Friday, June 20, 2014

Sustainable St. Croix,
part of a continuing series
National Heritage Area or frac sand economy?

Once I overcame my fear of the strange, bright light in the sky today, I noticed that the hill out back is covered in colors. There's lots and lots of some white wildflower I'll need to go and identify (I've been told it's boneset but I don't think the pictures of boneset match what's in the field. I think it's hoary alyssum.), increasing amounts of hairy vetch (purple), and an abundance of hoary puccoon plants (yellow). The flowers, the sunshine, and the fact that our basement isn't flooded have combined to put me in a good mood, and to extend my deepest sympathy to many of my fellow Minnesotans.

goslings and goose                             © harrington

This little flock, and a couple more like them, are another reason to be happy today. If they aren't the cutest, they're in the top five or so (along with puppies, kittens, ducklings, and, if your name is Hagrid, baby dragons).

On a much less cheerful note, the frac sand facility proposed for North Branch, that we were informed a while ago was not going to proceed, is apparently back in play. We have a number of concerns about this project, if what we've read is basically accurate. First, we're not sure MoveOn petitions are the most effective way to address this kind of problem, but they may be the best available to concerned citizens until the upcoming election. Second, the concept, reported in the June 12 linked story ("back in play") of looking at a "bypass" around downtown Taylors Falls, strikes us as being just short of a fantasy or a fairy tale. Third, we hope the folks in the Valley, on both sides of the River, begin to think about is how well the advantages of a National Heritage Area designation, currently being explored, might be offset by additional development of heavy industry with traffic needs that conflict with tourist traffic.

St. Croix Falls and Taylors Falls
St. Croix Falls and Taylors Falls            © harrington

We also wonder if the National Park Service might have concerns about a bypass around Taylors Falls or about augmenting the capacity of the current bridge, since it's not clear that the design of that facility is based on the amount of heavy truck traffic that includes frac sand. All of this is coming along at a time when legislatures at the state and federal level are reluctant to provide the funds needed for currently committed and programmed projects. We have few doubts we'll be revisiting this issue again and again. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, please note that Jeff Daniel Marion could easily have been writing about the St. Croix River. Maybe he was.

Playing to the River

By Jeff Daniel Marion 

She stands by the riverbank, 
notes from her bagpipes lapping
across to us as we wait

for the traffic light to change.
She does not know we hear—
she is playing to the river,

a song for the water, the flow
of an unknown melody to the rocky
bluffs beyond, for the mist

that was this morning, shroud
of past lives: fishermen
and riverboat gamblers, tugboat captains

and log raftsmen, pioneer and native
slipping through the eddies of time.
She plays for them all, both dirge

and surging hymn, for what has passed
and is passing as we slip
into the currents of traffic,
the changed light bearing us away.

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