Statewide Category Archive: Central Minnesota
With nearly two months of wolf hunting now in the books in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's interesting to take a closer look at the number of wolves killed in both states, compared to their target harvests and total population.
Wisconsin hunters killed 105 wolves as of December 10th, very near the state's total quota of 116 wolves. That's out of a total estimated wolf population in the state of about 850. Which means hunters, in just over a month and a half, have killed about 12 percent of Wisconsin's wolves.
Wolves roam in the wilderness on Thursday, February 11, 2010 near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. (MPR Photo/Derek Montgomery)
Minnesota hunters have killed more than twice as many wolves as their neighbors, 243 as of December 10th, well over halfway to the state's quota of 400 wolves. But that's out of a total estimated population of around 3,000, meaning Minnesota hunters have killed about 8 percent of the state's wolves.
As MPR's Stephanie Hemphill reported shortly after Minnesota's wolf hunt began, the numbers reflect different approaches to management of the iconic predator. "Minnesota has not set a goal for a maximum wolf population, while Wisconsin has. It wants to reduce the number of wolves to 350 and keep it there," Stephanie writes.
Of course others besides hunters have killed wolves in both states over the past year. This year in Minnesota, state and federal trappers have killed at least 214 wolves that preyed on livestock. And ranchers and pet owners have killed at least 15 wolves that threatened their animals, something they could not have legally done when the wolf was listed as a federal endangered species.
We'll know a lot more about Minnesota's wolf population after the DNR completes its first wolf survey in five years this winter. Many people have speculated that the higher than expected success rate of wolf hunters suggests that the state's wolf population is higher than the estimated 3,000.
In any case, both Minnesota and Wisconsin wildlife managers are likely to tweak their hunting seasons after they assess the numbers from this year's hunt.
Minnesota's late season runs through the end of January; Wisconsin's through the end of February, if it doesn't reach its quota first.
When more than 60 logging trucks loaded down with freshly hewn timber rumbled down the old brick streets of downtown Duluth Thursday morning, political candidates saw a constituency.
The truckers backed up traffic on London Road coming into town, trying to raise awareness about their fight to change a federal law that caps truck weights on interstate highways in Minnesota.
Here's the issue: Since 1982, federal law has limited truck weight to 80,000 pounds on interstate highways. But Minnesota allows loggers to carry 90,000 pounds on state, county and local roads. State Department of Transportation officials say the extra weight doesn't contribute to extra wear and tear on the roads because it's spread out over six axles rather than five
Loggers say the federal restriction hurts their bottom line. Opponents claim heavier trucks on freeways cause more accidents and fatalities.
U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack talks to Peter Wood of Wood Forest Products during a rally by loggers Thursday, September 27, 2012 at Road Machinery and Supplies Co. near downtown Duluth, Minn. during a protest by loggers over federal weight restrictions on the interstate highway system. (Derek Montgomery for MPR)
U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, a Republican who represents the 8th District, rode shotgun in a rig through the protest, and addressed loggers at a rally after the convoy rolled through Duluth. Cravaack pointed out that truckers in nearby states, including North Dakota and Michigan, can haul heavier loads on interstates. Those weights were grandfathered in to federal law.
"This makes no sense and makes Minnesota less competitive," Cravaack argued.
Cravaack negotiated a bipartisan amendment to the 2012 transportation bill to allow heavier logging trucks on a 75 mile stretch of Interstate 35 between Duluth and Hinckley. But a Senate conference committee stripped that provision from the bill.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar did not attend the event. But she sent a letter in which she said she encouraged that conference committee to include the provision. Klobuchar wrote that an increase in truck weights is "the right decision for safety, and it's the right decision for our economy."
Meanwhile, Cravaack's Democratic opponent in the closely watched 8th District race, former U.S. Rep.Rick Nolan, issued a press release blasting Cravaack for twice voting for a Republican budget that would have cut between $40 and $50 billion from transportation funding, according to The New York Times.
