Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Highway 75 is now open near Kent

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — (5 p.m.) The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota State Patrol re-opened Highway 75 near Kent at 5 p.m. It was closed last Thursday due to flooding.

Highways now open in west central Minnesota:

- Highway 75 near Kent

Highways open with water over the roadway in west central Minnesota:

- Highway 200 east of Mahnomen

Highways that remain closed in northwest Minnesota:
- Highway 220 from Marshall County Road 4 to Marshall County Road 5
- Highway 317

Check www.511mn.org before traveling for information on road conditions, closures and detour routes.

For additional updates, ‘like’ MnDOT at www.facebook.com/mndot, follow @mndotnews or watch for #mnflood2013 on Twitter

MDA advises consumers to be aware when buying landscaping plants

St. Paul, Minn. - The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is reminding consumers to check viability and cold hardiness before purchasing trees, shrubs and other plants for landscaping. Last summer, Minnesota state statute made it even easier for consumers to determine if a tree, shrub or other plant will successfully grow in Minnesota.

MDA defined "nonhardy" as a plant that cannot be expected to survive or reliably produce flowers and fruit in average minimum winter temperatures at the growing site. By law, all nursery stock not cold hardy for Minnesota must be labeled "nonhardy."

Already this spring, MDA nursery inspectors have found dead and damaged packaged plants, and some stores selling plants in poor condition. They have also found stores carrying plants that are mislabeled for Minnesota’s cold hardiness zones. Minnesota is generally zone 3 in the northern half of the state and zone 4 in the south.

Plants not meant for Minnesota’s climate are unlikely to thrive here, unless extra protection is provided. Fruit trees that are not hardy may survive but will not produce fruit as flower buds are killed by cold temperature.

“Consumers are protected from mislabeled or unhealthy plants by Minnesota laws we enforce,” said Geir Friisoe, MDA’s Plant Protection Division Director. “Proper care of plants displayed for sale is critical to survival. No green thumb can save a plant that has been significantly damaged in its early life stages.”

To ensure consumers are purchasing viable and hardy nursery plants, the MDA offers the following advice:

· Plan ahead and make sure the plants you select are hardy for the area where they will be planted.

· Plants in plastic bags should be kept dormant. Once growth begins these plants should be planted or potted immediately. Check for soft or mushy roots which could indicate rot.

· Dormant plants can be planted as soon as the ground has thawed. However, newly planted stock can be damaged by freezing and frost. It may be better to wait until potted plants are available instead of buying packaged plants when it may be too early to plant.

Consumers can find a Minnesota plant hardiness list and a map of Minnesota hardiness zones at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/en/licensing/licensetypes/nurseryprogram.aspx.

BBB issues an alert regarding Go Clean

Burnsville, MN – April 30, 2013 – The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is issuing an alert regarding Go Clean, a St. Louis Park-based carpet cleaning service which advertises heavily through Groupon. The company has a rating of “F” with the BBB due to a pattern of complaints and failing to respond to a recent BBB advertising challenge. Currently, 28 complaints are closed as unanswered. Many customers allege they were billed at a rate far higher than the advertised price, with others saying they were double-billed by the company.

“The company advertisements say, ‘No hidden charges,’ said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “However, time and time again consumers are telling us they hired the company to perform services at the advertised price and wound up being charged far more than that.”

In one case, an elderly consumer states she tried to use the company’s $149.95 coupon and wound up with a bill for over $1,200 – which includes a 10% senior discount the company offers.

Back in January, the BBB challenged the company to substantiate an advertising the company was running which claimed to offer a cleaning valued at $207 for $69. The company failed to respond to the BBB or provide substantiation as requested.

Recently, a number of customers have reported their credit cards were run by the company again; in some cases as much as a year after the company provided service. The BBB is encouraging all Go Clean customers, past and present, to monitor their billing statements closely and alert their credit card providers immediately if they notice suspicious or unusual charges. They may also want to consider contacting their local authorities in these instances.

To avoid potential headaches and disputes, the BBB advises the following steps customers should take when hiring a carpet cleaner:

· Be sure to check out businesses with the Better Business Bureau at 1-800-646-6222 or bbb.org.

