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Lake invaders, plan, feed lots keep county leaders busy

According to Douglas County building officials, 2011 will be remembered as a time of "accomplishment and change."

David Rush, director of Douglas County Land and Resource Management (LRM), presented the department's 2011 annual report to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting last Tuesday.

According to Rush, the most significant accomplishment was the completion and adoption of the new County Comprehensive Plan.

The plan, approved by the Douglas County Board in September following public hearings, provides a framework of goals and policies that guides decision making in a variety of areas including natural resources, land use and transportation.

"The plan's many goals and policies support stakeholders' desires for economic growth and vitality, while preserving the county's agricultural heritage, natural resources, rural character and high quality of life," Rush noted.

Elements of the plan are expected to be implemented over the next three to five years and, in some cases, represent a significant change from current county policy.

The annual report also gave a complete run-down of building activity in Douglas County during 2011.


• Since 2009, when invasive mussels were first discovered in a few area lakes, LRM has worked to limit the un-checked spread of the invaders by limiting boat traffic between connected lakes and providing information to boaters. The department staffed a citizen's committee to recommend steps that should be taken to address zebra mussels. This resulted in the county board directing the LRM department to take further action to inform boaters on limiting the spread of zebra mussels and initiate a pilot watercraft inspection and decontamination program.

• The retirement of Pam Hoidahl after 25 years with LRM caused a restructure of staff responsibilities. Two existing positions were replaced with the new positions of land use/permitting specialist, filled through promotion by Darla Barker, and lead secretary, filled by hiring Tina Rice. The front portion of the office was also rearranged

• In preparation for a county ordinance change in 2012, the department worked to enhance the countywide septic tracking, education and regulatory program through a Clean Water Legacy funded Septic Enhancement Grant. In the second year of this grant, LRM worked with Alexandria Technical and Community College to develop a septic permitting and tracking database that, when completed in 2012, will replace existing paper files containing septic design, permit and inspection forms. The grant also supported customized training workshops for septic professionals focusing on local soil and septic system issues.

• The LRM department continued to administer the county feedlot program through an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In his second year as feedlot officer, Andy Siira provided oversight and support for 414 feedlots. In 2011 he updated more than 40 registrations and made at least as many on-site inspections of feeding operations. Sixteen complaints were received and addressed. Siira also assisted producers with educational opportunities and resources such as livestock tours, training workshops and informational newsletters.

Follow #AlexMN @EchoPress Life Editor Tara Bitzan on Twitter at @TBitzan.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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