Overflow of support for Lake Oscar projectAn air of anxiety filled the commissioners’ room at the Douglas County Courthouse on Tuesday as a crowd of more than 20 people, including Representative Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, awaited the commissioners’ response to the Lake Oscar overflow predicament.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
An air of anxiety filled the commissioners’ room at the Douglas County Courthouse on Tuesday as a crowd of more than 20 people, including Representative Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, awaited the commissioners’ response to the Lake Oscar overflow predicament.
One man has been waiting in limbo since 1994 when lake levels reached the high-water mark on the property he bought in 1986.
County Engineer/Public Works Director Dave Robley received verbal approval from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last week for a flood damage reduction grant.
The grant will cover 50 percent of construction and engineering costs to reduce the level of overflow on Lake Oscar. Robley said construction plans for installation of 30-inch tile are complete and permits are in place.
“It’s ready to go. The biggest question is the local share of that 50 percent funding,” Robley said.
The county will need to bond to finance its half of the project cost – an estimated $180,000.
The bonding bill that passed in the Legislature this session originally contained an allocation for the flood project while in the House. The final bill, approved by the House and Senate, provides $30 million for flood hazard mitigation statewide; the DNR grant is available because of state funds.
Westrom spoke with DNR Waters Director Kent Lokkesmoe after the bonding bill was passed. Lokkesmoe assured the level of funding for the flood reduction project would be available.
“I would encourage you to take this opportunity because the money is there,” Westrom said.
Westrom sympathized with the county’s need to come up with half the funds but advised action be taken given the amount of damage being done to property and the banks along Highway 27.
“I think it is very proper for the state to be paying for part of this,” he added.
Property owners and commissioners recognize the urgency of the situation. One resident has been in touch with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is currently required to pay taxes on 70 percent of land he can’t make plans for until the county acts.
Commissioner Norm Salto said the project is long overdue and motioned to proceed with actions to get plans under way – the motion carried unanimously.
“We’re losing so much valuable property,” Salto said. “Eventually, there will be nothing left there on the shoreline to tax at all.”
Robley said the county could start advertising for bids and have the DNR grant agreement settled by late July.