. Kryzer pointed out that the lake associations would be responsible for setting high-water levels for their own lakes and that, even if imposed, it wouldn’t ban boats and watercraft from operating on the lakes, just limit the areas in which they could run to 100 yards from shore.
The board set a public hearing for the discussion of the proposed ordinance for 9:31 at the Aug. 21 board meeting.
In other items on the July 3 agenda, the board:
PRESENTED a retirement plaque to Nancy Borrett of the jail administration department. Borrett began her career in law enforcement in 1986 and was hired as a corrections officer in Wright County Feb. 20, 2001. Her last day of work was scheduled for July 6.
AWARDED the contract for the Chevron Safety Project, which will install a total of 684 signs throughout the county alerting drivers that they are approaching a potentially dangerous curve in the road. The contract was award to A&H Contracting, whose bid of $115,801 was almost $60,000 less than the engineer’s estimate and more than $17,000 less than the next-lowest bid. Since the county had never worked with A&H before, Highway Engineer Wayne Fingalson said that the company got very positive reviews for work done in Morrison and Todd counties.
SET an alternate date of 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 18, to interview a candidate for the county highway engineer position. The candidate interviews were scheduled for July 12, but one of the candidates said a long-planned vacation wouldn’t make him available to meet with the board on the scheduled date. Thelen said she can’t get out of a previous commitment that morning and may have to take herself out of consideration for selecting the top candidate, since she won’t be part of all the interviews.
ADOPTED revised sections of the county’s personnel policy manual dealing with portable devices and their security. Increasingly, the use of mobile devices are becoming a trend for county employees and the additions to the personnel policy seek to mange the proliferation of those devices and how they are used in the workplace.
APPROVED an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to install a pair of rural intersection conflict warning system signs on Hwy. 55 at the intersections of CSAH 3 west of Annandale and CSAH 37 west of Maple Lake. The signs will alert drivers on Hwy. 55 at night if a car is approaching the stop signs at the intersections, where the Hwy. 55 traffic doesn’t stop. The installation comes at no cost to the county.
REFERRED discussion of potentially streaming county board meetings on-line to the technology committee meeting, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. following the July 31 board meeting.
ADOPTED a policy for repairs to county ditches. The policy will help expedite repairs when they come up on an emergency basis and cut through the red tape and delays that currently exist when dealing with ditch repairs.
REFERRED discussion of an offer of long-term health care benefits to the July 18 ways and means committee.
AUTHORIZED the removal of beavers from a dam near Rasset Pit, located on County Road 35 west of Buffalo. The board also voted to proceed with getting cost estimates for fencing between a county-owned parcel and a neighbor. The approval to construct the fence was approved in 1990, but was never completed. Due to Green Acres legislation changes, the landowner must have his land in production by the end of summer or face a penalty from the state.
REFERRED discussion of a traffic detour due to road construction in Stockholm Township to the transportation committee.