Pipeline opponents plan rally at Nolan's office

Activists plan to rally outside the downtown Duluth office of U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., on Monday against proposed oil pipelines they fear could endanger habitats around Minnesota reservations.

"We're coming together to send a strong message to Enbridge [Energy]: they need to work toward a just solution instead of fighting to build their dirty energy pipelines on our land," Fond du Lac band member and protest organizer Debra Topping said in a statement. "Building these pipelines and destroying our water and wild rice is cultural genocide."

Groups like Honor the Earth oppose plans for Enbridge Energy pipelines through Minnesota, including the $2.9 billion Sandpiper line, which would carry crude from North Dakota to Superior, Wis. The rally is planned for 12:45 p.m. at Nolan's Duluth district offices.

A Nolan spokesman said the congressman supports pipelines as a safer alternative to shipping oil by rail or truck, but "we look forward to hearing what they have to say."

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks

Hubbard County

USDA steers disaster aid to 4 Minnesota counties

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated four Minnesota counties, still struggling to recover from cold weather damage, as natural disaster areas last week.

Farmers and ranchers in Hubbard, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties now qualify for natural disaster assistance for losses and damage suffered by winterkill.

"Our hearts go out to those Minnesota farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Wednesday.

Farmers in neighboring counties — Becker, Clearwater, Mille Lacs, Beltrami, Crow Wing, Otter Tail, Benton, Douglas, Stearns and Cass — can also apply for USDA loans to cover part of their weather-related losses. Each application will be evaluated on its own merits.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks


State identifies counties with most DWI incidents

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has identified the 25 counties in the state that racked up the most serious drunken-driving incidents over the past three years.

Crowded metro areas like Hennepin County led the list, but the state added six new outstate counties to the high-risk list: Aitkin, Le Sueur, Freeborn, Rice, Winona and Kandiyohi.

The fact that a county made the high-risk list is the bad news. The good news is that the counties will receive increased federal funding for DWI enforcement for the next year. The list was compiled from three years' worth of statistics about drunk driving-related deaths and serious injuries.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks