Continued flooding along the Mississippi River is keeping barge traffic from reaching St. Paul, making 2019 the latest start to the navigation season in 50 years of record keeping.

This year’s late start breaks the record set last year when ice on Lake Pepin kept barge traffic at bay until April 11. This year, the ice broke free on March 29, said Patrick Loch, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District. But flooding in Illinois and Iowa has kept some locks and dams closed.

A barge in Davenport was expected to make it to St. Paul this weekend unless flooding forces a change in plans, Loch said.

Mary Lynn Smith


Expanded summer hours for lift bridge

The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge will have an expanded summer schedule this year to keep vehicle traffic flowing better in Canal Park and Park Point. The city and U.S. Coast Guard agreed to switch to the schedule on March 16th and use it all the way to December 31. Typically, the schedule started the Tuesday before Memorial Day and ended the Tuesday after Labor Day.

The summer schedule means the bridge will be raised on the hour and half-hour from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on request overnight. It will also be raised at all times for government vessels, large commercial vessels and other exceptions including emergencies.

The expanded schedule will allow for better planning and spacing of bridge lift requests, streamlining traffic in nearby neighborhoods, city officials said.

Pam Louwagie

New Ulm

Goats to clear out weeds at state park

A tribe of 59 voracious goats has been set loose within Flandrau State Park to munch on invasive plants including buckthorn, garlic mustard and dame’s rocket. The section of park the goats will inhabit includes extremely steep and hilly terrain where earlier efforts to control the plants were unsuccessful.

“We’ve tried burns, we’ve tried pulling them by hand,” said Dan Ruiter, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We thought this might be a good option.”

The goats will roam a 22-acre section in three contiguous parcels cordoned off with an electric fence. They’ll remain for the summer. A goat herder will check on the animals, and a guard donkey or guard llama was planned to help the goats fend off attacks from predators. Visitors should not approach the goats, park staff said.

Matt McKinney