16 Otter Tail County lakes targeted for funding as part of Pelican River Watershed plan
Otter Tail County lakes identified to receive funding within the next several years include: Big and Small Pine, Long (Vergas), Pelican, Rose, Sally, North and South Lizzie, Sybil, North and South Lida, Star, Dead, Pickerel, Otter Tail and Walker.
OTTER TAIL COUNTY — The Otter Tail County Planning Commission has reviewed its 10-year goals for the Pelican River Watershed District and more than a dozen lakes in the county will receive funding within the next several years to improve or maintain water quality.
The planning commission's goals for 2020-2030 include reducing phosphorus and sediment in the river, improving soil health, management and prevention of aquatic invasive species, water retention and stream stabilization, and E. coli reduction.
County board members got an update on these goals at a meeting on Tuesday, May 24. Land and Resource Director Chris LeClair said the goals come with challenges, as there are many lakes within the watershed district and a relatively limited $1.3 million in funding to go around every two years.
Otter Tail County lakes identified to receive funding within the next several years of work on the watershed include: Big and Small Pine, Long (Vergas), Pelican, Rose, Sally, North and South Lizzie, Sybil, North and South Lida, Star, Dead, Pickerel, Otter Tail and Walker.
One of the planning commission's suggestions for improving lake health is to encourage resorts with large septic systems to update or replace those systems. LeClair said that to make septic system improvements viable, a grant or incentive program may be needed to assist property owners with the expense. Commissioners expressed support for that idea.
“We have money to identify the failed systems, but need money on the backside to help pay for fixing it,” LeClair said, adding that getting people to volunteer for system inspections without funding assistance would likely be difficult.
Next on the planning commission's 'to-do' list for the watershed district is to come up with some action items that will make headway on the goals they've set.
According to the watershed district's website, the watershed management plan was adopted in January 2020.
“The mission of the Pelican River Watershed District is to enhance the quality of water in the lakes within its jurisdiction," the website states. "It is understood that to accomplish this, the district must ensure that wise decisions are made concerning the management of streams, wetlands, lakes, groundwater, and related land resources which affect these lakes.”
The district is a special unit of government organized to manage water resources in the watershed. It covers approximately 120 square miles in Becker and Otter Tail Counties and includes the upper reaches of the Pelican River, which eventually drains to the Otter Tail and Red rivers.