Construction to start on new Lutsen ski resort water pipeline

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Work is set to begin on Tuesday on a pipeline that will bring water to the Lutsen Mountains ski area from Lake Superior, MPR News reports.

The $5 million pipeline will replace another that since the 1960s has been pulling water from the Poplar River, a designated trout habitat, MPR reports. The North Shore resort relies on the pipeline for snow-making.

The new pipeline will also draw water from Superior for use at the Superior National Golf Course and for about 100 area vacation homes and several local businesses, according to a project overview. The project also aims to protect a groundwater aquifer.

A special panel, Lake Superior-Poplar River Water District, was created last year to oversee the project.

A state grant will cover $3.6 million of the cost of the project, with local entities paying the remainder. Competing ski areas were not happy about Lutsen getting state money for the project.

State conservation officials for years acknowledged that they allowed Lutsen to violate water permits and pull way more water from the Poplar than was allowed. The resort's water use skyrocketed in the last decade to over 100 million gallons a year in 2010, well above the 1964 agreement of 12.4 million gallons, MPR reported in 2011.

Department of Natural Resources officials admitted back then that the resort's position as an economic engine in northeastern Minnesota was a factor in not citing the resort for the violations, MPR reported.

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Lutsen Mountains ski resort currently makes snow by pulling water from a protected trout stream that's suffering from drought. Governor Dayton wants the state to spend more than $3 million on a pipeline that would bring Lake Superior water to Lutsen. But competitors around the state have banded together to oppose the subsidy.

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The DNR says there is just cause for the Lutsen Mountains ski area to continue to draw water from the Poplar River along Lake Superior's North Shore despite protest from environmental groups.