· Remember that price does matter. While no one wants to be overcharged, extremely low prices should also set off warning signals. Companies advertising very low prices may be practicing ‘bait and switch’ advertising. Once the workers arrive in your home, they quickly push a more expensive treatment for the cleaning or refuse to conduct the cleaning at the price advertised. Ask exactly what is included in the price and be sure to get it in writing before the crew begins any work.

· Ask about potential changes that could affect the final cost of the service upfront.

· If you have a new stain, you can call your carpet cleaning company for advice before you try do-it-yourself methods or over the counter products. Feel free to ask any questions you may have about the carpet cleaning process.

· Review your carpet warranty before you have professional cleaning work performed. Be advised that certain types of cleaning products and equipment may void your warranty.

· Carpets will look better and last longer if you have them cleaned regularly. Carpet manufacturers recommend annual cleaning. A reputable cleaning company will provide excellent results.

· Ask your technician ahead of time what they do or do not move or if there are any extra charges for this service.

· Try to be at home the first time you work with a new carpet cleaning company. Be sure to identify trouble spots before they arrive and point those out to your technician.

· If a business offers a service or satisfaction guarantee, be sure to ask them to explain how they define “guarantee”.

· If a spot reappears after cleaning or there is any other problem with the cleaning, you should call within two weeks and a reputable company will address the problem.

· Ask the cleaning company if they sub-contract any work. If they do, ask for the name of the company conducting the work in your home so you have an opportunity to research that company before you agree to the service.

· Ask family, friends and neighbors for personal recommendations.

Eastbound I-94 near St. Cloud to close at 7 p.m. April 30

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – Motorists travelling eastbound Interstate 94 between St. Cloud and Clearwater should plan alternate routes and additional travel time as the single open eastbound lane temporarily closes at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30.

This unplanned closure is needed for crews to make emergency repairs to orange traffic cones, posts and other safety devices that were damaged during recent late-spring snow storms.

A 10-mile detour will direct motorist along Exit 171 to eastbound County Road 75 in St. Augusta, to southbound Highway 24 in Clearwater and back to eastbound I-94.

Eastbound I-94 will reopen as a single lane by 10 p.m. the same evening.

While westbound I-94 will not be closed during the repairs, motorists travelling both directions of the busy interstate should consider alternate routes until the road is officially reopened.

Both directions of I-94 have been reduced to a single lane between St. Cloud and Clearwater since April 3 while crews work to resurface 7.5 miles of the interstate. More information on the project, including links to traffic cams, can be found at www.mndot.gov/d3/i94.

For real-time travel information anywhere in Minnesota, check www.511mn.org.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Burning restrictions placed on 13 additional counties in central Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will place burning restrictions on
13 additional counties in central
Minnesota at 8 a.m. Monday, May 6.

These counties include Aitkin, Benton, Crow Wing, Douglas, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pope, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and southern Cass (the portion south of Highway 200).

Burning restrictions took effect April 21 in Anoka, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Pine, Ramsey, Sherburne, Washington and Wright counties.

With the return to normal and above normal temperatures over the last few days, snow is rapidly melting, exposing dry grass and brush and creating a potential for wildfires.

While weather patterns this spring have been hard to predict, the DNR anticipates that more counties will be included in the restrictions in the near future.

“If the anticipated weather pattern holds, additional counties will be added soon after May 6,” said Steve Simmer, DNR fire prevention supervisor. “I anticipate most of the northwestern and central Minnesota will lose the majority of their snow by then.”

Counties likely to be added soon will be Becker, Beltrami, Carlton, Clearwater, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Pennington, Roseau and the southeast corner of Polk (the portion south and east of County Road 6 from the Manhomen County line to state Highway 92 east to the Clearwater County line).

The DNR restricts burning during the spring between the time when snow melts and green up. This is traditionally the time when most wildfires occur. In Minnesota, most wildfires are caused by people.

Once restrictions are in place, special permits will only be written for extenuating circumstances. This may include time-sensitive construction projects and prescribed burning conducted by professional firefighters. The DNR encourages the use of composting, recycling, and chipping as alternatives to burning.

If homeowners need to burn debris, they should plan to complete it before the restrictions take effect. When burning, use extreme caution, never leave the fire unattended, have a water source available and make sure fire is completely out before leaving.