"Cravaack may support expanding highway use for loggers," the Nolan press release reads, "but his record shows he doesn't support the funding needed to maintain our roads and infrastructure."
Nolan did not attend the rally. His press release did not say whether he supports increasing weight limits for loggers on interstate highways in Minnesota.
Minnesota Power, the utility serving northeastern Minnesota, has announced it will pay up to 60 percent, or $20,000, of the cost of a new solar electric system.
Homes and businesses would also be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit, in addition to rebates for meeting energy efficiency standards and for nonprofit or tax-exempt customers. That means a typical residential solar system costing $40,000, could cost as little as $8,000 to the buyer.
But to maximize the size of their rebate, customers need to puchase solar products manufactured in Minnesota. That qualifies them for an additional $1,000 per installed kilowatt "Minnesota Made incentive," on top of the utility's existing base rebate of $2,000/kW.
The incentive for locally manufactured equipment matches an existing program already offered by Xcel Energy, the state's largest utility. But currently only two companies manufacture solar panels in the state, TenKsolar in Bloomington, and Silicon Energy, which recently opened a manufacturing plant in Mountain Iron.
Dan Williams, vice president of a Champlin-based solar installation company, told Midwest Energy News that the "Made in Minnesota" rebate programs help Minnesota-made solar equipment compete with cheap Chinese imports. Williams, whose company is called Powerfully Green, said a three kilowatt project with Silicon Energy panels might cost $25,000. But with Xcel Energy's Minnesota made rebate, he said, the homeowner's bill is only about $5,000.
MPR Photo/Conrad Wilson
On Monday, before a cheering crowd of about 600 in downtown St. Cloud, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas railed against big government, the country's foreign and monetary policies, and the importance of personal liberties. Needless to say it was an unlikely place to find love.
But sure enough, Rachel Thielman and Brent Johnson, were there on a date, celebrating.
"I'm actually just here because my boyfriend here," Thielman said, turning to her left. "It was our two-year anniversary yesterday and I knew that this would, like, completely make his life if I came along. So that's why I'm here."
Johnson's a pretty big Ron Paul fan. He likes the Republican presidential candidate's vision for the country.
"He kinda cares about the American dream," Johnson said. "I actually feel like he's the only candidate that really does."
Both Johnson and Thielman study mass communication at St. Cloud State. While Paul didn't really talk about love, the happy couple seemed to underscore the importance youth is playing in the Paul campaign.
Paul said young people are attracted to the idea of liberty and that the concept of freedom is a young idea.
"I think that is one of the reasons why young people like this idea because their minds are not muddied up with the conventional wisdom of the politicians, and the TV and the media and all the things they have learned and they're more open," Paul said. "Too often as we get older were told to conform. But I think it's a natural tendency to love liberty, whether you're two years old, or whether you're 60 years old."
So Paul said the word: Love. In his case, he was invoking love of the republic.
The happy couple in the stands may feel likewise about their country. But Johnson said having his girlfriend at the rallymade his anniversary.
"It did! It did!" Johnson said earnestly. "Big time!"
"Gosh," Thielman replied. "How embarrassing."
On Wednesday morning Todd Foster and Scott Miller set out from the Sinclair Lewis Campground in Sauk Centre.
The duo are continuing their 150 mile trip down the Sauk River mapping obstructions as they go.
Although the pair say they haven't encountered many fences on their journey so far, those remaining do violate state law.
In order to find a solution to the fences, the Sauk River Watershed District began offering a cost-share program a few years ago that funds up to 50 percent of landowners' costs to come into compliance.
Funds may be dedicated to both alternate watering systems and fencing that runs parallel to the bank and extends about 25 feet into the water. These measures allow cattle to drink from the river without entering it.
According to Holly Kovarik, SRWD's administrator, the organization has received grants and loans that make this possible.
For more information on the fencing issue, see Sunday's coverage.
"The watershed district is a cost share and we have pursued grants specifically for exclusion fencing that [landowners] can put along [the river] and keep the cattle off the river," she said.
