Ron Peterson: Farmer, Harrison Town Board Chair
by Dennis Nakes
Garrison Keillor likes to joke about the endless town board discussions regarding roads, their gravel, who lives there, what was done back in '68. The sad truth may be that many townships don't have the money or authority to do much else. At least that seems to be the case with Harrison Township which encompasses Diamond Lake.
According to Ron Peterson, an 18 year veteran of the Harrison Town Board, roads account for $40,000 of the $70,500 2004 budget. $15,000 is for fire protection and another $15,500 is for the general fund. That's it by comparison, the Diamond Lake Association collects about $5,000 annually in dues. If anything has changed over the past 18 years it is that roads represent an even stronger interest given blacktopping (Breezy Point, Diamond Shores), even though 90% is assessed the property owner. It is also the fact that townships have cede authority over the years due to the growing complexities and realities of life. For example, zoning is largely the prerogative of the county; tax assessment is now delegated to the county as well.
Harrison Township has a population of 655 people, 265 households, according to the 2000 census. That, of course, does not include seasonal residents, who might almost double the number. Township market valuation is $85 million, going up about $10 million annually. In Ron's estimation, development is a dilemma: it's something he would like to see, but then he doesn't want to look at the problems it brings in its train. He denies that there is any truth to the rumor that he, Rom Peterson, Supervisor Dennis Peterson and Secretary Marilyn Peterson are seeking to change the name of the township to Peterson supervisor Duane Kalkbrenner and treasurer Terry Thompson don't really like the sound of it.
If anyone is interested in seeing township government in action, meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at the Harrison Town Hall located about 1 ¼ miles west of Highway 12 on County Road 28. Town Board elections are held on the second Tuesday of March (not during the general election in November) from 5-8pm prior to the annual meeting. Town Board members encourage attendance. Residents of Harrison Township can be thankful that we have dedicated citizens willing to serve on the Board.
Murky Matters: Watershed Politics
by Muddy Waters
Just when you thought you had it all figured out, a third proposal has emerged to address the issue of watershed water quality. According to Gary Broman, Convener of the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed/Lakes Partnership (MCFRWS), his group was created by Green Lake Property Owners Association to address certain specific problems that were identified in a Phase I study started in 1999 but left unaddressed since that time. The study was similar to one the Diamond Lake Association completed in 1995.
According to Broman, a number of activities are underway: 1) monitoring plan some ten sites have been established with several more proposed to "keep tabs on the river and lakes water quality", 2) a Storm Water Management Plan is in preparation, and eventually "will be amended to include the balance of the Upper Middle Fork Crow River Watershed" and 3) a Technical Committee is working on recommendations to reduce high phosphorous levels in area waters.
It appears to this observer that the MCFRWS (try pronouncing that acronym McGrews?) represents an alternative to the Watershed District proposal in that it is driven by different people, does not represent a taxing authority, and does not include Diamond Lake. Furthermore, the focus is very specifically on problems associated with the Green Lake Sewer District and ditches and lakes to the north and west of Green Lake. Of course, the situation is fluid (especially when it comes to water issues) and these proposals could change.
Roll of Honor
In this space we like to thank all those who have contributed their Association dues over the past year. However, the Board has decided to publish a complete list with the first spring issue of the Diamond Lake News. We feel the list will be more meaningful in anticipation of the new year at the lake. Also, we will be able to publish corrections should any be necessary. This gives readers one last chance to send their $25 2004 dues to treasurer Jon Hanson (15375 NE 75th Ave, Atwater MN 56209).
Enter Strategy or Mixed Message
The annual meeting of the Diamond Lake Area Recreational Association was held on August 21, 2004 with all members present. Well, maybe not "all", some sixty registered, perhaps better than a tenth of the membership (which isn't bad based on W.E. B.DuBois' concept of the talented tenth: the people will be led by a vanguard with the talent and initiative to get the job done).
A meeting that was too optimistically designed to last one hour morphed into twice that length as discussion turned quite interesting. Two presentations were of particular note. Pollution Control Agency project manager Roger Ramthun reviewed lake science in general with special emphasis on Diamond Lake. He touched on matters of trophic index (a comparative measure of lake condition issue by his agency) and septic system care. In response to an audience member who questioned the visible flow of scummy water into the lake Ramthun argues that nobody really has the effective authority to do anything about it. In theory (actually, in law), you are not supposed to pollute public waterways. In practice, there is no money, will or statute to correct the problem. Ramthun, who grew up on a farm, demonstrated his grasp of practical matters when he discussed the failure of grass waterways to attract more practitioners.
