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Red River has low spring crest

Inventor develops driverless tractor; serious crime drops 13% in Moorhead; vets filling college classrooms in southeast Minnesota; and more.

The Red River crested in Fargo at 17.8 feet Sunday, marking the first time since 1992 that the spring crest was below the minor flood stage of 18 feet, the National Weather Service told the Fargo Forum. Barring significant rainfall, the river should continue to fall. The Red River in Fargo hit 17.8 feet twice on Sunday, at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. By Monday afternoon, the river had dropped to 16.88 feet.

Meanwhile, a weather expert predicts the Upper Midwest should see near-normal temperatures and precipitation in this year’s growing season, writes Jonathan Knutson of Agweek, a sister publication to the Grand Forks Herald. Leon Osborne, president of Meridian Environmental Technology in Grand Forks, spoke at the 50th annual International Sugarbeet Institute in Grand Forks. Here’s how he assesses the 2012 growing season: April to mid-May: “Near-normal precipitation, near-normal temperatures.” Mid-May through June: “Above-normal precipitation, near-normal temperatures. It looks like we’ll see the vast majority of precipitation for the summer, for the growing season, occur mid-May through, probably, the mid portion of June.” July through mid-August: “Near-normal precipitation, near-normal temperatures. This looks pretty good.” Late August through September: “Near-normal precipitation, but above-normal temperatures. … We will continue to see a late growing season. That’s kind of a trend we’ve seen over the recent past and there’s no reason to think that will change in the near future. Because it does appear that has been part of a regional climate shift.”

Other predictions from Osborne: The heavy rains that have been common in the Upper Midwest “are coming to a close. … You’ll still see the potential of a 3-inch rain every now and then; those things happen. But there are going to be more of the quarter-inch, half-inch types of rains.” There’s also the chance of a “significant frost, a freeze, probably into the second week of May. I think the chance of that occurring, though, is low, but there is a risk there; maybe 10 percent to 15 percent.”

Mikkel Pates of Agweek wrote in the Herald about inventor-entrepreneur and Hopkins High graduate Terry Anderson and his quest to produce a driverless tractor. Anderson, 69, says the tractor is close to production. The driverless tractor will be powered by diesel-electric motors – the diesel engine drives an electrical generator, whose output varies the speed of the motor. A diesel-electric system could be 15 to 25 percent more efficient, he says. It will have twin diesel engines with a 400-gallon fuel tank and four electric motors in the wheels. With twin engines, the tractor can be run at 150 horsepower to serve a low-end power requirement, or “you can hook two of them together as an articulating tractor and you can have a 600 horse tractor that can compete with Case-IH, hands down,” Anderson says. The tractor can be locked in a “follow me” mode where it follows and tills behind a combine much as a hired hand would do, or farmers can install positioning transducer units around their fields that will guide the driverless tractor within fractions of an inch of accuracy.

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The number of serious crimes reported in Moorhead dropped 13 percent in 2011, a new report by Moorhead police shows. Dave Olson of the Fargo Forum writes that in 2011, 872 cases of such crimes as rape, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary were reported compared to 1,006 cases in 2010. The 2011 total was the lowest in the last 10 years. Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said the rise in some statistics were an anomaly. “An example of that is robbery,” he said. “We’re up 63 percent, but that’s because we’re in a town that generally has five to eight robberies in a year. You have 13, that’s going to really impact your figures.”

Matthew Stolle of the Rochester Post-Bulletin notes a spike in the number of veterans returning to college. In 2011 statewide, 10,644 veterans and service members were enrolled in one of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system’s 31 institutions, up 67 percent from 2008. The number of returning veterans served by the Rochester Community and Technical College jumped 26 percent from 2008 to 2010. At Riverland Community College in Austin and Albert Lea, service-related enrollment rose by 30 percent in the same period. Stolle’s story focused on Alex Kilen, 28, who served four years in the Air Force as a firefighter. He said that before he joined the Air Force, he was aimless. His military experience gave him a new focus and maturity. Now in his second year at RCTC, Kilen is married, has a house and is studying business administration with plans to transfer to Winona State University. He credits the GI Bill that pays his tuition, provides a $1,000-a-year stipend to pay for books, and a monthly living allowance that, for Kilen, translates into an $850 monthly payment that helps pay the mortgage. “If you’re going to be a full-time student and you want to do really well, it gives us the best opportunity to do that,” Kilen said.