While debris burning will be curtailed, campfires, if smaller than 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet in height, will continue to be allowed. Permits aren’t required for this type of fire if it meets those conditions and is monitored until coals have cooled.

Fire conditions may change quickly. If conditions warrant, DNR foresters have the ability to restrict local burning on short notice.

For more information and maps, and to check fire conditions, see: www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.

Proposed changes in immunization rules for schools, child care

The Minnesota Department of Health is proposing to make changes in the state’s school immunization rules that would bring the law up to date with current recommendations and practices.

The proposed changes to immunization requirements for children in child care and grades pre-K-12 would:

  • Require Hepatitis A and B vaccination for children enrolling in child care or school-based early childhood programs.
  • Replace the current seventh- grade tetanus-diphtheria (Td) requirement with a vaccine that also includes pertussis (Tdap).
  • Require secondary students to have meningococcal vaccination beginning in seventh grade.

If approved, the proposed changes would take effect beginning in September 2014. They do not change the medical exemption or the option for parents to decline any or all vaccines for conscientious reasons

The department plans to adopt the changes through its rulemaking authority without a public hearing. If, however, 25 or more people submit a written request for a hearing on the rules by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 31, the department will hold a public hearing. Information on how to request a hearing or comment on the rules can be found at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/immrule/public.html. If a hearing is held, it will be conducted by Administrative Law Judge Eric L. Lipman, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 27, in room B144 Orville L. Freeman Building, 625 N. Robert St., St. Paul, MN 55155. A Notice of Intent to Adopt was published in the State Register on April 29.

Some additional proposed changes to the school and child care immunization rules make modifications in the timing of certain doses of required vaccines to match current medically acceptable standards and put early childhood programs that meet regularly for six weeks or more under the immunization rule. More details on the proposed changes are on the MDH immunizations website at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/immrule/changes.html.

The changes being proposed are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP) as well as other professional groups.

“These changes bring Minnesota’s immunization requirements up to date with current, evidence-based national immunizations recommendations,” said Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases for MDH. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure all children in Minnesota have the opportunity to be protected from these diseases that can cause serious illness or even death – but that can be prevented through simple vaccination.”

Helicopter work planned along I-94 between Alexandria and Sauk Centre

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Motorists on Interstate 94 between Alexandria and Sauk Centre may notice crews in helicopters working near the interstate starting Thursday, May 2, weather permitting.

The CapX2020 utilities will use a helicopter for work on several transmission structures that were installed along I-94. A helicopter will fly near the new transmission structures with a lineman suspended from a tethered line.

The helicopter work is expected to take about one week.

The Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Department of Transportation and the CapX2020 utilities urge motorists to avoid gawking at the helicopter work and keep moving through the work zone.

Minnesota law does not allow motorists to stop on a freeway unless it is for an emergency,” said Sgt. Jesse Grabow, Minnesota State Patrol. “Failing to comply can result in a citation and fine.”

For more information about the project, call 1-866-876-2869 or visit www.capx2020.com.

For real-time travel information anywhere in Minnesota, visit www.511mn.org or dial 5-1-1.

DOT Travel Updates - flooding

BEMIDJI, Minn. – (3:30 p.m.) The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota State Patrol closed Highway 220 from Marshall County Road 4 to Marshall County Road 5 at 1:00 p.m. due to water over the road.

Area is marked with barricades and flashing lights. Motorists are advised to avoid the area and seek alternate routes.

They will remain closed until further notice.

Highways that remain closed:
Highway 220 from Marshall County Road 4 to Marshall County Road 5
Highway 317

When a road is closed it is illegal to travel in that area. Motorists can be fined up to $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. In addition, if travelers need to be rescued from a closed road, other expenses and penalties will apply.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – (3:15 p.m.) The Minnesota Department of Transportation urges motorists to use caution on Highway 200 about 10 miles east of Mahnomen. The roadway is under water again at Twin Lake Creek. At this time Highway 200 remains open to traffic, and MnDOT crews are monitoring the situation.
Check www.511mn.org before traveling for information on road conditions, closures and detour routes.