County Commissioner Harlan Madsen also argued from the general to the particular. Claiming that water is going to become the number one issue in American politics, Madsen gave several reasons for his opposition to the recently proposed Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District. The idea would, he felt, create an unnecessary layer of government. It would establish rules and regulations above and beyond the authority invested in townships and counties, with watershed district governors beyond the reach of anyone to remove them. And such districts could be punitive. While he and Ramthun did agree on the need for state agencies and citizen associations to work closely together, they parted company on the question of enforcement. Madsen favors education; Ramthun favors a mechanism (a "stick") in those cases where education doesn't work.
Association VP Bob Meyerson asked Madsen about the politics of the watershed proposal. Madsen would not predict how the County Commissioners would vote. Meyerson then moved that the Association support the inclusion of an Association member of the proposed watershed board even though the Association opposed the idea of such a district in the first place. He argues that we needed to be at the table when important decisions affecting us were made. The motion passed overwhelmingly. A second motion recommending Diamond Lake resident Gordon Behm as our preference for one of the District Manager slots passed almost unanimously. Association President Judy Christensen then explained that she voted against the first motion because she felt in might send a mixed message. She then presented a petition in opposition to the watershed proposal a copy of her letter was in the last Diamond Lake News. That petition was circulated and signed by almost everyone in attendance.
While much of the meeting was taken up with the above matters, other issues were discussed; our healthy financial condition of $47,000+ (courtesy of Jon Hanson, treasurer); our weed cutting, loon nest and water testing projects (Kathy Flaata); Ag BMP's, lawn aeration and phosphorous-free fertilizer programs (Judy Christensen); and a call for additional Board members (a call was heeded) with Board meetings to be held on Saturdays to enable non-local residents to serve.
The meeting may have been long, but it was compelling enough for most attendees to stay until the end. And the weather was beautiful.
A Pond, My Word!
Review of Steve McComas, Lake and Pond Management Guidebook
Boca Raton, London, New Your, Washington, D.C. - Lewis Publishers, 2003
by Howie Duzzit
Steve McComas, President of Blue Water Science, is well known to many of us as the limnologist consultant who has helped with our lake improvement projects, grant writing and agency report filings. This book appears to be a summation, in mini-encyclopedic form, of his life's work.
The Guidebook is a reference work rather that a course of study, a history of how we have arrived at his point, or an expose of environmental ills and how we need to change. It is divided into chapters with such headings as "Shoreland Projects", "Algae Control" and "Fish Topics", which in turn break down (in the "Aquatic Fish Management" chapter, for example) into such issues as "Techniques to Increase Native Aquatic Plants" and "Control Techniques for Emergent and Floating Leaf Plants". There was a long section on the all too familiar curly leaf pondweed.
I would say that the book is put to best use when the reader has a specific question to ask. I was wondering what to do about algae on the lake. A subchapter entitled "Using Bacteria for Algae Control" seemed promising. Alas, I learned that the method required large amounts of carbon loading which "even if it did work, it is still expensive". This is not the kind of answer that an impatient, single-issue guy like me wants to read, but it might help save money and effort in the long run for lake associations too eager to correct certain problems with a silver bullet.
Another fine use for the book is as a reference companion at association meetings. Technical questions are often raised that no one present can answer. With the book's extensive index, you can probably find your answer, or maybe an answer, to your question. Loon habitat on the lake? see pp 43-45. Mosquito control methods? pp 59-61 (there is even an 800 number for ordering mosquito briquettes). However, I couldn't find everything. Watershed districts, chigger itch, ph readings were missing (unless they are subsumed under another headings). On the other hand, the book is filled with photos and diagrams illustrating the many specifies, issues and techniques discussed.
The best way to get your copy of the very useful Handbook is to order directly from: Blue Water Science (550 South Snelling Ave, St Paul, MN 55116). Be sure to include a check for %50. Sorry, my copy is not available for lending.