Kovarik said the group has a number of reasons they are looking for a new solution.
In part, she said, one of the SRWD's primary purposes is to monitor water quality. She said removing cattle from it would be a step in the right direction as the water currently tests positive for E. coli.
In addition, according to Kovarik, a number of canoeists and kayakers have gotten caught in the fences, many of which are made from barbed wire.
Tell us about Minnesota's rivers and streams We want to know about the rivers and streams that you know best. Which are in the best condition? Which ones have problem spots? Share your observations here.
"You're moving down the river pretty quickly, come around a corner and there's a fence there," Adam Hjelm, SRWD's public outreach coordinator, said. "You don't have time to react."
Hjelm was part of a group that canoed a portion of the Sauk River in 2008 in order to catalogue bank erosion in addition to logs and fences blocking the river.
But ultimately, Kovarik said, the cost share program is entirely voluntary and SRWD cannot force landowners to participate. However, she added that "more than I can count" have taken them up on the offer since the program began.
The state's Department of Natural Resources has not enforced a law that forbids fences across the Sauk River in central Minnesota. It is a misdemeanor to obstruct public waters, but farmers continue to run fences between pasture land divided by the river. The fences, sometimes electric or barbed wire, pose a serious risk to canoeists and kayakers.
"[The Sauk River] was designated as a state water trail in 2006 and so our first efforts were in putting a map together and getting information on the website," Erik Wrede, DNR water trails coordinator, said. "Now just recently we've been getting information that there are fences on the Sauk."
The DNR had location data of fences along part of the river in 2008. Members of the Sauk River Watershed District who canoed that portion used GPS technology to map the fences and other blockages in the river.
They relayed this information to the DNR at that time, but Wrede said the agency did not act because the information covered only part of the river.
Wrede is waiting for the completion of a trip, under way now, by Scott Miller and Todd Foster. The duo is mapping all of the hazards along the 125 miles of the Sauk including fences. One the DNR receives their data Wrede says the agency will start working to bring farmers into compliance.
"We want to do it in one fell swoop instead of piecemeal," Wrede said.
Wrede cites difficulty in determining who the landowners are, even with GPS data of the location of some of the fences. The agency also wants to engender goodwill with the farmers that have used the land in this manner for generations.
Miller and Foster are taking a week to paddle the Sauk and have encountered a few fences, less than have been encountered on previous trips. But at this point they are only halfway though and have a significant amount of farmland to pass through yet.
You can follow Miller and Foster on their blog as they update along the way.
MPR News intern Alison Dirr contributed reporting and research to this post
Tell us about Minnesota's river and streams We want to know about the rivers and streams that you know best. Which are in the best condition? Which ones have problem spots? Share your observations here.
Canoe enthusiasts Todd Foster and Scott Miller will pack a collapsible ladder when they leave today for their 125-mile paddle from Lake Osakis to the Mississippi River.
The pair plans to use it to scale some of the fences blocking their path down the Sauk River. According to Foster, farmers and landowners use the barriers to prevent cattle from leaving their lands.
"Generally [land] right along the river is kind of marginal crop land because it gets muddy... so a lot of times [farmers] don't plant right up against the river but they still want to use that land so they use it as pasture for cattle," Foster said. "And if you own both sides of the river, you want your cattle to be able to get from one side of the river to the other side of the river to pasture."
However, the fences violate state statute by obstructing the public waterway. They may also create hazards for those traveling down the river.
Tell us about Minnesota's river and streams
We want to know about the rivers and streams that you know best. Which are in the best condition? Which ones have problem spots? Share your observations here.
According to Foster, members of the Sauk River Watershed District, an organization whose goal is to "enhance and protect our natural resources" traveled the upper Sauk River two or three years ago. The group charted obstructions (LINK, if possible) in the waterway as they went.
He estimated they found 25 to 30 fences spanning the river between Lake Osakis and Sauk Center at that time.
"There's been no enforcement or no real action to try to remove these fences, so I expect most of them to still be there," he said.
