Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Nice winter weather returns for the weekend

Thu, 03/17/2016 - 10:26am

No more snow in sight, but maybe a little rain and cooler temperatures. Still and all, a pretty nice weekend for getting out to enjoy what’s left of winter.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Huyck.


White nose syndrome found in bats at Soudan Underground Mine

Thu, 03/17/2016 - 10:06am

In late January several hundred bats were found dead near the main entrance of the Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employees.

When the bats were tested by the United States Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, it was determined they had suffered from white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease that attacks and kills bats that have been hibernating.

An invasive fungus from Europe, WNS was discovered in New York in 2007, and since then has spread to 30 states, killing more than 5 million bats.

The disease causes fuzzy white growths on the noses and faces of the bats, and the fungus eats its way into their wings. Sick bats awaken from hibernation. It is believed they fly out into the cold and die from exposure or from starvation when no bugs can be found.

DNR employees first discovered WNS at the Soudan site in 2013, and they have kept a watchful eye for its expected return.

Minnesota has four bat species that hibernate in the winter. The most affected bats seem to be the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat. The northern long-eared bat (NLEB) has been placed on the endangered species list as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and last year an interim rule was implemented to protect the NLEB bat from logging and construction operations.

In January 2016, the FWS finalized its rule on the northern long-eared bat, which prohibits timber harvest within 150 feet of “known, occupied maternity roost trees from June 1 to July 31” and prohibits logging within a quarter mile of a known hibernacula (winter den) year-round.  As of June 2015, the state had identified 25 known hibernacula and 163 roost trees in Minnesota. While Lake County was identified as having two roost trees and one hibernacula, Cook County was found to have neither.

Learn more about gulls at Sugarloaf Cove

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 9:57pm

You may know them as sea gulls, but did you know that there are many species of gulls and that the North Shore and Duluth are a great place to look for them?

Join gull fanatic Clinton Nienhaus at Sugarloaf Cove on March 19 at 10 a.m. to discover the amazing diversity of gulls found along the North Shore.

The North Shore is host to many species of overwintering gulls including Iceland, glaucous, Thayer’s, great black-backed, and herring gulls. But you can also find the less common lesser black-backed and ring-billed gulls or something really rare!

Iceland, glaucous, and Thayer’s gulls are high Arctic breeders and great and lesser black-backed gulls visit from the east coast. But, how do you know who is who?

Join Nienhaus as he talks about these amazing birds and gives you some great identification tips.

For more information, call Sugarloaf Cove at (218) 525-0001.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Community health planning and comedy come together

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 11:39am

What happens when we bring together community members and elected officials, add dinner from the Pie Place, a panel of local experts, and an improv comedy theater company? Find out at “What the Health?! How Do We Plan for Community Vitality?” This entertaining, free event, presented by the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, will be held at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts in Grand Marais, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23. The Theater of Public Policy and local experts will explore the relationships between health and community planning. They and attendees will ask, “How can we create a community in which everyone has a chance to live a long, healthy life?

“We thought it would be fun to create an event where people can explore the idea of community planning and health in conversations over dinner and through an improv comedy show,” said Kristin Wharton, coordinator of the Moving Matters Project at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. “And it’s March, so we are all feeling a little cabin fever! The Theater of Public Policy fits the bill to keep it lighthearted and entertaining while delving into real issues and solutions.”

Local government and community groups have a lot of influence over the factors that create a healthy community, whether or not it is always apparent. In the communities around us, factors such as housing, transportation, and land use can have a significant impact on our health. Wharton said “What the Health?!” is an opportunity to explore the ways that we can use existing tools to promote the safety, health, and welfare of our community: through city ordinance, county plan, tribal food program, school initiatives, or other means.

Township elections held -- Tofte has a new supervisor

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 11:37am

Township elections were also held on Tuesday, March 8 and there was a bit of an upset in Tofte. Challenger Sarah Somnis was elected to the supervisor seat, ousting incumbent Jim King. Somnis received 57 votes and King received 29.

