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Last fall’s Southwest LRT tunnel plan back on the table

MichelePAC is fundraising again; heavy snow predicted for Grand Forks area; MNsure call center stressed; Bison coming to Minneopa State Park; and more.

OK. Let’s try this again … Pat Doyle of the Strib reports, “Transit planners told Gov. Mark Dayton Monday that they are recommending digging tunnels in the Minneapolis Kenilworth corridor so the future Southwest Corridor light rail can run under recreational trails and near freight trains. The recommendation came at a closed-door meeting at the Capitol with Dayton and key Minneapolis and suburban leaders. The Southwest tunnel plan is the same as one approved by a panel of metro leaders last fall that Dayton put on hold … .”

For MPR, Laura Yuen says, “Planners also recommend taking the trains and a popular bike path over a water channel, rather than building a deeper tunnel under the waterway, the Met Council said Monday. … The Met Council staff also recommends keeping the terminus at Mitchell Road in Eden Prairie. Last fall, an advisory board to the project voted to shorten the line to save money. A key vote by a group of metro leaders is scheduled for Wednesday.”

Because she still has so much left to do … Mark Zdechlik of MPR reports, “Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is not running for re-election, but that doesn’t mean she’s done raising money. After essentially going dormant for almost a year, Bachmann’s political action committee, MichelePAC, is again sending out email fundraising solicitations. Some MichelePAC donors, though, might be surprised by what their money is being spent on. … unlike the money candidates raise for their campaigns, leadership PAC money can be spent on virtually anything. The only restriction on leadership PAC money is that candidates can’t promote their own campaigns with it. ‘They have turned into slush funds’, said [Paul Ryan, director of the Campaign Legal Center]. ‘We think it’s a ridiculous use of donor money.’ “

Another reason to be glad you’re not in Grand Forks: Paul Walsh of the Strib says, “One can only be grateful from afar as communities in and around Grand Forks, N.D., and over the border into Minnesota are in line for 10 to 14 inches of snow Monday and another 3 to 5 by daybreak Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The blizzard recipe includes winds reaching speeds of nearly 50 miles per hour at the outset of the snowfall … .”

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It’ll be a big year for beans. Says Mike Hughlett of the Strib, “Minnesota farmers plan to plant more soybeans and less sugar beets this year, but the state’s corn acreage is expected to remain the same. … In Minnesota, farmers are expected to sow 8.6 million acres of corn and 7.4 million acres of soybeans, the latter up 10 percent from a year ago. Minnesota is one of the nation’s largest producers of corn and soybeans.”

KSTP-TV gives today’s MNsure functioning a low grade … Jennie Olson says, “The call center for Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace is reaching capacity and some callers aren’t getting through to agents as the midnight open enrollment deadline approaches. MNsure officials say the call center logged more than 9,600 calls by noon Monday. MNsure says that’s putting a strain on the phone system. The average wait time as of about 1 p.m. was 18 minutes, and the time on hold is expected to increase throughout the day.”

Let the buffalo roam … Paul Walsh (again) says, “After managing bison on one swath of landscape for more than a half-century, conservation officials are poised to soon introduce a second herd of the prairie beasts on state parkland, bringing the revered mammal closer to more people in Minnesota in its natural setting than ever before, officials announced Monday. About 350 acres at Minneopa State Park, just west of Mankato, will be fenced off and populated with some of the bison currently at Blue Mounds State Park … .”

If we played our cards right … Dave Peters at MPR interviews “water evangelist”/author Charles Fishman and writes, “ … Fishman thinks Minnesota should sell its water. No, not the way that you might be thinking, in a pipeline from Lake Superior to someplace in the desert like Las Vegas. But as an asset, to water-intensive industries like microchip makers, and on one big condition – that they give the water back in the same condition they take it. ‘Why the hell does Intel build microchip factories in Phoenix, where there is no water, when those factories gulp water like they were industrial scale farms?’ Fishman said the other day. ‘Why aren’t they building the microchip factories in Minnesota?’ ”

Also, a possible location for “The Walking Dead”: Duke Behnke of the Post Crescent in NE Wisconsin writes, “Fans of the CBS drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” undoubtedly will take interest in Fox Valley Technical College’s latest venture: the creation of a cold-weather body farm. A body farm is an outdoor research facility where forensic scientists place animal carcasses and donated human cadavers in various settings — in the open air, in a shallow grave or in a sleeping bag — to study the decomposition of bodies by digestive enzymes, bacteria, insects and scavengers.”