In fact, they don't have far to travel before they encounter their first obstacle.
"A couple days ago I went up to Lake Osakis just to look at the river and check things out and from the road, about 100 yards after we start the trip, there's a fence," Foster said. He added that the chain link extends into the water, making it impossible to pass.
Other fences will resemble clotheslines stretched across the waterway, and still others, he said, will be electric.
"Some fences, I would imagine, that we're going to be able to push the strands of the fencing up with our paddle and try to sneak underneath it with the canoe," he said. "[With] the first fence I was looking at just a couple days ago that's not possible so we will have to get out and portage around that."
This presents another potential problem, however, because they will be trespassing on private land. Foster said he hopes landowners will be understanding considering their fences force canoeists to find an alternate route.
He expects most will allow them to pass, although he has not contacted any landowners along the Sauk River in advance. He has, however, alerted law enforcement and the Department of Natural Resources in case a conflict should arise.
But although he recognizes this possibility, Foster said he wants to stress that he has no problem with farmers themselves.
"We're not anti-farming or whatever," he said. "We understand that for decades and decades this has been the practice with the fencing issue, but moving forward we need to find a solution that can kind of work for everybody."
MN Today will continue to track the progress of duo as they make their way down the Sauk this week.
Until recently, the only mosque in town was located inside a small, nondescript building set up in the late 1990's.
"There was really no parking. It was leaking at the roof. It had no windows," said Abdi Sabrie, a leader in the Somali community, whose family moved to the area two years ago after living in Atlanta for 20 years. "It was very cramped and small. It was really not serving the community well."
Late last month, after raising $50,000 for the down payment of the new center, Somali and Muslim community leaders bought a three-story, historic building in town to house the Mankato Islamic Center.
The new center is already open, and includes a prayer room, and several other spaces for community classes and a library, Sabrie said.
"It's going to be a community center in addition to serving the faith needs of the community," he said, adding that volunteers have been working to complete minor repairs on some of the rooms of the new center.
For years, the greater Mankato area has hosted international residents, mainly students studying at the Minnesota State University campus. But in the last decade, the area has attracted thousands of East African refugees and Latin American immigrants who are putting down roots and calling Mankato home.
The demographic change has come fast for the area. Since 2000, the non-white population in Blue Earth County and neighboring Nicollet County has increased by nearly 50 percent, from 3,186 to 4,770. Most of the growth has been from refugee and immigrant families. Officials estimate Blue Earth County alone is now home to as many as 500 refugee families.
For Sabrie, the new mosque is a sign the community is here to stay.
"The community is really very excited," he said.
Some 30 families affected by the devastating June 17 tornado in Wadena will gather tonight for a Camp Noah reunion at the Wadena Elementary School.
Camp Noah is a program sponsored by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. It's a week-long therapeutic day camp that focuses on helping children recover emotionally after a natural disaster. Seventy Wadena area children participated in Camp Noah in August.
The reunion event tonight will include a dinner and small group sessions for children and adults.
The Lutheran Social Service Disaster Response office in Wadena reports that 92 families have been served with case management services.
With outside donations of about $175,000, 88 families have received help with unmet needs in areas of loss not covered by insurance. Some of those needs include furniture, beds, car repairs, sheet rock, shingles and windows.
Lutheran Social Service case manager Wendy Molstad says the organization continues to accept donations for Wadena tornado victims. Molstad says there are still unmet needs totaling an estimated $900,000.
Posted at 8:23 PM on November 26, 2010
by Tom Robertson
Filed under: Arrowhead, Central Minnesota, Environment, Government, Northwest Minnesota, Southeast Minnesota, Southwest Minnesota, Sports & Recreation, Twin Cities
You'll soon have a chance to weigh in on the DNR's draft plan to guide state and regional parks and trails Legacy Amendment funding for the next quarter century. The plan will be available for review and public comment starting early next month.
