Statewide Category Archive: Northwest Minnesota
Drones are a hot topic as use expands and the privacy debate continues in Congress and on social media.
The use of small unmanned aircraft by the Grand Forks Sheriff's Department is attracting journalists from around the world. This week, when I observed a training session in Grand Forks, a crew from the NHK television network in Japan was also on site filming the exercise. Reporters were recording segments in Japanese and English.
Al Frazier, the deputy sheriff and University of North Dakota instructor who is managing the drone integration project, said that in the past two months he's also hosted crews from French and German TV.
Frazier said he welcomes the media attention because it helps stimulate a healthy public discussion about the use of drones.
The attention comes before a hearing Friday by a U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee: "Eyes in the Sky: The Domestic Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems."
The 66th annual Governor's Fishing Opener set for this weekend in Park Rapids may be one for the record books.
As of today, many lakes in the area still have lots of ice, enough so that even a couple of days of warm temperatures are unlikely to make it disappear in time for Saturday's walleye opener.
Dennis Mackedanz of Park Rapids is in charge of this year's event. He figures the ice on most lakes will shrink enough so that anglers will be able to find at least some open water.
"I've been watching it every day this past week," Mackedanz said. "We've made significant progress in the last few days. Several of the lakes look like they're going to have open water by Saturday morning. The question is, is it the whole lake? Probably not."
Fortunately, the people of Park Rapids have a "Plan B." Gov. Mark Dayton will likely spend a lot of time fishing the Fish Hook River, which enters Fish Hook Lake from the south.
Jason Durham, a Nevis kindergarten teacher, will guide the governor for the day. Durham, who's been an area fishing guide for 22 years, said visitors to the Park Rapids area won't have too much trouble finding open water for fishing.
Public access landings, however, may not have docks installed yet, as the state Department of Natural Resources and local counties couldn't get that work done while there was still ice along the shores.
"The fortunate thing for our community is that we have so many lakes situated close by, and a lot of those are smaller bodies of water, most of them under 2,000 acres," Durham said. "So we're going to have other areas to fish, because those lakes have opened up, so anglers are going to go lots of different directions and fish a lot of different lakes."
Here's what a lot of northern Minnesota lakes look like this week.
This City of Bemidji work crew is busy with spring clean-up on the shore of Lake Bemidji. But most of the lake is still covered in ice. Open water began appearing this week following several days of warm weather, but there will still likely be ice on the lake on Saturday.
That's probably going to be true for most larger lakes in northern Minnesota.
Here's a Department of Natural Resources map that pinpoints which lakes are free of ice. The DNR relies on data from the public, so it's certainly not accurate. But it does show that the state has a long way to go before all if its waters are ice free.
Supporters say the expansion is another step toward becoming a full community clinic for low income patients who are enrolled in public health care programs such as Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare.
Expanded services include rapid HIV screening, mental health screening tobacco cessation support and nutrition information. The goal is to help at-risk people take advantage of early screening in a non-intimidating setting. The project is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Health and the United Way of Bemidji Area.
Carol Kelly, RN and recently certified nurse practitioner, has been hired to provide the services. Kelly worked for 22 years as a public health nurse.
"We're pleased to be able to take the next step toward a full community clinic," said executive director Jeanne Edevold Larson. "Some day we hope to find a collaborating physician to allow Carol to work as a Nurse Practitioner and offer even more services, but this is a great first step."
The Red River flood this year might just break a record as the latest major spring flood in history.
Historical flood data for Fargo-Moorhead shows there've been 15 floods when water was above the 30 foot level. Thirty feet is considered major flood stage.
The latest the river has reached a flood crest is April 19th, 1979.
The destructive flood of 1997 reached its peak on April 18th. (There have been a couple of June and July flood crests unrelated to spring flooding)
The U.S. Geological Survey and the National Weather Service both issued advisories this week that spring flooding is likely to be delayed beyond April 15th.
The NWS says the jet stream is keeping warm air south of the Red River Valley, delaying the snow melt.
According to the NWS, data for Fargo show that March 2013 was the sixth coldest since hydrological observations began in 1900.
The NWS ranked the month of March as the 14th coldest average temperature, the 12th snowiest, and the 11th wettest (including rain and melted snow) for Fargo.
This year also had the deepest average snow depth for the last day of March since weather records began in Fargo in the mid-1880s.
Below normal temperatures are expected to continue into mid April. That will bring a slow snow melt which could reduce flood risk.
On the other hand, forecasters say a change in the weather pattern expected the second half of April will bring an increased risk of significant rainfall.
A two inch rain on top of melting snow could quickly change the flood outlook.
More than one hundred tribal members gathered inside the Paul Bunyan Mall in Bemidji Wednesday to stage a "flash mob" drum and dance circle. The event was organized as a show of support for a Canadian tribal chief who is on a hunger strike in Ottawa, Ontario.
Similar events supporting the Canadian "Idle No More" movement have been staged in Duluth, Minneapolis and other cities across the country over the past few weeks.
Tribal Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation in far northern Ontario has been on a hunger strike in Ottawa, demanding to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss poverty and other issues affecting native communities.
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.
American Crystal Sugar Company is on pace for a record 2012 crop. Company officials say this years crop is breaking records for sugar content.
Apparently the drought conditions of the past summer reduced the amount of water stored in the beets. That could reduce cost of production because there's less water to be removed in the cooking process that separates the sugar. But a company official says it also slows production because so much sugar is produced per ton of beets that factories can't process as many tons of beets in a day.
American Crystal recently notified farmers that net per ton payments for last years crop will be $55.67 per ton. That's significantly lower than the 2010 crop payment of $73 per ton. It's also much lower than the $74 per ton payment from Minn-Dak Cooperative in Wahpeton,ND.
Company officials say the ongoing lockout of 1,300 union workers, and the use of temporary workers increased the cost of turning last years beets into sugar, but they won't say how much the lockout cost.
However, they say the cost of production is returning to more normal levels as replacement workers gain experience and training.
American Crystal projects farmers will be paid $65 per ton for the 2012 crop.
The University of North Dakota announced today that it has formed the nation's first Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Compliance Committee.
Phyllis Johnson, UND vice president for research and economic development said the panel will operate much like an Institutional Review Board that's charged with protecting human subjects involved in medical research.
"One of the big concerns that IRBs look at with human studies is invasion of privacy and security of private data," Johnson said. "These are similar to the issues that we're dealing with here with [unmanned aircraft]. Very often with a law enforcement application, you cannot identify necessarily the individuals and get their consent beforehand. That does not mean that we should not take some time to talk about this."
The committee plans to get ahead of federal regulators on the issues of privacy and other social concerns regarding the use of unmanned aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration is working on regulations for unmanned aviation systems, but the process has been delayed several times. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has indicated privacy concerns are a key issue for the agency.
All unmannned aircraft research at UND will now need to be reviewed and approved by the committee.
The committee will consider ethical implications of the research when deciding to approve, deny or modify the research request.
The Research Compliance Committee meets for the first time on Friday.
Building permit activity in the Fargo Moorhead area this year is the highest it's been since 2007 according to data released by the Fargo Moorhead Home Builders Association.
Total construction value for the second quarter of 2012 is more than $263 million That's up almost $100 million from a year ago. New housing starts are up 90 percent from the number during the same time in 2011.
Local officials attribute the increase to a strong economy, low interest rates and housing incentives offered by cities in the Fargo Moorhead metro area.
"After three years of flooding and a shaky national economy, it is refreshing to see the home building industry thriving again," said
Home Builders President Terry Becker.
Data from the National Association of Home Builders shows Fargo Moorhead is one of a handful of places in the upper Midwest where home values are increasing.
Updated with comments from Congressional testimony:
Members of Congress are asking questions this week about domestic use of unmanned aircraft systems. Commonly known as drones, UAS are currently prohibited in the national airspace except in cases where the Federal Aviation Administration gives waivers for use by law enforcement, government agencies or research universities.
The U.S. House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management held a hearing Thursday to ask what role the Department of Homeland Security will play in oversight and if the agency is prepared for expanded use of unmanned aircraft.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses unmanned aircraft to patrol the northern and southern borders.
A growing number of law enforcement agencies are using small unmanned aircraft. In our region the only law enforcement UAS program I'm aware of is the Grand Forks County Sheriff's department.
Congress has ordered the FAA to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace by 2015. The agency is expected to announce regulations for integration by the end of this year.
The chairman of the homeland security subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, notes that unmanned aerial systems are a boost to military and border control operations, but their growing use concerns many citizens.
"These systems are now being used in the United States by law enforcement, government agencies and even academic institutions," McCaul said in a statement. "Some Americans worry such systems will become invasive 'eyes-in-the-sky'. Others say domestic drones will eventually be armed. However, no Federal agency is taking responsibility for creating comprehensive policies and regulations concerning the use of these systems domestically.
"Additionally, vulnerabilities to 'drone' hackers exist, as recently demonstrated by researchers at the University of Texas, raising concerns these vehicles could be commandeered by terrorists or others with ill intent. Our hearing will examine DHS's role in the domestic use of unmanned aerial systems and determine the extent to which the Department is prepared to ensure oversight of domestic drones."
Here's a link to the hearing webcast.
How unmanned aircraft are integrated into national airspace could have a big economic effect in Minnesota and North Dakota.
The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls are leaders in training unmanned aircraft crews. The region is angling for one of six UAS test sites to be chosen by the FAA. Those test sites will likely attract aerospace businesses and investment.
The Air Force is also developing an unmanned aircraft mission at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. The FAA recently approved restricted airspace in North Dakota specifically for UAS training missions.
Subcommittee Chairman, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas said the Department of Homeland Security declined to appear before his subcommittee.
Michael Toscano, President and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International did not appear before the subcommittee but submitted testimony pointing out the value of unmanned aircraft:
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) currently uses UAS to monitor the border to help interdict illicit trafficking. According to the CPB's Office of Air and Marine, unmanned aircraft in 2011 assisted with the seizure of thousands of pounds of narcotics and the apprehension of dozens of individuals taking part in illegal activities," Toscano wrote.
"UAS aided the response to the severe flooding of the Red River in the upper Midwest in April 2011. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protections Office, which leant (sp) the UAS to the effort, the UAS mapped more than 800 nautical miles along the flooded tributaries and basins in Minnesota and North Dakota, and provided streaming video and analysis of the areas affected by the flood such as levee integrity and ice damming. The information provided by UAS gave forecasters more accurate predictions of when and where the flooding would be at its worst."
"Drones may also carry infrared cameras, heat sensors, GPS, sensors that detect movement, and automated license plate readers. Drones are currently being developed that will carry facial recognition technology, able to remotely identify individuals in parks, schools, and at political gatherings."
An absent minded driver lost a passenger after veering into a ditch and regaining control of her car while traveling north of Blackduck.
Fifteen-year-old Kendall Ericksen of Baudette was sleeping in the back seat of a 2006 Chevrolet Impala as it was traveling southbound on Highway 72 Sunday, according to a report in The Bemidji Pioneer.
At about 10:30 a.m., the car's driver, 72-year-old Louise Ericksen of Baudette, lost control of the car.
From the Pioneer: "The Impala traveled along the ditch slope and struck a no passing sign on the left rear door area, which broke out a window. Kendall Ericksen was sleeping in the rear passenger area and was ejected through the window and landed in the ditch."
According to a report from the Minnesota State Patrol the driver managed to get back on the road, but continued driving until she and another passenger noticed Ericksen was missing.
The driver turned the car around and found Ericksen standing along the highway. She was treated for minor injuries.(1 Comments)
A group trying to save the Regional Treatment Center in Fergus Falls hope 1,200 people show up on Saturday for an event designed to draw attention to efforts to save the historic building from the wrecking ball.
The event is called "Hug the RTC" and the idea is to ring the 1,600 foot long structure with people.
When it was built in the late 1800s the Kirkbride structure was considered a model of mental health treatment. In the 1930s it housed some 2,000 mentally ill residents, and employed hundreds of local workers.
The city of Fergus Falls has been trying for about a decade to find a developer to re-use the facility.
Tim LItt chairs a task force charged with finding a marketing firm to help sell the property to a developer. He says the group will recommend a firm to the city council on Monday evening. He hopes a renewed marketing effort will lead to a national search for interested developers for the project.
Over the years, several proposed re-developments fell through when developers couldn't come up with money for the projects they envisioned.
Litt says redeveloping the massive structure is a challenge because of it's size and the slow economy.
The state will pay the cost of demolishing the facility if a developer can't be found. Demolition is estimated to cost several million dollars.
The agreement with the state was recently amended to extend the deadline for demolishing the facility. Litt says under the current agreement, demolition must be complete by December, 2014 if the city can't find a developer for the property.
Concerned about a recent cross burning at the home of a woman and her adult mixed-race children, a Bemidji group focused on race relations will host a community anti-racism rally Thursday.
Members of Shared Vision have scheduled the rally for 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Beltrami County courthouse pavilion.
