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Duluth's Lakewalk makes governor's bonding plan as does snow-making equipment at Giants Ridge

Sandy

Jan. 16, 2020

DULUTH — City leaders asked for $13.5 million from the state to help fortify its coasts from the fury of Lake Superior storms, and now Gov. Tim Walz is on their side.
On Wednesday, Walz included Duluth's request in his $2 billion bonding proposal, which would pay for a record number of local projects around the state. Waves and wind from a series of severe storms in recent years have caused millions of dollars in damage along the city's coastline, and officials are in the midst of reconstruction efforts to better protect the shore from Mother Nature moving forward.
Walz also included a number of other northeastern Minnesota projects in his bonding package, including a recommendation that $8.6 million go to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation state agency for to upgrade the snow making system at Giants Ridge ski area and $10.3 million go to the city of Virginia to fund a new regional emergency services facility.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said the city's Lakewalk restoration efforts — which are being billed as a $61 million project, funded by city, state and federal dollars — aim to provide lasting protection to Duluth's shores. Simply repairing damage after each storm, she said, feels like "putting a Band-Aid on a surgical scar."
The bonding money would be used to replace aging sea walls protecting the coastline next to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) and to fortify the popular Lakewalk trail, which was battered by recent storms.
"We don't experience Lake Superior like a lake. It hits us like an ocean," Larson said. "We have gale-force winds. We get hurricane-style blowing."
The City Council voted Monday to make coastal infrastructure its top legislative priority for 2020. Now that Walz is on board, city officials plan to make their case to the state legislators in the coming months.
"And I'll do my darndest to make it hard for them to say no," said Larson, who argues Duluth's reputation as a tourist destination and its international port give its issues relevance at the state and national levels.
Other projects that made Walz's list: $1.3 million to help fund a behavioral health crisis facility in St. Louis County and $7.7 million to clean up contamination at a Duluth city dump site.
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