City council considers request from Spirit Mountain

Executive Director Renee Mattson and several engineers attended the Cloquet City Council meeting on Tuesday night on behalf of Spirit Mountain in Duluth to make a request - for water.

Executive Director Renee Mattson and several engineers attended the Cloquet City Council meeting on Tuesday night on behalf of Spirit Mountain in Duluth to make a request - for water.

They want to tap into a city-owned water pipeline that runs near the popular ski and snowboard hill in order to make the best use of a new and improved snow making system.

Currently, Spirit Mountain uses water from the city of Duluth to fuel their snow guns, but Duluth can't provide the gallons per minute they need to get the job done well, according to Mattson.

"We now get nearly 2,700 gallons [of water] per minute, and would like to increase it to 6,000 gallons per minute," she said. "We're changing the way we're doing snowmaking to only forced water - no electricity. The snow is fluffier and also requires less manpower to move."

Mattson reported that they make snow mostly in November and December as they ready the slopes to open in the beginning of the ski and snowboard season. Spirit spent more than 850 hours of making snow this past season and their new system would bring it down to 240 hours.


Sappi is the only business that currently uses the water line and there's no question that there is enough water and pipeline space to accommodate another user at this time, according to Jim Prusak, Cloquet's director of public works.

"We've been talking about this for five years so it's not new to us and we have met with Spirit's engineers," he said. "I don't see it impacting us negatively in terms of the existing operation."

City administrator Brian Fritsinger said that the possibility has been mentioned to Sappi representatives and they want to make sure it won't interrupt their service. They also want to know how it could benefit them.

Mattson said Spirit Mountain does not want to jeopardize Sappi's use of the water and that the studies done by engineers show it makes sense to share water in the line.

"We've gotten good response so far from the city of Cloquet," she added. Council member David Bjerkness wanted to know how the proposal might affect the pipeline's condition and if the added usage would "step up our need to maintain the line."

The biggest concern is with pipeline itself, according to Prusak, who said

he has proposed replacing sections of pipeline, particularly in Superior - which is essential for Spirit Mountain.

"It still remains a concern but we haven't had problems for the past three years with the pipe," Prusak reported. "It doesn't mean we don't have future concerns, the pipe will not last forever. By taking additional water from the system - I don't really feel it will impact [the line] although it's one more customer we commit to providing water to."


He also raised the issue of permits, which the city may need to obtain to take more water.

"We are currently taking close to our maximum and have actually exceeded it slightly recently," he said. He is waiting on a request he made months ago to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for a permit that would raise the amount of water taken.

Prusak didn't think permit requests would kill the Spirit Mountain proposal.

"You can equate what we're trying to do here as less than a drop in the bucket," he said.

Fritsinger added that the city would need to check in with the Minnesota Department of Health additionally.

Spirit Mountain has an aggressive timeline in place in order to get the snow making system in place and under way before the beginning of next winter, Fritsinger said.

"I'm not asking for action today other than to authorize our exploration," he said. As part of that exploration, Fritsinger said he and Prusak will meet with Sappi to determine how it would affect both entities financially.

"I see this as a real potential win for everyone involved," said Deb Hill, council member.


"We're very sensitive to Sappi," Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said. "As mayor, you have my endorsement of the project."

The council will revisit this issue either at the April 17 or May 1 meeting.

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