MINNEAPOLIS — Managers made all the right decisions as they battled a forest fire that blackened 145 square miles of northeastern Minnesota last year, according to three reports the National Forest Service released Monday.
The reports reviewed the overall management of the Pagami Creek Wildfire, which started in mid-August with a lightning strike in a bog in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Ely. It remained relatively small until Sept. 12, when it grew rapidly in a matter of hours due to an explosive combination of high winds and warm, dry conditions. Then, just as suddenly, it largely stopped in its tracks until it was declared controlled Nov. 28.
The Forest Service said it found that “all actions and decisions” made in managing the fire “were consistent with laws, regulations, and policy,” and the reports found little if any fault among anyone involved in the firefighting effort.
“The fire moved in ways that were not only unexpected, but totally unprecedented for generations of firefighters and land managers in the area,” Superior National Forest officials wrote in a summation. “Fire intensity stretched the operation and created problems where the system was functional — even successful — under normal conditions.”
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Department of Natural Resources has designated more than a dozen lakes and rivers in southwestern Minnesota as infested with Asian carp — even though none of the invasive fish has been found there yet.
Those bodies of water are connected to Iowa lakes and rivers where bighead and silver carp have been caught after moving out of the Missouri River.
Ryan Doorenbos, the DNR’s Windom-area fisheries supervisor, tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/KAsE6a) the move is aimed at stopping or containing the spread of the fish.
On Minnesota’s eastern border, the Mississippi River downstream of Lock and Dam 2 near Hastings and the St. Croix River downstream of the Taylors Falls dam have been designated as infested. Asian carp have been caught in those river sections.
MINNEAPOLIS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has finished its cleanup of arsenic contamination in a south Minneapolis neighborhood a full year ahead of schedule.
The EPA used $20 million in stimulus funding, plus other money, to clean up more than 600 properties. EPA removed more than 50,000 tons of contaminated soil, filled the yards with clean soil and replanted plants and grass. The cost totaled $28 million.
The Superfund site is around the former CMC Heartland Partners Lite Yard at Hiawatha Avenue and 28th Street, where a pesticide containing arsenic was produced. Contamination is believed to have blown into surrounding neighborhoods. Long-term exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer.
EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman was joined by city and state officials at a commemoration for neighborhood residents Tuesday.
South Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination Superfund site: http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/cmcheartland
MINNEAPOLIS — Forest tent caterpillars are busting out in Minnesota but experts say this year’s defoliation is not yet “the big one.”
Department of Natural Resources forest health specialist Jana Albers says it’s leading up to a bigger outbreak in a few years.
The DNR is seeing an uptick in the forest tent caterpillar population in Minnesota’s northern counties this year. In west-central counties, the insects have been in outbreak mode for several years.
The caterpillars develop in cycles over the course of decades or more. They set a record in 2002-03, stripping 7.5 million acres of trees of their leaves in central and northern Minnesota. Fortunately, affected trees almost always recover.
The Star Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/JSK0tO) the DNR will begin aerial surveys next week to track the caterpillars and other pests.
DULUTH, Minn. — Bug experts say there’s a new invader in northern Minnesota.
The variegated cutworm has unleashed light brown moths that are laying eggs across the region. The bugs are native to Minnesota. But, have never made it to the Northland.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources bug expert Jana Albers says she’s never seen the species in the northern region and she’s been studying insects for more than three decades. The moths soon die. But, the caterpillars that hatch from the eggs can last for weeks, munch on greenery and cut a plant off at the stem.
Albers tells the Duluth News Tribune (http://bit.ly/KO91Xg ) the DNR is getting the same reports from northern Wisconsin. People are curious about the new species. Gardeners can control the caterpillars with insecticides applied late in the day.
Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com
ST. PAUL, Minn. — 3M won’t be required to do an environmental review of a plan to import hazardous waste from other states and burn in at its Cottage Grove incinerator.
Local residents petitioned the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizens Board for the review, which was rejected.
3M wants to import the waste because it no longer produces enough of its own to operate the incinerator efficiently and instead uses natural gas.
Alan Muller of the Coalition of Concerned Cottage Grove Citizens tells Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/KSOP2x ) the incinerator emits a-half pound of lead each day from its smokestack, as well as other heavy metals that can’t be destroyed by incineration.
3M site director Vickie Batroot says it’s not good environmental stewardship to use energy, or natural gas, if you don’t have to.
ELY, Minn. — Fire officials have declared a wildfire that threatened the popular northeastern Minnesota tourist town of Ely (EE’-lee) to be 100 percent contained.
The burn area is estimated at 175 acres. The containment effort got help from about 1.5 inches of rain that fell this weekend.
As many as 127 people were involved in the effort to control the fire. Public information officer Erin Heep says that number was down to about 30 as of Monday afternoon. She tells Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/KtIc7b ) the operation now is focused on mop-up.
Firefighters are conducting infrared scans of the area Monday to help identify hot spots.
Officials suspect a downed power line sparked Thursday’s fire.
MINNEAPOLIS — The drought is officially over for nearly all of Minnesota.
The new map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that only about 10 percent of Minnesota remains in drought. Three months ago, 96 percent of the state was in a moderate to severe drought. The remaining pockets of drought include part of the North Shore, some of northwestern Minnesota along the Canadian border and part of south-central Minnesota.
Climatologist Greg Spoden says the data show the drought has broken. He says the recent heavy rain has recharged dry soils, which will be good for agriculture. He says it will still take some time though, for water levels on some larger lakes to rise to normal levels. And he says Minnesota needs continued above-average precipitation to fully catch up.
WINONA, Minn. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and volunteers are tearing down two squatters camps on islands in the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge.
The camps are just south of Winona, near Homer. Wildlife Service manager Mary Stefanski says the camps were discovered during eagle nest surveys. She says one camp is abandoned and the other has been used recently.
Besides environmental hazards, Stefanski tells WKBT-TV (http://bit.ly/KamLLu ) safety is also an issue. The structures are full of nails, rusty metal and old mattresses.
A team of 11 AmeriCorps volunteers helped haul away more than 8,500 pounds of trash and metal from the islands. The city of Winona is in the process of transferring ownership of the islands over to the management of the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge.
LINO LAKES, Minn. — A full-grown black bear is the loser in a collision with a Volkswagen Jetta in Lino Lakes.
Chris Jordan says the bear came “out of nowhere” as he was returning home about 10:30 p.m. Monday after picking up his sister and her boyfriend from the Minnesota Twins game. The 27-year-old Jordan tells the Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/KivKso ) he had no time to swerve and the bear hit the left front side of his car. Jordan and his passengers were not injured.
He spotted a police officer parked nearby and reported the crash. Jordan says the officer found the bear in the ditch and it was dead. He says he was going about 60 mph when he hit the bear. His Jetta sustained significant damage.