"We are hoping all residents who have concern about this issue will consider participating in the rally," event organizer Cory Cochran said in a news release. "We are asking elected officials from Bemidji, as well as White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake to speak for two to 10 minutes at this event.
"We are encouraging speakers to focus on moving forward, what we can do in the Bemidji area to promote a climate of support for difference, uniqueness and ethnically diverse peoples," Cochran said.
Bemidji State University psychology professor John Gonzalez will be the keynote speaker at the rally. Gonzalez has a background in multicultural research methods and statistics.
The cross burning incident was reported at 12:40 a.m. on May 25. A woman reported that the eight-foot cross was propped up against a tree in her yard. She extinguished the fire with a garden hose. Deputies later found racist messages on the cross.
The victim is white. Her two adult children have a black father.
Two Bemidji men were arrested last week in connection with the cross burning. Derek Daniel Barnes, 20, faces felony stalking/harassment charges. Ryan Fairbanks Andree, 19, is charged with felony aiding and abetting stalking/harassment.
The International Falls Economic Development Authority as been awarded a $657,000 state grant to construct a warehouse that will aid international shipping and create jobs.
A private company called Nexus Distribution will use the facility to provide repackaging services that enable Canada and other international companies to meet U.S. regulatory requirements, according to The Journal newspaper in International Falls.
The warehouse and processing center will be built on an 80 acre site adjacent to what city officials say is the largest rail port in North America. They expect the development will create about 50 much needed jobs over the next five years.
The project was among 14 in Minnesota that received funding through the state's Transportation Economic Development Program, a two-year-old initiative between the state Department of Employment and Economic Development and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The program aims to improve transportation infrastructure and create jobs.
International Falls Mayor Shawn Mason told The Journal that the grant will help the city capitalize on its location in the center of North America. Rail containers carrying Asian-made product travel through International Falls from Vancouver, British Columbia and then on to Chicago.
Mason says the warehouse and processing center will provide services that help manufacturers comply with U.S. labeling and packaging codes. Much of that activity now happens in Chicago, where the process can be slower and more costly.
Local officials hope the project will lead to additional investment and economic opportunity along the rail corridor.
Groundbreaking on the facility is set for July 2.
Young people on the Red Lake Indian Reservation will soon have new places to exercise and hangout with friends. The Red Lake Nation this week received a $750,000 community development grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community south of the Twin Cities.
Red Lake will use the money for youth projects, including construction of a skateboard park and basketball court, as well as amenities for the Ponemah Community Center.
Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain says the tribe's goal is to provide a safe environment for youth and to develop their interest in outdoor sports.
"We have a diverse set of needs when it comes to youth activities, with skateboarding being the highest in demand," Jourdain wrote in a letter requesting the funds. "Once completed, the center, skateboard parks, and basketball courts will provide a safe environment for the whole community to engage in community activities, provide a healthier alternative for our youth's free time, and promote a healthier lifestyle."
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which operates large casinos in the metro area, has assisted Red Lake several times in the past. In 2009, the SMSC loaned Red Lake $31 million to construct its newest Seven Clans Casino and Hotel, a tribal law enforcement center and a greenhouse.
In 2010, SMSC loaned Red Lake $3 million and gave them a $1 million grant to fund several Red Lake economic enterprises, as well as a health care center and a youth center.
Lakeland Public Television has more on the skate park that is scheduled to be completed this fall.
A local arts based initiative wants Fargo Moorhead residents to volunteer in the community as a way to celebrate a flood free spring.
Fargo Moorhead residents battled major Red River floods each of the past three years. Thousands volunteered to fill and place sandbags during those floods. This spring the river is meekly flowing within its banks. There's no need for sandbags in Fargo Moorhead this spring, so organizers are trying to tap the community spirit of volunteerism for other community needs.
The exhibit brings together several artists to pose questions, or identify issues related to flooding. This image from the exhibit depicts Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker as Moses.
The volunteer effort is called River Inspired Service Engine (R.I.S.E) and it aims to inspire local residents to focus energy they won't use fighting a flood to volunteer for everything from community clean-up projects, to helping local non-profit agencies to creating their own volunteer initiative.
Volunteers looking for a place to help can contact FirstLink, the organization that coordinates sandbag volunteers during floods, but also manages volunteers for a variety of local organizations.
The volunteer initiative continues through the month of May.
Another batch of winners has been announced by the IDEA Competition in northwest Minnesota. Now in its fourth year, the competition is designed to encourage homegrown entrepreneurs who have innovative ideas or inventions.
IDEA contestants undergo a six-month competition. They submit business plans for their product and make presentations to a panel of judges made up of equity finance groups, bankers and business development professionals.
The top five winners get cash awards of $10,000, plus a year's worth of expert advise from a business coach. They include:
-- Mark Landes and Jennifer DeBarr, Bemidji, for the Shield Snip, a hand tool to simplify the process of cutting coaxial wire used in the medical, aviation and telecom industries without causing damage;
-- William and Julia Stephani, Puposky, for their Slot Rail Fence, a fence design that has built-in slots for easy assembly;
Jeff Sullivan, Bemidji, for his Carimax Evaporator, an innovative, precision evaporator technology designed to evaporate surplus industrial and agricultural waste water;
-- Jay Fisher and James Marvin, Warroad, for Eleven Hockey, a company that manufactures hockey sticks made of longitude fibers, making them lighter and more durable, and;
-- Brady and Jodi Dyrdahl, Shevlin, for The Sidekick, a snowmobile work stand that stabilized the sled, making it easier to work underneath.
The IDEA Competition, which launched in 2008, has since awarded more than $250,000 to 18 contest winners. IDEA project coordinator Michelle Landsverk says most winners have reached commercialization, and together they've created more than 30 jobs, with sales approaching $5 million.
A growing number of regional economic developers see local entrepreneurship as one of the best ways to create jobs.
Bemidji area fishing guide Paul Nelson says walleyes, northern pike and perch have begun their spawning runs in many northern lakes.
Fish spawning activity is heavily dependent on weather. In a recent outdoors column in the Bemidji Pioneer, Nelson said cool temperatures following ice-out on area lakes this year put most of the fish in a holding pattern. But the subsequent warm-up now has fish actively spawning in lakes and rivers.
Now is the time of year that DNR fisheries workers are out stripping eggs from walleye so the fish fry can later be stocked in area lakes.
Nelson reports that crews have begun that process on the northeastern corner of Lake Winnibigoshish. Apparently most of the walleye were not "ripe" when they were captured in the nets. Warmer temperatures will quickly change that.
Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy has resigned. Murphy, who served in the key post for more than a decade, submitted his resignation letter Thursday afternoon to commissioners.
"Over a period of time, the County Board and I have reached a mutual decision to separate," Murphy wrote in an email sent to department heads.
The resignation took some county commissioners by surprise, according to the Bemidji Pioneer. Beltrami County Board Chairman Quentin Fairbanks declined to comment on Murphy's tenure with the county, when asked by the newspaper.
In the letter, Murphy said he's received a job offer within Minnesota and is also considering other job options.
He said he's proud of what the county accomplished during his administrative tenure. That includes construction of a new law enforcement center, as well as new judicial and administrative buildings and expansion of the county jail.
Murphy's last day with the county will be May 1.
The White Earth Nation is considering an interesting move to spur economic development on the northern Minnesota Reservation.
In her recent state of the nation report, Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor mentioned the idea of setting up a Foreign Trade Zone on the reservation.
White Earth Economic Development Director Jerome Lhotka said he's only done preliminary research on the idea, but it appears promising. He said a foreign trade zone at White Earth could lead to "bricks and mortar" economic development and job creation.
The idea is to induce businesses involved in international trade to locate on the reservation.
A foreign trade zone allows companies to delay, reduce or, in some cases, eliminate U.S. Customs duties on products which are imported or exported through the zone.
Companies can also avoid paying some state and local taxes.
Lhotka said the tribe will complete a detailed analysis and request legal advice before applying to the federal government for the zone.
Minnesota now has three foreign trade zones; in Minneapolis -St. Paul, Duluth and International Falls.
Typically zones are tied to a customs port of entry.
Other Indian tribes have Foreign Trade Zone status, including the Lummi in Washington State, and the Oneida in Wisconsin.
A Foreign Trade Zone is just one idea among many White Earth is pursuing in an effort to diversify the economy in an impoverished part of the state.
White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor is pushing hard for a tribal casino in the Twin Cities, but she also said long-term economic security for the tribe requires diversifying the economy beyond gaming.
Starting this summer, the nursing programs at Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College in Bemidji will join forces under a combined Bemidji School of Nursing.
While the two programs will come together under one administration umbrella, NTC will continue to provide practical nursing and two-year registered nursing programs, while BSU will continue to offer the four-year, baccalaureate nursing program.
Dr. Jeanine Gangeness served as the chair of BSU's nursing program. She'll now serve as the Bemidji School of Nursing's founding dean.
"The goal is to have efficient, high quality education and to have a seamless transition from one program to the other," Gangeness said.
Gangeness says the school will help streamline the process of setting up clinical training sites off campus, and will also make the accreditation process more efficient.
For students, Gangeness says, it will mean an easier process of moving from the two-year into the four-year program, which is a growing trend.
Bemidji Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper
A Bemidji man pulled up the catch of a lifetime on Wednesday while ice fishing on Lake Bemidji.
After setting the hook on a bite, veteran angler Burnie Trepanier pulled from the ice hole a 28-inch walleye, an eelpout and a winter fishing rod and reel -- all at once.
Trepanier told The Bemidji Pioneer that as he was pulling the catch up, he initially thought he might have hooked a giant northern pike or a big muskie.
But after a long battle, the first thing he pulled out of the hole was a rod and reel tangled in his line. Next came the walleye and a tangle of braided line.
"And then up came about a 6-pound eelpout. I couldn't believe my eyes," Trepanier told the newspaper.
What's unclear are the chronicle of events that led to the strange catch. Trepanier theorizes that someone lost the rod and reel after a walleye bit on the line. He thinks the eelpout bit on his sucker minnow and then got tangled in the line and the fishing pole.
Trepanier says there's no way to know how long the walleye had been dragging the pole on the lake bottom. The hook was rusted and the jig was faded, but the fishing pole and reel were in good shape.
Trepanier says he plans to have the rod, reel and the two fish mounted.(1 Comments)
A couple of weeks ago, John Dickelman who runs a guide service on the Red Rive, was fishing with Dave Longtine (pictured above) when they pulled a small sturgeon through the ice.
They released the fish after snapping a photo, but Dickelman said it was very exciting to actually see a sturgeon.
The aquatic giant from the past is making a comeback on the Red River thanks to a series of dam modification projects that I reported on today for MPR's Morning Edition.
The Red River was full of massive sturgeon in the 1800s, but construction of dams and overfishing mostly eliminated the population by the mid 1900s.
Restoring sturgeon is a long term process. The fish grow slowly and typically don't spawn until they are 25 years old. They can live more than 100 years and reach 200 pounds or more.
The state Department of Natural Resources is stocking thousands of small sturgeon, and the White Earth Nation is also stocking sturgeon in lakes which feed into the Red River.
The ultimate goal is to remove barriers so sturgeon can migrate the entire length of the Red River and up the Otter Tail River.
Anglers who catch sturgeon must release them, but perhaps some day, 200-pounders will once again be pulled from the Red River.
Plans are moving ahead for a big expansion of Sanford Health's medical campus in Bemidji. A regional planning board approved the expansion this week, according to a story in the Bemidji Pioneer.
The expansion plans include a 20,000-square-foot orthopedic center, a 24,000-square-foot surgery center and a 40,000-square-foot cardiac center.
Sanford officials say the expansion is part of a commitment made when Sanford Health and North Country Regional Hospital merged last spring. Sanford agreed to invest $75 million into the Bemidji community, including a $5 million gift to the North Country Regional Health Services Foundation.
The expansions mean some patients will no longer have to travel to Fargo for certain procedures.
The plan also includes a 12,000-foot medical supply building and a new parking area with nearly 800 spaces.
The campus exansion may require the reallignment of Bemidji's Hannah Avenue to the west. A portion of another roadway, Pine Ridge Avenue, will be vacated as part of the plan.
Scientists are gearing up for construction this spring of a 15,000-ton neutrino particle detector that will be housed in a facility on the Ash River Trail, about 40 miles southeast of International Falls.
The detector will be part of a scientific investigation into the role of subatomic particles in the origin of the universe, according to a story in the The Journal newspaper in International Falls.
The lab is part of the University of Minnesota's School of Physics and Astronomy. The detector will be on the receiving end of particles shot through the earth from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill. The Ash River site was selected because it's the furthest possible location in the United States that's in a direct line from the Illinois lab.
Researchers say the new facility will expand the University of Minnesota's international reputation as a leader in neutrino research. The university also operates the Soudan Underground Laboratory near Tower, Minn.
Project spokesman Gary Feldman, a Harvard University professor, told The Journal the facility itself is now finished and preparations have begun to build the detector. Construction will begin in April and is expected to continue over the next year and a half.
