2013 BPLA Fall Newsletter
Even though the water levels on our lake have been quite low recently, it is not due to the washout condition in the rock dam that existed this spring. That matter was resolved this spring and the repair already made to the dam seems to be holding up quite well thus far. So, why do our lake levels continue to be so low? Big Pine Lake is located downstream of a watertight, engineered dam whose express purpose is to maintain water levels in the Cross Lake reservoir, which is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On the other hand, Big Pine Lake’s downstream rock dam is a completely different, flow-over design with a central spillway. As such, in periods of low rainfall or drought, very little water is released into the Pine River from the Corps of Engineers’ dam, yet water, even when it is not flowing over our dam (as it correctly does much of the time), continues to flow out of the spillway of our rock dam causing further decline in our lake level. Simply stated, a greater quantity of water than we were receiving from the Corps of Engineers’ dam was flowing and continues to flow out of our dam’s spillway.
Unfortunately, we are victims to some extent, of being caught in the cycle of events that occur as the result of being located downstream of a major reservoir and dam. Since the Corps of Engineers’ mission is to maintain very tight water level tolerances on the Whitefish Chain, when the area receives significant precipitation or the lakes are being drawn down by the Corps to alleviate the potential for flooding (as was the case in April, 2013), sizable quantities of water are released from the Corps of Engineers’ dam. These torrents of water oftentimes cause bogs to be uprooted and then lodged on our dam, or worse yet, washouts are created at the banks of the rock dam. Unfortunately, we’ve experienced both events this year. A group of hard-working volunteer residents just recently removed bogs from the dam (Thanks!) and as mentioned previously, a $27,000 washout repair was made to the dam earlier this year.
The above-described cycle of events and the ensuing costs associated with them are really the root cause reasons for me having to send this letter and notice. The matter at hand is both the association’s and landowners’ need to address the amount of our Subordinate Service District assessment. At an amount of $100.00 per year per landowner for the last three years, we obviously have not even been able to keep up with repairs, let alone build-up a fund for more permanent repairs and/or improvements. We recently received $2,500.00 in grant money from the CWC Soil and Water Conservation District to be put towards the big repair we had this spring. Hopefully this amount will just about erase the deficit we owe the County after taxes for the second half of the year are collected, but we will nevertheless be down to just about nothing in our SSD fund by the end of the year. It is obvious that something needs to be done about this since the County is not willing to continue functioning as a lender or bank to our SSD.
At our annual brunch and business meeting on August 17th, those residents in attendance overwhelmingly felt that we should raise the amount of our assessment to $200.00 per year. I and other Association board members have also talked to residents who were not present at this meeting who feel this needs to be done, and at a recent County Board of Commissioners meeting it was also recommended by the Auditor that an increase should be requested. Assuming our recent repair will last for at least a few years (of course, we have no way of knowing for sure whether or not it will), an assessment increase should help us to build our fund back up to cover the seemingly continuous and ongoing maintenance requirements needed to maintain the dam and consequently, Big Pine Lake property values. Even if the study currently being headed by the Crow Wing County Engineer (refer to our website for more information on this) shows that a more permanent solution is either too costly or would not pass permit requirements by the Corps of Engineers or the DNR, we will need this money to keep up what we already have. I know everyone likes to complain about taxes, and although this assessment is essentially a “tax,” I think it should be more properly thought of as “insurance” that will allow us to maintain the viability of our lake and more importantly our property values. Taxpayers generally have very little say about how their tax money is spent and often disagree about where their money ultimately goes. However, in this case, our entire SSD assessment directly benefits the landowners and the landowners alone. Again, think of it as “insurance” to maintain the use of our beautiful lake and more importantly to maintain our investments and property values.
We will need to get formal approval from the Crow Wing County Commissioners for this proposed increase. Notice of the increase is being sent to all landowners via this letter and will also be posted on our website. If you have any objection to this amount, please forward your objections in writing only to me at the address below no later than September 16th. These will then be presented to the Commissioners for their consideration. Failure to formally object to any assessment increase in writing will be considered to be agreement with the proposal. Don’t forget that pursuant to the terms of the original permit when the dam was built in 1970 and the terms of the Subordinate Service District itself in 2010, the landowners and the landowners alone are financially responsible for maintenance on our dam. The most recent Board of Commissioners meetings have shown reluctance on the part of some folks within the County to continue involvement in our problems. You may feel that the County, DNR, or some other government entity should be paying for our dam, but the harsh reality is that this has been our responsibility since 1970 and given the conditions of our economy in general, this is not likely to change. We will certainly continue to pursue grant money, but it is ultimately up to us to help ourselves. We must do what we can to protect our property values.
I will continue to keep you advised of things that are happening with the County, mostly through our website. Please check it frequently for updates www.bigpinelake-crosslake.com.
Very truly yours,
President – Big Pine Lake Association