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WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 02, 2012, 08:45 AM

Minnesota lake residents tax selves to fight invasives

MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lakeshore residents are changing tactics in the fight against invasive aquatic species — they're taxing themselves.

MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lakeshore residents are changing tactics in the fight against invasive aquatic species — they're taxing themselves.

Property owners have increasingly started forming lake improvement districts, which have the authority to levy property taxes. The most common reason is to help pay to fight the growing problem of invasive species.

The Legislature authorized the districts in the 1970s. The law saw little use before 2005, averaging less than one new district annually in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota Public Radio reported Tuesday. But in the past few years, according to the Department of Natural Resources, the average has climbed to more than three a year.

"As they have success and they have satisfactory outcomes, other lake associations will learn about it and we're going to see even more interest in lake improvement districts in the coming years," said Kathleen Metzker, who oversees the districts for the DNR.

To create a lake improvement district, a majority of lake residents generally must petition their county board. While the DNR oversees the program, counties manage the new units of government.

Crow Wing County, which includes the Brainerd lakes region has eight lake improvement districts, more than any other. The extra taxes vary by lake but ranges from $50 to $150 per year.

This summer a request for a lake improvement district for Lake Minnewawa in Aitkin County turned contentious. Lake association members petitioned to create a district. Other residents petitioned the county to reject the proposal. The county will hold a referendum next summer.

Jeff Forester, executive director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, a recreational property owners' group, said he fears the expansion of lake improvement districts will simply shift the cost of protecting lakes from the state to property owners.

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