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Cass gets FEMA check for storm damage

BACKUS — Cass County Assistant Highway Engineer Kris Lyytinen reported to the county board Tuesday that the county last week received its FEMA check for storm damage the county sustained to county roads in a June heavy rain event.

Because damage in a Memorial Day weekend downpour only hit southern Cass and a small portion of Crow Wing County, the total storm event was not significant enough to qualify for either FEMA or state storm damage funding. Cass’s costs to repair roads from that event are $140,000.

Cass does expect to get state reimbursement for wind damage (mainly removing downed trees) for the $40,000 the county spent following a July 2 windstorm in northern Cass.

The June 19 storm, which also did extensive flood damage in the Duluth area, qualified affected counties in the state for both FEMA and state assistance. Last week, Cass received a $219,000 FEMA check, according to Administrator Robert Yochum.

The June rainstorm hit mainly central and northeastern Cass, causing significant erosion and long term flooding, Lyytinen reported. There, 31 roads were affected with water over them at over 64 locations. Eleven culverts were washed out or damaged, he added.

A small amount of the repair work from that storm will be completed next spring, he said.

Joshua Stevenson, land commissioner, obtained board approval Tuesday to use money from a state capital improvement grant for trails to remove trees fallen on snowmobile trails in central and northern Cass from this summer’s storms.

That grant money comes from the sale of snowmobile stickers to snowmobile operators.

The board accepted a low quote of five received from T & C Excavating at $15 per cubic yard to move fallen timber off Snoway 1 west of Pine River and from Soo Line Trail between Cass Lake and Bena. The board also authorized Stevenson to apply for a debris removal federal grant from Homeland Security to pay the balance of those costs, plus clearing two stub trails off the Soo Line near Lake Winnibigoshish.

Any costs exceeding those grants will be paid from land department fund balances.

Stevenson told the board the DNR will not release snowmobile grant-in-aid trail maintenance money for this winter unless he can declare a trail clear and open for snowmobile operation. He cannot make that declaration until all fallen trees have been removed from the trails, he said.

The board approved a request to allow the land department to provide a $2,500 match to $5,000 being provided by the snowmobile club at Longville to make repairs to the trails in that area from the heavy rain events this summer.

Stevenson told the board not only are those trails used for snowmobiling, but also loggers who buy timber from county land in the Longville area use those trails to access county logging sites.

Outing Sand and Gravel submitted the lowest of three bids at $18 per yard to provide fill material for Crooked Lake Trail in that township where heavy rains caused washouts. Emily Snowbirds club will re-shape the trail/road in that area after the fill has been delivered.

North Fork Boulders and Excavating won the contract with a $14.50 per yard, plus $375 to shape trail to repair a washout on the Deep Portage Conservation ski trail in Woodrow Township. Two other firms bid that project.

Cass commissioners approved a formal agreement with Shingobee Township. It spells out terms for the county to act as fiscal agent for a project to install a recreational trails bridge at Shingobee Island near Walker, which the board approved earlier.

It also spells out the county’s role to handle construction bidding and oversee the construction project to meet MnDOT requirements. The township earlier engaged Erickson Engineering to design the bridge and will own it once it is completed.

The bridge parallels a Highway 371 bridge in that area. When complete, the trail will connect the Paul Bunyan Trail to Walker. Once the bridge is installed the trail will be completed to the city, but one final phase will construct a tunnel under Highway 371 inside the city limits to carry trail users under the highway to the city park.

Stevenson reported the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council has approved $500,000 of the $1.2 million the county requested this year from the 3/8 cent state arts and environmental sales tax. The committee’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Legislature for approval before money can be distributed.

If given final approval, Stevenson said he plans to use the money to purchase acreages in sensitive habitat areas or areas adjacent to existing county land.

The board accepted low bids from survey companies to mark the lines on county property where the land department plans timber sales next year.

Kohout Surveying will survey one property in Hiram Township for $1,442 and one in Woodrow Township for $5,500. Stonemark Land Survey will survey a parcel in Turtle Lake Township for $6,675 and one in South Trelipe Township for $6,850.

Stevenson reported no one bid to plow snow at the county land department building in Backus, so he negotiated a new contract with the firm that plowed snow there last year, Aspen Woods and Lawn Services Inc., for $85 per hour.