Dateline Minnesota briefs: Red River tour boat awash in red tape

  • Updated: March 22, 2014 - 5:06 PM


Red River tour boat awash in red tape

Red tape has grounded a storied Red River tour boat.

The S.S. Ruby plied the waters of the Red River for more than a decade, manned by the Fargo-based conservation group River Keepers.

But new Coast Guard regulations made it all but impossible for the group to continue operating the tours and it has announced plans to sell the Ruby.

“We’re sad, but that’s life,” said Bob Backman, executive director of River Keepers, which plans to offer other alternatives, like bike, fishing or canoe tours of the river.

The Ruby was always more a labor of love than a profitmaking venture. Tickets were $7 per person and the tours were rarely full, Backman said.

There were only a few qualified crew able, or willing, to work the cruises, and when the Coast Guard handed down new safety regulations this year — including one that required would-be captains to take 10 days of classes at the nearest training center in Duluth — the pool of willing captains shrank to almost none.

“We’d be asking them to take days off work, to spend thousands of dollars of their own money, to come to work for us for $10 or $11 an hour,” Backman said.


Surplus crop program running out of money

A state program that helps Minnesota farmers share their surplus crops with food shelves is about to run out of money.

House Agriculture Policy Committee Chair Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, hopes the state will spend $1.5 million a year to keep the program going. Her bill has bipartisan support in the Legislature.

“It is a win-win-win,” Poppe said. “The farmers win, the food shelves win and the families who receive those benefits … they also win.”

The farm-to-food shelf program gives farmers someplace to send surpluses like the ones they saw after last summer’s long, warm growing season, or have produce the grocery stores won’t accept — like crooked cucumbers. The program reimburses them for the cost of harvesting and shipping the surplus. Second Harvest officials estimate that $1.5 million would translate into more than 10 million pounds of fresh food for the needy statewide.


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