Winter, Soon to be Appearing on a Lake Near You -
West Central Snow Drifters
by Scott Bjornson
The West Central Snow Drifters *WCSD) is a non-profit organization made up of fifty families with one thing in common a love of snow especially for riding! But they are interest in more than fun. A great deal of volunteer time is dedicated to the community. The mission of the WCSD is to provide an organization in which people can share interest in snowmobiling, promote and support safe and responsible snowmobiling, and work with local businesses and organizations to provide a positive economic impact.
Promoting safe snowmobiling in Kandiyohi County is a priority for the club. Each December a snowmobile safety class for youth is held. Over 500 young people have been certified through this program. The structure of the class is determined by the Minnesota DNR and the instructors are members of the WCSD. All instructors are certified by the DNR as Youth Safety Instructors and have completed the required class for instructors. Enrollment for the course is conducted through the ACGC Community Education. It consisted of 8 hours of classroom, a written test and a driving test.
There are 218 miles of groomed trails in Kandiyohi County. A portion of the trail runs along the north side of Diamond Lake, connecting Atwater and Spicer. The trail system is maintained by the Glacial Lakes Trail Association, which is comprised of representatives of three local snowmobile clubs, the WCSD, the E-Z Riders and the Willmar Drift Skippers. Approximately 175 private landowners have granted permission for the trail to cross their land. The dedicated trail is open from December 1st through April 1st. The Kandiyohi County trails are Grant-in-Aid trails and receive funding from the DNR. Snowmobiling is a source of tourism for our county so having safe well marked trails is very important.
The club has recently purchased three warming sheds to be placed along the trails. Each fall many hours of volunteer time is spent clearing trails, talking with landowners and putting up trail signs. Many hours of grooming are completed, mostly during the night. Perhaps you have seen the flashing lights of the groomer slowly following the trail, making it smooth for the next day's riders. In the spring the signs are removed from fields and areas where they may be damaged. A thank you support is held each year for the landowners who so generously allow the trail to cross their land and provide the Kandiyohi County residents and visitors a safe and beautiful place to enjoy snowmobiling.
The members of the club also enjoy fun activities. Winter trips are planned each year and the club has travel to Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids, Grand Rapids, and Bemidji to ride. We also have a campout and picnic each summer at Diamond Lake. In March we held our first annual Snow Ball with a live band, silent and live auctions and raffles. The event is planned for the third Saturday in March upstairs at Revy's and is open to everyone, plan on coming and having fun!!
In 2002 the WCSD secured it charitable gambling license. We now have three sites, Revy's and McPete's in Atwater and the Hill Top Tavern in Manannah. In Fiscal Year 2003 we have returned over $42,000 back to the community. We donated $19,000 to Activities Benefiting Youth, $5,500 to Humanitarian or Military Service, $6,500 to Snowmobile Trails and over $7,900 to State and Local Government. The Atwater Fire Department also purchased a rescue sled and thermal imager with our assistance.
The WCSD meets the second Thursday of each month in Atwater. Feel free to drop in to a meeting and join us. For membership information you can call Scott and 320-212-6784.
New Directories will be out in 2005, available for all paid-up Association members.
Septic issues are looming ever larger. Next year the Association hopes to sponsor a cut-rate program for Association members to pump and maintain their septic tanks. Too many people do not realize how important it is to do so.
We are in process of purchasing a lawn aerator. Details will be posted on the Association web site as soon as it is available.
Free bags of phosphorous-free fertilizer are still available at Peterson Hardware in Atwater (open Saturdays until 4pm) through October 16th. You do not have to ne an Association member to be eligible, as long as you live on Diamond Lake. The program is part of the Association's attempt to encourage residents to eliminate phosphorous from their lawn diet. Phosphorous is the number 1 cause of deterioration in water quality.
The deck has been shuffled. Directors Tom Sykora, Tom Deadrick and Kevin Gruenhagen have resigned. We thank them for their years of service. They will be replaced by Harlan Meints, Vicky Behm, Bob Carruthers and Lowell Skoglund.
The Association is trying to design agricultural Best Management Practices (BMP's) assistance by picking up expenses where the CRP program leaves off. This applies particularly to livestock producers. We encourage farmers to check out the web site as this is a work in progress, and a case where we must spend the money by April 2005.