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News and other information from Cook County

Gunflint Trail’s “cultural significance” precludes safety improvements

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 11:26am

The Gunflint Trail is not a safe road, according to County Engineer David Betts, but making is safer is looking impossible. 
County State Aid Highway 12 has narrow lanes, a lack of shoulders, trees impeding visibility, a long season of ice and snow, and lots of people driving fast around blind corners.  Part of the process of developing a better design for the road and getting some funding from the federal government, however, required a review by the Minnesota Department of Transportation Cultural Resources Unit.  That review found that the Gunflint Trail is “culturally significant” in its current form, and that precludes it from being changed.  In addition, the review recommended that speed limits be lowered.
“I completely disagree with this report,” Engineer Betts told the county board on September 11, 2012.  “This basically leaves us having to leave a dangerous road dangerous.”  No effective appeals process is available, he said.
Betts had been working on designs that called for 12-foot lanes, four-foot shoulders, and adequate drainage.  Federal funding has been procured through the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for the project, which is slated to begin in 2014. 
Betts said that the county could transfer the funding to a different road and use other available funding to do some of what he thinks needs to be done on the Gunflint Trail.  That funding would cover the cost of replacing the bituminous surface, a solution that would last about 10 years.  If they do any work that involves going down further than the bituminous surface, the state’s cultural significance rules would apply.
There was talk about transferring the funding to the Sawbill Trail, to possibly pave it up to where it meets The Grade, but the county board did not take any action.

Co-op members working to save mosaic mural

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 11:09am

At the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op public meeting on August 21, a group of co-op members agreed to work to save the four season mural created by local elementary school students, teachers and volunteers. The mosaic was scheduled for removal as renovation of the co-op moved ahead, but an effort is underway to keep the mural intact during construction and to restore the artwork to the exterior of the building when work is completed. However, leader of the fundraising group Ann Mershon said, “Though we've had an outpouring of support for saving the mural, there are some bumps.” The biggest “bump” is financial. Initial “ball park” estimates put the cost at approximately $15,000 - $30,000 to preserve and restore the mural.
The group recognized that there is some frustration that the effort to save the mural got underway after plans for the new building had been completed. Plans call for the demolition of the existing building at the beginning of October.
Mershon said the group hoping to save the mural understands that the co-op board has worked a long time on the new building project. “We want to be supportive of that effort and understand the stress involved, particularly for board members,” said Mershon.
However, one of the group, Jeff Kern, stressed that the value of public art should also be considered. “This is a landmark. School children from many different years contributed to this and it’s part of our community,” said Kern.
Mershon noted that the co-op board had committed approximately $10,000 to preserving the mural. The co-op board wanted to maintain the mural if it was financially feasible. At the very least, the co-op board planned to have high resolution photos of the mural taken and displayed prominently in the new building.

Wilderness Fire Updates -- Thursday, Sept. 13

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 9:47am
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The US Forest Service says aerial suppression efforts and fire crews are being used today to fight two small fires in the Gunflint and Tofte districts of the Boundary Waters.

The fire east of Little Sag Lake near Mora Lake, in the Cavity Lake Fire area is receiving helicopter water drops as of this morning and crews are scheduled to move in. The fire was first reported yesterday at a quarter-acre in size.  

Early last evening, a small fire was spotted between Peterson Lake and Horn Lake on the southern edge of the wilderness near the Baker Lake entry point.  A Forest Service Beaver is currently dropping water on that quarter acre size fire.

The Fort Frances #59 fire, between Knife and Emerald Lake is very active today with smoke running parallel to the shore of Knife Lake. The smoke is causing concern along the Gunflint Trail. The fire remains on the Quetico side and is being closely monitored by fire units on both sides.

Currently there are three active wildfires in the Kawishiwi District monitored out of the Ely ranger station.

Crews, aircraft to fight two small BWCAW fires Thursday morning

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 4:17am

The US Forest Service says aerial suppression efforts and fire crews will be used on Thursday to fight two small fires in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
 

The USFS reported at 7:45 PM, Wednesday, that detection efforts picked up a fire east of Little Sag Lake near Mora Lake, in the Cavity Lake Fire area.  The fire was called in a quarter-acre in size.  On Thursday morning, aircraft are scheduled to be used on the fire and ground crews are to head in to the fire.
 

Earlier Wednesday evening, the USFS reported that during an afternoon detection flight Wednesday, a small fire was spotted between Peterson Lake and Horn Lake on the southern edge of the BWCAW near Baker Lake entry point.  At that time, the fire was approximately one quarter of an acre in size.  The USFS said it would be actively suppressing the fire with aircraft.
 

The USFS also reported Wednesday evening that the fire burning within a quarter mile of the northern shore of Knife Lake near Emerald Lake in Ontario was causing smoke again in the upper Gunflint Trail area.
 

The East Zone duty officer flew the fire Wednesday and confirmed the additional smoke in the Upper Gunflint Trail area was being caused by this fire. The USFS will continue to monitor the fire daily during its regular detection flights.
 

Ontario fire causes smoke over Upper Gunflint Trail

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 5:35pm

The US Forest Service reported at 5:25 PM, Wednesday, that the fire burning within a quarter mile of the northern shore of Knife Lake near Emerald Lake in Ontario is causing smoke again in the upper Gunflint Trail area. 

The East zone duty officer flew the fire today and confirmed that again the additional smoke is caused by this fire. The USFS will continue to monitor the fire daily during its regular detection flights, the USFS reported in a media memo..

During an afternoon detection flight Wednesday, a small fire was spotted between Peterson Lake and Horn Lake on the southern edge of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness near Baker Lake entry point.  This fire is approximately one quarter of an acre in size.  The Forest Service will be actively suppressing this fire with aircraft. 

MNDoT to repair Hwy. 61 from Lester River to Two Harbors

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 4:45pm

 

DULUTH, Minn. —Motorists traveling on Highway 61 between the Lester River Bridge in Duluth and Two Harbors may encounter single-lane restrictions until Nov. 16 as crews complete repairs related to the June 19–20 flood.

 

One lane will remain open in each direction at the work sites as MNDoT does the repairs..

 

More than 40 locations will be repaired including areas near the Big Sucker River, Knife River, French River, Talmadge River and Schmidt Creek.

 

Work at these locations includes drainage repairs, grading, shoulder work and debris removal. Most of the projects will be completed sequentially.

 

For updated travel information on all Minnesota roads, call 511 or visit www.511mn.org.