St. Louis County is set to receive about $900,000 in federal money to mitigate wildfire risk.

The U.S. Forest Service chose the county as one of 100 nationwide to receive a portion of nearly $200 million through the Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program.

The money will assist fire departments, lake and road associations and township boards in the highest wildfire risk areas in the county, going toward planning and education, along with reducing things like underbrush that can fuel a wildfire.

The county has for years participated in the Firewise program, which assists private property owners with land adjacent to federal land by helping them reduce wildfire risk. The new money will broaden the scope of the program.



MnDOT awards $7 million for rail improvement projects

Nine grants totaling nearly $7 million were awarded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation on Wednesday to fund railway improvement projects across the central and southern parts of the state.

The grants range from $322,000 to support bridge fixes in the Renville County city of Morton to nearly $2 million to improve and expand rail access at a refrigerated facility in the Rice County city of Dundas.

The grants, which were selected among 15 applications requesting nearly $15 million, use funding approved during the 2021 legislative session. Peter Dahlberg, MnDOT transportation planning director for rail and freight programs, said in a statement that the program will support local economic development.

"The number of applications received again this winter continues to show the strong demand for improving freight rail infrastructure throughout the state," he said. "Better rail service gives local Minnesota businesses more opportunities to compete in global and national markets."

The grants also include $1.2 million to install a rail loop to connect an existing rail line in Lansing (Mower County), $1 million to expand and improve railyard efficiency in Delavan (Faribault County), $641,000 to install a new system to load rail cars at a facility in Stewart (McLeod County), $536,000 to modernize an abandoned rail spur in Ortonville (Big Stone County) and $370,000 to upgrade rail track to accommodate higher volumes in Breckenridge (Wilkin County).

Two of the awarded projects will serve larger metro areas: $600,000 to upgrade a stretch of track to accommodate heavier railcars at the Minnesota Commercial Railway in New Brighton and $381,000 to modernize rail and improve a concrete grade crossing at Northern Lines Railway in St. Cloud.