Lutsen breaks ground on $5 million pipeline project with help from IRRRB

By KBJR News 1

October 28, 2013 Updated Oct 28, 2013 at 12:15 PM CDT

Lutsen, MN (NNCNOW.com) - For Cook County business leaders, the biggest groundbreaking celebration Tuesday was that of the new Lake Superior-Poplar River pipeline.

But to appreciate what the $5 million project will bring to the area, they, along with state and area government officials,started by breaking ground on a green at the Superior National golf course, "kind of giving it a little bit of a facelift," said Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.

For starters, the pipeline will pull water from Lake Superior rather than the original, less-sustainable source: the Poplar River, also a designated trout stream, which runs through the course.

That water will go to irrigate and provide drinking water to the Superior National, while preserving what Bakk says is the beckoning point for tourism.

"The scenery here, the overlooks of the lake, and all the rivers that run through this course make it, I think, probably the most scenic course in Minnesota," said Bakk, shovel in hand.

The water will also make its way to Lutsen Mountains, where it will be utilized to make more snow for the state's first downhill ski resort quicker, and more efficiently.

This, says Lutsen Mountains Co-President Charles Skinner, will only improve the $20 million in improvements that the resort has made in the past year.

"We're putting in a high speed lift this year, [and] some additional runs on the back side of Moose [Mountain]--really, some steep runs--giving us a lot more representation in that category," said Skinner inside the Superior National pump house Tuesday.

But the pipeline will serve more than that.

"[It'll provide] drinking water for more than 100 vacation homes, as well as provide some needed firefighting capability in an area that is really vulnerable to large forest fires," said Skinner.

Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board Chair Tony Sertich says it was an easy choice for the board to invest $300,000 in taconite tax dollars to the project.

The Iron Range is home to ski resorts and golf courses as well, "and they can work in tandum," said Sertich, "because a lot of these tourists come up and hit all the different spots at once. So this is giving folks another opportunity to drive north, to enjoy our scenery, and to spend a little money here to improve our economy."

Completion on the pipeline is expected in September of 2014.

The IRRRB is also investing an additional $260,000 to the project next year to help offset costs.

Billy Wagness