Cook County

Development stalls as permits expire

A proposed development in rural Cook County by a business connected to a controversial religious sect has apparently stalled because the required site and septic permits expired last month.

Seth Jeffs, a licensed contractor and pilot, is behind an entity known as Emerald Industries LLC of Eden Prairie, which bought 40 acres in Pike Lake and obtained a permit to build a 6,000-square-foot pole barn with living quarters. Jeffs was convicted in 2006 of concealing his brother, Warren Steed Jeffs, who was sentenced in 2011 to life in prison plus 20 years for sexually abusing underage members of his church, the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints. In 2016, Seth Jeffs pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud in connection with a federal investigation into diverting benefits to church members.

The proposed Cook County development raised alarm for neighboring residents.

Last May, the county ordered Emerald Industries to stop working on the site because of various land-use and septic permit violations. Tim Nelson, the county's land services director, said those issues were resolved last fall and the stop-work orders were lifted. However, the company failed to renew the permits, which expired in December.

"We have had no communication from him with any indication that he is planning to reapply," Nelson said, adding that if applications are submitted and meet county criteria, the permits could be reissued.

Dan Browning


Red River could see major spring flood

The Red River Valley could be on tap for major spring flooding.

Although it's too early to predict with certainty, this spring has the potential of delivering a top five, all-time flood, said Amanda Lee, a National Weather Service hydrologist. Minnesota and the Dakotas ended 2019 as the wettest on record dating back 125 years, she said.

More than 16 inches of precipitation fell in the Grand Forks area from September through December, breaking the record for that period. Farther south, Fargo got nearly 11 inches of precipitation during that time.

"It's very, very wet up here," Lee said.

The severity of flooding will depend on what happens from now until spring, she said. So far, Grand Forks has tallied 44.5 inches of snow, nearly 2 inches more than it normally receives for the entire season. Fargo has received nearly 37 inches of snow — about three-quarters of what it usually receives for the winter.

NWS hydrologists plan to issue their first flood forecast this week.

Mary Lynn Smith