The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is hosting an open house Tuesday, Dec. 17, for anyone interested in the planning of the segment of the Minnesota River State Trail that will connect the cities of Franklin and Le Sueur, including a loop through the cities of Sleepy Eye and Redwood Falls. The open house will be from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Mankato Room, Intergovernmental Center, 10 Civic Center Plaza, Mankato.
DNR staff will be available to answer questions about the trail planning process and receive comments on the draft master plan. Master plans guide the development, management and operation of the state trail to provide quality recreational opportunities. The master plan must be completed and approved before any funds can be used for trail construction.
The Minnesota River State Trail was legislatively authorized in 2002, extending 208 miles from Big Stone Lake State Park to the City of Le Sueur. A master plan for the segment from Big Stone Lake State Park to Franklin was completed in 2008, and portions of the trail have been constructed.
The master plan currently being developed deals with the 120-mile segment of the trail that will travel through Redwood, Renville, Brown, Nicollet, Blue Earth and Le Sueur counties, with connections to the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail in Mankato and the Minnesota Valley State Trail in Le Sueur. The plan recommends connections to Fort Ridgely, Flandrau and Minneopa state parks, communities, historical sites, and other park and trail systems in the Minnesota River Valley.
Recommended trail uses include bicycling, hiking/walking, dog walking, running/jogging, in-line skating, horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, interpretation and environmental education.
Minnesota hunters harvested 164,550 deer during 2013, according to preliminary numbers announced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Through the beginning of December, firearms hunters harvested 144,000 deer, a 6 percent drop from the 153,000 harvested in 2012. Preliminary numbers for the late season in southeastern Minnesota show hunters harvested 4,400 deer, down from the 5,000 harvested in 2012.
The statewide muzzleloader season remains open through Sunday, Dec. 15. The archery season closes on Tuesday, Dec. 31.
Deer harvest numbers are calculated using data provided by hunters when they register a deer. A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be released at the end of January.
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission will meet Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Hospitality Minnesota, 305 Roselawn Ave. E., St. Paul.
The commission, established this past legislative session, is responsible for developing a system plan for parks and trails in Greater Minnesota. The commission has been meeting since October and will submit its first report to the Legislature in January.
A comprehensive environmental analysis of Minnesota’s first proposed copper-nickel mine has been released for public review and input.
This begins a critical phase of the environmental review process for PolyMet Mining Inc.’s revised NorthMet copper-nickel mining project and proposed land exchange. State and federal agencies are seeking public review and input on a document called the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).
The proposed mining project has been substantially revised since a 2009 Draft EIS, and the SDEIS includes information on those changes, the land exchange, and additional and revised analyses of potential project impacts. Publication of the SDEIS provides the first opportunity for the public to review and comment on the revised project, located in northeastern Minnesota near Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt.
“I am inviting Minnesotans to participate in the environmental review process by reviewing the document and providing thoughtful, informed input on the environmental analysis during the public comment period,” said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “The DNR and other agencies have used their most objective and best scientific expertise to review this project. Now we need all interested parties to give us their comments.”
The SDEIS is now available on the DNR’s website (www.mndnr.gov/polymet), and review copies are available at select libraries and public offices around the state. Public meetings will be held in January in Duluth, Aurora and St. Paul.
The 2,200-page document is an intensive, scientific examination of environmental, social and economic aspects of the project. This includes in-depth analyses of potential impacts on wetlands, air and water quality, and wildlife. The document describes proposals to reduce impacts through project modifications, mitigation and alternative actions.
The SDEIS also examines how the company would address mine-site reclamation and provides information on the financial assurances needed during and after mine operation. The document thoroughly analyzes the proposed land exchange between the company and the U.S. Forest Service that would be needed for PolyMet to implement its mining proposal.
Prepared by the DNR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), known collectively as the co-lead agencies, the document details more than 3 years of scientific study and analysis of the project. It is an updated and revised analysis of the 2009 Draft EIS.
