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Cleanup of the Twin Ports' St. Louis River will accelerate under new federal Great Lakes restoration funding. The Lake Superior estuary is one of 22 designated "areas of concern" to be restored using $1 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure deal approved by Congress last fall. Cleanup of the St. Louis River is expected to be done by 2030.

In a White House-led Zoom call Friday, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar focused on the importance of Duluth's port activities, calling Lake Superior not only a "treasure" for citizens, but "a major part of our commerce."

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith said the "unprecedented investment" in the Great Lakes is culturally significant.

"The shores of Lake Superior are the ancestral home of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa," she said. "It has deep cultural resonance for Native people across the region."

Funding will allow "major progress" on continued habitat restoration, invasive species work and cleanup of the river, "and ultimately delist the incredible St. Louis River area in Minnesota," Smith said.

Because the funding is in addition to other federal Great Lakes restoration appropriations, money can also be directed toward addressing nutrient reduction, harmful algal blooms and PFAS pollution in Great Lakes waterways.

One example of remediation being done right now on the St. Louis River is the dredging of frozen sediment and soil in the river's Spirit Lake area, said Debra Shore, from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mayor Emily Larson said in a news release that restoration of the river is good for the environment and Duluth's economy, with opportunities for redevelopment and more recreational experiences.

"This funding will continue to increase accessibility along the river and ensure that residents and visitors can enjoy this beautiful place for generations to come."



School district removes mask mandate for students, staff

St. Cloud school district eliminated on Thursday the universal masking requirement among students, staff and visitors.

Superintendent Willie Jett told school board members Wednesday that the decision was made in consultation with local and state health officials.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the district has plummeted in recent weeks — from 54 active cases among staff and 349 active cases among students in mid-January to one active case among staff and 37 active cases among students as of Thursday.

The updated policy requires students and staff returning to school following a five-day quarantine to wear masks on days six through 10; those who choose to not mask must complete a 10-day quarantine. The district will continue to provide KN95 masks and free at-home test kits for students and staff.

Because of the federal transportation mandate, students are still required to wear masks on buses and district transportation vehicles.

Jenny Berg