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News and other information from Cook County

Commissioners say "no" to taller towers

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 8:40am

Radio towers were once again on the agenda for the Cook County Commissioners at their Tuesday morning meeting.

On this occasion, representatives from MNDOT were on hand to answer questions regarding the proposed construction of two 330 ft. towers as part of the ARMER communications network.

Towers of this height would be at odds with the county land use plan, which specifies height not to exceed 200 ft. The additional height would also require the towers be lighted. One of the towers will be located at Devilfish Lake off the Arrowhead Trail and the other southeast of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters. Towers in these locations will likely be visible from within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Three individuals spoke in opposition to the tower height variance during the public comment period. Jim Raml and Ted Young, both long-time residents of the Upper Gunflint Trail, expressed concern over the negative visual impact the taller, illuminated towers will have on the wilderness experience of visitors. Raml also emphasized the danger of allowing deviation from the county land use plan.

The MNDOT representatives provided a map illustrating the difference in signal coverage between the two tower heights. Shane Chatleain, with the Office of Statewide Communications, went on to say either height would satisfy their requirements.

Commissioner Gary Gamble offered the opinion that coverage gained by the additional height would not justify the possible downsides.

After some additional discussion, Commissioner Frank Moe made a motion to approve construction of the towers not to exceed 200 ft. in height consistent with the county land use plan. The motion passed unanimously.

In response to a question from Commissioner Ginny Storlie, Chatleain confirmed that an additional tower is under consideration for the Sea Gull Lake area on property owned by the state.


Biomass District Heating Plan Update

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 3:12pm

The proposed Biomass District Heat Plan could change how heat is provided for a portion of Grand Marais. WTIP volunteer Mary Manning spoke with George Wilkes of the Cook County Local Energy Project, and Grand Marais mayor Jay Arrowsmith-DeCoux on North Shore Morning.

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City Council to prioritize its priorities

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 2:03pm

In an effort to develop a long-term planning strategy and identify needs for consideration in future budgets, Grand Marais city councilors decided Feb. 11 to hold a day-long workshop sometime next month.

City Administrator Mike Roth broached the topic at council’s prior meeting and was asked to compile some information about the various options. Roth reiterated Feb. 11 that there are many different ways to go about the process–each with its own timeline and cost–and it is up to council to decide which process is most suitable, the scope of the undertaking and hoped-for results, and how much time and resources they are willing to invest.

The city administrator recommended the day-long planning workshop as a way to review past plans, projects and issues. “After this session…council will be in a better position to make decisions about strategic planning,” Roth said.

Councilor Tim Kennedy, who is the lone holdover from the previous board, agreed that an all-day session with the city’s department heads is the best way to go, rather than trying to incorporate a planning process into the agenda for a regular meeting. “This isn’t something we can do in an hour or two,” he said. “We want to accomplish something, and it will take some time.”

There was general agreement, with Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux observing that the new councilors (who took office at the beginning of the year) are still in the “getting up to speed phase” and reading about and reviewing planning efforts and strategies taken up by previous councils. Councilors also said they plan to meet individually with the department heads and tour the city’s facilities in order to familiarize themselves with the city’s holdings and needs.

Grand Marais still in the running for "America's Coolest Small Town" -- voting open until March 4

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 12:41pm

Grand Marais, the little town on the harbor beloved by residents and visitors alike, is currently the focus of national attention as a contender in the Budget Travel Magazine’s “America’s Coolest Small Towns 2015.” Grand Marais had a strong lead through most of the contest, but at press time Chincoteague, Virginia was closing in. And at press time, to make things more exciting, Budget Travel extended the deadline to March 4.

“I’m surprised Grand Marais took the lead as fast as it did, but I’m not that surprised,” commented Linda Kratt, executive director of Visit Cook County. “Grand Marais visitors and residents know it’s a special place.”

Executive Director Linda Kratt credits Kjersti Vick, Visit Cook County marketing manager, with putting Grand Marais in the national spotlight.  “Kjersti is an extremely talented marketer.  She is all over social media promoting every part of Cook County. 

“When Kjersti saw the opportunity to be in the running for the ‘coolest small town’ contest, she jumped on it.  We have held the lead since the contest kick off and we want to be the winner.  A win will be rewarded with a feature in Budget Travel’s summer publication.  

“Whether you reside here or are a visitor to our beautiful harbor community, we need your daily vote.  Set your alarm. Let’s finish strong!  Log on and vote!” said Kratt.

With regional pride at stake, the competition remains fierce. While Grand Marais holds the lead with 27.5 percent of the vote, Chincoteague, Virginia is holding its own with 23.8 percent. Other contenders range from Hillsborough, North Carolina to Crested Butte, Colorado to Pismo Beach, California.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week is Feb. 22-28

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 12:39pm

A coalition of partners, volunteers and supporters, through the guidance of PlayCleanGo, will be participating in National Invasive Species Awareness Week Feb. 22-28. PlayCleanGo invites individuals and families to enjoy the beautiful Minnesota trails, parks and recreation sites while doing their part to stop the spread of terrestrial invasive species. Local involvement can help protect some of the state’s environment and most precious resources, while enjoying the beauty and legacy Minnesota has to offer.

Some simple steps you can take to prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals include arriving with clean gear; burning only local or certified firewood; using local or weed-free hay; staying on the trails; and removing mud and seeds before leaving.

Call (651) 259-5251 for more information.'


This local news is provided by Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Judge upholds Forest Service plan for South Fowl snowmobile trail

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 7:29pm

On February 13, 2015, Judge John Tunheim issued a long-awaited opinion on the U.S. Forest Service 2006 decision to construct the South Fowl snowmobile trail access between McFarland and South Fowl lakes in Hovland. Reached by phone after the ruling became public, Attorney David Oberstar said the ruling was “all in favor” of the U.S. Forest Service.

Oberstar, of Fryberger, Buchanan and Smith of Duluth, represented Cook County, the Arrowhead Coalition for Multiple Use (ACMU) and Conservationists with Common Sense (CSCS) as interveners in the lawsuit in support of the Forest Service snowmobile trail proposal. The county, ACMU and CWCS supported the development of Alternative 2, which most closely resembles the trail closed by the Forest Service in 2003, known by many local residents as the “Tilbury Trail.”

The plaintiffs seeking to block the trail were the Izaak Walton League of America, Inc.; Wilderness Watch of Missoula, Montana; Sierra Club Northstar Chapter; and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW).

The News-Herald contacted Gunflint Ranger Nancy Larson to ask what was next regarding this snowmobile trail. Ranger Larson said the Superior National Forest was glad to have a decision from the court. She said, “Gunflint Ranger District staff will be examining the details of the court decision and the South Fowl EIS to develop an action plan of items to implement the decision as intended.”

“In light of the time that has passed since this project was first developed, the Gunflint Ranger District recognizes interest in the trail being constructed as soon as possible. The action plan we will develop will likely identify opportunities for volunteers to contribute to trail construction,” said Larson, noting that because of local interest in the trail, she anticipates “a cadre of willing volunteers.”