Friday, March 28, 2014


A WATERWORKS column by Gordon Prickett

for the 4/2/2014 Aitkin Independent Age


My “Weatherguide” Calendar from the Freshwater Society has a message in its March section that bears repeating here:

How much water do you use? Most of us probably don’t know. According to the EPA, an average American household uses 320 gallons every day. One third of that is used to irrigate the landscape and 50% of that is wasted due to inefficient landscape methods. March is a great time to plan a water-friendly landscape for the coming growing season. When rain falls, why not harvest all the fresh, free water for your gardens and lawns?

One inch of rain on a 1000 square foot rooftop can yield 600 gallons of water. Incorporate more native plants into your landscape. They are drought tolerant and require less maintenance. Keep the water on your land by adding a rain garden this year. There is more to learn at

Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd is the location for a conference on Thursday and Friday, May 1-2, 2014. Sponsors are Conservation Minnesota, Freshwater Society, University of Minnesota Extension, MPCA, and DNR. This is a revival of the biennial state-wide conferences that formerly were put on by the Minnesota Lakes Association, that became Minnesota Waters, before its closure.

Two full days, starting with breakfasts, will feature workshops, breakout sessions, exhibits, and major speakers on issues of clean water, aquatic habitat and invasive species, watersheds, groundwater, and shore restoration. Details of the programs, cost, and registration can be found on this website: and at 612-767-2444.


As introduced in last month’s column and reported on the front page in the March 19th Independent Age, the Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline Project was explained before a packed hall in McGregor for four hours on March 13th. Public comments and routing alternatives will continue to be received by the state commerce department until April 4th. Then a year’s worth of government actions and public hearings are planned, with a final decision from the Public Utilities Commission expected about March 23, 2015. If approvals are received, Enbridge estimates that construction might begin in late 2014 or early 2015. The Sandpiper Pipeline could then be operational in 2016. Crude oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota would flow across 42 miles in Aitkin County on its way to a Superior, Wisconsin, refinery, Enbridge’s tank farm, and other connecting pipelines.

Monday, March 3, 2014


A WATERWORKS column by Gordon Prickett

for the 3/5/2014 Aitkin Independent Age


It’s been hard to avoid talking about the weather lately. We are sick and tired of below zero forecasts week after week. Wind chill warnings, winter storm warnings, ice that clings to pavement after plowing. The depth of snow across the area increases without any thawing, and no warm up is in sight. A newscaster remembered the heavy snowfall of April 1965 the other night, reminding me of the extreme high water and flooding in St. Paul and North Mankato that spring. We were back in Minnesota from the Navy, and I was attached to a reserve helicopter squadron out at Wold Chamberlain Airport. It was the only time I ever lifted people off their roofs from a hover. The Minnesota River had flooded out homes where it makes a sharp turn to the northeast.

The depth of snow now on the ground and the prospect of some more snow followed by a rapid warm up lead me to consider how to get ready for high water once again. Our ACLARA group of high water planners has reviewed the records from the flooding events in the county in the summer of 2012. We have consulted with lake associations where the highest lake levels occurred. In case of another extremely wet season we will work closely with the county board, sheriff, soil and water, and the DNR to advise governmental units and to spread the news around lake country of any emergency measures.


Whether it is crude oil, natural gas, or propane, pipelines are making news these days in the Upper Midwest. The Bakken oil field in North Dakota and the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, are the origins of most of these stories. Increased fuels production is getting attention as oil and gas companies expand their operations across the northern tier of states and provinces.

For us in Aitkin County the imminent issue deals with crude oil. It concerns routing the Endbridge Sandpiper Pipeline Project across county from west to east. The preferred route from Enbridge would enter south of Swatara along existing electric tranmission lines. After crossing Highway 169 and the Mississippi River it would swing north and east of McGregor, leaving the county along east-west transmission lines into Carlton County.

Before this pipeline can be constructed the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) must do two things: grant a certificate of need, and issue a pipeline route permit. In six affected Minnesota counties, from Polk to Carlton, public information meetings are being held in the first half of March, to give citizens the opportunity to ask questions and state their opinions about this pipeline.

In Aitkin County our meeting will be held at the McGregor Community Center, 41442 Highway 65, on Thursday, March 13th, from 11 am to 2 pm. Minnesota PUC and Commerce Department staff and pipeline officials will be on hand.