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North Shore News Hour

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News

The North Shore News Hour includes up-to-the minute weather, North Shore happenings in local news, sports and entertainment, as well as a variety of features from WTIP staff and volunteers. If you miss the North Shore News Hour at noon, tune in for a replay Monday through Thursday beginning at 5:00 p.m.


What's On:
Highway 61 is closed for removal of petroleum-contaminated soil. Photo by Rhonda Silence

Talking to the MPCA about "The Big Dig"

Highway 61 in Grand Marais is definitely a construction zone. Listen to WTIP's first update from the Minnesota Department of Transportation here: Checking in with MnDOT as Highway 61 construction begins

But more is being done than replacing pavement and installing curb and gutters. Soil contaminated by a long-ago gas station is also being removed--2,700 cubic yards of soil. 
 

WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Kate Lewison of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency about the MPCA's part of the project in downtown Grand Marais. Give a listen to learn about the boundaries for the project, about what happens to the contaminated soil and to hear what MPCA thinks of Visit Cook County's naming the work The Big Dig. 
Listen: 

 
Coronavirus, COVID-19. Image courtesy of the CDC

No COVID-19-related deaths in Cook County

Although there has been a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Cook County, with an April 13 update reporting eight new cases, there have been no deaths in Cook County.
 
As of April 13, there have been 166 cases among local residents since the beginning of the pandemic, according to local public health officials in Cook County.  That information is updated each week on Thursday, so that is the latest county-specific data available.
 
Any North Shore residents who follow the COVID-19 reports in the Duluth News-Tribune would undoubtedly have been alarmed to see the report of two deaths in Cook County this week. The COVID-19 update read:
 
Six COVID-19-related deaths were reported in the Northland on Thursday, the most deaths reported in a single day in the region since Feb. 6. Douglas County, Wisconsin, and Cook County, Minnesota, each reported two deaths, while Carlton and St. Louis counties in Minnesota each had one death.
 
WTIP reached out to Cook County Public Health Supervisor Grace Grinager to ask if this was correct. Grinager told WTIP she believed the information was incorrect and immediately reached out to the Minnesota Department of Health to confirm. After speaking with MDH, Grinager told WTIP that there have been no deaths recorded from the coronavirus in Cook County. 
 
WTIP also reached out to the reporter at the Duluth News-Tribune. The reporter confirmed that the report was incorrect. The reporter said the error was due to "reading the data sheet wrong." Two deaths were actually recorded for Itasca County. 
 
The Duluth News-Tribune reporter said a correction would be made in the online article, with a notation that the original data on Cook County was incorrect. 

Anyone with questions about the coronavirus in Cook County may find information on the Cook County COVID-19 online hub and a phone line at 218-387-3668. This phone is staffed 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to address general questions from the public.

 


 
Cook County Vikings logo on fan attire - Photo courtesy of School District 166

Cook County Track & Field athletes--running, jumping, throwing

The Cook County Vikings Track & Field participants have had a vigorous month of practice and competition, with a meet on May 4 at Moose Lake and two meets in Two Harbors, on May 7 and May 11. 

Their next meet, on Thursday, May 13 is the last regular meet of the season. It will be in Two Harbors, starting at 4 p.m. They get a brief break from competition and then will attend the Polar League Conference Meet in Two Harbors on May 26. 

WTIP's Rhonda Silence checks in with Track Coach April Wahlstrom about several of the Track meets that have taken place in May.  Here's their conversation about these young athletes. 

 
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2021 Prom Queen Hazel Oberholtzer and Homecoming King Aram Falter. Photo by Oullis Photography

CCHS Prom celebrates "The Light at the End of the Tunnel"

Like so many events in 2020 and 2021, the Cook County High School Prom looked very different this year. But it was a celebration nonetheless, a party with the theme "The Light at the End of the Tunnel."
 
In addition to music, dancing, and visiting at designated tables, there was not one, but two coronations. Because there was no Homecoming last year, a Homecoming King and Queen were announced, along with the Prom King and Queen. 
 
Named as Homecoming "royalty" were Queen Shelby Sjogren and King Aram Falter. 
 
The Prom King was Silas Sobanja and Queen Hazel Oberholtzer. 
 
Thanks to Principal Megan Myers and Oullis Photography for sharing some pictures from the celebration. 

 
Senior Derrick Seidell vs. Moose Lake-Willow River on May 6. Photo by Michael McHugh

Vikings get a win over Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels

The Cook County Vikings faced three teams last week, starting with the tough team from Esko at home on Tuesday, May 4. 
 
Esko is ranked number 8 in the state in their class, which is actually a class above School District 166. The Vikings scored first, but were unable to sustain the momentum. Although it was a loss of 4-1, Coach Arleigh Jorgenson it was a good game overall against a really good team. 
 