Lab officials are now in the hiring phase. There's currently a crew of 14, but the construction team will grow to 40 by this spring.
Here's a Fermilab report that explains the scientific goals of the project.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided more than $40 million for the project.
There may be good news on the jobs front in Bemidji. Skybridge Marketing Group, a Minnesota-based firm, has tentative plans to expand its business in the city, adding up to 200 new jobs.
Details of the expansion are expected to be finalized next month, according to Dave Hengel, the newly hired Joint Economic Development Director in Bemidji.
Hengel told the Bemidji Pioneer the company chose Bemidji over Park Rapids, Detroit Lakes, Fargo, Grand Forks and the Twin Cities. Skybridge has its headquarters in Greenfield near the Twin Cities, and also has an office in Winnipeg, Canada.
"When you are able to bring in good corporate citizens to the Bemidji community, the economic pie increases and everybody benefits," Hengel told the newspaper.
Many of the new jobs are expected to be customer service oriented in a call center environment.(1 Comments)
The University of Minnesota is responding to a growing interest in local food production by offering a Local Food College for interested farmers starting January 24th.
The program will include seven classes over three months, offered at eight locations across northwest Minnesota via interactive television.
The sessions cover topics from soil preparation to crop production and marketing.
The most recent USDA Agricultural Census done in 2007 found about 4,300 Minnesota farms selling some type of food product direct to consumers.
A local food study done in Minnesota in 2011 said:
"The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Minnesota Grown program has increased the number of farmers listed in its directory every year for the past 20 years and now includes more than 1,000 farms that market their products locally."
The same study pointed out an increase in small farms which are more likely to produce food for sale to consumers.
"Although the small number of very large farms in Minnesota continues to increase and medium sized operations (which make up slightly more than half of Minnesota farms) diminish, small farms seem to be more prevalent than in previous years. According to the USDA, between 1997 and 2007 farms between 1 and 99 acres increased faster than any other segment from 32.8 to 40.4 percent of Minnesota farms. As these farms are more likely to grow food for local consumption, this pattern may reflect the growth of the local food movement in Minnesota."
Minnesota Public Radio's Ground Level project examined the issue of local food in depth in this series of reports.
I've known for a long while that hundreds of refugees from Iraq resettled in the Fargo-Moorhead area over the past 20 years.
I learned much more about them while reporting a story about families separated by war.
I had no idea the role some of them played during the war in Iraq. Men who lived through chemical attacks by Saddam Hussein and spent years in refugee camps in Turkey before coming to the United States and building a new life, volunteered to return to Iraq as translators and guides for the U.S. military when the war began more than a decade ago.
The translators include 42-year-old Nesmi Brifki (pictured above with Army Major Peter Colt) is a man of relatively few words who did not want to be interviewed "on the radio." But his stories are illuminating.
He and other former refugees returned to Iraq to work with the military because "we had such high hopes" for freedom and democracy when the United States.S. invaded and deposed Saddam Hussein.
Brifki tells of traveling to Washington D.C. in 2003 with more than a dozen men who were to be vetted for military security clearance. While waiting in the Denver airport the men were suddenly surrounded by FBI agents with guns drawn.
It took some calls to Washington to clarify why these Middle Eastern men were traveling together.
When they returned to Iraq, many realized how much living in the United States had changed them. Ali Alkaabi, an Iraqi man who's lived in Fargo, N.D., for 20 years, and spent four years working as a military interpreter, told me of a recent trip to Iraq to visit family in Baghdad.
"I realized," he said, "people lived with fear so long they do not understand what freedom is. I can no longer even understand how my own brother thinks. It made me cry."
Those high hopes for freedom and democracy in Iraq are now tempered by a new reality. He's not sure when it will be safe to visit Iraq again.
People traveling on U.S. Highway 2 between Cass Lake and Grand Rapids may notice some unusual construction activity this week.
Utility companies constructing the CapX2020 high power transmission line are using a helicopter and implosive devices on the project. That phase of the work is expected to continue through April.
The helicopter will fly close to new transmission structures near Highway 2 in Cass and Itasca counties. The aircraft is being used to install conductor wire along the power line corridor.
Construction crews will also use implosive connectors to splice transmission conductor joints. The spit-second detonation creates a flash and a loud boom.
A video of the process is posted on the CapX2020 web site.
Project safety manager Eric Hamm is advising travelers not to stop and gawk at the work.
"Stopping along the road or work area increases the likelihood of vehicle accidents and may distract workers, making their jobs more dangerous as well," said Hamm.
Power company officials say similar work on the 230kV transmission line will happen early this summer at the other end of the line, between Wilton, west of Bemidji, and Cass Lake.
Company officials say the new line will improve electric service reliability and support growth in the region.
The project is owned by Minnkota Power Cooperative, Minnesota Power, Xcel Energy, Great River Energy and Otter Tail Power Company.
Posted at 3:17 PM on January 6, 2012
by MPR News Staff
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
Moorhead, Minn. (AP) — No charges are expected after locked-out
American Crystal Sugar workers say vehicles bumped into them on a
Moorhead picket line.
Moorhead Police Lt. Tory Jacobson tells KFGO-AM that in two
separate incidents Friday, locked-out workers claim they were
intentionally bumped by vehicles crossing the picket line.
Up to 25 pickets were walking near a gate when the incidents
Jacobson says police have been speaking with locked-out workers
and Crystal officials to ensure everyone's safety.
Union workers at Crystal have been locked out since Aug. 1.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Posted at 11:48 AM on January 5, 2012
by MPR News Staff
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
A person who stole a sweater from the Straus
Clothing store in Grand Forks nearly four decades ago has made
The store closed years ago, but on Tuesday one of the Straus
Clothing stores in Fargo received an envelope with five $20 bills
and a letter that read, "Thirty-seven years ago I took a sweater
from the Grand Forks store. Sorry."
Rick Stern, whose family owns the business, tells The Forum
newspaper that the person's effort to make
up for the crime is heartwarming.
Information from: The Forum, http://www.in-forum.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Lakes can sound like a symphony this time of year when winter ice begins to thicken.
If you've never heard the sound before, check out this video. It was posted on YouTube a few days ago by videographer Tracey Hays, a resident of Two Inlets Lake, near Park Rapids, Minn..
Hays shot the footage in front of Bear Paw Resort, which she and her husband purchased six years ago after moving from Ohio.
"Photography is my hobby and I love sharing these kinds of unusual things," Hays said. "The sound coming off the lake that day was just awesome. I think it's because we have no snow cover, and the sound really carried and was just perfect."
Bemidji has a new police chief. Mike Mastin, 36, replaces former chief Gerald Johnson, who retired in September after 32 years with the department.
Mastin, who's been with the Bemidji Police Department for a decade, was sworn into the top spot on Thursday. He's been serving as interim chief since Johnson's retirement.
Mastin tells The Bemidji Pioneer he's been listening to officers and staff about ways to improve the department. He says a string of recent retirements have left a very "youthful" department.
Mastin says he's open to integrating more new technology into the department. He also wants to see more community based policing, and he says he'll encourage officers to become more involved in the community.
Mastin is originally from Detroit Lakes. He has a degree in criminal justice from Bemidji State University.
About four dozen people rallied recently to support keeping a post office open in the tiny town of Lake George north of Itasca State Park. It's a scene that's being played out in small towns across the country as the U.S. Postal Service seeks to close facilities that are too expensive to operate.
Last year the Lake George Post Office had annual expenses of $88,378, but revenues of only $25,500, showing a net loss of nearly $63,000, according to a report in the Park Rapids Enterprise. Post office officials say closing the facility would save more than half a million dollars over the next decade.
The postal service lost $8.5 billion last year. The agency is considering closing thousands of post offices across the country. In Minnesota. 88 post offices, including Lake George, made the list of facilities that could either close or shrink into smaller operations that could be moved.
Lake George's post office is housed in a log building and has about 100 occupied post boxes. The facility has served the region since 1936. If the post office closes, customers could still get their mail delivered directly to their homes.
Some supporters who showed up for a town meeting worry about losing historical significance and a sense of identity if the post office were to close. Others are concerned about the possible loss of convenience and service.
Postal officials say no final decision will be made on post office closings until early next year.
For more on the postal service's plan to close post offices in Minnesota, listen to Mark Steil's report Friday on Morning Edition.
About 30 people will gather in Moorhead ,Minn., on Thursday to share their thoughts on wind energy development.
The Minnesota Wind Energy Landscape Symposium is a project of Macalester College researchers. Funded by the National Science Foundation, it'ss one of three such
events scheduled across the country to sample public opinion on wind turbine development. The other Symposia were held this summer in Wyoming and Michigan.
Participants will have a chance to hear from experts on the topic of wind development. They'll also have an opportunity to respond to various development scenarios.
The goal is to develop a set of best practices for local wind development projects.
Macalester Professor Roopali Phadke also hopes to use the information in her study of
visual impact assessments for wind turbine projects, and to better understand public concern about wind turbine location.
In the past few years there's been increasing opposition to wind turbines as a growing number of people object to having wind turbines sited near them because of concerns about visual aesthetics or in some cases, noise from the turbines.
Wind energy development has slowed in recent months as a result of the stagnant economy.
There are several wind turbine projects in various stages of development in west central Minnesota.
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is making progress on serving more tribal communities with municipal water treatment plants.
A plant came on-line this week that will serve residents living in a neighborhood known as Tract 33, adjacent to the City of Cass Lake. About 60 percent of an estimated 280 homes are already hooked up to the water system. The rest will be connected next spring, according to Tribal Engineer John Fairbanks.
Until now, those homes have been served by a combination of individual wells, small cluster systems and one larger public water system, none of which provided residents with treated water.
"It's been a high priority for the reservation for quite some time," Fairbanks told the Bemidji Pioneer.
The system cost nearly $4.2 million, and includes funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Planning on the project began 10 years ago.
The new system includes about 10 miles of pipe and a 250,000 gallon elevated tank.
The Leech Lake Band is expected to complete a similar water treatment project next week in the tribal community of Inger.
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.
Unlike many Minnesota cities, voters in Bemidji don't have the ability to recall their elected city officials. But Bemidji's charter commission wants to change that.
The commission will consider today whether the issue should be decided by voters in a future election, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.
The Bemidji City Council had the chance to resolve the question for themselves by voting in favor of adding recall powers to the city charter. But instead they voted 5-1 against it.
"They don't want to give the people this power? I don't understand it. I really don't," charter commission member Michael Meuers told the newspaper.
Several council members questioned the fairness of the numbers required to prompt a recall. The proposal would allow five voters in a ward to begin the recall process against that ward's councilor. They'd be required to gather signatures from 20 percent of those who voted for the councilor in the last election.
If they reach that threshold, it would trigger a special recall election.
Bemidji city attorney Al Felix told the Pioneer the language in the proposed charter change isn't that unusual.
"It's pretty common fare," he said. "We would probably be one of the few [cities] that doesn't have it."
Fall is the season of the corn maze, and there's a pretty neat one near Park Rapids.
Creating corn mazes has become a tradition for the owners of Carter's Red Wagon Farm. This year, Tony Carter spent months planning the maze on a grand scale. An aerial view of the 4.5-acre maze shows the shapes of a loon, moose, a canoe and a large map of the state of Minnesota, among other things.
Those navigating the maze will run into state-specific factoids and trivia along the way.
The maze design was done on a computer, then marked out in the field as the corn was planted. The maze pathways were pulled by hand as the plants sprouted.
The maze is the main attraction for Carter's pumpkin parties, set for 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday through October. The Red Wagon Farm is a few miles south of Park Rapids off Hubbard County Road 15.(1 Comments)
Amazon is expanding its customer service center in Grand Forks and that means new jobs for the surrounding area.
Amazon started the Grand Forks operation 12 years ago. It's one of three Amazon customer service centers.
The latest expansion means 200 new full time jobs. The company will hold a job fair on Sept. 29 at the Grand Forks office.
Amazon officials say they also will hire several hundred new seasonal workers.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said the expansion is a result of the states pro-business climate. He said it's an important part of the states effort to diversify the economy. The big economic drivers in North Dakota are of course energy and agriculture.
It's likely some of the new workers will come from northwest Minnesota and eastern North Dakota small towns. The unemployment rate in Grand Forks is about 3.8 percent, according to the local economic development corporation.
The Bemidji street called Stoner Avenue will keep its name -- for now. The City Council has put on hold plans to change the name of the street.
The city has been plagued by repeated thefts of Stoner Avenue street signs. Some 15 signs disappear each year. City officials say they've probably spent close to $20,000 replacing the signs over the past decade.
But at a public hearing this week on the name change, Stoner Avenue residents convinced council members to table the issue. Residents complained that changing the name would be a hassle for the more than 40 property owners who live along the street, because they'd have to update their drivers license, as well as banking and other documents.
The city agreed to explore options to make the signs less vulnerable to theft, including using different types of screws or using taller sign posts. Some residents even suggested using video cameras to deter would-be sign thieves.
