Public/Private Investment Means More Snow for Lutsen Mountains

Posted at: 10/22/2013 9:40 PM
Updated at: 10/22/2013 10:16 PM
By: Travis Dill

State legislators and the owners of Lusten Mountains broke ground for a $5 million water pipeline on Tuesday.

Lutsen has been pulling water from the Poplar River to make snow, but the new private and publicly funded pipeline will carry water from Lake Superior up to the slopes. Lutsen officials said that will help them create snow for more of the winter season and put less stress on the environment.

Lutsen Mountains pitched in $1 million for the project, $250,000 came from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, and $3.6 million in funding came from the state.

State Rep. David Dill said the investment makes sense for a community that relies on tourism.

“And this is just a no-brainer with regard to regional significance. Cook County's winter tourism business is 90 percent of the county's economy,” Dill said.

He said the pipeline relieves stress on the Poplar River and that helped environmental groups support the plan.

“They know the value the river is to the ecosystem. And not only to the landscape but also Lake Superior and sedimentation into the lake and things of that nature,” Dill said.

The pipeline will also help irrigate a nearby public golf course, but tourist endeavors are not the only ones to benefit from the pipeline according to Lutsen Mountains Co-owner Charles Skinner.

“It will provide needed water for firefighting capability so that we can fight that forest fire if it every comes here as well as providing water for more than 100 vacation homes,” Skinner said.

He said the homes and resort rely on wells for drinking water, but the pipeline will replace that drain on the local aquifer. Skinner sees this as an example of how a public and private partnership can help the economy.

“I think this project really represents Minnesota at its best,” Skinner said.

Officials said the project will start pushing water up the hill by next Sept., but treatment of the water for drinking will not happen until sometime in 2015.

A public utility, the Lake Superior-Poplar River Water District, will own and run the pipeline operation. Board members of the utility are Charles Skinner, Lutsen Mountains; Bob Fenwick, Superior National; Bob Ryan, Caribou Highlands; Mark Sandbo, Cook County Economic Development Authority; and Tom Rider, Lutsen Mountains.