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Marion Lake LID gets the nod from county board

Establishment of a Lake Improvement District for Marion Lake is almost certain following verbal approval from the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners last week. The board will make the LID process official when, at a future date, it passes a resolution.

An LID is a special-purpose district formed around a lake in accordance with Minnesota statutes. It's a local unit of government established by resolution of the county board. The goal of an LID such as Marion Lake, between Dent and Vergas, is to implement defined lake management projects.

"In our case, at Marion Lake, water quality is the main issue," said Ellen Palmer, who is one of the LID proponents along with her husband, George. "Down the road we, as a Lake Improvement District, may ask members to approve certain dollar amounts for the testing of invasive species."

Seven board members would head the Marion Lake LID, which is likely to take hold in 2013. Any budget item of more than $5,000 would require the vote of all members who reside at Marion Lake. That vote would come at the annual meeting, with absentee ballots allowed.

"Establishment of an LID, and a way to help stop the spread of invasive species, is somewhat like an insurance policy," said Palmer. "With local control we'll be able to be proactive when it comes to the invasives issue."

An initial fee of $50 per property owner has yet to be established. This was one of the topics at the Sept. 4 county board meeting, attended by several property owners at Marion Lake.

"An LID is democracy at work," said County Board member Doug Huebsch. "As for Marion Lake, working through the LID will be in their best interests."

Otter Tail County currently has five LIDs. Others, such as Big McDonald, are making efforts to develop LIDs.

The Palmers estimate that close to 80 percent of all property owners at Marion Lake support the establishment of an LID.

At present, it appears that each person who receives the property tax statement at Marion Lake would be entitled to one vote as a member of the LID.

"If a Lake Improvement District is approved by the county board, the LID becomes a special purpose unit of government," said Commission Chairman Lee Rogness. "Then it takes a life of its own."

The Minnesota state legislature authorized establishment of LIDs back in 1973. Support must come from a majority of affected property owners in a particular boundary.

 "An LID enables and allows greater local involvement in lake management activities," said Rogness.

Many lake property owners in Minnesota seek to develop LIDs in order to become more fully engaged in management of water quality, have more say in water level control and become involved with issues such as aquatic vegetation.

Most of the LIDs created since 2004 have been primarily chartered to deal with the prevention or control of aquatic species invasion.