Concerns raised about water supply in Red River Valley

Lack of rainfall is causing grave water supply concerns in the Red River Valley.

You heard it right: Lack of rainfall may mean drought contingency plans in the Grand Forks area. Ryan Bakken of the Grand Forks Herald writes that the Red Lake River has fallen to levels not seen since 1989. While recent precipitation moved the gauges from 6 percent to 11 percent of normal as of late last week, both Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are eyeing drought contingency plans. Also, the river levels have retriggered a proposal to bring Missouri River water to the Red River Valley by “diverting treated Missouri River water eastward from the McClusky Canal via a buried pipeline to Lake Ashtabula, which would act as a reservoir. From there, water would be released into the Sheyenne River and flow into the Red River. But talk has waned in the last five years along with the lack of urgency,” Bakken wrote. Is there a chance of flooding next spring? National Weather Service climate forecaster Mark Ewens says fall soil moisture is at the lower end of the scale of factors. “The biggest risk factors in the Red River Valley are the snowmelt and any precipitation at the time of the snowmelt,” he said. Stay tuned.

Jerome Christenson of the Winona Daily News has the story: Guy walks into Cheaters Bar at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, says he’s with the state and he needs to audit the bar’s pulltab boxes. They give him the boxes and the cash. After a bit, he excuses himself, saying he forgot something in his car. Both the man and the money have yet to be found. The amount of money stolen hasn’t been released. The man is described as about 45 years old, 220 pounds, with a scruffy, graying beard but no mustache.

About 600 Mankato Area Public Schools students are trying out a newer teaching method called the flipped classroom model, writes Amanda Dyslin of the Mankato Free Press. “Basically, rather than students receiving lessons at school and going home to complete assignments, the teaching method is reversed. Students watch guided videos at home to learn new material and then teachers help them with the practical application of that material in the classroom,” Dyslin writes. This allows teachers to determine which students understand the material, which students need more practice, and which didn’t understand at all. Tracy Brovold, online learning and technology integration specialist for the district, said the method helps students better understand the lessons. When watching the videos, they can rewind and replay parts they need to hear again. They can’t easily do that in the classroom. All eighth-grade Algebra 1 classes are using the technique this year. Dakota Meadows Middle School eighth-grade algebra teacher Ethan Anderson said the videos take 15 minutes at the most to complete whereas before, students could spend an hour on a homework assignment and still not quite understand it. Anderson’s students like the new method. Mankato may expand the method next year to seventh grade.

About 18 percent of children age birth through grade 12 in the New Ulm school district receive special-education services, River Bend Special Education District Erin Toninato told the District 88 Board of Education during its work session. Kremena Spengler of the New Ulm Journal writes that the number is “consistent with statewide numbers and marks a significant increase from the late 1980s when it was about 13 percent.” While the reasons behind this growth have not been clearly identified, specialists point to changing family dynamics — children coming to school with more “baggage,” from fragmented environments — and also to more precise identification. A significant part of the growth in special education is attributable to the increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit disorders, Toninato said.

When Ford announced it was retiring the trusty Crown Victoria – most police departments’ interceptor of choice – cops had to search for a new ride. In Fairmont, they settled on the Ford Utility Police Interceptor, based on the Ford Explorer model, writes Jenn Brookins of the Fairmont Sentinel. “The Crown Victoria was past its prime as newer vehicles go,” said Fairmont Police Chief Greg Brolsma. Ford stopped making the Crown Vic in 2007. Fairmont Police Sgt. Lowell Spee, fleet manager for the police department, said “we kept on using Crown Victorias because we could keep using the existing equipment. It saved on costs.” The final decision was to switch to a Ford Utility Police Interceptor, based on the Ford Explorer but designed specifically for law enforcement.

“There is a long list of selling points, and I found I kept saying, ‘Really?’ a lot,” Brolsma said. “With these vehicles constantly on the go, the Crown Vics get about 10 miles per gallon. That’s with all the idle time and go time. So far we’ve gone about 7,200 miles in the Utility, and it has a digital monitor, and it shows an average of 14.2 miles per gallon. It may not sound good compared to private-use vehicles, but that’s remembering that these vehicles are constantly going. We put on a lot of miles and we have quick performance needs. Our primary squad cars put on 2,500 to 3,000 miles a month, so we hit 100,000 miles in about three years.” Other selling points include a bigger back seat and wider back doors to deal with larger and combative transports. The cages installed include a divider to keep two transports in the back separate from each other. 

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