BEMIDJI, Minn. – (12:45 p.m.) The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota State Patrol opened Highway 200 from County Road 8 to County Road 136 in Mahnomen County at 12:00 p.m.
Flooding continues to affect the area and conditions can change rapidly.
If you must travel in the northwestern Minnesota area, follow these safe driving practices:
- Check www.511mn.org before traveling for information on road conditions, closures and detour routes.
- Expect the unexpected – flash floods can occur anytime, anywhere.
- Do not drive around barricades or into flooded areas.
- If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground, if you can do so safely.
Check www.511mn.org before traveling for information on road conditions, closures and detour routes. For additional updates, ‘like’ MnDOT at www.facebook.com/mndot, follow @mndotnews or watch for #mnflood2013 on Twitter.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

IDEA Competition Announces Four Winners for 2013

BEMIDJI, MN – April 24, 2013 – The IDEA Competition announced the names of four 2013 winners on Wednesday, April 24th at the IDEA awards banquet held at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, Thief River Falls.  Each winner receives $10,000 in cash to advance their business idea, plus additional specialized technical assistance. 

The 2013 Winners are:

* Brian & Coreen Berdahl, Red Lake Falls, for Spot-Knot – a fast, easy, and economical on-the-spot slip knot tie device that is the only one of its kind in the fishing industry.

* Dr. Jack V. Lundbohm, Roseau, for Stand Alone Game Calls – an elk hunting call that allows an elk hunter to hunt alone while remotely operating a call that is set up in a second location.

* Tim and Jenny Slukynsky, Warroad, for Lamplighter Hockey – a hockey stick weight that overcomes the weaknesses of other hockey stick training tools on the market today.

* Jerry Titera, Bagley, for Hubmaster Inc. – an innovative tool that helps remove the tapered wheel hub from bobcat skidsteers for routine maintenance and repair.

The main goal of the IDEA competition is to assist promising local entrepreneurs in the commercialization of innovative products, processes and deliveries by connecting them to the best resources available, along with access to the capital it takes to launch a successful venture. 

The IDEA Hall of Fame added Mark Larson, president and chief operating officer of Digi-Key Corporation, and Ron Stordahl, founder and chief executive officer of Digi-Key Corporation.  The IDEA Hall of Fame was established to recognize the accomplishments of the region’s legacy innovators—those within the region who have inspired others with their entrepreneurial vision, leadership and achievement.

In the previous three years, 17 innovators from throughout northwestern Minnesota have received IDEA awards. Their combined economic impact includes:

  High potential innovations identified, funded, and assisted: seventeen

  Jobs created or retained as a result: forty-two

  Job creation projections: fifty or more

  Total combined sales revenues: more than $5 million

  Number of loans approved: thirteen

IDEA sponsors are 360◦ Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, Arvig, Bremer Bank of Crookston and Warren, Leonard Street and Deinard, Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Northwest Regional Small Business Development Center, and University of Minnesota Crookston.  IDEA was made possible through a generous grant from the Blandin Foundation.

Therapeutic Horsemanship Workshop Set

North Dakota State University and Riding on Angels' Wings (ROAW) are co-hosting a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International workshop on June 20-22 at NDSU and a certification program June 22-23 at ROAW.

The workshop is the first of its kind to be held in this region and is open to anyone interested in learning more about equine-assisted activities and

ROAW, of rural
Felton, Minn., is a therapeutic horseback riding program and member of Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). PATH Intl. promotes excellence in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies through instructor education, center accreditation, educational opportunities and advocacy work.

NDSU partners with ROAW and
PATH Intl. to offer minor and certificate programs in therapeutic horsemanship.

The early registration deadline for the workshop is May 17. Participants are not required to pursue certification.

For additional information about this workshop, contact Erika Berg, an assistant professor of Equine Science in NDSU's Animal Sciences Department, at
erika.berg@ndsu.edu or (701) 231-9611.

BBB Warns Students of Rental Scams

Burnsville, MN – April 25, 2013 – With the school year winding down and warmer weather just around the corner, many students are planning on moving out of college dorms or their parents’ homes to find apartments or rental homes for the summer and beyond. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is reminding students of the importance of doing their homework to ensure online listings for rental properties are legitimate and avoid falling victim to scams.

“The Internet has made it very easy to search for rental properties,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Unfortunately, it’s also made it easier for scammers to create fake ads on sites like craigslist, which attract victims with promises of low rent, only to take their security deposits and leave them on the outside looking in.”

