The Red Lake Band of Chippewa will battle a rural opioid epidemic with the help of almost $13 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The funds include almost $5 million to build a new chemical dependency treatment center on the reservation. The band will receive $2.8 million to construct a fire hall in Red Lake and another $2.2 million loan to construct a fire hall in Ponemah. A final $3 million direct loan will help the band expand its dialysis center.

Red Lake, located in northern Beltrami County, has been fighting a flood of illicit drugs and prescription narcotics abuse on the reservation.

The Red Lake Department of Public Safety earlier this year described its community as “infested with drug related activity similar to large and immensely populated communities.” Public safety officers made 140 drug arrests in 2015 alone.

Jennifer Brooks


St. Cloud

Water pros raise a glass to city’s ‘crisp, clean’ water

The best-tasting water in Minnesota this year is coming out of taps in St. Cloud.

The city won the Best in Glass competition at the Minnesota section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) conference in Duluth last week.

St. Cloud’s water will enter the association’s international competition in Philadelphia in June, said Jon Eaton, AWWA’s Minnesota section director.

St. Cloud’s water won last week after conference attendees narrowed samples from 11 municipalities to the top four, with a panel of judges selecting the winner. Samples were not identified by city.

“When you do water taste tests, you’re looking for any irregularities,” Eaton said. “What you’re really looking for is crisp, clean, clear, tasteless, odorless water.”

St. Cloud’s winning taste was not an anomaly. It won a similar competition by popular vote at the State Fair this year, Eaton said.

Pam Louwagie


Community solar garden is under construction

A groundbreaking was held last week for a new community solar garden complex in Cold Spring, the first of two planned in the coming year by Mortenson Construction of Golden Valley and Colorado-based SunShare.

The Solar Energy Jobs Act, passed by the Legislature in 2013, allows Minnesotans to access locally produced solar energy through community solar gardens, even if they don’t have an individual solar power unit on their residence. Customers who subscribe to a solar garden continue to receive energy from their usual provider, but get a solar credit on their bill.

The Cold Spring complex, with three solar gardens, is expected to be in operation early next year.

The group also plans to build another complex next year in Norwood Young America with five solar gardens.