Saturday, August 30, 2014


WATERWORKS  a column by Gordon Prickett for the 9/3/2014
Aitkin Independent Age


On Monday and Tuesday, September 15th and 16th, sixth graders across Aitkin County will again experience an Environmental Education Day at Long Lake Conservation Center, for the 20th time in as many years. Last year 127 students from Aitkin, Hill City, and McGregor schools spent the day at Long Lake Conservation Center. They enjoyed a hands-on lab experiment about Lake Bottom Organisms, presentations by the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minnesota Zoo, and a unique presentation about Frogs and Toads in Minnesota. This special program serves to kickoff their year’s science education.

This Environmental Education Day is hosted by Aitkin County Environmental Services and the Long Lake Conservation Center with the help of donations from county lake associations. At this environmental gem in our county we are making a contribution for conservation, ecology, clean water, and habitat into the future.


There’s a new crude oil pipeline called Sandpiper that is being planned across Minnesota. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will decide sometime next year whether Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company, will be permitted to lay about 400 miles of pipe in Minnesota to move oil from North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin. The first decision is whether this oil supply line is necessary, and the second decision is approval of the proposed route.

Sandpiper, as proposed, will cross 42 miles of Aitkin County. It will bring local jobs, lease payments to land owners, tax money to governments and schools, And the chance of oil spills and leaks into our habitat of lakes, woods, and wetlands. At this time there are alternate routes being considered that avoid Aitkin County. This light crude oil from the Bakken Formation is moving across the midwest now by rail to refineries and terminals.

Citizens are hearing from many voices about the benefits of a pipeline here, and what happens if it ruptures. I expect to hear much more before the questions are decided.

Monday, August 4, 2014


A Waterworks column by Gordon Prickett for the 8/6/2014 Aitkin Independent Age.

As my canoe rolls in the wake of a wake boarder, I turn to stay upright, and begin pitching in the waves.  Now I remember the fun we used to have as teenagers at a lake cabin behind a fast boat on water skis.  On a summer weekend paddling a canoe or kayak is best done in the early morning.

Boaters here have been pretty good at practicing courtesy, looking out for small craft and the loons.  One of our nesting pairs had a successful hatch this summer, and their two juvenile loons are now getting diving lessons so they can soon feed themselves.


The state legislature has appropriated funds for combating invasive species, and the money became available starting this July.  For Aitkin County over $120,000 is available in the first year, and more than $270,000 may be granted in following years.  Local units of government need to forward requests for this project money, and they will be the fiscal agents.

In Aitkin County the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Environmental Services Department are the key places where we can go for assistance with invasives in our lakes and rivers.
Project ideas for prevention and education about aquatic invasive species, such as  zebra mussels and curly leaf pondweed, will be welcomed, as well as treatment projects when and where they are discovered.  Portable boat washing stations are a possibility.


With the Primary on August 12th and the General Election November 4th, there is no better time than right now to seek out the candidates and incumbents with your questions and opinions.  Within one block of the downtown stoplight in Aitkin the two major political parties can be found in their temporary offices.  Just look for all the signs in their windows.  This is the best time to raise your most important issue with the candidates and their volunteers - when they are looking to meet and talk with voters.

Here is my issue list for starters:  clean water, good jobs here, copper-nickel-platinum mining exploration, the Sandpiper Pipeline Project by Enbridge Energy, rail haulage of coal and crude oil and the danger of derailments, the safety of oil and gasoline trucks on our highways and bridges.

As we consider America becoming independent of fossil fuels from overseas, a major question for me as I fill my propane tank and gas up my boat motor, lawn mower, and vehicles, is how do we increase the safety of producing and moving this petroleum product?