The SDEIS will be published in the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board Monitor on Monday, Dec. 9 and in the Federal Register on Friday, Dec. 13. A 90-day public comment period will begin on Dec. 14 and end on March 13.
The public can review and comment on the SDEIS through the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/polymet. The website also includes an executive summary, and a series of fact sheets and documents designed to help the public understand the proposed project.
The proposed NorthMet mine project would be located in the St. Louis River watershed on the eastern edge of the Mesabi Iron Range, about 6 miles south of Babbitt and about 1 mile south of the existing iron-ore Northshore Mine. Processing of the ore would take place at a former industrial site, the LTV steel plant in Hoyt Lakes. Neither the proposed mine nor the processing facility is in the watershed containing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The total project area would include the open pit mine, a processing plant, tailings basin and an existing 7-mile-long railroad corridor for the transportation of ore between the mine and the processing plant.
PolyMet’s proposed project remains in the “environmental review” phase. This is the extensive process used to identify and analyze the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of the proposed project. Public input on the SDEIS is an important component of this phase.
Environmental review is not the approval phase of the project, which occurs during the permitting process.
At the state level, if the DNR determines the EIS is adequate, the next phase – the permitting process – would evaluate if the project can comply with all applicable environmental regulations and would set out the required measures that would need to be taken to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts and provide the required financial assurance. The permitting phase also involves opportunities for public review of draft permits.
Similar to the state, the USFS issues a record of decision that completes its environmental review, and is followed by permitting and implementation. Unlike the other two co-leads, the USACE issues a record of decision that both completes its environmental review and renders its permit decision. For PolyMet’s proposal, this involves wetlands permitting for the USACE, while the USFS is focused on the proposed land exchange transaction process.
Lisa Fay, EIS Project Manager
MDNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources
Environmental Review Unit
500 Lafayette Road, Box 25
St. Paul, MN 55155-4025
During the 90-day comment period, the co-lead agencies will hold public information and input meetings in Duluth, Aurora and St. Paul where the public can comment in person. The meetings are listed below.
Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014
DECC – Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
350 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN 55802
5 p.m. – open house
6:45-10 p.m. formal presentation and public comment period
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014
Mesabi East High School
601 1st St W, Aurora, MN 55705
5 p.m. – open house
6:45-10 p.m. formal presentation and public comment period
Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014
Saint Paul RiverCentre
175 West Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55102
5 p.m. – open house
6:45-10 p.m. formal presentation and public comment period
In the event of a weather-related postponement of one or more of the public meetings, the DNR will make a public announcement.
The public meetings, co-hosted by DNR, USACE and USFS, will include informational stations and representatives from state and federal agencies. At the public meetings, participants can submit comments in writing, present them verbally or have their oral comments transcribed by a stenographer.
Public review copies of the SDEIS are available at the following locations: the DNR/MPCA Library, 520 Lafayette Road, St. Paul; the DNR Regional Office at 1201 East Highway 2, Grand Rapids; the DNR-Division of Lands and Minerals Regional Office at 1525 Third Avenue East, Hibbing; the Hoyt Lakes Public Library at 206 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Hoyt Lakes; the Babbitt Public Library at 71 South Drive, Babbitt; the Duluth Public Library, 520 West Superior Street, Duluth; and the Minneapolis Public Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.
All written comments become a part of the Final EIS record and are public information. Written comments will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on March 13, 2014.
Following the public comment period, the DNR and co-lead agencies will review all comments, respond to substantive comments, adjust the SDEIS if needed, and ultimately publish a Final EIS for public review.
Anyone eager to get out cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling will find an abundance of opportunities at many Minnesota state parks and trails, thanks to this week’s heavy snowfall.
“The recent heavy snowfall and the forecast for sustained cold temperatures offers prospects of substantial, enduring snow cover deep into the month,” said Greg Spoden, state climatologist at the Department of Natural Resources. “It will be the best start to the winter recreation season since 2010.”
