Tuesday, April 28, 2009

REAL CHANGE - At Water's Edge


For more than a year we heard this call, "Are you ready for change?" As the housing recession sank into something worse; as our soldiers were blown up with devices we had invented two decades earlier, you bet we were! Now it’s been 107 days of change at the White House. Is it still too early to tell how we like it?

For several years I watched the DNR carry out the slogans and the concepts of our conservative, clean water governor. I voluntarily became part of the process. Using this column - which costs the Independent Age no fees - I urged on the participation of readers, lake associations, and shoreland residents in the clean water initiative for Aitkin County.

In October 2008 the County Board agreed formally and unanimously. It was time for a change to shoreland regulation of our lakes and rivers. As of today, May 6th, it has been 126 days - of living with the revised Shoreland Management Ordinance, which went into effect on January 1, 2009.

The Planning Commission, the Board of Adjustment, and the Board of Commissioners haven’t processed cases yet that deal with resort improvements, or with conservation subdivisions, or with newly-required setbacks on very small lakes. Or with alternative standards for preventing runoff and erosion, or limiting visual blight from densely-settled, clear-cut beaches. But we will begin this summer. The ordinance is available over the counter in the Zoning Office, where guidance is given to builders, buyers, and resorters. By the October one-year anniversary of the Board’s decision on this new law, you might ask "How has it worked so far? This Clean Water Initiative."


To help introduce these new shore standards to a wider segment of residents and property owners, the Aitkin County Lakes and Rivers Association (ACLARA) has asked for individual copies of the new ordinance for each member lake at its May meeting. These ordinance booklets are being distributed in time for preparation of annual meetings and newsletters this summer.

At the Rivers and Lakes Fair, Saturday, June 20th, there will be materials on display about building rain gardens and installing rain barrels. These are two important ways to prevent runoff pollution from entering the watersheds. Fact sheets about shoreland rules are being updated and created. Ask for them.

As you launch your boats this Spring from public access landings, look around and notice how well our state officials are doing in managing their shoreland property. Our local county regulations should be followed in this shore impact zone as well.

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