The plan is mandated by the Legislature and is designed to establish a 25-year vision for the parks and trails effort in Minnesota, especially as it pertains to funding generated by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed by voters in 2008.
The amendment created a three-eighths percent sales tax increase for natural resources and the arts. Of the money generated, 14.25 percent goes toward state parks and trails projects.
Minnesota residents are asked to comment on recommendations on how parks and trails connect people with the outdoors and how the state takes care of existing recreational resources.
The DNR also wants feedback on their proposed strategy for land acquisition and on developing new parks and trails to meet future needs.
You can comment on the plan online, or attend one of several workshops around the state:
-- Thursday, Dec. 2, 7-9 p.m., Country Inn and Suites, 1900 Premier Dr., Mankato
-- Monday, Dec. 6, 7-9 p.m., Holiday Inn -- downtown waterfront, 200 W. First St., Duluth
-- Tuesday, Dec. 7, 7-9 p.m., Hampton Inn and Suites, 1019 Paul Bunyan Dr. S., Bemidji
-- Wednesday, Dec. 8, 7-9 p.m., University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center, 1890 Buford Ave., St. Paul.
The St. Cloud school district is reopening a program aimed to reduce the number of suspensions among middle and high school students next month, the St. Cloud Times reports.
The Times quotes the director of student services and special education saying that the district cannot close its achievement gap when students are not in school.
The program, called Community Accountability and Prevention (CAAP), allows sixth through tenth graders to keep up with their school work, meet with counselors to work on behavioral issues and avoid future suspensions, and meet community service requirements.
The district dropped the CAAP program several years ago because of budget cuts. School district officials decided to reopen the program when they looked at the district's suspension numbers and decided they needed to reduce those numbers: 880 suspensions involving 537 students.
The district is renting a space off campus specifically to accommodate this program. Staff will drive students from their schools each day and take them to the program's location.
The program will cost $100,000 a year to staff a teacher, a counselor, and a behavioral specialist, plus rental costs for the space, about $15,000 per year according to the Times article.
Earlier this week, university president Earl H. Potter III announced his decision to close the bachelor degree programs in aviation and general biology and the masters degree program in geography.
In a letter to campus colleagues, Potter wrote:
"The programs included in this category are not sustainable in their current programmatic and organizational structure and/or do not have sufficient student demand and/or market need to justify additional investment. As a result, they have been identified for closure. We will continue to offer courses in these areas to facilitate the progress of the existing students toward graduation. We will however suspend any new admissions into these programs."
The St. Cloud Times reports that the aviation program cut is "another blow to the viability of St. Cloud Regional Airport."
Last year Delta Airlines canceled air service on the heels of major airport improvements. And the aviation program, according to the newspaper, accounts for 25 percent of airport activity.
An airline industry group has expressed interest in supporting the aviation program. Potter is in conversations with the group. Potter, as president, has the right to review his decision to close the program if an opportunity to support the program arises.
These academic program cuts are part of an effort to assess "the rigor and relevance" of the university's programs, said provost and vice president for academic affairs Devinder Malhotra.
Malhotra said university officials are considering "what programs makes most sense for us to have, and what programs are sustainable, and in what ways can we re-organize the programmatic structure in itself so that it becomes more sustainable over the long haul from a resource standpoint." Malhotra said the university began conversations to appraise programs three years ago.
This appraisal process is also taking place as the university goes through a massive reorganization effort. The university is facing an approximate $14 million deficit for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins next year in July.
The deficit stems in part from an uncertainty about state appropriations and in part to the fact that stimulus money--about $4.5 million to $5 million--that supported the university for the past two years will no longer be available.
Malhotra said university officials are reviewing all of the academic programs and the units that support them.
"So almost all of the programmatic and organizational activities of the university are under review to understand how we can become more focused, more responsive, and a more student-centered institution," said Malhotra. "And in that context, it helps us also then to deal with budget issues."
The university will continue to support several programs at their current levels, or "enhance" support, while it will suspend admission to other programs until those programs reorganize their curriculum to improve their marketability and cost-effectiveness.