In an effort to help students avoid rental scams, the BBB has compiled some helpful information and tips for those who are beginning their search for rental properties. Renters should be wary if:

· The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.

· The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate solely via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work - don’t believe it.

· An online listing has grammatical or spelling errors – often a sign the ad may have been created by overseas scammers not familiar with the nuances of the English language.

· You’re asked to wire money through wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram, or if you’re told the deposit or rent needs to be paid with a Green Dot MoneyPak card. Any money sent via these means is extremely difficult to trace, and there is little chance if any of getting your money back.

· The rental requires a security deposit or first month payment without meeting the landlord, inspecting the property or signing a lease. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for a property you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s actually for rent – and make sure they have access to the property to inspect its condition – inside and out. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the landlord and the property listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a sign that something is likely amiss. 

For more helpful consumer tips, visit bbb.org/us/Consumer-Tips/.

DNR reminds landowners to identify property lines prior to starting construction projects

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds homeowners and landowners living adjacent to state of Minnesota-owned lands to learn where their personal property lines are located before starting construction projects this spring.

State law prohibits construction on state land. "Any type of residential construction, such as homes, garages, drain fields, septic tanks, driveways or additional out-buildings, prohibits the use of these lands by the rest of the public," said Dave Schuller, DNR statewide lands coordinator.

If a construction project occurs on state-owned land, the landowner may be charged with trespass violations. If there is construction on state lands, the project is generally removed and the land is restored at the private landowner's expense.

To avoid this, the DNR urges people to do their homework before building near any publicly-owned land. Homeowners should contact their local zoning office to make sure they are in compliance with any property line setbacks.

Those who suspect they may have already constructed buildings or encroached on lands owned by the state of Minnesota should contact a local DNR area office.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MnDOT uses Twitter to share information in northwestern Minnesota

BEMIDJI, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation District 2 in northwestern Minnesota is now using Twitter to share information on flooding, road closures, construction projects and public meetings.

Motorists are encouraged to follow @mndotnorthwest or visit www.twitter.com/mndotnorthwest.

District 2 covers 11 counties in northwestern Minnesota: Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, and Roseau. D2 also serves the northern portion of Cass and the western portions of Itasca and Koochiching counties.

For a complete list of all MnDOT social media sources, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, and email updates visit www.mndot.gov/socialmedia.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mahnomen Area Assisted Living Receives Funds

The Mahnomen Area Assisted Living Inc, Board of Directors received notification on Monday, April 22nd, that the application for loan funding from the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Program to build a 14-unit Assisted Living facility was approved. The facility will be a 2-story building adjacent to the Mahnomen Health Center Nursing Home at 414 West Jefferson Avenue, Mahnomen, MN.
There will be a ground breaking event this spring with construction starting this summer. The units will be open and operational in early spring 2014. MAALC Directors are Karen Ahmann, Chair; Harley Hanson, Sec/Treas, Mary Nell Preisler, Lori Handyside and Ethel Hanson. Wally Eid served as Board Chair when Mahnomen Area Assisted Living Center, Inc, was created.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Highway 9 near Ada experiencing water over the highway

Bemidji, Minn. - Highway 9, seven miles north of Ada and one mile south of Norman County Road 13, is experiencing water over the highway due to a blocked culvert. The area is marked with barricades and flashers.

Melting snow is causing water to collect until the culvert can be cleared.

For updated information, call 511 or click on www.511mn.org when traveling in any area of the state where potential flooding conditions exist. For weather and flood warnings, go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site http://www.noaawatch.gov/floods.php or listen to NOAA weather radio or local radio stations.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wildfire Prevention Week raises awareness of outdoor fire hazards

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has declared April 21–27 as Wildfire Prevention Week to increase awareness of outdoor fire hazards.

The DNR encourages people to make a special effort to control their fires during this week and
all year long.
Minnesota wildland firefighters annually extinguish an average of 1,400 fires that burn 31,000 acres.

“Ninety-eight percent of wildfires in Minnesota are caused by people, and the number one reason is escaped debris-burning fires,” said Larry Himanga, the DNR’s wildfire prevention coordinator.

Most wildfires in Minnesota occur in the spring, between the time when snow melts and vegetation turns green. Spring wildfires normally begin in the southern portion of the state and move northward as the snow disappears.

