The disagreement between Mille Lacs County and the Mille Lacs Band of
Ojibwe over jurisdiction of land, is now an issue for septic
By Dawn Slade
Mille Lacs County Times
The disagreement between Mille Lacs County and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe over jurisdiction of land, is now an issue for septic inspections.
In February, Mille Lacs County Zoning Administrator Michele McPherson sent a memo to septic contractors doing business in the county. The memo, which was primarily a survey, was in anticipation of reduction of aid from the state.
In response to that memo, Curt Kalk, Mille Lacs Band Commissioner for its Department of Natural Resources, noted that there are two licensed ISTS (Individual Sewage Treatment System) inspectors that conduct inspections for new construction and existing systems.
In cooperation with the county, Kalk offers the Band’s inspectors to inspect ISTS on all Band-owned fee land at no cost to the county. Reports would be shared with the county zoning department.
He also offered quarterly meetings or conference calls to open the lines of communication.
“Our proposal does not require the Band or the county to change its position,” Kalk’s letter states. “We propose a practical solution to the current budget cuts with the understanding that differences of opinion about jurisdiction will continue to exist.”
Kalk’s letter talks about protecting public health and safety and working with the county on a government-to-government basis. It goes on to say, “Our proposal would further these goals, while reducing the number of inspections to be performed by the county and enabling its inspectors to devote their time to the inspection of other properties.”
At the Tuesday, March 17 county board meeting, McPherson and county attorney Jan Kolb presented a letter to the board to be sent to the Band in response to their letter.
McPherson thanked the commissioner for the offer to assist the zoning department by conducting Subsurface Sewage Treatment System (SSTS) inspections on Band-owned fee lands.
And McPherson’s letter talks about increasing cooperation and communication between the two entities.
However, it goes on to say, “While it is true that the Band’s proposal does not require the Band to change its position on this issue, for the county to agree to this proposal would require acquiescence to the Band having the authority to exercise civil and regulatory jurisdiction over all lands within the former 1855 Reservation.
“It remains the position of the county and the Attorney General, Governor and courts of both the State and Federal government have spoken on the issue of the existence of the former reservation and to the extent that Indian Country remains in Mille Lacs County, it is at this time wholly confined to the various parcels of trust property held by the United States government on behalf of the Mille Lacs Band (‘trust lands’). Accordingly, the county retains sole civil regulatory authority over all lands that are not categorized as ‘trust lands’ regardless of who is the fee titled owner of such lands.”
McPherson’s letter goes on to say that under Minnesota rules and statutes, the county will continue to administer all SSTs within the jurisdiction of the county.
Her letter concludes with, “While the county is unable to accept your offer to assist in this area, we remain open to working together on mutually beneficial projects in the future.”
Mille Lacs County Commissioner Jack Edmonds said it was “a good letter.”
Chairman of the Board Frank Courteau added, “I appreciate the tone, it’s respectful. I thought it was very well written as well.”
The board asked that they be carbon copied on the letter before it was sent to the Band.