The Potluck

Mining agency relents, gives grant to Fond du Lac for clean water

By: - June 25, 2020 3:18 pm

Leonidas Overlook near Eveleth. Courtesy

A state mining board commissioner today approved a $250,000 grant to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to provide clean drinking water, after the mining board tabled the grant, citing the band’s opposition to copper-nickel mining in sensitive watersheds.

The Reformer reported Wednesday on the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board’s June 10 discussion over whether to give the grant for a new water tower to serve Mahnomen and Brookston.

Citing the band’s support of a wild rice sulfate standard and support for a lawsuit against potential pollution from a controversial PolyMet copper-nickel mining plan, Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, objected to the grant. Tomassoni made a motion to table the request, delaying installation.

But the board serves in a mere advisory role, which means the final decision was up to IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips, who approved the grant.

“After gathering additional information from our funding partners, I am pleased to move forward with this important infrastructure project to provide clean drinking water for the residents of Mahnomen and Brookston,” Phillips said in a press release. “The project meets our program guidelines and aligns with our mission and vision to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota.”

The IRRRB is a state agency funded with mining proceeds for public works and economic development projects.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.