Regional and Local Briefs: March 2015

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FOND DU LAC BAND TO SPEND $3 MILLION ON

MORE MODERN LOOK AT CASINO

DULUTH, MN – The Fond du Lac Band of

Lake Superior Chippewa Indians will spend $3 million on upgrades at

its casino in Duluth, Minnesota.

The Fond-du-Luth Casino will get a

more modern look. Work will start this summer and take about four

months, WDIO reported.

The casino has been the subject of

numerous legal battles over a revenue sharing agreement that was

invalidated by the federal government. The tribe paid $75 million to

the city of Duluth before payments stopped in 2009.

In November, the 8th Circuit Court of

Appeals heard arguments over an additional $12 million that is in

dispute. A decision hasn’t been announced.

In addition to the Duluth upgrades,

the tribe is installing a one-megawatt solar panel near the Black

Bear Casino Resort in Carlton.

APPEALS COURT RULES FOR TRIBAL FISHING

RIGHTS

ST. LOUIS, MO – The federal

government can’t prosecute members of an Ojibwe tribe who

gill-netted fish on a Minnesota reservation and sold their catch

off-reservation, an appeals court ruled on Feb. 10.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

ruled that U.S. District Judge John Tunheim correctly dismissed

charges against four Native men who were indicted in April 2013 for

fish poaching. “We conclude that the historic fishing rights of the

Chippewa Indians bar this prosecution of defendants for taking fish

within the Leech Lake Reservation and selling them,” the appeals

court said.

The four arrests came as part of a

federal crackdown on poaching on some of northern Minnesota’s most

popular lakes.

“The ruling affirms the traditional

fishing rights that the Chippewa Indians have had for more than 150

years. The ruling upholds what they negotiated in 1837,” attorney

Paul Engh said, referring to a treaty Chippewa Indians signed at Fort

Snelling. Regrettably, he said, defendant Marc Lyons died a month

ago, “before he could see his victory.”

Chris Niskanen, a spokesman for the

state Department of Natural Resources, said the DNR was disappointed

by the decision. “These were very serious violations that involved

the illegal and black market sale of protected game fish,” he said,

adding that they would be encouraging prosecution of the individuals

in tribal court.

Rich Robinson, natural resources

director for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, said the cases are in

tribal court. “We did not think the cases should be in federal

court because we have our own laws here. One of them is that you

cannot sell or barter game fish.”

Tunheim had ruled in November 2013

that the four federal indictments should be overturned because the

177-year-old Indian treaty trumped the legal case brought by the U.S.

attorney’s office. Charges against four others were dropped last

year at the request of federal prosecutors. Two other cases were put

on hold, awaiting the outcome of the 8th Circuit.

Attorney Jan Stuurmans represented one

of the two, Alan Hemme, a restaurant owner accused of aiding and

abetting the Indians by buying fish. Stuurmans said he expected

federal prosecutors will dismiss charges against Hemme “because the

principal claim has been dismissed.”

PRAIRIE ISLAND OPPOSES LIFTING NUCLEAR

MORATORIUM

ST. PAUL – The owner of Minnesota’s

nuclear power plants has no plans to build a new one, but wants

flexibility to do it if needed.

A state law bans nuclear plant

construction, however, State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, says

it’s time to give Minnesota utilities the ability to consider a new

nuclear plant. She is a sponsor of a bill to overturn Minnesota’s

nuclear power plant moratorium.

Nuclear plants near Red Wing and

Monticello provide a significant amount of Minnesota’s electrical

power. Their licenses to operate end in the early 2030s and if a new

plant were to be considered, planning would need to begin soon.

The Prairie Island Indian Community,

which sits next to the Red Wing-area nuclear plant, sent a statement

to Marty’s committee opposing lifting the moratorium. The Tribal

Council’s statement said the tribe is not opposed to nuclear energy,

but any increase in generating capacity or storage of waste nuclear

materials "is irresponsible without a long-term national

solution for storing spent nuclear fuel."

Nuclear opponents said new plants cost

too much, builders cannot find adequate financing and they offer too

much safety risk. "Nuclear power plants remain an unacceptable

power source," said Bill Grant of the Minnesota Commerce

Department.

Since the last Minnesota nuclear power

plant started in 1973 and the last coal plant began producing power

in 1987, the state has added wind, natural gas and biomass power,

Grant said. Now, he said, the state is well positioned to get

electricity from more natural gas plants and Canadian hydroelectric

facilities.

The issue returned to the Minnesota

Legislature on March 3 for the first time since Japan’s Fukushima

Daiichi nuclear power plant was seriously damaged by a tsunami

created by a major earthquake March 11, 2011. A bill that many

thought would pass the Legislature that year ceased progress with the

tsunami.

A Senate energy committee heard

Kiffmeyer’s bill and one specifically lifting the moratorium on the

Monticello plant, but took no action. Chairman John Marty,

D-Roseville, said he doubted that any bill coming out of his

committee would overturn the moratorium, but he predicted that there

would be attempts to amend an overall energy bill in his committee

and the full Senate to strip the ban.

SHAKOPEE MDEWAKANTON TO PAY FOR ROAD

INFRASTRUCTURE

Construction to reduce congestion and

create a third southbound lane between County Road 21 and County

State Aid Highway 83 in Shakopee is expected to begin in April.

The

project, which is anticipated to be completed in August, is being led

and funded entirely by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

As

part of the project, the southbound Highway 169 shoulder will be

reconstructed to add an additional driving lane prior to the County

Highway 83 exit. To minimize disruption, both existing lanes and the

exit ramp will be open to traffic during this project.

When

complete, this one-mile stretch of road will contain a new driving

lane with a 10-foot shoulder all the way to the County Road 83 exit

ramp. Currently, southbound 169 drops from three lanes to two lanes

one mile before the heavily-used County Road 83 exit. The new road

will carry three lanes all the way to the exit ramp. The additional

lane will make it easier and safer for residents, workers and

visitors to access the region south of the Minnesota River.

The

$1.5 million project is the latest of the SMSC’s contributions to

local infrastructure in Shakopee and Prior Lake. Since 2010, the SMSC

gave nearly $2.5 million for Scott County infrastructure improvements

and to Scott County-based organizations.