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State releases long-anticipated waterway buffers map

ALSO: Tornadoes touch down; Watkins (and other) residents recovering from storm; strawberries are looking better than ever; a utility-bill phone scam; and more.


The state released a map of buffer requirements on Tuesday.
Minnesota DNR

In an effort to keep pollution from running into lakes and rivers, Minnesota now requires landowners to plant buffers along waterways. Where and how deep those buffers need to be was uncertain until Tuesday, when the state released a map of buffer requirements. Don Davis of the Forum newspapers reports that the buffers of perennial vegetation must be an average of 50 feet wide along waterways or 16.5 feet along ditches. The map charts more than 90,000 miles of buffer-required lands. The buffer law is meant to curb water pollution where chemicals run off cropland.

At least four tornadoes were spotted in Central Minnesota Monday. The St. Cloud Daily Times reports that the National Weather Service says the affected areas include Watkins, where about 50 people were evacuated from a nursing home, along with reports of damage in Luxemburg and Maine Prairie townships plus Rockville and St. Nicholas. Rain totals included 7.18 inches in Sartell, 6.23 inches in Rice and 4.62 inches in Sauk Rapids. The Rum River in Milaca had risen to the bandshell at Recreation Park, said city manager Greg Lerud.

About 25 homes and five businesses were damaged in Watkins and Meeker County, including 12 homes that sustained major damage. The Times’ Jenny Berg reports that Tootz Tschumperlin lost the roof to her house in Watkins in the storm. “It’s just like they always say, that you hear that roar,” Tschumperlin said. Dolores Faber, 84, fractured her vertebrae during the storm in addition to losing the roof of her house. She is now in the St. Cloud Hospital. Her son, Tim, said she was injured when part of a wall or ceiling fell on her. “It’s good news, bad news. The wall that fell on her probably saved her life,” he said.

It looks like a record year for strawberries up north. Kier Zimmerman of the Duluth News Tribune writes that local growers say the perfect combination of moisture and sunlight are producing a bumper crop. “There are lots of berries, and moisture has been perfect,” said Stuart Lavalier of Lavalier’s Berry Patch outside Grand Rapids. Fred Erickson of Erickson Orchards in Bayfield agrees: “If everything goes well, this will be a record year. This year has just a beautiful crop (of berries).” He said an early spring was the main catalyst. “We normally don’t start (picking ripe berries) until the Fourth of July. We started picking on June 22,” he said.

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Some businesses in Austin and Albert Lea are sweating the increase in the minimum wage. Alex Smith of the Austin Daily Herald reports that some businesses say the Aug. 1 hike from $9 to $9.50 per hour (it was $6.15 in 2014 and hadn’t changed since 2005) will dig into their profits, meaning cutbacks in hours and staffing along with increases in prices to customers. Austin Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sandy Forstner predicted the “costs will be passed onto consumers as much as can be.” Organizations that thrive on people new to the job market like the Austin YMCA and Austin Parks and Recreation Department will try to cut back in other areas like utilities, but ultimately may raise rates or hire fewer people.

Moorhead cops are taking a dim view of a woman who called 911 and reported a crime just to hasten the removal of a guy she didn’t want in her apartment. Dave Olson of the Fargo Forum reports that Kimberly L. McKnight, 21, of Moorhead has been charged with lying to dispatchers. She allegedly called 911 on July 9 to say two men were fighting in her apartment and some of her property was missing. Police rushed to the area only to discover two men and a woman standing on a street corner in the neighborhood. They found no fight and no missing property. McKnight allegedly told officers she stated those things to elicit a quicker response by police because she called the day before to have a male removed from her property and didn’t like how long it took. McKnight faces charges of placing a fictitious emergency call and falsely reporting a crime.

Austin Utilities and Freeborn-Mower Cooperatives Services are warning customers of a phone scam asking for utility payments. Alex Smith of the Austin Daily Herald reports that police have fielded complaints that callers are stating they represent Austin Utilities or the coop and are threatening to turn off utilities unless bills are paid today. Mark Nibaur of Austin Utilities said if utilities are at risk of being shut off, people would first receive a written notice and would be informed on their bill.

The Blue Earth County Board is eyeing a countywide curfew for juveniles. Brian Arola of the Mankato Free Press reports that the county is considering two curfews: Those 12 and under wouldn’t be allowed in public between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., while those age 13 to 17 would face a curfew between 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. County Attorney Pat McDermott said the curfew would keep kids out of trouble and also eliminate curfew discrepancies between different municipalities. Exceptions would be made for juveniles accompanied by an adult, returning from a job, school or religious activity, or responding to an emergency situation.