Stoner Avenue is named for Marcus Stoner, a man who surveyed much of the Bemidji area beginning in the late 1800s. Stoner was Bemidji's first city engineer and Beltrami County surveyor.
Right now, about 10 Stoner Avenue signs are missing and need to be replaced.
Researchers with the state Department of Natural Resources monitor about 35 radio-collared black bears in northern Minnesota, and they're asking people heading out for the bear hunting opener Sept. 1 to be careful not to shoot them.
Most of the radio-collared bears are in northwest Minnesota, especially near Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area and the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge. But researchers are also keeping track of bears in the Chippewa National Forest, Voyageurs National Park, Camp Ripley, the Cloquet Forestry Station and near the Eagles Nest chain of lakes in northern St. Louis County.
The bears are marked with large colorful ear tags or colorful streamers.
DNR bear research biologist Dave Garshelis said he hopes hunters will be especially vigilant, because the state has a lot of money invested in the collared bears.
"These animals provide long-term data on reproduction and habitat use that is invaluable for bear management across the state," Garshelis said. "Researchers have invested an enormous amount of time and expense in these individuals."
Many of the collars have global positioning units that collect and store data, which is downloaded by researchers when they visit the bears in their dens.
Shooting a collared bear isn't necessarily illegal. DNR officials say they recognize that hunters might not see a tag or collar in some situations.
Hunters who accidentally shoot a collared bear should call the DNR's Wildlife Research office in Grand Rapids at 218-327-4146.
The non-profit International Falls arts group Icebox Radio Theater continues its "Koochi-Koochi Tour" on Wednesday with the premiere of the romantic comedy "Love Lines.
Written by International Falls Icebox founder Jeffrey Adams, "Love Lines" is the story of three couples who find themselves stuck in an extremely long line to re-enter the United States after running errands in a neighboring Canadian community.
"Long line-ups at the border are a fact of life here in the summertime," said Adams, a playwright who moved from Oregon to International Falls in 2004. "'Love Lines' is about three local couples, people who cross back and forth all year to visit friends or shop. Usually folks like that try and avoid summer afternoons. U.S. and Canadian customs both do a great job, but sometimes the number of vehicles is just to great and the wait gets long."
Adams and his troupe of about 30 performers have produced original audio plays in the tradition of old-time radio theater. They often reflect the quirky side of life in International Falls. Wednesday's show will also feature original songs, skits and comedy.
It will be simulcast on the web on Sound Stages Radio.
The play will be performed at 7 p.m. in the bandshell in the Falls' Smokey Bear Park. Admission is free, and spectators are advised to bring their own seating.
The final budget that came out of the state government shutdown compromise includes some good news for Bemidji. It provides the city $1.8 million to build a pedestrian, bike and snowmobile trail bridge over state Highway 197 at the south end of town.
The bridge has been on the wish list of both the city and the Department of Natural Resources for a long time. It represents the last segment of trail that will officially complete the 110-mile Paul Bunyan Trail from Brainerd to Lake Bemidji State Park. The bridges allows users to safely cross a six-lane section of roadway.
The funding comes from the $500 million bonding bill negotiated by Gov. Mark Dayton. The bonding package provides $5 million for DNR trails, including the bridge.
The bridge will span 140 feet and will include a 12-foot-wide concrete deck.
The project also nicely compliments a development area along the south shore of Lake Bemidji that includes the Sanford Center hockey arena and events facility, as well as other planned commercial and residential development.
Construction of the bridge could be completed as early as this fall.
Metal dies used to make pasta. MPR photo/Dan Gunderson
Often while reporting a story, I meet people doing the kind of work one just doesn't think about every day.
That's the case with Frank Manthey. He runs the durum/pasta quality program at North Dakota State University in Fargo. His job is to research ways to improve the quality of semolina flour and pasta. So he makes a lot of pasta in his lab which is set up just like a small scale pasta factory. He obviously loves his job.
One of the issues he wrestles with is Teflon or no Teflon?
To make pasta, dough is pushed through metal dies which make the noodle shapes we all recognize. Manthey says by coating the dies in teflon, you can create an incredibly smooth pasta which looks wonderful. And Teflon extends of the life of the metal dies.
The problem is, the noodles are so smooth that when you pick up a forkful, all the sauce slides off. So, beautiful glistening smooth noodles? or a hefty load of sauce with each forkful.
Manthey leans towards the noodles with a rougher surface and better "loading" of sauce.
He's also working on several types of pasta made from bean flour. Manthey says there's growing consumer acceptance of multigrain pasta made from things like navy beans or kidney beans.
The different flours make spaghetti that's dark brown, red, and yellow, and each has a slightly different flavor.
Manthey says the new pasta's provide "a whole different culinary experience." And he should know. His job includes sampling all those varieties of pasta!
Listen to my story on how wet conditions could affect pasta prices Tuesday on MPR's Morning Edition.
More than 230 nurses at Sanford Bemidji Hospital will vote Thursday to accept or reject a contract offer from the hospital. A "no" vote would authorize a strike in Bemidji.
Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association bargaining team are unanimously recommending that nurses reject what they call a "concession-laden" offer.
"Despite our best efforts over the past several months, hospital management continues to put its desire for corporate profits ahead of the safety of our patients and the integrity of our profession," said Peter Danielson, RN, a member of the bargaining team.
Hospital officials say their contract offer is fair, based on current economic realities.
"We have negotiated in good faith, openly and honestly," said Joy Johnson, chief operations officer at Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota. "Through mutual compromise we have already reached an agreement with our hospital nurses on staffing and scheduling to ensure ongoing patient safety."
MNA officials say the major sticking points include staffing levels and the ability for nurses to have what they feel are adequate resources available for patient care at the bedside. Union leaders contend that management also wants nurses to make major concessions regarding their health care and pension plans.
Based in Sioux Falls, S.D., the Sanford organization has expanded its footprint in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest. Sanford acquired the Bemidji hospital -- formerly known as North Country Regional Hospital -- last year.
The two sides have been without a contract since February.
Farmers are switching to alternative crops in an effort to protect drinking water wells for the city of Park Rapids.
The city water supply is threatened by high nitrate levels. The nitrates are a result of irrigated potatoes grown in the area. The irrigated potatoes need lots of nitrogen fertilizer. Some of the nitrogen finds its way into the groundwater raising the nitrate level in the drinking water as my colleague Tom Robertson reported.
Trying to reduce nitrogen use on the usual row crow crops hasn't solved the problem. So this year, in about a 1.5-square-mile area, farmers are trying a new crop rotation.
The typical three-year crop rotation is potatoes, corn and beans. Those are all row crops which tend to allow more nutrients to leach through the soil to the groundwater, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Water Quality Advisor Luke Stuewe says.
In an unprecedented change in agricultural crop rotations, farmers will plant potatoes in year one and then two years of sorghum sudan grass. The grass has a thick root system that will use most of the nutrients in the soil.
That will mean an economic hit for the farmer, in this case R.D. Offutt farms. Senior Agronomist Dale Stevens says not growing potatoes will mean a loss of several hundred dollars per acre.
Stevens says there's a long-term commitment to the changed crop rotation. But it might take a few years to see if it offers a solution to nitrate pollution of groundwater.
Stuewe says there's a lag time between what happens with land use and the impact on groundwater.
The state will be monitoring the project closely and perhaps what's learned will be useful in other parts of the state where agriculture threatens sensitive groundwater areas.
Here's another example of mixed signals being sent by the state Department of Natural Resources on the status of fishing license laws during the state government shutdown: Voyageurs National Park officials apparently had an arrangement with their local DNR conservation officers to allow fishing to continue in the park for people who didn't have a license.
Voyageurs National Park Superintendent Mike Ward told The Journal newspaper of International Falls that a lot of people visiting the park were concerned about how to get a license during their visit. License sales have been halted since the state government shutdown began July 1.
Ward told the paper he was informed by local DNR officers that they would allow people fishing without a license to get one later, without penalty.
"We queried the DNR, and we assume these people would be following the rules if the state was open," Ward told the paper. "So they're gathering the information so when the state reopens, they will have a time period when they can get a license, and won't be fined or cited."
Crow Wing County leaders last week talked publicly about similar messages coming from their local conservation officers. That prompted DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr to issue a statement saying there would be no free pass for unlicensed anglers during the shutdown.
It appears local DNR officers are trying to be sensitive to resorts and other tourism related businesses worried the unavailability of fishing licenses will chase away out-of-state visitors. It's likely those conservation officers are as anxious as anyone for the shutdown to come to an end.
MPR File Photo
As news broke in St. Paul today around a potential end to the government shutdown stalemate, anglers enjoyed a day on Lake Bemidji, and some were fishing without a license.
The state Department of Natural Resources made clear Wednesday that its officers would not cut anglers any slack for not having a valid fishing license, even though the shutdown made it impossible to buy one.
But out-of-state visitors I spoke with at a public boat landing on Lake Bemidji are determined to fish -- with or without a license.
"I'd hoped that the shutdown would have been over so I could have purchased my license online before I came here for vacation," said one man, from Madison, Wis.
The man didn't want to give his name because he knew he was breaking the law by fishing without a license.
"I guess I'll take my chances," he said. "I came 500 miles to get here, so I'll get the license as soon as they're able to sell me one. For now, I'll go ahead and fish."
I talked to other groups of anglers -- from Iowa and Indiana -- who said they had their licenses, but would have fished without one if they had to.
It's still unclear just how hard local DNR officers are working to check for valid fishing licenses. With the department's statewide staffing levels down to just over 200 because of the shutdown, the officers are likely stretched pretty thin.
None of the folks I talked with had run into DNR conservation officers on Lake Bemidji or any of the other lakes they'd visited this week.
One Ely-based outfitter told MPR News this morning that he hadn't run across anyone who'd been tagged for fishing without a license. Earlier this week, the Crow Wing county attorney said his office had not seen any license violation citations referred by the conservation officers since the shutdown began July 1.
Perhaps the conservation officers have their hands full without worrying about whether a family from Iowa purchases a fishing license. They've been charged with keeping an eye on Minnesota's shuttered state parks and are doing their best to make sure boaters are checking their boats for invasive species.
One Bemidji area conservation officer told me he's been running ragged since the start of the shutdown. Like everyone else, he is anxious for leaders in St. Paul to solve the two-week old budget impasse.
After years of seeing street signs along Stoner Avenue disappear, Bemidji has decided it's had enough.
Tired of the thefts, city officials have decided to change the street's name.
Public works officials in Bemidji say about 15 "Stoner Avenue" signs disappear each year from the street located south of Lake Bemidji. It costs about $100 to replace each sign. Officials say the city has probably spent close to $20,000 over the past decade.
Beltrami County had similar problems with its Stoner Memorial Drive, according to a report in The Bemidji Pioneer. A few years ago, the county changed the name of that roadway to North Blackduck Lake Road Northeast.
A name change means people living on Stoner Avenue will have to update their drivers license, banking and other documents, but city officials say the cost of a name change to the city will be minimal.
The process of changing the street name includes a series of ordinance readings and a public hearing. No decision has been made on what the new street name will be.(1 Comments)
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has awarded $18.5 million in grants to 51 communities in Greater Minnesota for rehabilitating housing and commercial properties and improving infrastructure. The grants come from the federally funded Small Cities Development Program.
DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips says more than 100 communities across the state will see direct benefits from this latest round of grants.
"This funding will improve the quality of life of people living in Minnesota's small towns and help create jobs in the construction industry," Phillips said.
The grants target cities and townships with populations under 50,000 and counties with populations under 200,000. They will be used to improve existing housing stock for low and moderate income residents; improve sewer and waste water treatment systems; and provide help for commercial revitalization efforts.
The list of recipients includes the city of Fosston, which received $654,056 to rehabilitate 13 owner-occupied homes and nine commercial properties; the city of Wadena, which got $482,962 for the rehabilitation of 17 owner-occupied homes and 14 rental units; and the city of International Falls, which will use its $346,150 award to rehab 14 owner-occupied homes in in International Falls and Littlefork.
Lakeland Public Television, the Bemidji Pioneer and MPR are hosting a town-hall styled event tonight in Bemidji that focuses on the challenges surround the high rate of poverty in the area at a time of dwindling resources and economic opportunity. Leading up to this evening's event, all three news partners deveoted editorial resources to help inform the discussion around the topic.
New census data shows some of the state's poorest counties are in northwestern Minnesota, where living wage jobs are limited and geography isolates rural residents.
Beltrami County is one region with concentrated poverty where officials are examining the future challenges. About one in five people in Beltrami live in poverty -- nearly a quarter of all children.
"We just keep giving out food, but our numbers continue to grow," said Randy McKain, Food Shelf director. "There are more people in need."
This year, the Food Shelf extended allotments of boxes of short-term emergency supplies from five times a year to monthly distribution. (Bemidji Pioneer).
The poverty rate in Beltrami County is nearly 21 percent and need is increasing, but resources are shrinking. Since the recession, the number of people getting some type of public assistance has climbed to approximately 6,000, up from around 5,000.
