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      Otter Lake residents face a new dam tax

      Forty years ago, Houghton County created a dam on Otter Lake that was supposed to be maintained by the county but instead was maintained by Michigan DNR.

      Recently, the DNR has opted out of paying, leaving Houghton County residents to pick up the tab.ï>>¿

      The near $30,000 needed for upkeep will come as a one-time property tax falling heaviest on Otter Lake landowners, and they are not happy about it.

      â??All the property owners are very upset about the special assessment district,â?? said an Otter Lake landowner who wished to remain anonymous. â??Right now we don't even know how much it's going to cost and what are all the expenses that have accrued so far.â??

      The landowner said news of the tax came as a surprise.

      â??We feel as though there should be some shared expenses in here, and we're just hoping we can get some additional help from the DNR and Houghton County and maybe Portage Township or just whoever,â?? the landowner added.

      The Houghton County Drain Commissioner, John Pekkala, said his challenge will be how to determine taxing.

      â??How to spread it is going to be a hard decision,â?? said Pekkala. â??Either we'll base it on footage, a combination of footage and land use.â??

      After the special assessment district, which includes Houghton County, Portage Township, and Otter Lake landowners is confirmed, the county will move forward with deciding who pays how much and by what standard.

      If the public decides to petition against it, there are other options that can be chosen, even going as far as removing the dam completely.

      â??They can petition to have the dam removed, the lake level changed, a different, more maintenance-free type structure,â?? Pekkala explained. â??There's a lot of decisions that we can make in the future.â??

      â??Some people feel as though there's natural-made dams that can be done with stone and wood and things like that,â?? the landowner added. â??If that would work, that would be a good option, and that would eliminate any further maintenance costs.â??

      The special assessment district is scheduled to be confirmed by the county on June 11.