Results from the Lac Courte Oreilles Economic Survey and Assessment                                                                              

As part of COLA’s larger Lake Management Planning effort, COLA has completed an economic survey of Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) property owners to determine levels of annual expenditures and also completed an assessment of the survey data to show how those expenditures relate to or impact the Sawyer County area economy. The survey and assessment quantify the annual level of spending by full-time and seasonal LCO residents and their visitors and makes the connection between water quality and property values and residents intent to stay on LCO.  COLA will use the survey and assessment information in discussions with local officials to underscore the need to preserve the water quality of LCO and other area lakes in order to maintain a healthy local economy.  The full report on the Lac Courte Oreilles Economic Survey and Assessment is available here.

Annual Expenditures

COLA members will recall receiving the mail-in economic in the fall of 2010.  The survey was sent to 650 LCO residents.  219 residents completed and returned their survey for an excellent 34% return rate. Survey responses were summed by spending category (see Figure 1) from the 219 respondents and then extrapolated to the 650 LCO residents.  Using a range of multipliers LCO resident expenditures for 2009 was estimated to range from ~ $ 11 million to $15 million dollars.  These values represent about 9% of total Sawyer County travel and tourism revenues for 2009.  The reported annual mean expenditure per LCO household was nearly ~ $16,000 with about 98% of the survey respondents indicating they shop in Hayward.

 Figure 1: LCO Resident Total Estimated Annual Expenditures by Category 

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Property Values and Taxes

LCO, Little LCO, Grindstone and Whitefish lake waterfront properties had a combined 2009 estimated fair market value of ~ $590 million with property taxes totaling ~ 5.1 million (See Table 1).  Lac Courte Oreilles’s waterfront properties had a total estimated fair market value of ~ $331 million and total property taxes of ~ $ 2.9 million, exceeding the total of the other three lakes combined.     

Land values and taxes for properties associated with two of the three cranberry growing operations adjacent to LCO were about ~ $1.8 million estimated fair market value with annual property takes of about ~ $15,000.

Table 1. Area Lake Property Values and Tax Summary*   

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LCO Resident Water Quality and Property Value Perceptions

Survey respondents were asked if the water quality was the same today as it was at the time of purchase and if it has changed… is it better or worse today.  59% of 219 respondents said the water quality was worse today than when they purchased their property (see Figure 2).  Some write-in comments included: less clarity, more aquatic plants, no frogs, more algae, wildlife all but gone, more weeds, no clams, slime and water not as clear.             

Figure 2: Perceived Water Quality Since Purchase

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Survey respondents were asked if they believe their property value has been negatively affected by an increase of aquatic nuisance weeds or an increase of cloudy water due to an increase of algae. up thur the summer of 2010.  Responses were fairly evenly split with 55% of respondents believing their property values had declined because of water quality conditions in their LCO bay (see Figure 3).                                                                                            

Figure 3: LCO Resident Perception that Property Value Negatively Affected by Water Quality

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For much more water resource, demographic, economic, and residency information please view the entire Lac Courte Oreilles Economic Survey and Assessment report.