Although the fire hazard in Minnesota is low, it can quickly change. Visit www.mndnr.gov/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html for current statewide fire danger information and burning restrictions.

Instead of burning yard waste, Himanga recommends composting or mulching it. If burning is necessary, landowners should check fire burning restrictions in their area, obtain a burning permit, and be careful with debris fires. Piled debris can hold hot coals for several days to months.

“When you light a fire, you are responsible for keeping it under control and you need to stay with it until it is out,” Himanga said. “If you think your fire is out, check again.”

To learn more about open burning, visit www.mndnr.gov/forestry/fire/questions.html.

The DNR reminds homeowners that burning nonvegetative material or garbage can release cancer-causing toxins into the air. “The toxins in smoke and ash from backyard garbage burning pollute our air, water and soil,” said Mark Rust with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Grazing livestock, vegetable gardens and other food sources absorb the toxins, concentrating the chemical in food and ultimately in our bodies, Rust said. He recommends recycling, composting or safely disposing of trash with a hauler or at a local drop-site to help protect people from unnecessary pollution.

In addition to contaminating food sources, burning illegal materials such as plastic and other household trash endangers firefighters responding to the fire as well as the homeowners igniting the pile. The toxic chemicals released during backyard garbage burning can lead to serious medical conditions, including lung and heart problems.

Burning any material has risks. Wildfires jeopardize public health and safety, destroy homes and property and cost millions of dollars annually to extinguish. The best way to protect lives and property from wildfires is to prevent the fires from occurring.

DNR urges homeowners to resist pruning or removing conifers with red needles until late spring

Conifers growing in Minnesota have had a long, hard winter with plenty of opportunities for winter injury, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). By now, many people have noticed conifers full of brown and red needles, especially along highways. People might have seen the conifers in their yards, or along buildings and driveways, are turning red or brown.

In spite of their appearance, people should not prune or remove the discolored trees. Chances are good that the trees are alive and healthy beneath their mask of red needles. Buds were well protected during the winter and will grow once spring arrives, said Jana Albers, DNR forest health specialist.

The most evident damage, caused by de-icing salts, occurred on white pines growing along highways. This salty water settles on the pines and is absorbed into individual needles, killing them back starting at the tips. Other damage to conifers can be caused by winter drying, or needle dehydration.

”Throughout the winter, each passing car sends up clouds of salty water,” Albers said. “Winter injury is also caused by strong, dry winds, many days of bright sunshine.” and low relative humidity that dries the needles

Some trees or groups of trees seem to get winter injury every year. It is likely the trees are stressed due to poor site conditions.

Native tree populations are adapted to their location. Moving seeds or seedlings 100 miles north or south of their site of origin can result in damage due to winter injury.

Prevention techniques:

  • When selecting trees to plant, choose species that are adapted to local growing conditions.
  • Avoid planting white and red pines, balsam fir and white spruce within 150 feet of a highway to prevent salt damage.
  • Avoid planting yew and arbor vitae on south or southwest sides of buildings or in sunny and windy locations.
  • Erect temporary barriers around conifers susceptible to winter burn. They can be made of plywood, burlap, tar paper or plastics.
  • Just after the snow melts and prior to bud break, rinse de-icing salts off both conifers and hardwoods.
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of de-icing salts.
  • Replace trees that have severe winter injury year after year. They are not in the right location and will only decline due to needle and twig loss over a period of many years.
  • Keep conifers properly watered throughout the growing season and fall. Decrease the watering slightly in September to encourage hardening off. Water thoroughly in October until freeze-up.

For more information on tree care and forest health, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/treecare/forest_health

Minnesota DNR goes live with video-streaming peregrine falcon camera

Starting this week, live video from a pair of peregrine falcons in a nesting box at the top of an office building in downtown St. Paul will be featured on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website at http://webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/falcon/.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to watch peregrines raise their young in an urban setting” said Carrol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor. “It is exciting to watch the birds first-hand, in their normal habitat, without disturbing them.”

Peregrines have been raising young in this location since 1988. The female has already laid three eggs and could lay up to two more in the coming days.

The public is able view the activity in the nesting box, with the help of Sentinel Property Management and the tenants at the Bremer office building.

