Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
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MURDOCK -- Ethanol may get the press, but there's another farm-based, biomass industry quietly taking root on the west central Minnesota prairie. Its aim is to use agricultural residues and possibly devoted crops as the energy feedstock to provide clean and competitively priced energy to heat our homes, schools and businesses. "It's building a whole new market," said Robert Ryan, founder of European Energy Connections.
SPICER -- Geothermal heating and cooling systems require a sizeable investment up front, but offer a proven payback through reduced energy costs. Thermal solar is no different. And as did geothermal energy, it could use government support to kickstart the industry. Randy Hagen, with Solar Skies of Alexandria, told representatives of U.S. Sen. Al Franken that tax credits and other incentives remain important to launching the solar thermal industry. He also emphasized a need for consistency in government support for the industry.
The Minnesota River had crested Wednesday in Montevideo but was still rising slowly in Granite Falls. Both communities are maintaining active flood watches. There's an 80 to 90 percent chance the river will crest again next week at the same level or possibly a little higher, Montevideo City Manager Steve Jones said. The river crested in Montevideo on Monday and Tuesday at 18.6 feet. It remained at 18.5 feet Wednesday. It was expected to continue a slow and gradual decline in the next few days. The river was believed to have crested at 891.35 feet Tuesday in Granite Falls.
Courtney Lewis credits a "really wonderful high school music teacher'' with igniting his passion for classical and orchestral music. It has taken him from his native Belfast, Ireland, to his role today in front of the Minnesota Orchestra as its associate conductor. Now it's his turn to inspire others. Lewis will lead the Minnesota Orchestra to Dawson for a performance Tuesday as part of a three-city tour. The concert series will also include performances in Brainerd and Watertown. Lewis sees this as an opportunity to introduce new audiences to orchestral music.
MONTEVIDEO -- Flood worries in the Upper Minnesota River basin have gone down a notch thanks to cold temperatures that have slowed the snowmelt. An updated flood forecast issued Friday by the National Weather Service predicts the Minnesota River will crest Monday and Tuesday in Montevideo and Granite Falls at levels similar to those experienced last year. In Montevideo, the crest is expected at 18.2 feet Monday night.
CLARA CITY -- A return to sub-freezing temperatures gave area flood fighters a reprieve, but worries remain about the additional moisture held in the 6-12 inches of snow and slush that now blankets the landscape. Volunteers completed additional sandbagging Tuesday but faced no imminent emergencies Wednesday morning. Clara City Administrator Windy Block said Hawk Creek appears to have come down by about 6 inches from Tuesday. Hawk Creek's flow through Maynard remains high, and the community is being forced to bypass some of the inflow at the wastewater treatment plant.
OLIVIA -- Sugar beets could be used as the feedstock to expand ethanol production to areas outside of the Corn Belt. That's the goal of Heartland Renewable Energy of Muscatine, Iowa, and a Fargo, N.D.-based consulting company known as Green Vision Group. Sugar beets can produce almost twice as much ethanol per acre as corn, according to Maynard Helgaas, president of Green Vision Group. He spoke to Renville County ProAg members Monday evening at their annual meeting in Olivia. Helgaas said producing ethanol from sugar beets has a number of advantages.
CLARA CITY -- A return to sub-freezing temperatures is giving flood fighters a reprieve in the area, but worries remain about the additional moisture held in the six- to 12-inches of snow and slush that now blankets the landscape. Clara City volunteers completed additional sandbagging last night, but are not facing any imminent emergencies this morning.
Flood fighting efforts got under way as waters swelled over the banks of tributaries to the Minnesota River on Tuesday afternoon. Volunteers began sandbagging an area on the north side of Clara City, according to City Administrator Windy Block. A crew of 15 to 20 volunteers answered the call. They were able to protect the north residential area as well as the wastewater treatment plant south of the town.
OLIVIA -- Helping young people get started in agriculture and promoting a growing local foods economy in the state are priorities for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture under its new leadership. Matthew Wohlman, a newly appointed assistant commissioner in the department, also emphasized that it will continue to promote conventional agriculture and the adoption of new technologies in the field. "There's a place for all sizes and types of agriculture in Minnesota,'' said Wohlman in a presentation Monday evening at the annual meeting of ProAg in Renville County in Olivia. Wohlman is a Ren