Guest Column: Lake Dredging Project Enters Review Period

The Shell Rock River Watershed District continues forward momentum in our efforts to dredge Fountain Lake.

Earlier this month we proposed to the county that it petition us for the completion of this project. The petition process was reviewed and approved by the commissioners at their April 4 meeting. We were pleased to receive this vote of confidence from the county as the Fountain Lake project continues.

At our April board of managers meeting, the board accepted the county’s petition and voted to initiate the Fountain Lake restoration and dredging project. This project now enters a 30-day review period, providing an opportunity for additional agency feedback regarding the proposed dredging project.

In mid-May there will be a full public hearing with comments from our governing agency, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, as well as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Please watch the Albert Lea Tribune for a notice of the meeting time and location. The public is also welcome to attend the May board meeting for more information and participation in the conversation.

Thereafter, staff will begin the bidding process for contract one of the first phase of the dredging project. In addition, these steps allow us to move forward with the option of levying properties within the district (not county-wide) up to a state mandated cap of 0.00798 percent of total estimated market value of the entire district. Based on 2017 land values within the district, according to the information received from Freeborn County Auditor Pat Martinson, the total levy amount would be $166,000. The effect of this levy on a typical home of $100,000 would be an increase of approximately $6 per year; and a $200,000 home an increase of approximately $15 per year. On a typical 80-acre parcel, the increase would be approximately $55 per year.

As discussed in last month’s column, it is our intent to issue a bond for approximately $1.8 million to proceed with the project this year. When a bond is issued, the bond provider requires a secure source of income to ensure bond payments will be made. As we do not have legislative approval for the sales tax renewal, we were missing this important piece of the bond puzzle and look to the levy option as a possible solution.

As emphasized recently in the Albert Lea Tribune, SRRWD historical use of property taxes has been very minimal. Of the $40.21 million that will have been spent by the end of this year, only $3.25 million has been generated by the administrative property tax levy; only 8 percent of our total revenue has been generated by a property tax levy.

To look at this from another perspective, the $3.25 million in property tax levy has been leveraged to obtain nearly $37 million in non-property tax funds. Our funding approach will have financed $37 million worth of water quality improvements in the county with no cost on your property tax statements.

We encourage all community members to learn more about the district by joining us at our monthly board meetings. Our next meeting is at 8:30 a.m. May 9 in the City Council Chambers. As always, please visit our website at www.shellrock.org or contact our office at 507-377-5785 for more information about our efforts.

Brett Behnke is the administrator of the Shell Rock River Watershed District.

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007