Once pushed to the brink of extinction, the peregrine falcon has made a steady recovery in the United States. Once down to only a few pairs in Minnesota, peregrines have returned to Minnesota’s skies and their natural habitat, including Minnesota’s bluffs, cliffs and buildings.

The peregrine camera was paid for by the DNR’s nongame wildlife program, which is largely funded by donations, especially those made when Minnesotans file their state income and property taxes. The lines on the Minnesota income tax form and property tax form, marked with a drawing of a loon, give taxpayers the option to donate to the program, often referred to as the “chickadee check-off.”

The program works to protect and preserve more than 800 species of animals in the state that are not traditionally hunted or harvested. In addition to peregrine falcons, species such as bald eagles, trumpeter swans, loons, and American white pelicans are directly benefited by check-off contributions. To donate directly online, go to http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/checkoff.html

Spring Electrical Safety

Fergus Falls, MN – Even though this spring’s thaw has been slow in coming, Otter Tail Power Company reminds its customers and neighbors that electricity and water don’t mix.

Remember that the spring thaw can cause high water levels that can reduce line clearances, and that increases the potential for accidental contact with electricity. Otter Tail Power Company’s Safety Director Eric Hamm urges flood response personnel to be especially alert when their work in flooded areas might put them in contact with energized electrical equipment including overhead lines, transformers, and substations.

Hamm also warns area residents not to go near any flooded areas, including basements, if the water level has reached any part of the electrical system such as electrical outlets or the electrical connections on water heaters, water softeners, heating systems, etc.

Visit www.otpco.com and click on Outages/safety and then select Take precautions during spring floods for helpful how-to videos (https://www.otpco.com/OutageSafety/PowerOutages/Pages/SpringFloodPrecautions.aspx).

Here are some other safety tips for anyone who might be affected by high-water conditions:

  • Before high waters arrive, stock a supply of bottled drinking water and food that requires little cooking and no refrigeration. Your emergency kit should contain a manual can opener, battery-powered radio and flashlight, and extra batteries, as well as medicines and baby and pet supplies, if applicable. Charge your cell phone and keep the charger with you in case you need to leave your home.
  • Make sure your sump pump is operational and that the discharge hose isn’t frozen or plugged. Pour some water into the sump to see if the pump starts. If it doesn’t, check the electrical connections, consult your owner’s manual, or call a plumber.
  • Do not use power tools or other electrical appliances in damp or wet areas.
  • It’s a good idea to have a battery-operated power supply or portable generator to run the sump pump and other critical electrical appliances in case of a power interruption. But remember to disconnect these power supplies if you must evacuate.
  • Don’t connect a portable generator directly to your home’s wiring and never plug it into a regular household outlet. Power only essential equipment because overloading your gen erator can damage appliances and electronics. Use adequately sized power cords to support the electrical load, and make sure your generator is properly grounded. And be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s other instructions for safely operating a portable generator.
  • Plug basement floor drains, bathtubs, sinks, and toilets in case your basement floods or the power goes out.
  • If you must evacuate your home or business and don’t know how to shut off your main breaker or fuse box, call Otter Tail Power Company’s 800-257-4044 customer service number for advice or assistance.
  • Don’t even consider going near a downed power line or near water that’s in contact with any electrical component such as a pad-mount transformer or a downed power line.
  • Don’t attempt to operate electrical appliances or equipment that have been submerged in floodwater.

Power can be disconnected in an emergency situation by a public safety official, which may include the mayor, incident commander, or fire chief. “If your home has been without electrical service, either at your request, public safety official order, or due to a flood-related power interruption, electrical codes may require an electrical inspector’s wiring certificate before your home can be reenergized,” says Hamm. If any customer has questions about how flooding may affect your electrical service, call Otter Tail Power Company’s customer service number 800-257-4044.

Otter Tail Power Company, a subsidiary of Otter Tail Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select Market: OTTR), is headquartered in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. It provides electricity and energy services to more than a quarter million people in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. To learn more abou t Otter Tail Power Company visit www.otpco.com. To learn more about Otter Tail Corporation visit www.ottertail.com.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chancellor Inauguration at UMC on Thursday, April 18, 2013

CROOKSTON, Minn. – Ceremonies for the inauguration of Fred E. Wood, Ph.D., as the fifth chancellor for the University of Minnesota Crookston are scheduled for Thursday, April 18, 2013, in Kiehle Auditorium. The ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m. and a reception will follow at 2 p.m. in the Northern Lights Lounge in the Sargeant Student Center. All faculty, staff, students, alumni, along with the public are invited to attend the inauguration and reception as guests of the campus in celebration of this historic event.