"Right now, the need is utility assistance. We've seen a little bit of a rise in the need for groceries," says charity director Dottie Moen. "Gas to make it from paycheck to paycheck" (Bemidji Pioneer).
MPR's Tom Robertson reports on the high rate of poverty through the perspectives of Amanda Vojak and Rebecca Spears. Vojak, a single mother, lives with her three children in a trailer park in Bemidji. She constantly juggles her finances, but said she's never able to make ends meet. Spears, also lives in a Bemidji trailer park, lives with her 17-year-old daughter and relies on public assistance for income.
Also clicking on MN TodayIn St. Cloud, constituents push GOP lawmakers to make deal As their leaders try to come to some agreements, lawmakers also are hearing from constituents. At a town hall forum Monday night near St. Cloud, three Republican legislators took heavy criticism for Minnesota's budget impasse (Minnesota Public Radio).
Groups look at shutdown and budget issues
State government and outside organizations are pursuing a two-pronged approach to state spending: write a new budget and prepare for a shutdown if no new spending plan passes in time (Alexandria Echo Press).
Meals on Wheels could be victim of MN government shutdown
It's a program thousands of seniors in Minnesota depend on for food and nutrition. But could a possible Government shut down suspend Meals on Wheels and force seniors to fend for themselves? (WDAY)
By The Numbers
Number of Greater Minnesota Planned Parenthood clinics that are closing: 6
Cuts in federal funding are to blame. (MPR)
Number of years since the Minot-area has endured flooding like it is seeing today: 120
Amtrak's Empire Building line that runs between St Paul and Havre, Mont. will cease until the waters recede. (Grand Forks Herald)
Our view / Lutsen water withdrawals: Even economic engines have to follow rules
Most of us are eager and happy to see local businesses succeed and do well. Healthy businesses mean healthy economies and healthy, robust communities with more opportunities for all. But how much are we willing to sacrifice for that? (Duluth News Tribune)
Minnesota cage match
There is a dirty little secret at the heart of the budget battle. Governor Dayton not only wants a shutdown, he wants a shutdown that is as painful as possible (Powerline).
Gov. Dayton gives shutdown orders
The Dayton administration is too busy shutting government down to find time to avert a shutdown (Let Freedom Ring).
Paddle the Sauk: Cold Spring to the Mississippi
We made it! Day 8 found us paddling from just below the Cold Spring Dam to the Mississippi river. The first several miles were uneventful but the scenery was spectacular (Paddle the Sauk).
More on the duo's trip down the Sauk.
'Obama' sends up Pawlenty at RLC, gets hook
Comic Reggie Brown, brought in as an Obama impersonator at this weekend's Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, just managed to get in a few words about Minnesotans Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann before he got the hook (Star Tribune).
Word from Congressman Collin Peterson's office is that the Transportation Department is providing $1.6 million for a project to build a longer runway at the Thief River Falls airport.
The project is a big deal for a local business and a new tech school program.
A longer runway of 7,500 feet has long been on the wish list for folks at Digi Key, a company that distributes electronic parts all over the world. The company ships nearly two million packages a year, most by air. Fed Ex wants to bring in a 757 to pick up packages, the airport runway is too short. So that means multiple daily flights with smaller planes. A runway extension will simplify shipping and projected growth for Digi Key.
The longer runway is also critical for a new Unmanned Aircraft Maintenance program at Northland Community and Technical College. The college received a $5 million federal grant to start the new program this fall, but one of the requirements was a longer runway so large unmanned aircraft like the Global Hawk could land there.
There's also a $2.5 million hanger expansion underway right now at the airport in Thief River Falls. That should be finished later this summer.
Posted at 3:36 PM on May 18, 2011
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
Brothers Glen and Dennis Brazier were inducted today into the IDEA Hall of Fame, an organization to recognize entrepreneurs in northwest Minnesota.
Dennis Brazier designed a wood stove in his kitchen. He used the model to create a company called Central Boiler. The wood fired outdoor furnaces are built in a plant near Greenbush and shipped across North America.
Glen Brazier started Mattracks, a company that builds tracks to replace wheels on trucks, tractors and all terrain vehicles. The company operates a production plant in Karlstad, and ships products around the world. The Department of Defense is a big customer.
The brothers learned their entrepreneurial skills growing up on a northwest Minnesota farm, where like many farm boys, they spent countless hours tinkering in the shop.
The IDEA Hall of Fame was created in 2009. Previous inductees include Edgar Hetteen, who founded recreational vehicle makers Arctic Cat and Polaris.
An IDEA competition recognizes the best new ideas created by northwest Minnesota entrepreneurs. IDEA is sponsored by a business, financial and educational organizations.
A statue that's been sitting on the shore of Lake Bemidji since the 1950s is another step closer to being replaced.
The statue is known as "Chief Bemidji." It depicts a real Ojibwe person named Shaynowishkung, who lived in the Bemidji area in the 1880s and was said to be the first Native American to greet European immigrants when they arrived in 1888.
A statue honoring Shaynowishkung was carved by a Danish lumberjack in 1901. That one deteriorated and was replaced in 1952.
The problem with the "Chief Bemidji" statue, according to a committee working to replace it, is that it's mediocre folk art, at best, and not a dignified representation. Living descendants of Shaynowishkung agree. A movement to replace the statue began last year, and the effort got public support from the Bemidji community, as well as Ojibwe tribal members from the three surrounding reservations.
Now, the Chief Bemidji Statue Project committee has established a fund at Northwest Minnesota Foundation for the purpose of accepting contributions. The funds will be used to commission an artist to create a new, realistic sculpture of Shaynowishkung. The new statue will be located close to the same spot as the old one. The current statue will be moved to the local history museum.
The committee hopes to raise $116,500 through grants and donations. The George W. Neilson Foundation recently awarded the project a $25,000 grant, with a requirement of equal matching funds.
To make a tax-deductible donation, make checks payable to "Chief Bemidji Statue Project Fund" and mail to: Northwest Minnesota Foundation, 4225 Technology Drive NW, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The Environmental Protection Agency has picked Bemidji to participate in a federal program that aims to help cities with revitalization efforts.
Bemidji is one of 32 communities in 26 states chosen for the Sustainable Communities Building Blocks program. The designation doesn't come with any big cash grant. But it does provide city leaders with a day-long session of technical assistance to achieve sustainable planning goals.
The Building Blocks program is a public-private partnership designed to give communities new redevelopment tools. In a daylong session later this spring, EPA-funded private sector experts will help city officials identify smart growth principles for fiscal and economic health.
Smart growth principals include creating a range of housing opportunities within a city; creating walkable neighborhoods; encouraging collaboration with community organizations; and fostering distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.
Bemidji City Manager John Chattin said the city won't focus on a particular project during the session. He said city leaders will benefit from a fresh set of eyes reviewing the city's needs and its potential.
Moorhead will build a solar energy pilot project this summer to generate electricity for the city.
Moorhead Public Service, the city's public utility, will install three solar panel arrays that track the sun through the day. The panels will generate up to 10 kilowatts of electricity a day. City officials say that's enough electricity to power several average homes.
Moorhead Public Service has two wind turbines which generate electricity for the city. The first went on line in 1999.
"Moorhead was a leader when it began its wind turbine project over ten years ago and now Moorhead is a leader, again, in promoting renewable energy, " MPS General Manager Bill Schwandt said.
The new solar panels will cost about $100,000. A grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will pay about 40 percent of the project cost according to city officials.
City officials hope the pilot project will stimulate local businesses and homeowners to consider solar energy applications.
MPS' Energy Services Manager Dennis Eisenbraun thinks the project will also help determine the viability of solar technology in Moorhead's weather extremes.
It will be interesting to see how effectively solar panels generate electricity in Moorhead. As this map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows, Minnesota isn't exactly a hot spot for solar energy potential.
Data from the National Climatic Data Center says over a year, it's sunny 57 percent of the time in Moorhead.
Moorhead expects to have the solar energy project online and generating electricity by the end of September.(4 Comments)
As the Fargo-Moorhead community faces its third major flood in a row, researchers are studying how people there cope so well with repeated disasters.
Local researchers are teaming up with the Terrorism and Disaster Center at the University of Oklahoma to study community resilience.
Fargo psychologist Kit O' Neill is one of the researchers. She's part of a local group called Red River Resilience that formed after the record 2009 flood. She said national disaster organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross have noticed how well Fargo-Moorhead residents bounce back from disasters. They're interested in learning more about why some communities are more resilient after disasters.
"We're hoping we can not only advance the science but be in the forefront of developing resilience as a model community for the United States," O'Neill said.
The study will start in the next week or two as researchers identify 1,000 flood volunteers who will fill out a detailed survey.
The plan is to have those same people fill out another survey after this years flood.
"That would definitely contribute an important aspect to the literature to date," O'Neill said. "Not many communities have an opportunity to do a before and after look at community resilience."
The science of community resilience is relatively new.
Researchers think strong community involvement, strong civic leadership, good communication and social support networks are key factors in how a community responds to disaster.
While the survey will follow 1,000 Fargo-Moorhead residents, O'Neill said other researchers are examining civic leadership and communication during the flood. It will take about a year to gather and analyze the data.
"We can't assume what makes one community resilient is exactly the same as another community but we do believe there are common factors that will operate across the continuum and those are the factors we're trying to identify," she said.
A Red Lake Band of Ojibwe effort to help young people has landed a grant of more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The money will help participants in the band's YouthBuild program earn their high school diplomas or GEDs, while gaining construction and work-readiness skills. Occupational training will be provided by the construction program at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji.
The program aims to give at-risk youth the skills they need to become productive adults. It also will provide much needed safe, affordable housing for families on the reservation.
Participants will build two low-income housing units through the Red Lake Housing Authority. They'll also rehabilitate two substandard dwellings owned by low income households.
The project works in partnership with a number of Red Lake programs, including: New Beginnings, Housing Authority, Housing Finance, Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance Office, Chemical Health, Red Lake Schools Adult Learning Center, Red Lake Nation College, Red Lake Public Safety, tribal courts and the Red Lake AmeriCorps program.
Nationally, the Department of Labor will award more than $30 million for YouthBuild programs this year.
Since it started in 2001 with 30 submissions, the festival has grown to average 150 film submissions a year from across the country and around the world. Some of this year's films come from Australia, France, Russia, Germany, Canada, and Ireland.
The festival runs five days, giving cinema buffs a chance to watch more than 70 films, from animation and experimental, to documentary and feature. There's also a two-minute movie contest. Anyone can enter a movie for free. The only rule is it can't be longer than two minutes.
One of the showcase films this year is "The Lutefisk Wars", a movie partially shot in North Dakota. Here's the official description of the movie. "A rural frozen food delivery man is mistaken for someone else and ends up in the middle of an ancient feud between two Norwegian Mafia Families."
Where else can you find not one, but two films with the word "lutefisk" in the title?
Voyageurs National Park officials will begin moving next month into a new park headquarters complex on the Rainy River in International Falls.The city development includes a natural grass amphitheater and future plans for a hotel, restaurant and other private development.
The federal government will lease the complex of buildings from the International Falls Economic Development Authority.
The development will be known as the James Oberstar Riverfront Complex, in honor of the longtime U.S. Democratic Congressman who was defeated last November. Here's a look at the layout: internationalfallscomplex.pdf
Mayor Shawn Mason says the development will be another tool for economic development for the area. She told International Falls' newspaper, The Journal, that the amphitheater performance area "adds another dimension to our way of life."
City officials are planning a big dedication celebration for July 2. It will include an amphitheater performance by the Canadian band Loverboy, and an international tug of war competition across the Rainy River between International Falls and Fort Frances, Ontario.
Fargo and Moorhead are divided by the Red River and a state line, but the two cities work closely on many issues.
But this year, sandbags are causing a bit of a tiff.
Filling sandbags is physically strenuous, tedious work. The last couple of years both cities relied heavily on volunteers to do that work. Some financial incentives were offered for groups who participated as a way to bring in volunteers.
This year Moorhead decided to make the switch to paid labor for filling all sandbags. They'll use a temp labor agency to supply the workers who are expected to earn $9 to $10 an hour. Lots of people signed up. Total cost is expected to be about $160,000.
The move ruffled some feathers on the Fargo side of the river where the city relies on volunteer labor. Fargo offers what are known as Denny's Bucks for bags, named for the Fargo mayor. Non profit groups earn $75 for every 100 hours volunteers put in filling sandbags.
There's some concern college students might choose to work in Moorhead for pay rather than volunteer. The decision caused the Fargo Forum to recently opine: "it's the apparent disdain for the community-building principle of volunteerism that ought to rile residents of Moorhead."
Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland defends the change which he says was made for a couple of reasons. Voxland says the city mechanized it's sandbag operation this year, adding sandbag machines like the one below. Instead of stacking the filled bags on pallets like in the photo, a conveyor belt will load the bags directly into a truck.