John Cross of the Mankato Free Press writes that bald eagle sightings aren’t rare anymore.  As their numbers have rebounded during the last three decades, sighting the big birds has become commonplace. In recent weeks, scores have paused in their northerly migration to feed along the Minnesota River. While the birds along Shallow Buck Lake between Henderson and Le Sueur have been particularly attractive, other bald eagles aren’t discriminating about the kinds of neighborhoods they hang out in. Bird watchers have reported as many as 70 bald eagles some mornings loafing on or around Le Sueur’s nearby sewage settling ponds.

A former Greenbush Catholic priest appeared in a New Delhi court Monday to answer charges filed years ago in Roseau, alleging he sexually assaulted two teen girls in 2004 and 2005, writes the Associated Press and Stephen J. Lee of the Grand Forks Herald. The extradition process to return the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul from his native India to Roseau could take three months, Indian government officials told the AP. Jeyapaul, 57, has denied any wrongdoing. Each of the two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine, along with a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years. Jeyapaul first was charged in 2006 in district court in Roseau with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving Megan Peterson, who was 14 and 15 when she says the priest violently assaulted her several times in the church in Greenbush where she had gone to pray. The complaint was amended later to include a similar count against him involving a girl who was 16 at the time of similar alleged assaults. Jeyapaul was a visiting priest to the Crookston diocese in September 2004. Allegations against him came to light in 2005, but he had already returned to India, telling diocesan officials he had to visit his sick mother. Peterson won a $750,000 settlement last year after suing the Crookston diocese for negligence in hiring Jeyapaul.

Hermantown police say they’re going to start cracking down on illegal U-turns on Mall Drive near Walmart, reports the Duluth News Tribune. As part of the expansion of the Hermantown Walmart last year, Mall Drive was redesigned to allow only right turns out of the northern entrance to the store’s parking lot. A “No U-turn” sign was installed at the end of the raised median to prevent cars from making the required right turn from the parking lot and then immediately doing a U-turn to head back toward Highway 53. The Hermantown Police Department said in a news release Friday that they’ve received a number of complaints about vehicles disregarding that “No U-turn” sign, and they are going to step up enforcement at that location. Fines for making an illegal U-turn start at $135.

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James Gang member Clell Miller’s skeleton may have been hanging out for years in the Odd Fellow’s Lodge on Grand Forks, reports Jaci Smith of the Northfield News. The Northfield Historical Society may have found Clell Miller using a new process called craniofacial superimposition. The skeleton belonged to Henry Wheeler, a central figure in Northfield’s storied James-Younger Raid of 1876. Miller was one of two gang members slain during the failed attempt to rob the First National Bank. Wheeler, then a medical student home for the summer, shot and killed Miller; Anslem Manning, a local hardware merchant, shot and killed Bill Chadwell, also known as William Stiles. Based on craniofacial superimposition analyzed by three independent sources, James Bailey, a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, said the matches between the skull and a photo of Miller was “remarkable.” Craniofacial superimposition uses computer tomography scans to establish key reference points on the skull. Then a postmortem photo is superimposed over the CT scan to see how the reference points match.

Hayes Scriven, executive director at Northfield Historical Society, said this finding will reinvigorate the search for answers about the disposition of the corpses. Bailey said the skeleton they examined was discovered two years ago in Grand Forks. Wheeler, who practiced medicine there for many years, purportedly donated the skeleton to the local Odd Fellows when he retired. The skeleton was discovered during an Odd Fellows’ auction in the mid 1980s and was obtained by a private collector. It has long been thought that the two corpses were shipped to Wheeler’s medical school to be used as cadavers. Miller’s relatives asked that his body be returned and a body was shipped to Missouri and buried in Kearney, Mo. However, Wheeler is reported to have claimed a skeleton in his office was Miller’s.