Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Great Lakes Restoration funds slashed in House bill

Wed, 07/24/2013 - 6:17am

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A subcommittee in the U.S. House is proposing the steepest cut in spending on a far-reaching Great Lakes environmental cleanup program since it was established in 2009. The panel approved a bill yesterday that would spend just $60 million on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, nearly 80 percent less than the $285 million in this year's budget.

The vote came from the interior and environment subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. The panel establishes federal spending limits and it voted on 2014 appropriations for departments including the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reports the current $285 million spending level is already below the amount envisioned by White House and congressional leaders for the multi-year restoration program.

The bill cuts more than 80 percent of a revolving state loan fund used to help communities upgrade old sewer systems, going from $1.03 billion today to $250 million for fiscal year 2014.

Also the bill would give the Environmental Protection Agency a 34 percent cut over the currently enacted level.

The National Endowments for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be cut by nearly 49 percent.

The bill also contains special provisions for certain industries. One provision would alter rules for mining companies that would ensure the availability of clean up funds.

"Print Demo" and more offered at Grand Marais Art Colony through the summer

Tue, 07/23/2013 - 1:11pm

The Art Colony in Grand Marais is offering free weekly activities through Labor Day, such as “Print demo with Jerry Riach,” Thursdays July 25, Aug. 29 and Sept. 26 at 2 p.m.
Ever wonder what's an etching, a drypoint, a wood engraving, a woodcut? Curious how they're made?  What's a limited edition?  Here's your chance to find out in a short, concise presentation by an experienced printmaker.  See the equipment used in a professional, eco-friendly print studio.  Hear descriptions of the printing processes.  Learn what to look for when you look at a fine art print. 
Stop by 120 W. 3rd Ave., just two blocks up from the Java Moose and harbor, for any or all of these events.  Contact the Art Colony at (218) 387-2737 for more information.

Tofte tennis court issues discussed

Tue, 07/23/2013 - 1:09pm

Another issue with tennis courts in Cook County was discussed at the county commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, July 16 as well as the Tofte town meeting on Thursday, July 11.  The Birch Grove Community Center issue, where the new tennis court slopes away from the centerline, could have been avoided if the Cook County Tennis Association had been consulted, association member Rod Wannebo told the county board on July 16. 
Wannebo said he said he had provided Birch Grove tennis court architect Tim Meyer a manual on proper construction of tennis courts, which if followed would have precluded the court from sloping away from the centerline in both directions. 
Commissioner Bruce Martinson said that Meyer was proposing that the cost to fix the court be split among his firm (Meyer Group), Tofte Township, Cook County, ORB Management, and court designer Mateffy Engineering. 
At press time the town of Tofte had not yet made any decision on how to handle the flawed tennis court, but Tofte Supervisor Paul James told the Cook County News-Herald, “it might come down to talking to our attorney and to our constituents and see what they would like to do.  It looks like it might come down to litigation or arbitration, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The Tofte town board meets again on Thursday, August 8 at 7 p.m. at the Tofte Town Hall.

Conservation groups pose four questions about sulfide mining

Tue, 07/23/2013 - 11:47am

In the summer of 2012, a coalition of Minnesota conservation groups calling themselves Mining Truth started a public dialogue surrounding the proposed Polymet and Twin Metals mines near Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 

A year later, the campaign is entering its next phase, and the coalition is initiating a public debate over four questions they feel Governor Dayton and mining companies should be able to answer before allowing the mines to proceed. (Click here to hear an interview with Frank Moe of Conservation Minnesota and Aaron Klemz of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.)  

Those questions are:

1)   Will Minnesota’s water stay safe and clean?

2)   Are there safeguards in place for when things go wrong?

3)   Will the company leave the site clean and maintenance-free?

4)   Will Minnesota’s taxpayers be protected?

Mining Truth coalition members have stated that unless Governor Dayton and the mining companies are each able to demonstrate to the people of Minnesota that the answer to these four questions is an unqualified yes, the mines should not be allowed to move forward.

Mining Truth coalition members are currently meeting with Minnesotans around the state to encourage them to sign an online petition that will urge Governor Dayton to take these questions into account when it comes to deciding on the mining proposals.  

MN bear researcher gets no reprieve from governor

Tue, 07/23/2013 - 11:47am

 ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota bear researcher remains under orders to remove radio collars from bears he's studying by the end of the month, but will be allowed to appeal.

Bear researcher Lynn Rogers sounded optimistic after a meeting with Governor Mark Dayton and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr on Monday.

But Landwehr said afterward he does not plan to lift his decision to rescind Rogers' permit to keep tracking collars on bears in the Ely area. He says there's usually no appeal from that kind of decision, but he has decided to let Rogers present his case to an administrative law judge.

The DNR says Rogers' hand-feeding of bears makes them too accustomed to humans. The agency also says Rogers has failed to publish his research.

Rogers denies both claims. He says his research is available to all at

Debate over restoration of walkway around Cook County Tennis Courts

Mon, 07/22/2013 - 4:12pm

At the July 16 county board meeting, commissioners discussed an overlooked consequence of the parking lot being built outside the new Cook County Community YMCA – the loss of accessibility to the public tennis courts.
The driveway leading to what will be a new parking lot above the tennis courts cut into the area around the north courts, and according to the architectural drawings, would require people to step down off a curb into the roadway to go from one set of courts to the other.  This would make accessibility very difficult for people with mobility problems who play or watch tennis. There are some people in the community who play wheelchair tennis.
At the previous county board meeting, Project Manager Wade Cole of ORB Management estimated that the cost of restoring a walkway and dealing with an erosion problem that was created when the area around the north courts was excavated would be about $15,000-20,000.  This week, the estimate had increased to $20,000-25,000. 
Cole said it had gotten more involved than what was previously discussed.  After consulting with several people with stakes in the project, such as Community Center Director Diane Booth and Cook County Tennis Association members, Cole said, the design had grown to include steps leading from the east-west walkway currently between the courts down to the parking lot, in addition to a handicap-accessible sidewalk leading down from the north end of the courts.
The parking lot has been built according to the architectural drawings created by JLG Architects, but no one noticed that it would cut into the area around the courts as much as it did.  Cole said JLG told him they did not know this would be an issue.