Local view: Legislature can help Cook County tourism by passing bonding billRecent news stories about the 2012 Minnesota legislative session focused on the remaining items for the Legislature to act upon before adjournment. Without exception, the list included a bonding bill for the state’s infrastructure.
By: Charles Skinner and Bob Fenwick, Duluth News Tribune
Recent news stories about the 2012 Minnesota legislative session focused on the remaining items for the Legislature to act upon before adjournment. Without exception, the list included a bonding bill for the state’s infrastructure.
We agree. A 2012 bonding bill is important to Cook County’s economy.
And the governor, House and Senate all have included the creation of and the funding for a Lake Superior-Poplar River Water District, at $3.6 million, in their respective bonding-bill proposals.
A Lake Superior-Poplar River Water District would lay the foundation for a sustainable tourism base in Cook County that would protect jobs for residents while also protecting a designated trout stream and a groundwater aquifer. It would provide a reliable water source for snowmaking at Lutsen Mountains, irrigation for the public golf course at Superior National, drinking water for businesses and vacation homes, and needed water for firefighting.
It is vitally important to fund this year. Delays could increase project costs for several reasons.
First, the water project requires complicated engineering and involves working with many local partners. Superior National is a key partner and is set to begin renovation of its 18-hole destination golf course this year. A delay in the water project would interfere with the golf course renovation and probably increase costs for both projects.
Second, Lutsen Mountains’ special permit for using water from the Poplar River will expire after two more winters (in the spring of 2014). Because of short construction seasons, completion of the pipeline is expected to take two summers. Starting the project next fall would mean the project would not be completed until late 2013 at the earliest and more likely the summer of 2014. Delaying the project moves the completion date further out, threatening the ability of Lutsen Mountains to make snow, which would have calamitous impacts on Cook County and its residents.
Third, Lutsen Mountains, Superior National and other project partners have committed to a
25 percent match, or $1.2 million, for the $4.8 million project. Private resources already are challenged to meet this match, and local public funding is limited. The tourism economy in Cook County is about $100 million; the current match probably represents several years of operating cash flow for the entire tourism economy. We can ill afford a delay that adds to the overall cost.
Preliminary engineering is completed, final engineering and permitting are on schedule to be completed by July, and easements on private lands already have been acquired. This project needs to be approved this legislative session to correspond with the golf course’s renovation construction schedule and to allow adequate time for construction to be completed before the 2014 expiration of Lutsen Mountains’ current snowmaking permits.
This project will contribute to job creation in our community at a time when we most need it. We estimate construction of the pipeline itself will create 20 new jobs over the course of the project. The success of the effort will sustain and increase employment opportunities in Cook County.
We appreciate the support our community, project partners and the Legislature provided this year. Now we simply ask the Legislature to finish the job it started, work out differences between the proposals and send a bill Gov. Mark Dayton can sign.
Charles Skinner is co-owner of Lutsen Mountains and Bob Fenwick is manager of Superior National Golf.