The Shoreview City Council is in no hurry to help resolve the years-old question of whether or not to augment Turtle Lake, proceeding so cautiously that the council did not approve a resolution to request a preliminary engineering report on the augmentation project, which would be the first step to controlling the lake’s water levels by piping in water.
The report would cost an estimated $100,000 and the council had discussed footing 25 percent of that bill, with the Turtle Lake Homeowners Association (TLHA) covering the rest. By the end of the May 5 city council meeting, the council had backed off the 25 percent contribution and, citing extenuating circumstances, such as the current water levels in Turtle Lake, put off the report request decision until a scheduled June 16 meeting.
“We’ve been mulling over this situation for several years, and the only way we’re going to make a good decision is with good scientific data,” Mayor Sandy Martin said.
“Where I might have been coaxed into a 25,000 number at [a previous meeting], I’m not there now because of the [water] levels,” she said. “I’m totally conflicted about this.”
Council member Ady Wickstrom said, “My concern is always drinking water over recreation,” and said that Minnesota may face shortages in 15 or 20 years. Wickstrom added she would only support a small council contribution to the engineering report cost.
“My maximum would be 10 percent,” she said, “I think this is throwing money away.”
Council member Edy Johnson said, “Tonight, there’s some mitigating factors that give me pause.”
A snowy winter and a rainy April have the water levels in Turtle Lake near the levels at which they would be kept if an augmentation system were in place, putting into question the need for taking immediate action. The target lake level is 891 feet, as illustrated in a diagram from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Additionally, the council was hesitant to request the lake report because the TLHA was holding board elections the day after the May 5 council meeting, and the board’s potentially changing makeup could mean it would choose to move in a different direction. The pre-May 6 board was evenly split on the augmentation issue, though it was in favor of the preliminary engineering report, planning to use it to help determine action.
Marsha Soucheray, a member of the TLHA board, speaking after the board election, said that while some spots on the board had changed, the overall mood of the board had not, and said that the board “will be waiting for the city council meeting” on June 16.
As stated in a March 10 council meeting, in May 2013, a survey about the project was sent out among 201 homeowners on Turtle Lake and had an 88 percent response rate, with 177 responding. 111 were pro-augmentation and 66 were not.
City action on the lake report would potentially preclude the state from becoming involved; State Sen. Bev Scalze and Rep. Barb Yarusso are currently advancing legislation at the state level, which could contribute to paying for the report. A Yarusso aide confirmed that the legislation was moving through the Senate and could move to the House before the session ends.
Mike Munzenrider can be reached at email@example.com  or 651-748-7824.