Voxland says safety of volunteers working around moving equipment is a concern. The mayor also says it's a challenge to get enough volunteers to keep the sandbag operation running steadily.
Moorhead will need volunteers to build the sandbag dikes along the river in a few weeks. Will volunteers still turn out or will they feel dissed by the city and stay away? Mayor Voxland says he has no doubt volunteers will turn out when they are needed.
Some Fargo high school students who are trying to create publicity for their school play might be getting more than they bargained for.
This weekend, the Fargo South High Theatre Department performs "The Laramie Project," a play about the killing of a gay man in Wyoming in the late 1990's.
About a week ago the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church announced it would picket the play on Sunday. The church is known for anti-gay protests at the funerals of soldiers and other events. But late Wednesday afternoon, Fargo Police Department officials said members of the church told the department that they would not protest the event.
Police said they expect Fargo residents who planned a counter protest to go ahead with a demonstration in support of the play.
The counter protest was set in motion after cast members at the high school invited the Westboro Baptist protest group.
The students talked about their plan on a Facebook page since taken down.
"Okay, so I also decided to make up a fake person and email the WBC about how "my son's" school is doing a pro-gay propaganda show and how we need to show these people by picketing etc."
"I just sent a message off to the Westboro Baptist Church under the name "Hank Jenkins" telling them how offended I was our school is performing this play and telling them I'd hope they come and make a statement."
A third student announced the effort had been successful.
"We have officially been added to the WBC picket schedule. I do not know if they will show up or not, but still, I think its pretty cool."
A parent of one of the Laramie Project cast members called attention to the students' actions because she said her daughter, who is bisexual, felt threatened.
Cindy Gomez says inviting the Westboro Baptist Church to picket the play "is the complete opposite of the message of tolerance the play attempts to teach".
Fargo Superintendent of Schools Rick Buresh says, "this is not a group we want to invite to our community."
Buresh says he's viewing the situation as "a whole collection of good learning experiences for kids."
Fargo Public Schools Community Relations and Planning Administrator Lowell Wolff says an investigation found a "degree of naivety" among the students. He says it doesn't appear there was any "malicious intent" on the students part.
Wolff can't comment on student discipline other than to state that they followed school district policies regarding internet usage and harassment.
Some of the counter protesters are not happy with the latest turn of events.
Kelsey Hedman, a Fargo South graduate and a student at North Dakota State University, says the news that Laramie Project cast members, "invited a hate group to the community is a huge slap in the face" to the gay cast members at the high school and to the community.
Hedman says she's very upset students would use what she called a hate group as a marketing ploy.
But Hedman says plans are to go ahead with a counter demonstration which she says will be a celebration of diversity.(7 Comments)
Reality is beginning to sink in for students and staff at Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. School officials announced 10 percent budget cuts on the two campuses totaling $5 million.
The cuts will include the elimination of 50 jobs, including about 40 faculty positions from 18 academic programs.
"We simply have too many majors. We can't afford it," said Richard Hanson, the new president of BSU and NTC.
Hanson's plan calls for elimination of the environmental landscaping and massage therapy programs at NTC, and the art history program at BSU. Another BSU program is on the chopping block, but Hanson hasn't publicly announced which one.
In addition, BSU will lose its men's indoor and outdoor track and field programs.
Hanson describes the plan as a "recalibration" of resources. Some emerging programs in science and engineering will actually see more funding, as will the Native American studies program.
The loss of jobs will be tough for the community of Bemidji. But the cuts aren't surprising, either, given the state's $6.2 billion budget gap. What's yet to be seen is whether the cutbacks will impact student enrollment, which has been on the rise the past few years.
The Leech Lake Tribal Council will decide as early as next week the fate of Tribal Secretary-Treasurer Mike Bongo, who is under fire for making a questionable multi-million dollar loan to a local businessman.
Bongo is accused of taking $2.4 million from the tribal treasury and loaning it to a Walker businessman. The tribal constitution says that kind of transaction requires the approval of the full tribal council and the signature of the tribal chairman and the secretary-treasurer. But Bongo authorized the secret deal on his own and his was the only signature on the loan.
The tribal council hired former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug to investigate the loan. Lillehaug's report concluded that Bongo knowingly and negligently violated the band's laws and policies.
The recipient of the loan was Bill Bieloh. He was a well known Walker resident, and the founder of a big summer classic rock concert event in Walker called Moondance Jam. The big twist to this story is that Bieloh died of a massive heart attack in September, just a week after signing the loan with Bongo.
According to Lillehaug's report, Bieloh was supposed to have taken out a million dollar life insurance policy as a condition of the loan, but he had only a $500,000 policy when the deal was signed. Tribal officials say it's now unclear whether they'll be able to recover any of the money from Bieloh's estate.
The money came from a $3.5 million payment the band received from Enbridge Energy. The payment gave the company a right-of-way to run an oil pipeline across the reservation.
Lillehaug's report did not find any evidence that Bongo or anyone else involved in the loan benefited personally from the transaction. In several public meetings about the controversy, Bongo defended the loan, calling it an investment for the tribe, since the tribe was earning eight percent interest.
A petition signed by hundreds of band members charges Bongo with malfeasance in the handling of tribal affairs, dereliction or neglect of duty, refusal to comply with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe's constitution and violation of the tribal laws of Leech Lake.
A tribal council hearing on the matter is set for Wednesday. Tribal leaders could vote to remove Bongo from office, or authorize a recall election.
Photo courtesy Northern Canola Growers
Northstar Agri Industries will break ground next week on a $160 million canola oil plant in the northwestern Minnesota community of Hallock.
The plant has been in the works for several years but was delayed when the U.S. banking crisis stopped the company's effort to obtain a construction loan.
Organizers say they've now secured a $100 million construction loan and work will start on the project this month. They aim to have the plant operational by the fall of 2012.
Construction will be an economic boost to northwest Minnesota with about 200 workers involved in building the plant.
When the plant is operational it's expected to employ 47 full time workers.
The plant is being built in response to a growing demand for canola oil. More farmers in the northern plains are growing canola. North Dakota leads the nation in canola production and canola is also big north of the border in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
When it's operating, the plant is expected to produce nearly 300 million pounds of food grade canola oil each year along with tons of canola meal.
There have also been recent expansions of canola processing in Canada as worldwide demand for the oil increases.(2 Comments)
It's been a fruitful year for the Grand Forks-based Energy and Environmental Research Center. EERC has inked contracts with Israel, India and most recently China to export its research on energy related technology.
The deal with China could be a big one. EERC developed a new system to improve
filtering the emissions from coal fired power plants. I reported on the project when then it was tested at the Big Stone power plant in 2006.
It's called a hybrid particulate collector and it grabs pollution from smokestacks using electrostatic charges and massive filter bags. EERC claims it's the state of the art in
particulate pollution control and apparently Fujian Longking Co., Ltd., an international corporation based in China agrees. The company will have exclusive rights to commercially deploy the technology.
China has been building hundreds of coal fired power plants, so the market for the technology could be huge just in China. Of course if the technology is successfully commercialized, the manufacturing jobs will likely be in China too.
The deals signed earlier this year with Israel and India involve developing hydrogen
technology and infrastructure. EERC is doing a lot of research on ways to use hydrogen as a viable transportation fuel source.
EERC says it now has relationships with more than 50 countries.
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.
The Grand Rapids based Blandin Foundation will see a leadership change next year. Foundation president and CEO Jim Hoolihan announced to the organization's board of trustees last week that he plans to return to the private sector by the end of 2011, according to the Grand Rapids Herald-Review.
Hoolihan, a native of Grand Rapids, joined the Blandin Foundation in 2004 following 12 years as a member of the board of trustees
Hoolihan plans to return to his family's multi-generational business, Industrial Lubricant Company of Grand Rapids.
Posted at 3:50 PM on December 8, 2010
by David Cazares
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
Dan Gunderson, who covers northwest Minnesota for Minnesota Public Radio News, discusses important stories on his beat during Morning Edition with Cathy Wurzer.
Dan talks a looming legal fight between Minnesota and North Dakota over carbon taxes. Minnesota wants to include environmental costs in electric rates, but North Dakosa opposes the idea.
He also discusses opposition to the proposed $1.5 billion Red River diversion channel. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on a plan, but the project's prospects for federal funding could be affected by the departure of U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, a key supporter in the House.
Dan also talked about plans for a Grand Forks office by an Israeli company that helps train pilots to fly unmanned aircraft.
A federal judge in California dealt another blow to genetically modified sugarbeets this week. The judge ruled Monsanto must destroy seedlings planted to produce seed for
the herbicide resistant beet plants. Monsanto says it will appeal.
Earlier this year the same judge ruled the USDA did not perform proper environmental review before approving Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugarbeets. Farmers have embraced the genetically modified beets because it's easier to control weeds in their fields and that means a bigger crop at harvest.
Minnesota and North Dakota grow more than half the sugarbeets produced in the nation, and for the past couple of years, more than 90 percent of all the beets planted were the herbicide resistant variety.
As a result, the companies that produce seeds that aren't genetically modified cut back their production because of falling demand for their seeds.
It's now looking like the legal case will drag well into next year, so farmers who want to be sure they can plant sugarbeets next year will need to buy seeds that are NOT genetically modified.
Companies don't talk much about seed supply for obvious competitive reasons, but industry insiders expect a scramble as farmers try to lock up the best varieties which might be in limited supply. This is the time of year farmers typically buy seed for next spring.
Photo courtesy Water Innovation Centre
Manitoba is trying a new approach to reducing phosphorus in Lake Winnipeg. The lake is in jeopardy because of too much phosphorus.
As I reported earlier this year, a significant share of that phosphorus comes from the Red River, which flows north draining a big chunk of northern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.
There's a very large marsh on the south end of Lake Winnipeg which filters much of the water flowing in from the Red River. Manitoba plans to harvest about 200 hectares (about 300 acres) of marsh grass and use it for biomass fuel.
Here's the logic: Plants in a wetland take up phosphorus from the water while they are growing. That's what makes wetlands good filters for pollution like phosphorus and nitrogen.
The problem is, when all that vegetation dies at the end of the growing season, the stored phosphorus in the plant is turned loose again as the vegetation decays. So in the spring when wetlands are usually flushed by high water, there's a big spike in phosphorus flowing out of the wetland.
The idea here is to harvest the marsh grasses at the end of the growing season. That takes the stored phosphorus and nitrogen off the landscape.
Manitoba officials plan to turn the grass into biomass fuel to be burned in an electric generation plant, and they say they expect harvesting 300 acres of marsh grass will remove as much phosphorus and nitrogen as is produced annually in the waste water of a town of 20,000 people
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.
Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra music director Bernard Rubenstein says the upcoming season will be his last with the FMSO.
Rubenstein was hired in 2003 to lead the orchestra. He lives in New Mexico. He says his time with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony has been rewarding, but he's ready for a change. "I feel that it is very healthy for an orchestra to have new leadership. I wish the orchestra well for its future, and will always cherish my time in the Fargo-Moorhead community."
Symphony Executive Director Linda Coates says Rubenstein, "brought the orchestra to a higher level of performance".
Rubenstein is the fifth director of the 79 year old Fargo-Moorhead Symphony.
The FMSO will start a national search for a new orchestra director. Plans call for four finalists to conduct the symphony during the 2012-2013 season with a new director hired by the end of 2013.
Minnesota State University Moorhead is celebrating today. Geoscience Professor
Russ Colson won the 2010 U.S. Master's Universities and Colleges Professor of the year.
MSUM officials say Colson is the first Minnesota professor to win this award since it was created by the Carnegie Foundation in 1981. In addition to recognition, the winner receives $5,000.
Here's what the Foundation lists as criteria for the award- "Extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching, determined by excellence in the following four areas: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students."
Carnegie says MSUM Professor Russ Colson Colson "strives to be both coach and player and to create a forum in which he and his students become colleagues in discovery."
The Carnegie Foundation also recognizes state professors of the year. Timothy Benson of Lake Superior College in Duluth gets the 2010 Minnesota state award.
Photo courtesy MSUM
The University of Minnesota Crookston is using a $550,000 federal grant to create a Center for Rural Entrepreneurial Studies.
Scheduled to be up and running early next year, the center will aim to connect experts at UMC with entrepreneurs in northwest Minnesota.
The federal funding is one of a dozen earmarks requested by U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson according to a Washington D.C. watchdog group.
In a recent report, (PDF) the Small Business Administration says entrepreneurs and small businesses create 65 percent of all new jobs. There are some notable examples of entrepreneurs in northwest Minnesota. Thief River Falls based Digi-Key founder Ron Stordahl turned a pile of electronic parts into an international company that employs more than 2,000.
In Karlstad, MATTRACKS started with a youg boy's idea sketched on a napkin and now sells it's rubber tracks for vehicles to the Department of Defense and users around the world.
Professor Sue Brorson heads the business department at UMC. She says the Center for Rural Entrepreneurial Studies will "find innovative ways to aid entrepreneurs." The university will focus on "educational leadership, applied research, and insightful consulting".
