The Red Lake Band of Chippewa is going solar.

The tribe launched an ambitious green energy initiative last week that could cut its energy costs by $2 million a year. Solar panels will soon go up on some of the largest structures on the reservation, including the band’s government buildings, hospital, college and the Seven Clans casinos at Red Lake, Warroad and Thief River Falls.

To the band, solar energy offers not only a clean source of power, but a chance for energy and economic independence, said community development director Eugene McArthur.

The initial solar panel installation will cost between $10 million and $30 million, he said. By the end of the year, the band hopes to begin work on solar energy farms and, eventually, to start its own solar energy plant and solar panel fabrication facilities.

Jennifer Brooks @twitter



Red River flood risk low thanks to mild winter

The risk of spring floods along the Red River of the North looks low so far, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.

The north-flowing Red is a perennial springtime risk to communities such as Moorhead and Fargo, N.D., when warmer weather in the south sends meltwater up to still-icy areas in the north. The Red has flooded 49 of the past 111 years, most recently in 2013. In 2009, it took millions of sandbags to protect Fargo when the water crested above 40 feet.

This year’s mild winter means there hasn’t been much of a snowpack, reducing the risk of ice jams and flooding this spring, hydrologists report.

The next forecast from the North Central River Forecast Center is expected on March 3.




Sewage plan gets a lift from federal government

A sewer project designed to keep contaminants from seeping into lake water in Voyageurs National Park got a key piece of funding recently when the federal government agreed to pitch in $4.5 million.

The commitment, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will go toward the $17 million Island View Sanitary Sewer Extension project, designed to protect water in Rainy Lake. It’s part of larger efforts to keep water clean in the park that will include separate systems to prevent untreated water from seeping into other lakes and rivers.

In addition to the federal money, the Island View project has funding commitments from the state government and Koochiching County, which will assess local residents. The new sewer system will replace existing individual septic systems, many of which are considered ineffective because rocky shorelines prohibit proper ground filtration.

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie