Statewide: October 26, 2011 Archive
U.S. Steel awarded water permits, workers to vote on American Crystal offer, dark rumors in Martin County
Posted at 7:50 AM on October 26, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Around MN
Two permits have been approved to allow a major expansion at U.S. Steel's taconite plant in Keewatin on the western end of the Iron Range.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency citizens board approved the permits. It's the first time the agency has imposed sulfate limits on a mine. The sulfate standard is meant to protect wild rice, and has been controversial since the state indicated it would start enforcing the decades-old limit.
Like other mines on the Iron Range, the mine in Keewatin deposits into rivers wastewater that contains far more sulfate than is allowed under a standard set in 1973. Sulfate is a naturally occurring chemical that becomes concentrated in mine wastewater. In large amounts it can kill wild rice beds.
Two years ago, under pressure from Ojibwe bands, the MPCA announced it would begin enforcing the rule (MPR News).
American Crystal negotiations inspire little hope
Renewed attempts to settle the impasse between American Crystal Sugar Co. and 1,300 union workers seemed to make little progress today, despite new counteroffers by both sides (WDAY).
Locked out union to bring American Crystal Sugar offer to vote (Minnesota Independent)
Op-Ed: American Crystal worker lockout puts sugar program at more risk
Labor-friendly members of Congress without sugar beet farms in their districts or states supported the program in previous years because of the once-positive labor relations at companies like American Crystal (Fargo Forum).
Voters to determine future of Austin schools on Nov. 8
Austin Public School staff are waiting to find more space for the district, depending on the outcome of the Nov. 8 referendum for $28.9 million for a new fifth and sixth-grade school and a Woodson Kindergarten Center expansion (Austin Daily Herald).
More effective flu shots needed, study shows
Seasonal flu shots prevent only about 59% of infections in adults -- and that's not effective enough to protect people in a global outbreak, says a new analysis that may help accelerate research on an improved vaccine (USA Today).
More from The Big Story blog.
Environmental advocates fear bill would allow mine near Lake Superior
Environmental advocates say a wide-reaching bill that would ease air and water regulations in Wisconsin would serve as a way to clear approval of a new iron ore mine near Lake Superior (WDIO).
Republicans want sales tax referendum for stadium
As Gov. Mark Dayton continues to hear suggestions about the best way to finance a new pro football stadium, there's growing concern that the site preferred by the Minnesota Vikings in Ramsey County could come with strings attached (MPR News).
Stadium proponents tout jobs, jobs, jobs
Building the $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills will mean work for 7,500 construction workers, said officials with the Minnesota Vikings. They also said nearly a third of the cost of the stadium, $300 million, will go directly to worker wages. Those numbers please Dave Semerad, chief executive officer and director of the Association of General Contractors. The construction sector has some of the highest rates of unemployment in the state, Semarad said (MPR News).
Fake Facebook profile stirs controversy in Martin County
Timothy Jude Brickner, an 18-year-old Fairmont man who attends Martin County West High School recently was issued a citation for falsely reporting a crime and disorderly conduct after allegedly creating a false Facebook account that was the springboard for several dark rumors (Fairmont Sentinel).
Schell's Brewery launches Burton Ale
The August Schell Brewing Company has released Burton Ale, a nearly extinct style of beer. Schell's rendition of the Burton Ale was produced as part of the Stag Series, a collection of limited edition, one-and-done experimental brews released periodically throughout the year (New Ulm Journal).
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking one final round of public comments on a proposed $1.8 billion 36 mile flood diversion project to protect Fargo Moorhead.
The comment period closes Nov. 7.
In December, the Corps of Engineers is expected to approve the project. That would set the stage for a challenging effort to convince Congress to commit some $800 million to the project.
The local share is a staggering $979 million. Minnesota's share of that is estimated to be around $350 million.
The Corps has pulled together an amazing amount of data in developing this project.
Some interesting tidbits: The Red River at Fargo Moorhead has exceeded flood stage every year since 1993.
In the Fargo Moorhead area, local governments have spent $342 million on permanent flood protection since 1990, including buying more than 500 homes in flood prone areas. Moorhead officials this week approved a new $37 million plan to do still more improvements. Even with all those improvements the communities are still susceptible to any flood a foot or two higher than the record flood of 2009.
The Corps estimates a catastrophic flood could cause up to $10 billion in damages.
The proposed diversion project will likely go to congress for authorization and funding early next year. Everyone agrees federal funding will be difficult. In fact, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker gives the project a less than 50 percent chance of being built.