UMCsays a website will be up soon and the CRES will start offering services to northwest Minnesota residents in January.
A new community journalism effort is underway in Fargo Moorhead.
The Peoples Press Project is a non-profit arm of the weekly High Plains Reader. Peoples Press is working with students at Minnesota State University Moorhead to post video of local government meetings.
Organizer Duke Schempp says the Peoples Press provides non-partisan research, education and training. One of the goals is to increase access to information and support local voices that lack access to media.
Right now the group is providing school board and county commission video, but will soon add human rights commission meetings.
So far, the videos are attracting few viewers.
Schempp is a long time local community organizer, he previously headed the Moorhead-based People Escaping Poverty Project.
Clearwater County is looking to get out of the health care business.
The county has owned and operated a hospital, clinic and ambulance service in Bagley for decades. But county officials tell The Bemidji Pioneer newspaper that the county has been losing money on the facilities, putting a burden on local taxpayers.
Clearwater County is in the process of selling their health facilities to a Grand Forks company called Cocoon Holdings LLC. The plan is to complete the purchase by the end of the year.
Not everyone is comfortable with the sale. A group of nurses employed at the facilities say they've received little information on the pending sale or the company vying for ownership. Some nurses are concerned they may have to reapply for their jobs. One nurse told The Pioneer she's concerned that Cocoon Holdings has no ties to the community.
The company would operate the health facilities in Bagley as non-profit entities.
The sale of hospitals and clinics in greater Minnesota has become more common in recent years.
Posted at 10:56 AM on November 10, 2010
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
Sugar beet growers in Minnesota and North Dakota remain in limbo as the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrestles with the issue of genetically modified seeds.
Farmers are in a pinch because they usually order seeds in November for next spring. It appears the USDA won't clarify the rules for using the seeds until early next year. So farmers have to decide if they want to order Roundup Ready seeds and assume they will be able to use them, or revert to traditional seeds.
When Monsanto introduced Roundup Ready sugar beets a few years ago, farmers quickly adopted the technology. Many were having trouble with herbicide resistant weeds (shown in the photo above) and Roundup Ready seeds allowed them to use a new, effective herbicide.
Then a lawsuit was filed challenging the USDA approval of Roundup Ready sugar beet seeds. The concern is that the genetically modified plants would cross pollinate with plants that aren't genetically modified. A judge ruled USDA needed to conduct a full environmental assessment of the new seeds. That will take a couple of years, so now USDA is trying to come up with a way to allow farmers to use the seeds while it completes the environmental assessment.
Since Roundup Ready seeds captured more than 90 percent of the market in our region, other seed companies have reduced production. It's tough to get information on seed supply, but one person involved in the industry says there's likely to be enough traditional seed if farmers can't plant the Roundup seeds.
The challenge might be finding enough high quality traditional seed. There could also be shortages of herbicides because the sugar beet industry has used some very specific herbicides with non-genetically modified plants. The current supply of those herbicides is unclear.
Farmers can't just make a decision to not grow sugar beets next year. In our region they are all members of cooperatives and they are contractually obligated to plant a certain number of acres of beets. So one way or another, they will need to plant sugar beets next year or pay a hefty penalty to the cooperative. The question is whether this ongoing legal dispute will sour farmers on using genetically modified seeds.
Those I've spoken with say it will be difficult to put that genie back in the bottle.
Minnesota and North Dakota grow more than half of all the sugar beets grown in the country.
Economists estimate the annual economic impact of the sugar beet industry in the region exceeds $3 billion.
Minnesota State Patrol officers stationed in International Falls are now operating out of the U.S. Border Patrol's new facility in that community. The new border facility includes space for four State Patrol officers, including two K-9 handlers.
Officials say this is the first time in U.S. history that Border Patrol agents and State Patrol officers work out of the same facility. The collaboration will allow the two agencies to share resources and law enforcement intelligence.
The building provides Border Patrol agents and State Patrol officers with indoor parking for their patrol vehicles, office space, dog kennels and a workout area.
The new, 33,000-square-foot facility, located along the Rainy River, opened in July. It's capable of housing up to 50 Border Patrol agents.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials will host a ceremonial grand opening of the facility on Monday, Nov. 8.
The election brought good news and bad news for Fargo-Moorhead officials working on a proposed $1.4 billion Red River diversion to control flooding.
On the local level, voters in Cass county North Dakota approved a half cent sales tax increase. The tax will be in effect for 20 years and local officials expect it to raise about $220 million for flood control. Local leaders felt the tax was a very important step in lining up local funding for flood control. Fargo voters approved a similar tax earlier.
It's likely Minnesota, North Dakota and the local governments will need to raise about $750 million for the project.
The bad news for flood fighters was the defeat of Minnesota 8th district Congressman Jim Oberstar. He chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That's the first hurdle for federal funding for a diversion, and local officials were counting on Oberstar to help steer the project through Congress. He visited Fargo earlier this year and pledged his support for the diversion channel.
7th District Congressman Collin Peterson was re-elected, but will lose his Agriculture Committee chairmanship. But prior to the election, Peterson said he was confident he could steer flood control money to the Red River Valley even if Republicans controlled the committee. He's pledged to bring home $50 million a year for 10 years to fund
projects to hold back water and create wildlife habitat.
Fargo-Moorhead officials have to the wondering how much more difficult it will be to
get funding for a flood diversion given the new political landscape.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved a route permit for a 230-kilowatt line that will run just west of Bemidji to Grand Rapids.
The line is the third CapX2020 project to receive approval. CapX2020 is a joint initiative of 11 regional power companies to upgrade and expand the electrical transmission grid. It's said to be the largest such upgrade in the Upper Midwest in 30 years. The effort broad effort is expected to cost nearly $2 billion and cover a distance of more than 700 miles.
The Bemidji to Grand Rapids route is 68 miles long, running along U.S. Highway 2 from Cass Lake to Ball Club. It follows existing oil pipeline routes.
Construction will begin in January, and the line is expected to be completed by late 2012.
City leaders in Baudette are kicking off a campaign to save a 50-year-old icon, Willie the Walleye. The walleye sculpture was built in 1959 as a mascot for the self proclaimed Walleye Capital of the World.
Willie is 40 feet long and weighs about 2 tons. The sculpture sits in a city park and it's likely Willie has been captured by thousands of cameras over the decades.
But after 50 years, Willie is apparently showing his age. City officials report "serious deterioration" of the statue
Like most Minnesota cities, Baudette doesn't have a lot of extra cash on hand. So the city has set up a task force and is raising private funds to repair or replace Willie. The fundraising starts Friday with - what else? - a fish fry.
More bad news for the Cass Lake-Bena School District. The district's interim superintendent, Diane Lehse, died in a head-on car crash Sunday afternoon on Highway 34 southwest of Walker, according to the State Patrol.
Lehse, 66, was hired by the district in August to replace superintendent Carl Remmers, who resigned after he was charged with groping a 17-year-old boy at a Bemidji hotel. Lehse, of Menaga, came out of retirement to take on the interim job.
Authorities say Lehse was heading east in the westbound lane when her 2010 Ford Fusion collided head-on with a semi-truck. Two occupants of the truck were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
The Cass Lake-Bena School Board reportedly met in an emergency session Monday morning to address Lehse's death.
Community leaders from across northwest Minnesota will gather on the University of Minnesota's Crookston campus Oct. 27 to learn about Minnesota GreenStep Cities, a new program designed to help regional municipalities become more sustainable.
The informational meeting is sponsored by the Northwest Clean Energy Resource Team. The goal is to connect Minnesota communities with resources to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
GreenStep Cities is described as a "challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability goals through implementation of 28 best practices."
The city of Blackduck was the first northwest Minnesota city to officially join the effort. The program has been piloted in Bloomington, Edina, Falcon Heights, St. Louis Park and Victoria.
Posted at 4:01 PM on October 11, 2010
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson
Academics, scientists and business developers from western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota came to Fargo Monday for the annual Red River Valley Research Corridor conference.
The agenda gives a good sense of what industries local leaders are banking on for future jobs.
One session was on unmanned aircraft systems. That industry is bustling with activity in Grand Forks and Thief River Falls. The University of North Dakota will train the people who fly unmanned aircraft. Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls plans to train the people who fix those planes. They're betting unmanned aircraft will become a big part of air traffic, though that remains to be seen since the FAA still has questions about the safety of allowing unmanned aircraft in the national airspace.
A session on vaccines and biotech reflects the growing vaccine industry in Fargo Moorhead. Some small startup businesses are finding a niche in vaccine development and Fargo Moorhead business leaders hope to build on that. North Dakota State University in Fargo recently started a Center for Biopharmaceutical Research and Production.
Sustainable and clean energy also is a focus of the conference. The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center has been pulling in millions of dollars for research on things like hydrogen, ethanol, and cleaner coal technology. That research has already spun off jobs and is likely to generate more.
Last but not least is nanotechnology. We're talking about micro electronics. A Fargo company that makes flight recorders for helicopters has grown pretty quickly and is developing other technology aimed at military and civilian aviation.
North Dakota State University is focusing a lot of research on materials to coat the surfaces of things like ships and airplanes. That research also involves nanotech.
They may not replace agriculture as the cash cow anytime soon, but it's a good bet those four industry sectors will generate more economic activity in the Red River Valley.
Koochiching County recently signed a contract with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as part of its Renewable Energy Clean Air Project.
It's another step forward in the county's quest to adopt emerging technology to deal with its garbage.
For several years the county has explored a technology called plasma gasification. The technology uses extreme temperatures to convert all sorts of waste -- municipal trash, woody biomass, wastewater sludge, construction debris -- into fuel and other marketable byproducts.
The county's plan is to build such a facility in International Falls. It would be one of the first of its kind in the country.
The deal with the MPCA releases $2.5 million that will be matched with federal funds to further develop parts of the project, including preliminary design, permitting and preconstruction services.
While some environmental groups are skeptical of the technology, supporters tout it as an environmentally friendly alternative to landfilling. The gasification process uses energy similar to a bolt of lightening, creating temperatures as hot as the sun. The extreme heat results in extremely clean emissions, say proponents.
Leaders in Koochiching County say the project will create high tech jobs for the struggling region. They believe their facility could be a model for the rest of the country.
A company called Coronal LLC is the developer and manager of the project.
The Plains Art Museum in Fargo unveiled a major new work this week. Pop art icon James Rosenquist painted a 13 by 24 foot mural entitled North Dakota Mural.
An anonymous donor kicked in $600,000 for the work.
Unfortunately, the 76-year-old artist had to cancel his visit to Fargo because he came down with pneumonia. He plans to visit Fargo later in October to talk about his work.
Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks, and he went to school at the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis School of Art before heading off to New York where he worked as a sign painter on his way to becoming an influential figure in the pop art movement.
An interesting note: It took two tries for Rosenquist to paint North Dakota Mural. The first was destroyed last year in a fire at his Florida studio. Rosenquist says the second effort turned out better. He called it "a zinger".
Rosenquist's larger than life works are in famous museums around the world, and now in Fargo.
A northern Minnesota county wants the state Supreme Court to weigh in on a road dispute with the DNR.
As MPR reported last year, the county wants the trails open for all terrain vehicle traffic. The DNR says the trails were never intended to be roads and should be closed. The Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with the DNR earlier this year.
The Kittson County Enterprise reports the county commission voted to petition the states high court for review of that appeals court ruling.
The dispute has led to dueling signs. Some put up by the county declared roads open and others put up by the DNR declared roads closed.(2 Comments)
Photo courtesy NDSU
North Dakota State University (NDSU) is getting a $5 million federal grant to help build a state of the art nanotechnology research center.
It's another expansion of the Red River Valley Research Corridor. Since 2002,
North Dakota U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan has helped steer nearly $700 million in federal grants to the research corridor. RRVRC officials estimate the research corridor has created more than 10,000 jobs since 2002 and is expected to add another 10,000 jobs by 2015.
Nanoscale Science is one of the focus areas for the Red River Valley Research Corridor. Other research areas are biotech, aerospace and agriculture.
A 2008 study by the Milken Institute showed the North Dakota research industry is the fastest-growing in the nation.
North Dakota ranked 31st among states but moved up 14 places while Minnesota fell from 8th to 11th in the rankings.
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is a step closer to building a tribally owned radio station. The tribe has been awarded $238,000 from the Department of Commerce National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration.
The money will be used to purchase studio equipment and a transmitter for radio station KOJB-FM. This will be the first time Leech Lake will have a radio station that will cover the entire reservation.
"We have been working for five years to make this station a reality," said Brad Walhof, who spearheaded the project for the tribe.
Walhof says the goal is to turn the station into an important tool for preserving the Ojibwe language. There are very few people who speak the language, and most of them are elders.
"We will broadcast programming to preserve the Ojibwe language and culture, as well as programming that will strengthen our ties and friendships with surrounding communities," he said.