Jacob Dorr pitched the entire game and mixed his speeds and locations. Coach Jorgenson said he couldn't have done a better job.
 
On Thursday, May 6, the Vikings defeated Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels, 8-3. Paul Dorr had his first start as a pitcher that game and also did well. There great team effort to get those points on the board. 
 
On Friday, May 7, the Vikings faced Silver Bay at home on a somewhat wet field. The Mariners won, 6-2. 
 
The Vikings scored first, with Patrick Pierre making it to home. Coach Jorgenson said Pierre also pitched really well in that game, with Isaac Sandstrom as relief. Jorgenson said Pierre and Sandstrom make a good pitching combination for the Vikings. 
 
Coach Jorgenson added that it was fun to see former teammates who have moved to Silver Bay, Jacob Carpenter and Ryan Bilben, as well as some players that are on the same team during summer league. Jorgenson said it was a fun game for the Vikings--but more fun for Silver Bay. 
 
WTIP also asked Jorgenson about the news that damage was done to the Silver Bay dugout and fencing on Friday, May 7. Jorgenson said it appears to have been accidental and the field will be playable for the rest of the season.  
 
Coming up this week, the Vikings have four games--Tuesday at Barnum at 4:00 p.m.; Thursday, May 13 vs. Northwoods at home; and a doubleheader in Ely on Saturday, May 15. In Ely they will play Ely at 1 p.m. and International Falls at 3:30 p.m. See the complete, updated, baseball schedule here
 
WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Coach Jorgenson about all this in this interview. 
Listen: 

 
Senator Tina Smith -- Photo courtesy of Tina Smith's office

Senator Tina Smith shares thoughts on BWCAW analysis, potential legislation

There has been a great deal of news about the possibility of copper-nickel mining in Northeast Minnesota, here in the state, as well as on the federal level. 
 
At the end of March 2021, Senator Tina Smith sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, asking them to complete and release an analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of a ban on copper nickel mining on lands near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 
 
The study, which includes consideration of a 20-year mining ban, was first initiated in 2016, but stopped in 2018 by Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture under President Donald Trump. 
 
In her letter, Senator Smith noted that the analysis was "ended early and without any real explanation." See Senator Smith's letter here. 
 
WTIP's Rhonda Silence was able to ask Senator Smith a few questions about the concerns raised in her letter. 

 


 
A dog owner enjoys an afternoon romp at the Sawtooth Saddle Club horse arena on May 6. Photo by Rhonda Silence

Go Dog North Shore asks city to authorize use of area proposed for dog park

Go Dog North Shore is a local nonprofit that works to see happy and healthy dogs here in our area. The organization has hosted skijor events, participated in parades, and shares dog care information. And for many years, Go Dog North Shore has worked to develop an off-leash, safe exercise area for dogs. 
 
Since 2013, local dog owners have been allowed to use the Sawtooth Saddle Club horse arena off the Creechville Road as a dog park. Although many people have enjoyed having a space to let their dogs run without worries about traffic, predators or traps, it isn't an ideal situation for either user group. 
 
The Cook County Community Center board, which manages the horse arena, recently gave Go Dog North Shore notice that this shared use was coming to an end in November 2021. 
 
The arrangement was meant to be temporary from the beginning as the city of Grand Marais and Cook County considered the creation of a dedicated area for a dog park in the Sawtooth Bluff Master Plan. In that master plan, the Cook County Parks & Trails Commission earmarked an approximately 2-acre area for a dog park. In the plan, the corner lot at 5th Avenue and the Gunflint Trail, almost directly across 5th Avenue from the horse arena, was selected as a site for a dog park. See the map showing ownership of the proposed dog park area here
 
There has been no action on the Sawtooth Bluff Master Plan, which includes trails throughout the area, an educational area, possibly with an outdoor amphitheater, a camping area, and more on city- and county-owned land. The plan can be seen here. 
 
Although the city and county have not moved ahead with any elements of the plan, Go Dog North Shore has been asking them to do so, as the dog park location could be done with minimal impact to the rest of the master plan. In fact, according to Go  Dog North Shore member Cathy Quinn, at this time the dog group would only develop one acre for use as a dog park. 
 
Development would be minimal, as trees are desired for share for dog park users. The primary work to be done would be to do some clearing and to safely fence the area. Go Dog North Shore is not asking for funding for the development. They are committed to raising funds that would be needed.

Go Dog North Shore will be presenting this information and asking for authorization to move ahead with creation of the dog park at the city council meeting on Wednesday, May 12. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.  It will be held via Zoom and live-streamed on the city's YouTube channel. For information on taking part, contact Grand Marais City Hall at 218-387-1848 or email citycommunications@boreal.org.
 

WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Cathy Quinn, one of the organizers of the Go Dog North Shore group about all of the efforts to develop a dog park here in Grand Marais. Here's their conversation. 
Listen: 

 
The CCHS Prom was postponed in April, but will be held Saturday, May 8. Image courtesy of ISD 166

CCHS Prom will be Saturday, May 8

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no prom for the Cook County High School Class of 2020 and there was no Homecoming celebration for current students. It looked as if Prom might be canceled again this year as there was a COVID-19 case in the student body which meant a number of students being in quarantine. However, organizers planned for that and had a back-up plan. Prom was rescheduled from April 17 to Saturday, May 8. 
 
The theme selected by the junior class organizers is quite meaningful. It's The Light at the End of the Tunnel. 
 
Of course, like so many events in this coronavirus pandemic year, Prom will look quite different. There will be a Grand March and coronation, but in keeping with COVID-19 guidelines, the public may not attend. However, the school will stream those events live on the school's YouTube or Facebook page.  The Grand March begins at 7:30 p.m.
 
WTIP's Rhonda Silence gets the details on how the school is complying with COVID guidelines to make this happen. Rhonda spoke with Principal Megan Myers to learn more. 
Listen: 

 
Cook County Chamber of Commerce logo, courtesy of the chamber

Cook County Chamber hiring a member relations manager

Since the Cook County Chamber was formed about eight years ago, Executive Director Jim Boyd has been the only employee, working under the direction of a very dedicated chamber board. That will be changing soon, as the chamber is looking to hire a Member Relations Manager.
 
The chamber decided to hire someone to be a part-time Member Relations Manager to complement the work done by Executive Director Boyd, which is primarily policy-focused. 
 
Traditionally, Chambers of Commerce have served as a place for businesses to gather and to learn from one another, sometimes in after-work get-togethers. Figuring out how to host such events will be the role of this new chamber employee. 
 
The Member Relations Manager will also serve as outreach to businesses who have not yet joined the Cook County Chamber, to find out why they haven't joined--and what they would like to see the chamber doing here on the North Shore. 
 
The deadline to apply is May 21. The application and information can be found on the Chamber's Facebook page. 
 
For more information, contact Jim Boyd, Chamber executive director, at 218-370-9665 or ccchamber@boreal.org.
 
WTIP reached out to Chamber Executive Director Boyd to learn more about this new position and why it is needed. 
Here's Rhonda Silence with more. 

 
Grand Portage Band flag. Submitted image

Grand Portage reports new COVID-19 case, but overall number still low

The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has been diligent in its efforts to keep COVID-19 from spreading in the community. Through the pandemic, Grand Portage has only three positive cases impacting people who reside or work within the reservation. However, another case in Grand Portage was reported this week.
 
On May 4, the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal Council announced that they had received notice from Public Health of a case of COVID-19 within the reservation. This fourth case is a male in his teens who is a resident of the Grand Portage Reservation.
 
On August 15, 2020, a male in his mid-30s, a resident of Grand Portage, was found to be positive for COVID-19. A second case was announced on January 8, 2021. This was a person who worked for the Grand Portage Reservation Tribal Council, who lived off the reservation. On April 8, a third positive COVID-19 case was announced. The person was a female in her 20s who was an employee of Grand Portage enterprises. 
 
In all of these cases, the individuals isolated as directed by the Minnesota Department of Health and CDC. Contact tracing was conducted by Grand Portage Health Services and Cook County Public Health. 
As the other cases had done, the Tribal Council said the patient is quarantining and has complied with mandatory contact tracing, and has been interviewed by health officials. 
 
Individuals having contact with the patient have been notified and have been advised to stay home until test results are received.
In a Facebook statement, the Tribal Council wrote, "Community members should be assured that confidentiality is of the utmost concern for patients in the health care system. 
 
"Individuals who may become infected should be given the space to recover without fear of being brought into the public eye. Grand Portage is a close community where we show compassion when faced with difficult times. We are strong and we will get through these tough times together."
 
The Tribal Council reiterated that anyone experiencing symptoms of coronavirus (fever/chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle/body aches, headache, congestion, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea or new loss of taste or smell) should call the Triage nurse at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at 218-387-2330. 

The Tribal Council and Grand Portage Health Services encourage community members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccination clinics in Grand Portage have been very well attended. The next opportunity for vaccinations in Grand Portage will be May 24 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The clinic will be offering the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Grand Portage Health Services at 218-475-2235. 
 

In related news, in April, the Grand Portage Tribal Council and Pow Wow committee made the decision to cancel the 2021 Grand Portage Elders Powwow in May and the Grand Portage Rendezvous Days Powwow in August due to the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing pandemic. 
 
In their announcement, the Powwow Committee said, "This decision was not made lightly but we are continuing to keep the safety and well-being of the community and our guests in mind.
 
"We hope to return to celebrating in the circle with all of our relatives next year; please continue to keep you and your families safe."