Minnesota agriculture officials have put Steele County under an emergency quarantine to limit the movement of ash trees, limbs and hardwood firewood after officials recently found the emerald ash borer there.

Nineteen Minnesota counties, including Steele, are under quarantine along with the southeast corner of St. Louis County, according to Allen Sommerfeld, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The quarantines limit the spread of the invasive beetle that infests and kills ash trees.

A meeting to brief residents about the beetle and plans for a formal quarantine will be held in the boardroom at the Steele County Administration Building from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 1.

Mary Lynn Smith

Lake Vermilion

Low water level stops cabin mail deliveries

Abnormally dry conditions in a pocket of northern Minnesota put the mail on hold for a few Lake Vermilion cabin owners when low water prevented delivery to their docks.

The lake hasn’t been this low in several years, said John Niemiste, owner of Aronson Boat Works, which delivers mail to about 65 cabins from June 1 to Sept. 5. “We had to stop service to [some] because we didn’t feel safe taking our expensive rig in there to get to their docks,” Niemiste said.

While most of the state was wetter than normal this year, rain has missed some spots, particularly in St. Louis County. In those areas, deficits added up, said Pete Boulay, climatologist with the Minnesota Climate Office. Tower was nearly a half-inch below normal for the summer while nearby Orr and Cook were down more than 4 inches, Boulay said.

On Lake Vermilion, drier conditions meant boaters have run into hazards closer to the surface, damaging motors and propellers, Niemiste said. “You just don’t go cruising close to shore,” he said.

He and others are hoping for rain to bolster lake levels, but not as much as last year, when a cold, wet fall put a damper on the tourist season.

“The colors are starting to turn here now,” he said. “If the weather holds, we’re going to have a great fall.”

Mary Lynn Smith