Why join a lake association? Here's some answersFor many Douglas county residents, our lakes are more than just a source of summertime fun, they’re also serious business.
By: Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
For many Douglas county residents, our lakes are more than just a source of summertime fun, they’re also serious business.
With the annual meeting of the Douglas County Lakes Association set for next week, the Echo Press decided to sit down Tuesday and talk with the DCLA President Dick Kuehn, as well as Vice President Jim Adams, about one of the area’s most vital resources.
Q: Who is the Douglas County Lakes Association?
A: We are a volunteer-led nonprofit organization, funded solely by our member lake associations. The organization has existed since 1982, but earned its nonprofit status in 1992. We represent 25 lake associations and roughly 2,500 households in Douglas county. A person has to be part of a formal lake association to be a member of DCLA. The cost to belong to our organization is $2 per year per member. If a lake has no lake association, people on that lake can join DCLA by creating their own, and we’ll help them to do that.
Q: What is DLCA’s mission?
A: It can be summed up in two words: water quality. The key priorities that DCLA has as relates to water quality are: water quality awareness, responsible shoreland development, member involvement in monitoring and analyzing water quality and addressing the leading contributors to deterioration of water quality, which are wastewater management and surface discharge and runoff. Another of our key roles is education.
Q: Your annual meeting is coming up. When is that, exactly?
A: It will be at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 10, in the basement of the public works building. We are going to have Jim Bosek, a local bait dealer, as the speaker this year, and he will talk about fish stocking issues. Generally, our meeting is a potluck with a special guest speaker. It’s sort of like an end of the year type thing, and at the end of the meeting we elect officers for the next year.
Q: What benefits are there to being a DCLA member?
A: The biggest single one is the ability to dovetail into a larger organization that has a greater critical mass. The DCLA is the collective information, knowledge and experience of our 25 individual lake associations. We can try to somewhat homogenize some issues, so lake associations don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they are confronted with a new issue.
Q: How would you rate water quality in our area?
A: The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of 2,250 Minnesota lakes that are labeled impaired. Many lakes have not been tested yet, and therefore that number is likely to increase. We actually are pretty clean in comparison to metro area lakes, and the idea and our mission is to keep it that way.
Q: Why is it important to protect our lakes?
A: Clean water increases lakeshore property value. A recent Bemidji State University study shows there is a direct relationship between clear water and property value. A one-meter increase in clarity adds $50 per foot of value, and a one-meter decrease in clarity subtracts $70 a foot in value. Lakes have become an economic engine that drives the economy of Alexandria and Douglas County. We’ve grown at a rate substantially higher in recent years than the next sized micropolitan area and the state as a whole
Q: And that growth is related to our lakes?
A: It is directly related. We have two-and-a-half times more retail sales per capita than the state average, which points to increased tourism. Although Alexandria is growing in terms of property value, the property value increments that are really increasing are the areas outside the city, which includes the lakes, and that ring is expanding beyond the chain of lakes. About 93 percent of Douglas County’s growth is from people moving to the area. Why are they moving in? It’s the lakes.
Q: You mentioned wastewater management as one of DCLA’s primary concerns. What is the best way to deal with that?
A: Our view is that all the talk of water quality here is of no value unless somebody starts speaking to the point that a central sewer system is the best system to have for wastewater management.
Q: Do you support the Central Lakes Region Sanitary District?
A: We represent water quality. We will always have a mission in favor of cleaning up as much as possible contamination from failing on-site septic systems. How that happens, we don’t have a vested interest in. If it happens through a district like CLRSD, fine. If it happens at the township level, fine. One thing is clear, it’s better than the alternative where we have hundreds of on-site septic systems in varying degrees of compliance, some of which we know are discharging into the lake, and some are even health hazards.
Q: What’s your response to critics of the project who say it’s too costly?
A: We don’t know how you can afford not to. The estimated cost to build an on-site septic system is $12,000. According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, a septic tank will on average last 15 years. That adds up to about $800 a year. Then you have the opportunity in 15 years to rebuild it again. With central sewer, you have to pay for the assessment and the levy. The two, for a $300,000 home cost $987 a year, according to the CLRSD Web site. So it costs more, about $15 a month more for central sewer. But what do you have? If you have an on-site system you have value equal to zero or negative because now you have a system you have to replace. If you have a central sewer system, you are done paying for it. With that $15 you’re making an investment in the future value of your property that is going to be worth thousands of dollars.
Q: What is your outlook on the future health of our lakes?
A: Unless we do something to maintain the quality of our lakes they will degrade. When you reach a certain point in the degradation of a lake, it’s called the point of no return. That lake can never be brought back to where it was at one time. As a community, we have a unique opportunity to actually set a model for community development, where it considers water quality issues in that development. In the past it has been shown that people do the right thing, in long run. We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think it was going to have some positive effects over the long run.
For more information, visit the DCLA’s Web site: www.dclamn.org.