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home : news : news October 6, 2015

8/1/2013 2:48:00 PM
Channel Task Force nearing developing a recommendation; online survey underway

by DENISE MARTIN A 10-member Task Force appointed by county commissioners to analyze improving the connection between two lakes within the Chisago Chain, is close to formulating a recommendation for the County Board. Task Force members meeting last week agreed to request (through the Lake Improvement District Board budget) an appropriation be released to do some engineering field work, to develop costs for a removeable weir structure as an option for channel improvements. The structure could be a tipping point in the Task Force’s assignment looking into improving boat navigation between North Center and North Lindstrom Lakes.

Task Force meeting attendees also reviewed a letter from the regional hydrologist who has been advising the group. Craig Wills explained that state regulators and permitting agencies will need to see 100 percent consent from affected lakeshore landowners; in the event of an application for a permit for a project with the net effect of impacting lake levels. Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplett reminded Task Force members that the bridge on County Highway 20; where the channelization is proposed to go beneath, is on the 2015 replacement list. That means bridge design must start early in 2014. Triplett explained, “...by February-March I have to have somebody to start hammering it out.” Questions about the bridge design include what height the bridge needs to be. How wide a channel does it need to span? These are all things that go into design, Triplett advised. Checking with the Regional Hydrologist the Press was advised that typical permitting language (for a basic bridge project on state waters) calls for three feet clearance from Ordinary High Water.

This is a “general” standard as minimum headroom between the bridge deck and water, Wills said. Each permit to work in public waters of course, has its own considerations. Of the channelization effort, he said, “This is a locally driven project” and is not something the state seeks to promote. His role is to “provide early guidance on a range of options” that the Task Force is considering. Wills explained that state law requires ALL riparian landowners consent when affected by a project theoretically impacting levels of the lake abutting their land. This would mean North Center and North Lindstrom lakeshore owners and owners of land along the wetland channel area all need to come on-board for any channel project affecting water levels. A project enhancing the North and South Center Lake channel completed a few years ago-- was held to a different standard. Because North and South Center are at similar levels (feet above sea level) the water level manipulation concern wasn’t very prominent. North Lindstrom and North Center, however, are at different levels. The state’s philosophy is: “It is the goal of the DNR to limit the artificial manipulation of water level, except when the balance of affected public interests clearly warrants the establishment of appropriate controls and it is not solely to...satisfy private interest,” Wills advises the Task Force.

Early information under review by the North Center Lake -North Lindstrom Lake channelization task force had the group looking at four options. Two design concepts seemed to advance to preferred status at last week’s session and one includes a removeable weir structure. Options restore various degrees of navigation between North Center and North Lindstrom lakes, and one option offers no channel enhancements and just replaces/improves the #20 bridge. North Center and North Lindstrom lakes are separated by a marshy area a few hundred feet long, which is wet some years and retains zero water other years. The county bridge on the west side of the marsh now barely has clearance for a canoe if there’s water underneath. Following the successful relocation and enhancement of the channel between North Center and South Center lakes-- done as part of a Highway 8 work plan-- the Chisago Lakes Lake Improvement District (LID) Board suggested county commissioners ask a task force to study navigation between North Center to North Lindstrom lake. (There also was a citizen’s group actively pursuing reconnecting the Chisago chain of lakes to bring back the “Big Lake” mapped by early settlers. Chisago Lakes Restoration Association has been inactive for years.)

Task Force members include elected city officials, one county commissioner, legal and zoning staff, with technical advisors from Emmons & Olivier Resources and regulatory agencies. One of the LID Board’s declared goals is “... to restore, improve and maintain navigation through channels between the lakes.” Consultants EOR Inc., were directed by the LID in 2011 to look at improving channelization. In that report, EOR says restored navigation between North Center and North Lindstrom would create a boating route of 8.5 continuous miles, on 3,000 acres of water. “At that size (the Chisago chain) would be the second largest in the metropolitan area, second only to Lake Minnetonka.”

Navigation improvement and bridge replacement are linked. Should the bridge be improved and replaced it wouldn’t be addressed again for decades. Options for the navigation enhancements range from about half-a-million dollars, which wouldn’t do much for existing boat travel conditions and basically replaces the bridge at the current height...to over $2.3 million allowing various boat travel. What do you think? The Task Force also supports collecting public comments and opinion it hopes to analyze at its next meeting August 22. County staff prepared a survey available on the website www.lindstromchannel.com. The survey needs to be completed by about Aug. 16 so data can be seen at the Task Force’s August meeting. Survey questions were given to those attending Karl Oskar days events in Lindstrom, at the LID display table. And, Chris DuBose, Task Force member for Chisago Lake Township, said surveys should be made available at a booth during Chisago City’s Ki-Chi-Saga Days Aug 16-18 as well. In addition you can go directly to a www.surveymonkey.com site and find the Lindstrom channel survey.

 Task force members have been assisted by MN DNR and the Corps of Engineers on future permit stipulations, looking at impacts downstream (chain of lakes), water level fluctuations, and ecological effects. The percentage of time that a boat would actually be able to navigate the channel (based on historic water levels) has been calculated for preliminary information. Task Force members are looking at a range of no navigation potential, to options that put the channel navigable at 88 percent of the time. County Commissioner George McMahon remarked last week that the LID budgeted for the preliminary weir field work expenses, but the County Board signs-off on expenses of this size. McMahon said that how the County Board votes on the impending request for releasing the funds, will be a good barometer on where the county commissioners stand on this channel concept.

Other members of the Task Force include: County Environmental Services Director Kurt Jensen Schneider; Lindstrom City Administrator John Olinger and AnnMarie Brink, Lindstrom council; Peter Grundhoefer for the Chisago Lakes Chamber; Mike Mergens LID Board and Center Lakes Assoc. and who resides on North Center; Gary Schumacher, for the Lindstrom-Chisago Lakes Assoc.; Al Wahgren serves on the LID, resides on South Lindstrom.

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