Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sustainable St. Croix,
a continuing series
Sand friction

Life here in the St. Croix Valley occasionally gets fractious. The City of North Branch and Superior Silica Sands (SSS) are once again trying to cut a deal that would let SSS transship frac sand from North Branch after SSS routes 200 to 250 trucks a day full of sand from Wisconsin through downtown Taylors Falls on the way to North Branch. There's supposed to be some effort underway to find an alternate route for the sand trucks. With very little checking online, we discovered that Wisconsin DOT, which is supposed to be the owner of the Highway 8 bridge, had plans to reroute "larger truck" traffic to the Osceola bridge back in 2010 when the bridge underwent rehabilitation. It seems to us that, if such a plan was viable a few years ago, it should still offer an option that could alleviate Taylors Falls' concerns about impacting local businesses during the summer months. In addition to the local press, and some Twin Cities TV coverage when it looked like this project was going away, Bluestem Prairie has been providing good coverage of this issue. I suppose we should be thankful that, at least so far, no one has proposed running oil trains or an oil pipeline across the river. Ron Meador has written some good pieces recently for MinnPost about the risks involved in continuing to feed our oil addiction.

Speaking of Taylors Falls and the St. Croix river and transportation, we had the pleasure of spending some time there this afternoon, at the river, not the city. For the first time in several years, we took a fly rod and a fishing companion off to flail the river. Neither of us caught anything, although we each missed one, and we got to see one of the "paddlewheelers" from Taylors Falls make a "u-turn" and head back upstream.

Coming downstream
Photo by J. Harrington

Photo by J. Harrington

Headed upstream
Photo by J. Harrington

While we were watching the Taylors Falls Princess manoeuvre on the water, an osprey flew over us and the water about rod-tip high. All in all it was a fun and exciting trip. We'll do it again if we don't have to dodge too many Wisconsin sand trucks. I don't suppose there's a transshipment facility they could use down near Stillwater so they could wait a year or two then have the trucks come across the new bridge going in down there? Meanwhile, Tony Hoagland "nails it" with this poem. Notice he doesn't mention truck traffic?

Summer in a Small Town

By Tony Hoagland 
Yes, the young mothers are beautiful,
with all the self-acceptance of exhaustion,
still dazed from their great outpouring,
pushing their strollers along the public river walk.

And the day is also beautiful—the replica 19th-century paddle-wheeler
perpetually moored at the city wharf
                with its glassed-in bar and grill
for the lunch-and-cocktail-seekers
who come for the Mark Twain Happy Hour
which lasts as long as the Mississippi.

This is the kind of town where the rush hour traffic halts
                to let three wild turkeys cross the road,
and when the high school music teacher retires
after thirty years

the movie marquee says, “Thanks Mr. Biddleman!”
and the whole town comes to hear
                the tuba solos of old students.

Summer, when the living is easy
and we store up pleasure in our bodies
like fat, like Eskimos,
for the coming season of privation.

All August the Ferris wheel will turn
                           in the little amusement park,
and screaming teenage girls will jump into the river
with their clothes on,
right next to the No Swimming sign.

Trying to cool the heat inside the small towns
                                               of their bodies,
for which they have no words;
obedient to the voice inside which tells them,
“Now. Steal Pleasure.”

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.