Staff from the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division and local clubs will be busy grooming trails in preparation for the upcoming weekend, but the DNR advises prospective park and trail visitors to check the website for trip planning tips before heading out to a winter recreation destination.
Snow depth and trail conditions are updated every Thursday after 2 p.m. throughout the winter months at www.mndnr.gov/snow.
Many Minnesota state parks rent snowshoes, and several rent cross-country skis. For rental locations and prices, check out the “winter activities guide.”
For a schedule of upcoming programs and special events at Minnesota state parks and trails, including the popular candlelight ski and snowshoe events, visit the online calendar or pick up one of the new “Programs and Special Events” brochures at park offices.
As always, the DNR urges outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution around lakes and wetlands, because the early snow might act as a blanket over thin ice. Snowmobilers, in particular, should exercise caution and be alert to conditions.
For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at firstname.lastname@example.org, 651-296-6157 or toll-free at 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Twelve lakes scattered throughout Minnesota, including two in the metropolitan area, now are open for darkhouse spearing, the Department of Natural Resources said.
Spearing restrictions were repealed effective Dec. 2 on the following lakes: Beers and West Battle in Otter Tail County; Big Mantrap in Hubbard County; Deer, Moose, North Star and connected Little North Star and Spider in Itasca County; Lobster in Douglas County; Cross Lake Flowage in Pine County; Eagle in Hennepin County; Owasso in Ramsey County and Sugar in Wright County.
Darkhouse spearing is limited to northern pike, catfish, whitefish and other rough-fish species. Other game fish species such as muskellunge are illegal to spear at any time. Anglers ages 18-89 need both an angling license and a spearing license to spear, unless otherwise exempt.
All other regulations related to spearing, angling and shelters apply to these waters. Additional information is available on page 77 of the 2013 Minnesota Fishing Regulations handbook or look online. For more information, contact the DNR area fisheries office nearest the lake of interest using the online directory.
With the recent weather mix creating varying ice conditions around the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges people to not let their guard down.
“Snow is bad for ice, but when rain is added — plus above and below freezing temperatures — this mix all in one week is not helping solid ice form,” said Kara Owens, DNR boating and water safety specialist.
Snow insulates the ice, preventing the cold air from getting through, which slows down the ice formation process. The heavy snow pushes down on the ice and could cause cracks. Right now, the ice under the snow could already be brittle because temperatures have been above freezing within the past week.
Ice is unpredictable and never 100 percent safe, Owens said.
“We are urging everyone to think twice before going out on the ice right now,” she said. “We know Minnesotans are eager to get out and enjoy the snow, but everyone needs to keep in mind the ice on your lake may not be safe.”
The DNR recommends anyone heading out on the ice should: carry a set of ice picks, check with a local bait shop or resort – ask about ice conditions – and measure the ice.
The DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are:
4 inches for walking.
5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV.
8-12 inches for a car.
12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.
When the temperature rises above freezing for six of the last 24 hours, double the recommended minimum thickness. And remember, if it stays above freezing for 24 hours or more, stay off the ice – it is not safe.
Now that winter has arrived, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is encouraging snowmobilers to complete safety training.
“If you waited until the snow arrived before taking snowmobile safety training you may be too late to enjoy the season,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator. “Classes fill quickly, and no snowmobile safety certificate, no snowmobiling.”
Plenty of safety training classes are available right now, he said.
Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.
By taking a snowmobile safety course, Hammer said students learn about the machine, they learn about the laws, they learn safe operation, they learn the ethics of the sport and they learn how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents.
DNR snowmobile safety courses can be completed by either attending a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor in a local community or by CD.
To obtain the snowmobile safety training CD, or for general information, call 651-296-6157, 888-646-6367, 800-366-8917, or send email to email@example.com.
More than 1,800 volunteer instructors teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state.
For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit the DNR website or call 800-366-8917.
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