The candidates were quite gracious after the votes were tallied. King wished Somnis well in her new role and she thanked him for his hard work for the township.

Also elected to the Tofte town board was incumbent clerk Barb Gervais and acting treasurer Nancy Iverson.

Elected to the board in Lutsen were Rae Piepho as supervisor and Sharon Hexum-Platzer as clerk, both new to those roles.

In Tofte incumbent Supervisor Tina McKeever and incumbent clerk Doug Schwecke were re-elected.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

National Weather Service: Spring storm advisory

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 10:40am

According to the Cook County Sheriff’s office the National Weather Service in Duluth is warning of a powerful spring storm expected for our area from tonight through Thursday.

A spring storm will bring heavy rain to the Northland today and late tonight the rain will change to snow across the tip of the Arrowhead. By Wednesday morning, elsewhere the rain will change to snow, likely heavy. The snow is expected to continue into Wednesday night and across the south shore Thursday.

Cook County is expected to receive between three and 14 inches of snow, with a probability of eight inches.  Lake County along the shore could get over a foot of snow, even more in Duluth.

The weather service recommends allowing extra travel time, especially Wednesday and be sure your vehicle is equipped with an emergency kit.


Sheriff warns on latest scams

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 9:30am

They come by phone, in the mail or through email. It seems like someone’s always trying to bilk money out of us. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen about the latest scams.


Townships respond to Birch Grove Community School funding request

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:50pm

Funding for the Birch Grove Community School (BGCS) in Tofte was a top topic at all three of the West End annual meetings on Tuesday, March 8.

Director Caroline Wood was present at the Lutsen and Schroeder annual meetings to represent the school and answer questions about their funding request. When the issue was taken up, there were plenty of questions for her to field.

A point of contention in Lutsen for the school’s funding request was the fact that though the number of students from Lutsen has doubled from 4 to 8, and the school receives roughly $7,000 for each student, the request for money isn’t decreasing.

Supervisor Larry McNeally said, “Last year you had 4 students, and this year you have 8.” He said he thought that at some point the number of students would be high enough that the donation request was reduced.

In response, Wood said that the school has a five-year plan that is meant to get it to a healthy fund and operating balance. Currently, there is no fund balance, but the community school is hoping to create a fund balance of 25 percent at the end of a five-year timeframe.

Wood explained that the budget being presented closes out the year $15,000 to the good. She said the school needs to get that to $112,000 to be in a healthy fund balance.”

Despite the concerns expressed, a motion passed with 21 voting to recommend that $20,000 be donated to the school, and 9 opposed.

At the Tofte Annual Meeting at the Birch Grove Center at the same time, there were very few questions and little discussion of whether or not to fund BGCS. 

Climate change and tourism workshops, March 15 - 16

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:45pm

Will warmer summers, shorter winters and possible changes in the types of plants, animals and birds found in the Northland affect visitors coming to Cook County?

And will an increase in risk of heat waves and wild fires throughout the region slow tourism to the North Shore?

These were some of the questions posed to Arrowhead visitors during the winter and summer of 2015 by researchers from the University of Minnesota, Carleton College and North Carolina State University.

Part of the data collected in tourist interviews centered on what type of activities they engaged in, how much money they spent here, and what their future plans might look like if the affects of climate change continue.

“We’ve combined the results of our tourist survey with past visitation and economic data to assess the potential economic impact of future tourism behavior on the North Shore,” said Mae Davenport, PH.D, associate professor, Department of Forestry Resources director, and Center for Changing Landscapes, University of Minnesota.

Using computers and complex formulas, a team of scientists from the University of Minnesota created future climate models for the North Shore region using variables such as heat index, snow depth, and wind chill.

All of these findings will be presented in two workshops. The first will be held on March 15 from 5-8 p.m. at Lutsen Resort and the second will be at Grand Superior Lodge in Two Harbors on March 16 from 5-8 p.m.

