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Bill to fund habitat project hits a snag

Concern about the structure of a potential $14 million acquisition of undeveloped shoreline along the Mississippi River resulted in the Outdoor Heritage bill being laid over Wednesday for further consideration in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The House Public Information services reported that questions raised in the House Funding Legacy Division have delayed the bill, which contains $99.7 million in funding for a variety of projects.

Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls, said Thursday said the delay didn’t mean the bill was dead. Rather, he said, it indicates lawmakers want more testimony and discussion on the bill

“Overall, I think it will be a good project,” he said.

Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, said Thursday the feedback he’s received on the project is that it’s an excellent use of Legacy dollars that would preserve multiple uses of the undeveloped land for generations to come. He said he doesn’t think the delay necessarily means the project is in trouble.

“I don’t believe it is,” Ward said. “There are some questions that need to be answered. People think it’s worthwhile.”

The questions, he said include conflicting valuations of the land, Ward said. The land is currently owned by Potlatch.

The House Public Information Services reported concern was expressed because the land would be donated back to Crow Wing County after the purchase. The deal avoids payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, which is money which can be paid to counties when state-owned property goes off the tax rolls.

“Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said “It seems we’re getting more and more creative on how to avoid paying PILT.”

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860