WALKER -- As the former Shingobee Inn Restaurant was being torn down Tuesday, Cass County commissioners discussed issues the Leech Lake Reservation Tribal Council presented two weeks ago to help the reservation develop a marina and casino on the property south of Walker.
The board voted Tuesday to ask county department heads to investigate possible reservation-owned land sites where the county might exchange ownership, leases or easements for former highway property and county administered land in the proposed development site.
Sites the county seeks to identify would include potential logging accesses to county administered land across reservation-owned property or connecting links for recreational trails.
Cass County Engineer David Enblom said the Minnesota Department of Transportation is interested in installing turn lanes on Highway 371 at Shingobee Island.
While MnDOT owns extensive right-of-way on the highway south side there, he said the state might need to use a small amount of the former Highway 34 easement the county currently owns on the north side.
It will be important to know how much land MnDOT needs before conveying any of the former highway right-of-way to the Leech Lake Reservation, he said.
Assistant County Attorney Chris Strandlie said commissioners could just wait with the transfer, establish a lease or transfer ownership with a clause requiring whatever land MnDOT needs will be reserved until turn lane plans can be drawn.
Administrator Robert Yochum said the first step will be to establish a value for the former highway right-of-way. MnDOT can provide an appraisal, Yochum suggested.
The existing service road paralleling Highway 371 will remain a county road as it currently exists to serve Shingobee Island businesses and residences, according to project plans.
On the issue of the Shingobee Island Water and Sewer District, Strandlie said the county will have to reserve the right to maintain, manage and have access to the district well house between the proposed new building and Highway 371.
After conferring with water and sewer district and tribal representatives, Yochum said several options are being explored.
He said the county favors keeping district management local, either under the existing sewer board or under Shingobee Township management. The county board currently appoints three property owners on Shingobee Island to act as volunteer directors on the water and sewer board.
Yochum said reservation representatives have been open to participating in the water and sewer board by seeking a representative to that board or by contracting with the water and sewer board to operate the system.
Also being discussed is possibly developing a sewage pre-treating system on the north side of Highway 371 to partially purify effluent before it enters the main treatment system on the south side of the highway, Yochum said.
This pre-treatment facility might either treat only effluent from the marina/casino or all Shingobee Island sewage. In either case, it would extend the life of the sewer system significantly, Yochum said.
The reservation also might consider expanding the final treatment drainfield on the south side of the highway, said Yochum, who added all these options are in the discussion stage.
Environmental Services Director Paul Fairbanks reported by a letter to the board that a parking lot area and adjacent boat landing northwest of the planned marina/casino building lies on fee title property, not Indian trust land. Therefore, landing and second parking area of the development will be subject to county zoning laws.
The main area around the casino building on trust land will include 62 parking spaces and marina docks. The separate property adjacent to the boat-launching site will include 29 auto and 20 trailer parking spaces, according to reservation conceptual drawings.
Issues relating to the marina dock installations over water will be referred to Minnesota DNR, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Mississippi Headwaters Board for consideration.
Leech Lake Business Corp. planned a noon groundbreaking ceremony today at the marina/casino site.
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