Space is limited and by invitation only. RSVPs are required.

The workshops are a culmination of the research, which was funded by Minnesota Sea Grant.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Cliffs to resume production at idled Northshore Mining

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 10:12am

SILVER BAY, Minn. (AP) — Cliffs Natural Resources says it will restart production at Northshore Mining by May 15.

Northshore's taconite mine in Babbitt and processing plant in Silver Bay employ around 540 people. The company announced the temporary shutdown of the operations in November.

In its announcement of the reopening Monday, Cliffs cites increasing orders for taconite pellets, which steelmakers use in traditional blast furnace mills. The Cleveland-based company also says that, when it restarts operations at Northshore, it will also produce higher-grade iron pellets destined for more modern electric arc furnace steel mills.

Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves says unfairly traded steel imports is starting are subside, so domestic demand for pellets is approaching more normal levels.

Cliffs-operated Eveleth Taconite remains closed, as does United States Steel's Keetac plant in Keewatin.

Some rain, then some measurable snow, then colder weather

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 9:37am

The weather will be a bit more like what we’re used to in March: rain and accumulating snow as well as slightly cooler temperatures.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Carol Christenson.


Growth management opens discussion for Cook County and Grand Marais

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 8:27am

As Cook County and Grand Marais seek to expand their populations and diversify their economies in the coming years, both are trying to figure out how they can do so in a way that works well for everyone. WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs brings us this story. 


North Shore Federal Credit Union to match donations to Food Shelf programs

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 12:46pm

With the new North Shore Hunger Hero initiative, North Shore Federal Credit Union (NSFCU) is asking 1,000 people to donate $1 a month or more with the goal of doubling the funding of anti-hunger programs in Cook and Lake counties. North Shore Federal Credit Union will match donations up to $5,000 during March (National Food Shelf Month) and other select periods throughout the year.

“Many people don’t know that hunger is a problem right here in Cook and Lake counties,” said Mark Summers, NSFCU president. “Our members have a history of supporting important programs, so we thought we’d call upon them and the broader community to band together and take a bite out of hunger.”

North Shore Federal Credit Union has promoted the cause of hunger relief for years as a primary sponsor of the Backpack Food Program, which provides kids in need in the Lake Superior and Cook County school systems food to take home each weekend. NSFCU has also provided seed money for Ruby’s Pantry, which has been a great success in Silver Bay and Grand Marais.

To become a North Shore Hunger Hero, stop into any North Shore Federal Credit Union branch and ask a Member Service representative for a North Shore Hunger Hero form. Once you designate a donation amount, NSFCU will handle the rest. To kick off the program, NSFCU will match donations up to $5,000 total during the month of March. Other matching opportunities will occur during each Member Appreciation Week, and during the annual Holiday Helper campaign, now called the North Shore Holiday Hero program.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at



Preschool parents asked for input

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 12:42pm

As the 2015-16 school year winds down, Cook County Schools – ISD 166 staff and community members are working hard to create a plan for preschool for the next school year that meets space and budget constraints and parental concerns.

On Monday, March 7, about 25 people—members of the Sawtooth Elementary preschool Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) and of the ISD 166 Early Childhood Coalition—heard more about potential options, which could include a limit to the number of children who could attend preschool at ISD 166. Other options for preschool outside of the Cook County Schools facility were discussed.

No decisions were made, but Superintendent Beth Schwarz said she hopes to have a plan in place to present at the March 17 school board meeting. The school board will be making a final determination at the April 7 meeting.

Cook County parents of preschool aged children are encouraged to complete the survey. Find it on the Cook County Schools website at


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at


WTIP Weekend News Roundup for March 12

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 11:34am

Each week the WTIP news staff compiles a review of news from the previous five days. White nose syndrome strikes close to home. The city adjusts some zoning issues. The Gov. says “no” to copper mine exploration and the Chamber sets some bonding goals…all this and more in the week’s news.