At 10 a.m. that morning, everyone is invited to attend the dedication of Heritage Hall, the newest residence hall on campus. Heritage Hall is located west of Centennial Hall and provides students with a new style of suite living. Designed primarily for freshman and sophomores, the two bedroom suites, with study room and private bathroom will provide a spacious living environment for four students. The 43,043 square foot, two-story building can house up to145 students in 35 two-bedroom suites furnished with a study room and bathroom facilities--approximately 700 square feet per suite.

Special guests on campus for the dedication and inauguration will include University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, Karen Kaler, and several members of the Board of Regents.

An online guest book is available along with inauguration details at www1.crk.umn.edu/events/inauguration.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Luher College Jazz Orchestra to perform at Hope Lutheran in Fargo

As part of their five-stop April tour, the Luther College Jazz Orchestra will perform at Hope Lutheran Church, North Campus, 2900 Broadway N, at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 20.  

The performance by the 20-member Jazz Orchestra is open to the public. A freewill donation will be accepted.

Under the direction of Juan Tony Guzman, associate professor of music and education at Luther, the Jazz Orchestra has come to be recognized as one of the outstanding liberal arts college jazz ensembles in the Upper Midwest.

Guzman, a native of the Dominican Republic and a 1990 Luther graduate, has led the ensemble through the many genres of jazz for more than 17 years in addition to maintaining an active career as an arranger and band, orchestral and choral conductor across the world.

The 2013 Jazz Orchestra tour concerts will include classic standards by Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, Astor Piazzolla, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker in addition to more recent compositions by Gordon Goodwin, Rick Lawn, and Luther's own composer-in-residence, Brooke Joyce. Traditional Brazilian dance music arranged for the ensemble will also be featured to round out a diverse program of Latin, swing and fusion styles.

The Jazz Orchestra is one of the four main touring ensembles of Luther College with an annual tour schedule including international travel every four years. Recent performances include the Festival No Improviso, in Curitiba, Brazil, the Iowa Jazz Championships, and the Iowa Bandmasters Association Conference. The Jazz Orchestra has recorded two albums, "Transformations: Celebrating Jazz at Luther" and "On the Move," with a third album to be released later this year.

Luther College is home to one of the largest collegiate music programs in the world with six choirs, three bands, three orchestras, two jazz bands and numerous chamber ensembles, totaling nearly 1,000 student musicians. Luther students perform in large ensembles, master classes, and faculty-coached chamber groups and jazz combos. More than 300 music majors study music performance, education, composition, theory, jazz, history, ethnomusicology and church music.

Monday, April 8, 2013

DNR encourages homeowners to complete necessary open burning

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) encourages homeowners to complete necessary open burning now, as restrictions will take effect shortly after snowmelt occurs.

“Warm temperatures will continue to erode the snowpack in the next few weeks,” said Larry Himanga, DNR fire prevention coordinator. “This will expose last year’s leaves and other yard waste. The safest way to dispose of this vegetation is to recycle or compost it.”

Homeowners who choose to burn should do so under the safest conditions, which is when snow is still on the ground. In addition, a DNR burning permit is not required when there are three or more inches of continuous snow cover. This cover drastically reduces the chance a fire will escape and burn unintended areas. Check local city and municipal regulations as many are more stringent.

Spring fire restrictions will soon take effect and will severely limit open burning until summer green-up occurs. Traditionally, most wildfires occur in April and May. More than 95 percent of these fires are caused by human error. Due to the high fire incidence during this period, the DNR initiates burning restrictions to coincide with this annual "fire season."

The restrictions are weather dependent, but normally last from four to six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs. Historically, spring fire restrictions dramatically decrease the number and size of accidental fires.

By burning prior to snowmelt, homeowners can reduce the potential for an escaped fire, which could endanger homes and property. And, if the DNR or a fire department has to respond to an escaped fire, the homeowner is responsible for the cost.