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Crow Wing County splits vote to collect water quality data

Crow Wing County approved funding for water quality data assessments on county lakes.

The county is expanding its water quality database to include assessments on lakes 400-500 acres in size and Horseshoe Lake.

The assessments will be conducted on Ross, Upper and Cullen, Gladstone, West Fox, Sibley, Mitchell, and White Sand.

In 2008, the county began contracting with RMB Environmental Laborator to conduct more than 30 water quality data assessments. The first focus was on lakes greater than 1,000 acres and last year included lakes of 500 to 1,000 acres.

Chris Pence, Land Services supervisor, said the information is valuable to the county’s water planning efforts and while the lake associations provide the information to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the data doesn’t come back to the county. Pence said it’s a snapshot of lake health.

Commissioner Paul Koering said as a new board member he is marveling at all the things the county does but he questioned whether the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shouldn’t be tasked with lake assessments.

Pence noted the county is responsible for water planning and the information on lake water quality helps when looking at what is happening on land that may have a detrimental impact on lakes such as stormwater management, impervious surface coverage (such as pavement and roofs) and septic systems.

Commissioner Paul Thiede said while it’s refreshing to hear the state should be responsible, leaving it to the state isn’t going to get the work done.

Pence said the thrust of state dollars and attention goes to fix impaired waters and the county is able to act now instead of waiting for waters to be impaired.

Koering said just because the DNR isn’t doing its job, it doesn’t mean the county should. Koering said the question should be what is the county’s core responsibility and he didn’t agree with developing parks at the county level or having a parks department.

“It just adds more and more and more cost to the taxpayers and I just think we need to be careful about that,” Koering said. “It’s nice to have all this stuff but the No. 1 question is can we afford it? That’s where I’m coming from.”

Thiede said it boils down to what the county role is and its role is not necessarily to take on more. But Thiede said there is an intangible if the county can move the state government and provide leadership.

The board voted 4-1 with Koering opposed.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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