St. Louis County finishes flood repairs

It took more than three years, but the reconstruction of Highland Street in West Duluth marks the completion of repairs from the devastating flood of 2012 — at least on the county level.

St. Louis County officials celebrated the milestone Thursday. Flood recovery efforts included replacing 20 bridges and repairing 54, and repairing 843 damaged sites involving 1,400 miles of county roads.

Costs totaled $50 million, with most funding coming from flood bonds from the state and federal assistance.

The county is working with federal and state agencies to identify other flood problem spots so it can apply for other federal funding to mitigate them.

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie


Planning a year in the Boundary Waters

A pair of adventurers is proposing to spend a year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to draw attention to proposed sulfide-ore copper mining nearby.

Dave and Amy Freeman made news late last year after paddling, sailing and portaging a canoe 2,000 miles from the Boundary Waters to Washington, D.C., to petition the federal government to protect the wilderness from mining.

Now they are hoping to fund a year of living in the wilderness through online-voting for a $10,000 prize from Nexen Tire, which is holding a Canoe & Kayak Dream Your Adventure Contest.

The couple plans to camp at 120 different sites and travel more than 3,000 miles, Amy Freeman wrote on their contest entry, saying "it is about bearing witness to the very land and water we are fighting to protect."

Their trip is scheduled to begin Sept. 23.

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie


Study to test support for doubling library

Rochester Public Library officials are embarking on a feasibility study to gauge community support to expand the city's downtown library.

The proposal would remodel two existing floors and nearly double the building's size by adding two floors, or 80,000 square feet.

The library would seek funding from local governments along with donations from businesses, nonprofits and others for the estimated $47 million to $50 million upgrade.

"One of the biggest things we have come to realize is libraries aren't just books anymore. We have found that they have become community gathering spaces," said communications manager John Hunziker.

Some groups can't afford to rent other spaces and don't feel comfortable gathering in places such as churches, he said: "Libraries are perceived as nonjudgmental and nonpartisan and nonreligious."

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie