Sign of spring: First ice-out declared this season

Just maybe, finally, spring is on its way in Minnesota.

The state's first ice-out report was recorded Friday on Lake Pepin, signaling the start of the meltdown — though it arrived three weeks later than the median ice-out of March 31.

This year's extended winter has drastically delayed ice-out on the state's lakes. The spring milestone is usually recorded on southern Minnesota lakes at the end of March or early April, with Budd Lake, a small lake near the Iowa border, often one of the first to have open water. Instead, Budd Lake will set a record this year for its latest ice-out, breaking the record set on April 15, 2008.

More records could follow thanks to a blizzard that made this month the snowiest April on record for the Twin Cities and set lowest high temperature records for the day in cities from Duluth to Rochester.

Ice-out is one of Minnesota's much-anticipated signs of spring and marks the nearing of the boating season. Lake restaurants and organizations hold annual contests to predict ice-outs.

Lake Pepin's latest ice-out was set in 1843 on May 20.

To check all ice-out reports, go to dnr.state.mn.us/ice_out.



Communities ask judge to lift injunction

A government agency attempting to build a flood diversion project along the Red River has asked a federal judge to partly lift an injunction on the project.

U.S. District Chief Judge John Tunheim halted the $2.1 billion flood diversion project last year. It has pitted Minnesota against the Army Corps of Engineers and several communities along the Red River.

Gov. Mark Dayton's administration has argued that the dam is a safety risk and a violation of state environmental law. The project as originally proposed would see Minnesota lose thousands of acres of farmland, while North Dakota would gain land for development around Fargo. The state Department of Natural Resources has not issued permits that the judge deemed necessary for work to continue.

The Flood Diversion Board of Authority said it wants to build a levee and lift station near Fargo and finish other infrastructure work near Oxbow, N.D. The state of Minnesota has no objections to the work, it was reported.

The plan includes a ring dike around three small North Dakota towns, a 36-mile diversion channel and a high-hazard dam to protect river communities from chronic flooding.

matt mckinney


School district picks new superintendent

The Bemidji Area Schools board voted unanimously last week to negotiate a contract with Tim Lutz, the superintendent of Kelliher Public School, a 250-student school in Beltrami County.

Lutz, who will become Bemidji's superintendent July 1 pending contract approval, replaces Jim Hess, who announced last fall that he is retiring from his job in the 5,000-student district.