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Preliminary work for Perham area lakes outlet project to begin

Rick West, County Engineer. Tom Hintgen/Otter Tail County Correspondent.

The long-awaited drainage project for landlocked lakes, west of Perham, will be completed in 2018.

Beneficiaries will be lake residents at Little McDonald, Kerbs, Paul and Devils Lake. Those residents have experienced high water levels, flooding and damage to lake homes in recent years.

The new plan calls for pumping water, in a northeasterly direction, from Devils Lake into the Otter Tail River. A $10 million state grant is available for the new route.

"Preliminary work, including installation of a pumping station, will likely be completed before the end of 2017," said Otter Tail County Engineer Rick West to members of the county board of commissioners on Nov. 14. "Most of the outlet work will be done in 2018."

The old plan included moving water from the northeast side of Little McDonald Lake into the Otter Tail River, to the north. Devils Lake, northeast of Little McDonald Lake, would have tapped into the outlet.

"Residents of Little McDonald, Kerbs, Paul and Devils Lake will not have to pay a Ditch 25 assessment for the 2018 tax year," said West. "The 2014 proposed drainage project using the ditch as an outlet was abandoned."

Patience has been required from lake property owners working in conjunction with county government. In the end, the project will be a big relief for lake residents west of Perham.

The landlocked lakes, without any natural outlets, have been at the mercy of Mother Nature.

"We had to work through some difficulties for many months, but in the end all of the hard work by various stakeholders paid off," says County Engineer West.

State Rep. Bud Nornes of Fergus Falls took the lead in obtaining state legislative funding ($10 million) for the project.

"The fact that outlet work will finally begin is certainly good news for many lake property owners," said Nornes. "This is another example of county and state government working together to help people in need."

In recent years rising water decreased some sections of roadways down to one lane west of Perham. At the same time, many lake property owners needed to use sandbags and were heartbroken to see the loss of what was formerly nice beachfront.