Fergus Falls doesn't know what to do with the old asylum on the hill. Maybe some rich real-estate developer has an idea how to put the former Fergus Falls State Hospital to good use.
For years, the city and the state of Minnesota (which used to own the complex) have tried to find a buyer for the majestic, if slightly creepy, buildings.
But Hydukovich isn't clamoring for Craigslist to pull the ad down.
The ad went up after Hydukovich sent notices around letting the business community know that the complex is still on the market. According to the Daily Journal:
The notice goes on to give information about the building and information about Fergus Falls, highlighting all of the projects the building has been considered for in the past. "(The building) stimulates the imagination by its size, form and presentation," reads the notice.
Hydukovich said that apparently someone who had gotten the notice decided to put it up on Craigslist, but he doesn't know who or whether the person was trying to be funny or serious. The Craigslist ad includes a link to a page of photos of the building.
No question the old asylum is an architectural gem. Here's how MPR's Dan Gunderson described the complex in a 2004 story.
The old state hospital looks a bit like a castle, sitting atop a hill on the north side of Fergus Falls. Its eight-story brick tower is capped by a red tile roof. Two wings of patient rooms run east and west from the tower. The main building is about 1,600 feet long.
Known as a Kirkbride hospital, the Fergus Falls facility was designed by psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride, who revolutionized the design of facilities for treating the mentally ill. The buildings were long and narrow, so every room had windows, a marked departure from the prison-like asylums commonly used in the 1800s. The Fergus Falls hospital is one of the most complete Kirkbride buildings still standing in the U.S. .
The buildings have lots of fans. A web site dedicated to Kirkbride complexes across the country offers up details and photos of the Fergus Falls grounds.
And on Flickr, dozens of photographers have joined a Kirkbride group and posted nearly 400 photos of various state hospital sites.
The Minnesota Historical Society keeps some photos of the asylum during its heyday.
Postcard showing Fergus Falls State Hospital, ca. 1914. (Photo from Minnesota Historical Society.)
Ca. 1915. (Photo from Minnesota Historical Society.)
Main building, 1928. (Photo from Minnesota Historical Society.)
Administration building, undated photo. (Photo from Minnesota Historical Society.)
Posted at 10:00 AM on September 1, 2010
by Mark Steil
Filed under: Central Minnesota
A wind farm in Dodge Center, Minn. (Photo courtesy Chad Johnson).
There are signs that a proposed power line project in western Minnesota is moving forward.
The lines were supposed to carry power from the proposed Big Stone II plant, which would have been built just across the Minnesota border in South Dakota. Plans for the coal fired plant collapsed last fall.
But when the power plant went belly-up, wind energy developers said they could still use the lines. They've complained for years that a lack of transmission lines for wind-generated electricity was slowing development of the alternative energy.
Last week, Otter Tail Power put some money on the table for the lines. In a letter to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, the company says it has purchased some land rights for the line from its former partners in the power plant project.
The company goes on to say in the letter there is a "high likelihood" that the lines will be built. If Otter Tail actually decides to build, they'll have to go back to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a permit.
Posted at 8:20 AM on August 19, 2010
by Bob Ingrassia
Filed under: Central Minnesota
Ambar Espinoza, who covers central Minnesota for Minnesota Public Radio, updates listeners on top stories from her region in this conversation with Phil Picardi.
She addresses news that Lutheran Social Services will help resettle 100 refugees per year for three years in the St. Cloud area.
She also talks about recent storms that knocked down thousands of trees and damaged homes in two central Minnesota counties.
MRP: Big group of refugees to resettle in St. Cloud
Lutheran Social Services (LSS) plans to resettle 300 refugees over the next three years in St. Cloud. Refugee populations, mostly from Somalia, have had a growing presence in St. Cloud for the past decade. Phil Picardi talked to reporter Ambar Espinoza from Collegeville to talk about the changing demographics in the St. Cloud area and other stories she's following in central Minnesota.
