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Cloquet receives $106K to update stormwater plan

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency awarded the grant out of a pool of $870,000.

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Minnesota Pollution Control Agency unveils $106,000 in grant funding for Cloquet at a press conference with, from left, Rep. Mike Sundin, D-Esko, MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler, Mayor Roger Maki and Short Elliot Hendrickson senior engineer Rachel Pichelmann on Tuesday, July 19.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — The city of Cloquet received a grant for $106,000 to expand the city's stormwater management plan and identify infrastructure upgrades to safeguard the community.

The announcement was made by Katrina Kessler, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, during a press conference Tuesday, July 19, at Cloquet City Hall.

Kessler said the funds are intended to build a community resilient to climate change.

"Minnesota's climate is becoming warmer and wetter," she said. "These impacts and others pose destructive challenges to communities across Minnesota."

The agency's goal is to equip local leaders with the tools that are best suited for their communities, she said.

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"We know this grant is just a drop in the bucket in terms of the funding that is needed to protect Cloquet from the full impacts of climate change," she said.

Kessler said the funding needs to be used for assessing climate risks and opportunities for adaptations to minimize risks. The city will also contribute $26,000 of its own money to the plan.

Moving forward Kessler said every community would have the resources to develop a strong plan and the MPCA would have the resources to implement them.

"Those resources do not exist today, but we are committed to asking the Legislature and working with the federal government to continue to advocate for those resources," she said.

Mayor Roger Maki said it was a great day for the city, and officials will use the funds to update its 40-year-old stormwater master plan.

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Mayor Roger Maki explains the benefits of the $106,000 grant Cloquet received from the MPCA on Tuesday, July 19.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal

"I would like to thank the MPCA and the state of Minnesota for their support as we plan for our future infrastructure needs," he said.

Caleb Peterson, the director of public works for the city, said planning for climate change is something officials have discussed internally for a while, but it has been hard to get funding for a planning project.

Rachel Pichelmann, a senior engineer at Short Elliot Hendrickson, said she is excited to partner with the city to develop a new plan. Officials will start with updating their current outdated stormwater management plan.

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According to Pichelmann the city also needs to identify areas of stormwater infrastructure inadequacy, research the impacts of climate change on the existing stormwater infrastructure, expand previous planning efforts to include a larger area of the community and identify specific projects to lessen the impact of climate change.

She added the public will also be able to submit their input on areas they believe have a heightened flood risk as the project moves forward.

"Clearly there is a lot of work that needs to be done over the coming year," she said. "Community outreach and engagement will be a critical component of this process, because we really need to obtain valuable information from the public about past flooding observations."

Rep. Mike Sundin, D-Esko, mentioned previous weather events that have impacted the community, like the 2012 flood, and said fortunately communities have learned from those experiences.

"I would like to thank the MPCA for handing us the opportunity to develop the tools to face up to these weather related challenges," he said. "There is no denying this is happening."

Sundin added he was proud the legislature got the work done in the budget cycle last year to provide funding for the grants.

In addition to Cloquet, Duluth received $100,000 toward its climate change planning efforts and will contribute $14,000.

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:
The second public hearing on the topic is scheduled for March 9, and is being held after residents provided comments and concerns during the first hearing on Jan. 26.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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As reported by Carlton County District Court.
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Gov. Tim Walz approved the relief funds Wednesday. Carlton County also received an undisclosed amount.
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