A resort expansion project near Vergas will not have to undergo an environmental review, Otter Tail County Commissioners decided at their Dec. 14 meeting.
Neighbors opposed to the Loon Lake Resort expansion had requested a review through the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, citing concerns about the number of proposed campsites, wetland degradation, invasive species, overdevelopment, excessive traffic boats and water quality.
The commissioners dismissed their objections, saying many sites will be farther from the lake and are well below the number allowed by state and local shoreline requirements. Loon Lake is already infested with zebra mussels, they pointed out, and the county isn’t about to start policing the number of boats allowed in a lake, given the county’s many lakes.
The county had previously forced the station, located at 32053 Loon Drive in Candor Township, to limit its expansion. The complex had requested a total of 47 docks, but the county limited it to the existing 31. It plans to add 48 units, bringing the total number of units to 70.
Opponents said they realized the county did not have to complete an environmental assessment worksheet because it did not meet the 50 new unit threshold. However, their petition stated that the total of new and old campsites would exceed the 50 required for a mandatory environmental assessment.
Their petition cited Minnesota case law allowing the local government to consider existing units when deciding whether to order an environmental review for an expansion project.
“All development must be considered and the cumulative impacts of increasing pressure on the lakeshore and on public resources,” the petition reads.
Tami Norgard, a Fargo lawyer representing the neighbors, said the development could worsen algae problems on the lake, and the algae problems indicate the wetlands are already taxed to the limit and unable to filter out algae. contaminants and excess nutrients. However, Lands and Resource Manager Chris LeClair maintained that it was the heat, not the development, that caused the algae bloom, and that he had seen many pictures throughout the year indicating that there was no algae.
“This is not a place for the county to allow additional density, which exacerbates what is already clearly a problem,” the petition reads. “The increased development will further reduce the functionality of the wetlands. The increased intensity of recreational boating will affect the shallow bays of Loon Lake, which will impact water quality and spawning of various species of fish.”
Loon Lake consists of five sub-lakes connected by narrow channels, as well as two shallow bays. One of the sub-lakes, East Loon, contains five islands. Its shape gives it as much shoreline, but neighbors say it has less navigable area.
“Loon Lake is not remote like Pelican Lake, Otter Tail Lake, Detroit Lakes, or Cormorant, all of which can accommodate larger numbers of recreational boats,” their petition reads. “It is surprising to realize that there are similar amounts of developable shoreline on Loon Lake as on these other lakes, but Loon Lake has a small fraction of the actual navigable surface on the lake given the many undulations in and out of bays and narrow passages.”
For example, Loon Lake has 1,048 acres and 17 miles of shoreline, while Otter Tail Lake has 13,725 acres and almost 22 miles of shoreline, and Rush Lake has 5,275 acres of water and just under 16 miles of shoreline. .
However, Commissioner Wayne Johnson said he felt the shape of the lake would hinder development, as the shoreline would create pie land less suitable for construction.
The petitioners requested a study of the boat, which they said would indicate that Loon Lake could not support a large development. However, commissioners said it was beyond their ability to limit the number of boats on any lake, given that the county has more than 1,000 lakes.
“In a county with over 1,000 lakes, that elevates that impracticality even further,” Commissioner Kurt Mortenson said.
Fingerprint costs are rising
Fingerprinting by the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office will cost more. After Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons told the commissioners that the costs associated with the practice had increased, they agreed to raise the price from $15 to $20. Pre-employment teachers and social workers, as well as out-of-state firearms license applicants, are among those being fingerprinted. Fitzgibbons said his office does about 20 fingerprints a week.
Pelican Rapids Pool Support
The commissioners will support Pelican Rapids in its application for a state grant to build a new swimming pool. The current pool leaks 1,000 gallons of water a day, Johnson told commissioners. The city raised $2.6 million locally for the new pool. The commissioners will send a letter to the state supporting the city’s grant application.