St. Cloud Times: Thursday storms produced tornadoes
Two tornadoes touched down in Stearns County during a Thursday night storm, the National Weather Service has verified. The tornadoes -- one near Brooten, another near St. Augusta -- damaged hundreds of trees and several farm buildings, the NWS reports.
The Wadena-Deer Creek High School got hit hard during the tornadoes that hit Minnesota on June 17.
Not only did the building suffer damage from winds, but the sprinklers also went off and soaked the library. Now the district is asking for donations to replenish to shelves.
A school press release explains the situation:
When the EF4 tornado inflicted its damage on the high school, sprinklers were activated throughout the building, including the library. Due to the unsafe structure of the building, the books remained in the high humidity of the high school for three weeks until they were removed by a specially trained crew. The books were transported to Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School, where they were unloaded by volunteers. Unfortunately, over 7,000 books were contaminated or damaged and unable to be saved.
The district has teamed with an online donation site to help raise cash to buy new materials for the library. Those wishing to contribute can visit Funds4Books and then log in to Wadena school's fundraising page with the code 2e65.
Posted at 11:53 AM on June 28, 2010
by Bob Ingrassia
Filed under: Central Minnesota
St. Cloud pulled off the new Great Minnesota Air Show over the weekend without a hitch.
An estimated 30,000 people packed into the St. Cloud Regional Airport grounds on Saturday and again Sunday.
The St. Cloud Times reports that the two-day event ended without any major public-safety issues or traffic headaches.
You hear about how newspapers are struggling. You don't always get to see the top-notch reporting they're still cranking out.
Several Minnesota newspapers put some good reporting and writing on display this weekend.
Mankato: A Baby's Short & Touching Life
The Mankato Free Press started a series called "13 Days: The Short Life of Hazel Heidelberger." The series looks at the life of a baby born with a rare heart ailment.
Part 1: The birth and baptism
Part 2: A young couple's dream becomes a nightmare
Hazel was a New Year's baby, and seemed healthy. She met her family, learned to nurse, had her diapers changed. But by this evening, test results showed signs of trouble. Nurses noticed that Hazel's heart was racing. Mom and dad noticed she was growing lethargic. No one could figure out why.
A short time later, they'd receive the kind of news every new parent fears: Something is wrong with their baby.
They don't know it yet, but Hazel was born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, which essentially means her heart was born with only three of its four chambers. If found early enough, and with world-class help, babies can pull through. But in Hazel's case, only a miracle could save her.
St. Cloud: Halted housing plagues central Minnesota
The St. Cloud Times details what happens when plans for big housing developments go bust. In some cases, cities get stuck with big unpaid IOUs from developers who were supposed to reimburse the public for streets and sewers.
A single house stands in the middle of the vast development, marooned in a sea of empty cul-de-sacs, tall grass and winding roads that lead nowhere.
Eighty-eight homes had been planned for the first of seven phases.
The developer, Percheron Properties, is gone. None of the $6.4 million of assessments has been paid.
Duluth: Copper could spell trouble for the Boundary Waters
The Duluth News Tribune examines the potential and the possible downsides of tapping into huge deposits of copper and other minerals near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildnerness.
Story: Estimated $1 trillion in the ground, but mining critics are concerned about BWCAW
What Duluth Metals has found is nothing short of earth-shattering for geologists -- an estimated 900 million tons of copper, nickel, platinum and other valuable metals that are among the richest yet found in Minnesota.
"This is an exploratory success story that comes around once every couple of decades," said David Oliver, geologist and project manager of Duluth Metals. "I've been doing this for 35 years, and I've had a lot of success... but nothing like this before."
The finding, just a couple of miles outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, may be three times bigger and twice as rich as the better known PolyMet project proposed about 30 miles to the southwest.
The debate starts when the value of those minerals, and the possibility of long-term water contamination from acidic mine runoff, is weighed against unspoiled wilderness, recreation and clean water. From ancient peoples to voyageurs to BWCAW campers, it's always been the water that has been most important here.