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5 things to know today: Northern flooding, Fufeng plant, Gun trigger, Think tank, Growler bill

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

High water
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1. Extreme Northern Minnesota sees worst flooding in 72 years

It’s not so much that Sandy Point Lodge and Resort is situated on this big, beautiful lake these days. It’s more like in the lake.

The 25,000-acre lake that has been the lifeblood of this resort community for a century or more, the reason people come here to visit and fish and to live, is once again playing the villain.

“You could get mad or angry ... but that’s not going to help. So you just wake up every day, take a deep breath, and go back to work to keep the water out,’’ said Jennifer Gelo, who has owned the lodge with her husband, Gordon, for two decades.

Floodwaters along the entire Rainy River watershed continue to rise, from Lake Vermilion on the south to Lake of the Woods to the north, blowing past the modern-day flood high-water mark set in 2014 in some areas and now approaching the record flood level of 1950.

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The problem is especially bad this week on Crane, Namakan and Kabetogama lakes where homes and businesses are fighting a constant battle to keep water out.

Read more from Forum News Service's John Myers

2. Grand Forks’ deal to stave off annexation fight for proposed Fufeng plant appears shaky

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall

An attorney on Thursday suggested his clients along Highway 81 might protest their annexation into the city — a move that’s being considered to bring both the future site of a proposed corn mill and some of its neighbors within Grand Forks’ borders.

If they do file a protest, those businesses would add their names to a list of opponents of annexation due to the city by May 27. If more than 25% of the properties by land area protest the move, it could force the annexation into mediation.

“While my clients would rather enter into the annexation agreement, they cannot allow the protest deadline to pass without having a signed annexation agreement in hand,” attorney John Warcup said in a Thursday email to City Administrator Todd Feland. “If you have questions or concerns regarding the enclosed agreement, please let me know as soon as possible.”

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He provided city leaders an agreement document that he asked them to sign. It includes a promise that they will not protest the annexation — a point that’s been in negotiation documents for weeks, contingent on a successful deal with the city.

That email exchange follows weeks of negotiations that had appeared to conclude on Monday, when City Council leaders voted 5-0 to approve a funding plan for the special assessments in the annexation area, deeply discounting costs to local businesses. City leaders said they’d work in good faith to resolve a potential water utility issue in the area.

Read more from Forum News Service's Sam Easter

3. Gun trigger sold by Fargo company prompts legal clash

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An AR-15 rifle.
Photo by M62 via Wikimedia Commons

A gun trigger company based in Fargo has sued a federal agency that claims a trigger sold by the company can turn a rifle into a machine gun, raising questions about the legality of the firearm part.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ordered Rare Breed Triggers to stop selling its forced-reset trigger, according to a Jan. 13 cease-and-desist letter to the company. The ATF also has launched a criminal investigation into Rare Breed's triggers.

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Rare Breed filed a lawsuit on Monday, May 16, against the ATF and U.S. Department of Justice, asking a federal judge to void the cease-and-desist order, force the agencies to withdraw their classification of the trigger as a machine gun and award any relief the court sees fit.

Rare Breed started selling its forced-reset trigger, known as the FRT-15, nationwide in December 2020. The company’s attorney and owner, Kevin Maxwell, called the FRT-15 a legal semiautomatic trigger for AR-15 rifles.

“It is not a machine gun under the National Firearms Act or the Gun Control Act,” Maxwell said in a video posted to Rare Breed’s website.

Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten

4. Minnesota-based conservative think tank works to expand into North Dakota

President John Hinderaker of the Center of the American Experience holds a magazine with a story about an August 2018 report that shows copper-nickel mines in northern Minnesota would be good for the economy. Don Davis / Forum News Service
President John Hinderaker of the Center of the American Experience holds a magazine with a story about an August 2018 report that shows copper-nickel mines in northern Minnesota would be good for the economy. Don Davis / Forum News Service

A conservative think tank that works to influence public policy and educate residents in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is looking to expand across the Red River and into North Dakota.

The Center of the American Experiment, a nonprofit think tank that works to mobilize citizens on a variety of issues pertaining to state and local governments, is beginning a tour in eastern North Dakota next week. The group aims to one day open a North Dakota office and have employees based in the Peace Garden State.

"We want to bring citizens of North Dakota the same kind of high-quality information that for 30 years we've been bringing to people here in Minnesota," John Hinderaker, president of the Center of the American Experiment, told The Forum in an interview.

The organization does not fund political campaigns or endorse candidates, but it has experts and lobbyists who advocate for and against bills during the Minnesota legislative session. Hinderaker said the Center of the American Experiment is "more activist" than traditional think tanks.

Next week, the group is hosting events in Wahpeton, Grand Forks and Fargo to talk about "critical race theory" and how "the 'woke' political movement is working hard to turn North Dakota's public schools into ideological battlegrounds, threatening the quality of our children's education," the organization said in a press release announcing the events.

Read more from Forum News Service's Michelle Griffith

5. 'Free the growler' beer bill on its way to Minnesota governor's desk for signature

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Both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature on Friday, May 20, voted to advance a broad rewrite of the state's liquor laws, including a plan to let a handful of large breweries resume the sale of growlers from their taprooms and increase to-go sales options for microbreweries and distilleries.

That could mean Minnesota breweries and distilleries could open up new off-sale options in their taprooms in the coming days and weeks.

On a 62-4 vote in the Senate and a 111-21 vote in the House of Representatives, lawmakers approved a plan to let breweries that produced up to 150,000 barrels a year offer growler sales, up from the current 20,000 barrel cap. The move sends the bill to the governor for his signature and Gov. Tim Walz has said he plans to sign it into law.

The state's six largest craft breweries — Castle Danger, Fulton, Indeed, Lift Bridge, Schell's and Surly — were blocked from selling growlers under the cap. And the owners of Lift Bridge last year added a brewery in Wisconsin so they could produce more beer while not hitting Minnesota's barrel cap.

Jamie MacFarlane, co-owner of Two Harbors-based Castle Danger Brewing, got emotional talking about the bill's passage on Friday afternoon. The brewery was among a group that pushed to lift the limit since 2018.

Read more from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
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