Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Talks continue on oil pipeline


On October 28 the Carlton County Board of Commissioners approved a letter to Enbridge Pipeline proposing the pipeline be built on existing right-of-way routes and recognizing that a "new right-of-way through Carlton County could cause unacceptable disturbance to the environment, landowners and their unique farms, forests, and wetlands."

The Carlton County Land Stewards, a local environmental group, lauded the letter saying, "It sets the stage for a more complete discussion of concerns at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearings." The letter goes on to state, "Impacts to the environment and Carlton County landowners would be minimized by using the existing right-of-way, existing utility corridors, or other established corridors."

The use of the Soo Line Recreational Trail continues to come up in discussions of the pipeline route. The corridor already has high speed Internet cable installed. The route has a year-round road bed for construction and continuous inspection ease. The existing right-of-way has enough room for more than one pipeline.

Greg Bernu, Land Commissioner, has been the point official with Enbridge so far. Bernu questioned whether he would have a conflict of interest in this project. He owns stock in the pipeline company. His wife does a major amount of work as a subcontractor for the Enbridge firm as a forestry consultant.

Dennis Genereau, County Coordinator, commented, "The Land Commissioner has done a good job, but it would be advisable to have someone else take the lead for the county. If the project goes well, no problem. But if something goes poorly, Bernu is open to criticism and perhaps legal problems." The county board agreed and directed Planning and Zoning Officer Heather Cunningham to act as the county point person on this issue.

Bernu did comment that there is no established right-of-way east of Interstate 35 in the Mahtowa area. He explained a right-of-way inspector is provided by statute and paid $500 per construction mile. Bernu suggested that a farmer would be a choice for this position. Landowner rights are not covered by statute and each individual landowner must negotiate with the pipeline company on their own behalf.

Kay Arola, Director of Arrowhead Regional Corrections, came to ask for approval of Carlton County's $492,000 share of a $6,000,000 renovation of the NERCC (Northeast Regional Corrections). Renovation of that 150 bed minimum security facility and operating farm is supported in a joint effort by all the counties of the Arrowhead Region.

In the last 10 years, Carlton County has experienced significant overcrowding in the county jail. Due to the overcrowding, local inmates have been transported to other regional jails at a considerable cost. Boarding Carlton County inmates in out of county jails has cost more than $300,000 per year. The proposal includes an expansion of a medium security area to address these needs.

Gary Peterson, County Commissioner, asked, "Does this address the concerns of our judges on this proposal?" Dick Brenner, County Commissioner, said, "Yes." The participation in the NERCC renovation was approved.

Cunningham, in response to alleged embezzlement of large sums of money in gate fees at the Carlton Junction Transfer Station, proposed for public discussion and input ending the practice of cash payments at the gate. Check or credit card transactions will provide a paper trail to eliminate possible theft and fraud. No decision has been made. Public input is requested.

Work continues on a proposal to turn the present Carlton County Courthouse into a Judicial Center and explore plans to add onto the Transportation Building for many of the county services. DSGW, an architectural firm, was hired at $13,650 to explore options and possible outcomes. No decision has been made for a specific plan or financing packages.


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