Another northern Minnesota radio station received big money from the NTIA. Northern Community Radio, which operates KAXE-FM in Grand Rapids, was awarded $450,000 from the agency.
Organizers plan to use the money to build radio station KBXE-FM, which will be licensed in Bagley, and serve a large area of northwest Minnesota. The station's studios and offices will be in downtown Bemidji.
Northern Community Radio will provide local news, weather, sports, music and community and cultural information to the Bemidji and Bagley region.(1 Comments)
Photo courtesy Minnesota Agri Growth Council
Concordia College in Moorhead announced today its business school will be named for agri-businessman and alumnus Ronald Offutt, who made a sizable, but undisclosed gift to the college.
Offutt is chairman and CEO of R.D. Offutt Company and RDO Equipment, and also chair of the Concordia board of regents.
The college says it's raised $37 million of a $50 million campaign to fund the business school. Concordia officials aren't saying how much Offutt contributed, but they it's the largest single contribution in school history.
"This is the kind of impact gift that shapes the history of an institution like ours." says Interim President Paul Dovre.
The college is spending about $13 million to remodel an existing building for the business school.
The Offutt School of Business is expected to be open when classes start in 2012.
A team from the University of North Dakota -- including three students from Minnesota -- is headed to Australia for an international unmanned aircraft competition.
The Australian international UAV Outback Search and Rescue competition involves using a small unmanned aircraft with cameras to locate "Outback Joe", who's a dummy simulating a person lost in the Australian outback.
When they find "Outback Joe" the team has to drop a liter of water from the aircraft within 100 meters (about 109 yards) of the dummy without hitting him. The winner collects $50,000 (Australian).
No team has been successful in the first three years of the competition.
This year the UND team is one of 11 international teams approved to take part in the competition which starts Monday. Event organizers say it's a way to demonstrate the usefulness of unmanned aircraft.
The UND team will be blogging about the competition.
University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley briefs the campus today at noon about the plan to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname.
The university is ending the Fighting Sioux nickname as part of an agreement with the NCAA.
UND is setting up three task forces. They will be led by university faculty. One is called Honoring History and Traditions.
That group will recommend ways to document the 80 year history of the nickname, look for ways to continue use of the logo in non-athletic settings,
A second committee will recommend communication strategies for "an inclusive and transparent" transition to a new nickname.
A third committee is going to be activated later and will develop the process for choosing a new nickname.
The Fighting Sioux nickname will not be used for UND athletic teams after August 15, 2011.
Local sales tax collections are up in a number of Minnesota cities, according to an article in the Bemidji Pioneer.
Local tax revenue in Rochester, for example, is up more than 14 percent so far this year. Austin is up nearly 9.5 percent and Bemidji is up around 8.5 percent. In some cities, this is the first increase since the start of the recession.
These taxes fund a variety of local projects. In Bemidji for example, a half-cent local sales tax goes toward parks and trail improvements. At the end of next year, the money will shift to pay back bonds for a big project to redevelop the south shore of Lake Bemidji, including development of a hockey arena and events center that opens next month
City finance officials in Bemidji were pleasantly surprised by the size of the increase. It means people are buying more taxable goods.
Canadian federal and provincial governments signed an agreement to clean up Lake Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Free Press is reporting today.
Since water doesn't recognize political boundaries, and much of the pollution causing massive algae blooms in the lake comes from Minnesota and North Dakota, any clean up would need to include the states.
It's not clear how this agreement involves the states. There has been talk recently about having multi-party talks in Washington D.C. to negotiate several water issues causing political skirmishes across the international border.
Perhaps this move by Ottawa indicates they plan to push harder for cross border cooperation.
Calling all pickers. Some of the fastest fingers in Minnesota are in Fergus Falls for the first West Central Area Guitar Summit.
The three day event features guitar stars Tim Sparks, Joan Griffith, Phil Heywood, Sam Miltich, Dakota Dave Hull, Claudia Schmidt and David Stoddard. There will be workshops, performances and jam sessions. Organizers say guitar lovers of all abilities are welcome.
The Guitar Summit is hosted by a Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls.
Here's a preview of Tim Sparks in action:
Minneapolis composer, producer and sound artist Mike Olson brings his unique multimedia show to far northern Minnesota beginning this week.
The artist will debut his original composition, called Noopiming, at the Backus Community Center in International Falls Sept. 2.
Noopiming is an Ojibwe word meaning "in the north, inland, in the woods." Olson says the title was chosen as a direct reference to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where he's had a lifetime of outdoor experiences.
Olson says creating the recorded choral piece started with eight singers (four male and four female) who gathered to record a large number of musical gestures under Olson's guidance.
For the end result, Olson layered and combined the individual sound clips into one complete work. Click here to listen to a sample of the piece.
The presentation includes stunning photos of the BWCA, created by photographer Dale Robert Klous.
Olson brings Noopiming to northern Minnesota with financial help from the Minnesota State Arts Board, using funding from the state's arts and culture heritage fund.
Following tonight's 7:30 p.m. debut in International Falls, the show will continue in Ely on Sept. 4; Grand Marais on Sept. 8; and Duluth on Sept. 10.
Posted at 8:31 AM on August 24, 2010
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
State and local officials get on the bus Wednesday in Moorhead for a tour of some projects recently built to cope with flooding problems.
The tour is organized by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (commonly called "Bowser" -- BWSR), which is holding a board meeting in Moorhead on Thursday.
The tour group will get a look at a new outlet to lower Boyer Lake near Lake Park. Rising lakes with no natural outlet are a problem all across west central and north central Minnesota.
They will also visit a wetland restoration project. Manston Slough near Rothsay was drained in the 1800's when the state was pushing farmers to dig thousands of miles of ditches. Draining the slough caused perennial flooding problems downstream. So now the wetland has been restored, slowing runoff.
This is the kind of project supporters say can help ease flooding for Fargo-Moorhead. Environmental groups argue more wetland restorations should be done, instead of the 1.4 billion dollar diversion channel now proposed to divert part of the Red River around Fargo and Moorhead.
But it would take hundreds of similar wetland projects to significantly reduce spring flooding. This tug of war between natural water storage and levees and flood diversion channels is nothing new. These arguments have waxed and waned over the past century, depending on how wet or dry it is.
The emphasis of the tour is "partnerships to address resource problems." That's certainly appropriate since few issues are more divisive than water and it seems there's a maze of federal, state and local involvement in any water-related decision.
A 20-year-old Texas woman was arrested this morning in Moorhead as part of an ongoing investigation of drug trafficking in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Samantha Lynn Barrientos is in the Clay County jail on felony controlled substance charges. Police also seized marijuana and cocaine valued at $40,000 from a south Moorhead home.
Police say the drugs were packaged to avoid detection by drug sniffing dogs. They believe the drugs are being shipped from Texas to Moorhead.
Police say this latest bust is part of an ongoing investigation of a Texas drug connection.
Posted at 12:26 PM on August 10, 2010
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
Ojibwe is now the official language of the White Earth Nation.
Chairwoman Erma Vizenor says the official designation makes Ojibwe a priority language on the northwestern Minnesota reservation.
Vizenor says it's critical the native language survive and thrive.
"The Ojibwe language is the foundation to our culture, traditions, history, and spirituality. It is who we are," says Vizenor.
The designation of an official language is expected to help encourage more young tribal members to learn the native language.
Posted at 9:00 AM on August 3, 2010
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
The small northwestern Minnesota community of Kennedy is getting national recognition for turning its vacant high school into a business incubator powered by renewable energy.
The old school will get a new life powered by wind, solar, biomass and geothermal sources. They're calling it the GO GREEN Center and it will offer space for small businesses to get started in the Kittson county community of about 250 people.
The old school will also be home to programs that will teach the public about the best options in renewable energy. The 2010 Innovation Award is from the National Association of Development Organizations, which based in Washington D.C.
Posted at 9:06 AM on July 28, 2010
by Bob Ingrassia
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
Cathy Wurzer gets the news from northwest Minnesota. She talks to reporter Dan Gunderson about the state suing a township board over lakefront development, Moorhead's new social host ordinance and programs to make sure Minnesota has enough utility workers.
Here are some background articles on each of the issues Gunderson addresses:
Fergus Falls Daily Journal: DNR says town board out of order when variance approved
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says Cormorant Township illegally granted a variance on Lake Ida in Becker County and is seeking court action to halt a residential building project on the lake.
WDAY: Moorhead social host ordinance in place
If you live in Moorhead and are planning to host a party and serve alcohol to minors, you might want to think again. City council members tonight approved a new social host ordinance that can mean jail time and an expensive fine for you.
International Falls Daily Journal: M State breaks ground on training facility
Representatives of Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Lake of the Woods County Economic Development, North Star Electric Cooperative and the Baudette community will break ground at noon July 15, on a new facility where northern Minnesota workers will be trained for jobs in the power industry.
I was surprised by the news that Minnesota has set a sandhill crane hunting season for the first time. Somehow I was under the impression they are rare, endangered birds.
Well, now I know. They're not that rare. And while they remain protected in most of Minnesota, they are not endangered.
My family and I love hearing and seeing the cranes that live in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, not far from our cabin in Big Lake. The cranes are tall, elegant birds. With a wingspan of up to 8 feet, they are quite a sight in flight.
Just last week, an article in the Brainerd Dispatch reinforced my impression about the status of cranes. The paper reported that authorities were looking for two teens or young men that shot at cranes. One of the birds was wounded and later euthanized.
And now in parts of Minnesota, it will be OK to hunt sandhill cranes. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced a crane season from Sept. 4, through Oct.10. The DNR says:
The open area will consist of the "Northwest Goose Zone," which includes portions of Kittson, Roseau, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake and Polk counties. There will be a daily bag limit of two birds with a possession limit of four.
Outside the Northwest Goose Zone, sandhill cranes will remain protected, which means you can't shoot them.
Minnesota joins a growing list of states that allow some sandhill crane hunting. The DNR says about 450,000 sandhill cranes live in the mid-section of North America. The ideal population is about 350,00. Though once endangered, sandhill cranes "have long been considered 'recovered' and have been hunted in some states since 1961," the DNR says.
During migration, the cranes often cause crop damage.
Fall migrants feed in agricultural fields, primarily small grains and waste corn. Concentrations of fall migrants in the northwest can cause severe depredation problems, especially during wet autumns when farmers are unable to harvest swaths before September. ... As the crane population continues to expand, prevalence and severity of damage, and increased demand for depredation control should be expected.
So the DNR has concluded hunting will help keep the sandhill crane population in check. I won't be rushing out for a permit, but I can accept the rationale for a limited sandhill crane season. It's the same idea behind managing seasons and putting limits on ducks, deer and fish.
North Dakota hunters have been bagging sandhill cranes for years. The guys in this video show how they get it done.
You can buy your sandhill crane decoys at Cabela's.
And I'm certainly not the first one to type "sandhill crane recipes" into Google. Dive in and you'll see plenty of references to the tasty "ribeye of the sky," sandhill kabobs and sandhill fajitas.
Posted at 3:55 PM on June 16, 2010
by Bob Ingrassia
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
Lake property owners on Dead Lake in northwest Minnesota have been fighting lake shore developers for a decade and it appears they've now won.
The Trust for Public Land and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say 200 acres of environmentally sensitive lakeshore will become a state Wildlife Management Area.
This shoreline would be a busy marina if the Blue Heron Bay development ever gets built. (MPR photo/Dan Gunderson)
Dead lake is the largest natural environment lake in the state. Natural environment lakes are shallow and considered more sensitive to environmental damage than other lakes.
A developer wanted to build a small community on the lakeshore with condos, a restaurant, stores and a marina.
The Trust for Public Lands says more than three miles of lakeshore are now protected at a cost of more than two million dollars mostly from the Outdoor Heritage Fund and Critical Habitat license plate funds.
- Dan Gunderson
Posted at 2:05 PM on May 19, 2010
by Bob Ingrassia
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
By Dan Gunderson
Minnesota Public Radio
Thief River Falls-based Digi-Key is getting national recognition from the U.S. Labor Department for employing veterans and active military members. The company has more than a dozen active duty soldiers on its payroll.
The firm is recognized for going above what the law requires they do for active military members. Soldiers earn pay for company holidays when they are deployed overseas.
"We are very proud to have so many talented employees who have dedicated themselves not only to their jobs at Digi-Key, but also to serving their country," Rick Trontvet, human resources vice president.
Digi-Key is the only northern Minnesota company the Labor Department recognized.
Posted at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2010
by Bob Ingrassia
Filed under: Northwest Minnesota
Grand Forks residents dumped 915 tons of trash on their boulevards last week.
MPR's Dan Gunderson explains that the annual cleanup week is a rite of spring for residents who wait for a chance to dump those worn out couches or broken refrigerators and have them hauled away for free by city garbage crews.
Lots of broken televisions and computers have been collecting in closets and basements, too. The city recycled 12 tons of electronic gear during cleanup week.
No word on how many tons of trash were recycled by curbside treasure hunters.
- Dan Gunderson