Otter Lake landowners face new tax

Waterfront residents of a lake in Houghton County are arguing against new taxes that could be placed on them to maintain the lake.  ABC Ten’s Keweenaw Bureau Reporter Rick Allen has more.


No one seems sure who wanted the Otter Lake Dam built in the 1970’s, but one thing the waterfront residents of Otter Lake are sure of—they don’t want to be stuck with the bill.

Until recently, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources had been maintaining the dam which was built to regulate the water level of the lake. But now that responsibility has been handed to Houghton County.

So, the county has proposed a special tax assessment for the area residents to pay for the maintenance of the dam and the lake. A hearing was held today at the Houghton County Courthouse on the issue.

Several residents, representing roughly 70 affected landowners, argued that the dam was put in without input from the community at the time, and it’s unreasonable to ask the current residents to pay for it now nearly 40 years later.

Also, they argued that the dam has ruined the beaches that once circumvented the lake,and devastated the lake’s fishing.

Another point of contention was the high volume of use of the lake by the public—most of whom would not have to contribute to the cost of maintaining the lake.

Counsel for the County stated that the Commissioners in 1972 were within their right to request that lake levels be maintained without a petition from two-thirds of the property owners.

He also argued that both Portage Township and Houghton County will be contributing to the cost of maintaining the lake, so the burden does not fall solely on the shoulders of those living on the lakefront.

The judge said the court will continue to receive written arguments on the issue until June 18th.  The county would then be given two weeks to offer a rebuttal before a decision is made.