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Hibbing hopes new airport terminal attracts more travelers

ALSO: Study to examine potential impacts of pine-to-potatoes plan; work begins on improved library in Jackson; creek contributing Lake Wakanda problems will undergo refit; and more.

Hibbing officials hope their spiffy new airport terminal will draw more travelers. Lisa Kaczke of the Duluth News Tribune writes that features of the Range Regional Airport, which opened last month, was designed to feel like home to Northlanders. Design features include a multicolored floor in brown to represent taconite and white for snow and ice, with blue rivers to lead passengers to the gate and baggage areas. Grass and reeds are encased in glass panels while stone from the Hoyt Lakes area lines the walls. Wooden doors represent the timber industry and exposed steel beams represent the iron in the Iron Range. The mounted bear from the previous terminal has returned, joined by several mounted moose heads. The Chisholm-Hibbing Airport Authority Board says the $11.6 million project more than doubled the previous 8,900-square-foot terminal, where the 30,000 passengers who travel through the airport each year retrieved their luggage on the sidewalk outside the building and disembarked from planes via stairs rather than an enclosed boarding walkway. The new terminal is phase two of a three-phase, $18 million project that includes a completed renovation of the taxiway and a future renovation of the passenger loading/unloading area. 

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The “pines-to-potatoes” project has seen the effects of cooler heads. Archie Ingersoll of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that the Land Stewardship Project, Pesticide Action Network and Toxic Taters are willing to work with the DNR and developer R.D. Offutt Co., of Fargo on a study that would examine the impact of RDO’s plan to clear pine land in Cass, Hubbard, Becker and Wadena counties to grow potatoes. Of concern is the Pinelands Sands Aquifer, a region with sandy soil that’s vulnerable to water contamination. The company initially asked for permits to dig 54 irrigation wells, but has since reduced that number to five.

If all goes well, we can change the name of our football team from Vikings to The 16ers. John Myers of the News Tribune has an update on the long-simmering gold mining business in Northern Minnesota. The DNR says more gold has been found in surface rock near Soudan. The quality of the gold suggests that it’s actually in the rock and not the product of glacial movement, which the DNR hopes will entice a private company to begin drilling and buying mineral rights. The latest cluster is just south of the Eagles Nest lakes, Myers reports, adding that it’s been known for more than a century that there’s some gold in the area but it’s really hard to dig up. With gold trading at about $1,100 per ounce Monday, perhaps that will change.

After more than a decade of planning, construction has begun on a ramped-up public library in Jackson. Gordy Moore of the Worthington Daily Globe reports that the library will gain 1,500 square feet as well as extensive renovations. Jackson County Library Director Tamara Erickson said the library is getting new carpet, a paint job, a new vestibule to the parking lot, new furniture and some new bookshelves, more seating space for laptop users and an increase in the number of public computers from five to 10. About half of the $1.2 million project is paid through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education with the city picking up the rest of the tab while the county pays for some of the furnishings.

 A creek that contributes to problems in Lake Wakanda will undergo a $155,000 refit courtesy of a Clean Water grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Tom Cherveny of the West Central Tribune writes that when it rains, Kandi Creek becomes a torrent due to its 52-foot drop along its 5.3-mile course from Kandiyohi to Lake Wakanda. This adds sediment from the creek bank to an already heavy load of dirt, sand and nutrients from streets, yards and fields. It all contributes to Lake Wakanda’s designation as “impaired’’ by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The grant will be used to slow down the creek with an in-channel grade structure so the drop in elevation can be more measured. Adding 50 acres of riparian buffers to capture sediment and nutrients will also slow the waters before they reach the creek. Creating two water and sediment basins along the creek will also help. Lake Wakanda, a shallow lake of 1,754 acres, absorbs 35 tons of sediment and 142.8 tons of phosphorus each year from all sources. Efforst to clean Wakanda and the other lakes in the chain — Little Kandiyohi, Swan, Kasota, Minnetaga and Big Kandiyohi – are ongoing and although there is no easy fix, organizers and state officials said they are hopeful that by taking each factor one at a time, the chain of lakes can become cleaner and more useful to residents.