- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014
Minn. prepares to open shelters for propane users

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The emergency management director said Friday that Minnesota is prepared to open warming shelters if propane supply problems continue in large portions of the country and cold weather persists in the state.

“We have identified shelters in a number of communities,” said Kris Eide, Minnesota’s director of homeland security and emergency management. Many residents of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation in the Dakotas have already been forced into public shelters because of the propane shortage.

Minnesota initiated a hotline on Thursday for residents who are worried about running out of propane or have other questions about the situation. The hotline took more than 80 calls in its first day.

Much of the Northeast and Midwest has seen propane prices skyrocket in recent weeks, prompting state officials to look for ways to alleviate supply problems and investigate reports of price gouging. Minnesota’s Executive Council, chaired by Gov. Mark Dayton, met Friday and extended the governor’s emergency declaration related to the propane shortage, authorizing state agencies to take a number of steps in response.

“We are starting to hear that people are out in certain places” in the state, state Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman told the Executive Council. “Prices are skyrocketing … it’s going to be touch and go for at least a few weeks, with forecasts for continued below-zero weather. The supply issues in Minnesota and nationally are not trending in a positive direction.”

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Minn. Sen. Sieben dismisses idea of Lt. Gov run

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota state senator mentioned prominently as a running mate for Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton says she doesn’t want the job.

Sen. Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove said Friday that she wants to remain in her current role for a term that runs through 2016. Dayton plans to name a new ticket companion because current Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon is retiring after this year regardless of whether her boss wins a new four-year term.

Other prospects include Dayton Chief of Staff Tina Smith and former House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, who now leads an Iron Range agency. Dayton said Friday he would name his running mate as soon as next week.

Sieben is an assistant majority leader currently in her third term.

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Craft brewer’s drone delivery hopes put on ice

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A craft brewer still has hopes of one day using drones to deliver its lager to ice fishing anglers on Minnesota lakes by air, despite being grounded by federal aviation officials after a recent test run.

Lakemaid Beer recently tested its delivery system by flying a 12-pack of its brew to anglers on central Minnesota’s Lake Mille Lacs. A video of the experiment posted online showed a small unmanned aerial system, or drone, not much bigger than the beer it carried flying over the head of a curious onlooker, landing on an iced-over lake and setting the beer down in front of a fishing shanty.

Lakemaid Beer president Jack Supple said he came up with the idea after Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos caused a recent stir by announcing the company is exploring drone deliveries, and that sending a small package via an automated drone could be reality in a few years.

Supple thought the idea could work well in a wide open space with drones programmed to deliver the beer, which is brewed in Stevens Point, Wis., to specific coordinates.

“We could actually do that on a frozen lake,” Supple said Friday. “They (anglers) know their GPS coordinates because they know their favorite spots.”

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Mille Lacs walleye rules likely to hold steady

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Fisheries officials say walleye anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will likely see regulations similar to last year despite its struggling walleye population.

The Department of Natural Resources says the safe harvest level has been set at 60,000 pounds for the upcoming season. Out of that total, 42,900 pounds are allocated to sport anglers while 17,100 pounds are for eight Chippewa bands with treaty rights.

DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira says existing and potential new restrictions will provide the needed protection and won’t impair the lake’s ability to produce future generations of walleye.

Mille Lacs hasn’t produced a strong year class of walleye since 2008 despite adequate spawning stock and excellent fingerling production.

Pereira says size and bag limits won’t be finalized until after the DNR confers with stakeholders in February.

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