A Mankato subdivision has won a fight over a tax assessed to repair roads and drainage in an erosion-prone area.

In a decision issued late last month, Blue Earth County District Judge Mark Betters ordered Mankato Township to reassess the 29 properties in the Oak Ridge subdivision, a hilltop neighborhood in west Mankato.

The township last year levied a special tax of about $16,500 per home to cover street repairs in the subdivision and improve drainage in two ravines that were eroding. The homeowners appealed the tax, claiming that the township failed to conduct a market assessment before levying the tax.

In his decision, Betters agreed that the properties had been improperly assessed and suggested, based on expert testimony, that a fair assessment would be about $8,000 per property.

The township prevailed on another aspect of the case, with the judge ruling that the drainage project could be considered part of the street repairs. The homeowners had said the drainage work should be considered separately.

In his decision, the judge noted that all 29 properties in the subdivision are served by storm sewers that drain into the two ravines and that the ravine erosion was rightfully part of the street rebuild.

john Reinan


Dam restoration moving forward

The restoration project for the damaged Willow River Dam in Pine County will move forward without an environmental-impact statement after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources determined the project's environmental effects either will be minimal or can be managed through "ongoing regulatory authority."

The dam was built in the 1940s and was breached when a large flood ran over its top in July 2016.

Since then, the dam has been unable to hold lake levels at the former elevation.

The proposed fix is a rock rapids dam that will help provide for fish passage. The DNR plans to fill in the eroded channel and build a series of "rock arch weirs" downstream of the existing dam, which will eliminate safety issues from the previous dam.

The DNR had previously completed an environmental assessment worksheet on the project, which helped determine an environmental-impact statement is not warranted.

Per the rules of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, this marks the end of the state environmental review process, and the project may now proceed. It still needs other approvals and required permits.