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Levee to get another look

Call it the trickle down from Hurricane Katrina. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s requirement that levees be certified across the country following the levee failures with Katrina is hitting Crow Wing County. 

Commissioners on Tuesday hosted a public hearing regarding the cost-sharing plan to rectify the Black Bear/Miller Lake levee, which controls localized flooding in Wolford Township. 

The cost is expected to be $40,000. Commissioner previously voted to split the cost with residents, contingent upon their payment share. Without the recertification, homeowners in area will be listed in a floodplain and need to purchase flood insurance and potentially face issues when selling property in the future.  

There are 101 taxable parcels and 69 taxpayers. 

But the question remains how to share the cost with residents in the area, who exactly benefits through the control of the floodplain? Some residents felt they were on higher elevations, high enough above the flood plain not to need expensive flood insurance so they should be able to opt out. But others pointed to the fact access roads to their properties would be underwater in a flood situation and emergency services would be cut off, meaning they do benefit from the flood controls. 

Administrator Tim Houle said the question then becomes who is able to opt out and where is that line drawn. If fewer people participate, it raises the cost for those who will have to pay the bill. 

After hearing suggestions, residents further up the tributaries should pay a portion, Commissioner Phil Trusty said he’d have an issue with having them pay for something when someone down the flow put in a dam. 

Tim Bray, county highway engineer, said his office could provide a visual representation of what the flood plain would look like if the Mississippi River flowed back into the Black Bear/Miller Lake area. 

Bray said if the levee isn’t there, the flood plain could be very large, but the levee in effect reduced the flood plain. 

Residents questioned how the determination was made who was in the watershed district. The levee is on state land. 

Previously a dam, tracing its history back to the 1930s, was built to keep the lakes at a certain level as the tributary flows into the area to join the river. 

The Black Bear/Miller Lake levee was constructed in 1987. The Army Corps of Engineers turned the levee ownership over to the county but misplaced or lost construction documentation, which would have been useful in recertification.

Residents in the area pay about $7 per parcel in the watershed district annually. The district recommended a change to $16 per parcel, noting in the next 10 years that would generate $24,320 to help pay future costs.  

Costs for the levee recertification could be about $217 per parcel or $317 per taxpayer. The cost would be a one-time fee with the potential for the annual cost increase to $16 per parcel. 

Pat McDermot, representing the Black Bear Miller Lake Watershed Conservancy Board, said paying flood insurance would cost him about $484 per year, forever. 

McDermot said the district will call a special meeting and come to a conclusion on which payment, parcel or taxpayer, residents support. 

With that information, and the computer assisted look at what the flood plain could be, the county board expects to take up the matter again. 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.