Northern Natural Gas, Inc. began the process of installing a new 20-inch-diameter gas pipeline in southern Eagan to deliver fuel to the Xcel Energy Black Dog Power Plant in Burnsville, which is moving away from using coal in favor of natural gas.

The pipeline will start in Eagan’s southeastern corner, near Lebanon Hills Regional Park, and continue northwest to Northern Natural Gas’ Cedar Station at the intersection of Hwy. 77 and Hwy. 13, according to an Eagan news release.

The company must increase the pressure of natural gas being delivered to the station and a new pipeline will enable that, said Mike Loeffler, spokesman for Northern Natural Gas.

Workers began felling trees in late January. Pipeline installation will likely begin in April and continue through summer, Loeffler said. Plans include constructing approximately 7.8 miles of pipeline at a predicted cost of $47 million, he said, though the cost could change slightly as construction proceeds.

Based in Omaha, Northern Natural Gas operates an interstate natural gas pipeline extending from Texas to the Upper Midwest. The system includes 14,700 miles of pipeline in all.

Erin Adler

Northfield

DCTC, Post get $260K grant for training

Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) and Post Consumer Brands accepted a $260,000 Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP) grant that will help fund a new training program at the Post plant in Northfield.

Post hosted a grant-signing event at the plant on Feb. 16 that Northfield Mayor Rhonda Pownell and members of the Northfield Economic Development Authority and the Northfield Chamber of Commerce attended, along with DCTC and Post representatives, according to a Post news release.

Post and DCTC are teaming up to train 70 maintenance technicians at the Northfield facility. The program covers electrical training, programmable logic control systems, robotics and predictive and autonomous maintenance training. Indirectly, 250 employees will benefit.

MJSP is a state agency that funds training programs at Minnesota colleges for employees of Minnesota companies. The combined investment in the program by multiple parties will total $1 million over three years, the Post release said.

Post is the third-largest cereal company in the country with headquarters in Lakeville, according to its website.

Erin Adler

Dakota County

Sixty refugees arrived in county in 2016

According to a Health Department report, 3,186 refugees came to Minnesota in 2016 and 60 of them settled in Dakota County.

Statewide, there were more refugees from Somalia than any other place, with a total of 1,425 arrivals. The same was true in Dakota County, which welcomed 18 refugees from Somalia.

Burmese and Ethiopian refugees were among the top five nationalities arriving in Minnesota, with 658 and 291 individuals, respectively. Both groups were also in Dakota County’s top five nationalities of origin — 13 people from Ethiopia and six people from Burma (previously known as Myanmar) came to the county in 2016.

But Dakota County is now home to six refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and eight from Ukraine, nationalities that weren’t as highly represented statewide in 2016 as they were among Dakota County’s totals.

During the 2016 fiscal year, about 85,000 refugees entered the country, according to the Pew Research Center. The Democratic Republic of the Congo contributed the highest number that year, at 16,370. Syria came in second, with 12,587 refugees, followed by Burma, Iraq and Somalia, the Pew Research Center said.

California, Texas and New York accepted nearly a quarter of all refugees in fiscal year 2016, taking in a combined 20,738 refugees. Other states receiving more than 3,000 refugees include Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Minnesota ranks eighth per capita in the number of refugees accepted in 2016, the Pew Research Center said.

Erin Adler

Dakota County

Board OKs $4.2M contract for Byllesby Dam

Dakota County commissioners approved a $4.2 million contract with Voith Hydro Inc. to design and fabricate new turbine and generator equipment for the Byllesby Dam.

The contract was approved at the Feb. 13 physical development committee meeting and will appear on the consent agenda at a future County Board meeting for final approval.

The county will replace the dam’s existing three horizontal turbines with two vertical turbines. The structure won’t produce power for a year but dam operators will manage water levels and the rest of the facility during that time, said Josh Petersen, senior water resources engineer with the county.

The county owns the 107-year-old Byllesby Dam, which separates Lake Byllesby from the Cannon River, and runs its federally-regulated hydroelectric facility. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission classifies the structure as a “high hazard” because if it failed, extensive damage to humans and property would occur in the Cannon Falls area.

The county has funded fixes to the aging dam totaling about $12 million in recent years. The Legislature authorized $6 million in state bonding money in 2017 to help fund the dam’s upgrades. The improvements are estimated to total $14 million and are included in both the county’s 2017-2021 and 2018-2022 capital improvement project (CIP) budgets.

Erin Adler

Cottage Grove

Koerner named new public safety director

Cottage Grove Police Capt. Pete Koerner is the city’s new public safety director effective Saturday, succeeding the retired Craig Woolery. He will be sworn into office on March 7.

Koerner has been with the Cottage Grove police since 1992, when he began as a community services officer. He became a patrol officer in 1995, detective in 2002, sergeant in 2003 and deputy director and captain in 2006. He has held many special assignments, including SWAT crisis negotiator and negotiations commander, instructor in the use of force and Taser, and multifamily officer.

Kevin Giles