The Poplar River may finally get a break -- if the state legislature buys Gov. Mark Dayton's plan for a $4.8 million water supply and pumping system for Lutsen Mountain and the Superior National Golf Course.
He proposed $3.6 million in state bonds, matched by $1.2 million in private funding. It would give Lutsen Mountain a long-needed solution for their winter snowmaking demands. For decades, the resort has used water from the Poplar River, a small river that tumbles through the ski area and the golf course on its way to Lake Superior. It's a protected trout stream, but for years the state has allowed the resort to draw more water than is healthy for the lower reach of the river.
The Poplar River and the Superior National Golf Course. Star Tribune photo.
Last year the resort outraged fishing and conservation groups when it went to the state legislature and won special dispensation to draw as much water as it needed as the long as the flow was above 15 cubic feet per second. But then nature intervened. It's been so dry this year that river's flow in the fall was often below that level.
The resort cut a deal with the Department of Natural Resources ---- it could use the water it needed, but has to find another solution within three years.
Enter Dayton and legislators from the North Shore, who have come up with a plan that provide public bonding for a new water system that would pull water from Lake Superior. It would also provide drinking water for up to 200 homeowners in the area, plus the water for irrigation on the Superior National golf course. The private partners include Lutsen, the golf course and the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority.
Fishing the Poplar River. Star Tribune photo.