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Minnesota reports 2,130 transportation jobs created from road stimulus so far

St. Paul, MN (AP) — Eager to show the federal stimulus package is working, Minnesota transportation leaders said Wednesday the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has supported 2,130 direct road construction jobs in the state so far.

The figure puts the state about a sixth of the way toward an ultimate job goal of 12,500 when its entire $502 million federal transportation share is spent. The jobs are considered temporary in that they’ll fade as projects are completed.

Jon Chiglo, stimulus project manager for the state Transportation Department, said 98 Minnesota projects are at least at the bidding stage and a handful have been completed. The agency expects to have all projects up for bidding before Thanksgiving and most of the actual work finished by the end of next summer, Chiglo said.

Stetsonville gets stimulus help for cleanup of contaminated property in village

Gov. Jim Doyle and Congressman Dave Obey, D-Wis., announced Wednesday that Stetsonville will receive $2 million in federal stimulus money for cleanup efforts.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act cash will help with a site contaminated by leaking underground storage tanks. The leaking petroleum has already affected many private wells in the village.

The money also will let the village construct a new municipal water supply system.

Madison Gas and Electric signs on for more wind power development in Iowa

Madison Gas and Electric on Wednesday announced it signed agreements to buy land in northern Iowa for potential wind farm developments.

The sites, near Wellsburg and Hawkeye, could produce up to 175 megawatts of renewable energy, and the agreements require MGE to sign easement agreements by the end of 2016.

MGE owns two wind farms, one in Iowa and another in Wisconsin. It also has contracts for power from independent wind farms in the two states.

Milwaukee County supervisors schedule hearings for Hoan Bridge project

Milwaukee County is holding two public hearings this month to discuss construction plans for the Hoan Bridge.

Five County Board supervisors who formed the Coalition to Save the Hoan announced meetings to discuss options for renovating the bridge or replacing it with a street-level road.

A 6:30 p.m. hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19 in the South Milwaukee City Administrative Building. A second hearing will be held Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Cudahy Public Library.

Supervisor Patricia Jursik, who wants to prevent the Hoan Bridge from being demolished, promised to hold more public hearings in September.

USDA reports value of farm real estate in Wisconsin dips but still beats average

Madison (AP) — The value of farm real estate in Wisconsin dipped 3 percent since last year, but it remains well above the national average.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported an acre of agricultural property averages $3,750 in Wisconsin.

That ties with Michigan for 18th highest in the nation. Minnesota’s value was about $2,900.
Values in all three states are well above the national average of $2,100 per acre.

Farm real estate includes land and buildings.

Meanwhile, cropland values in Wisconsin averaged $3,650 per acre. That’s an increase of more than 1 percent from the previous year.

Senators place hold on nominee for Surface Transportation Board

Washington (AP) — Two senators have put a hold on the nomination of Daniel Elliott as chairman of the Surface Transportation Board after the United Transportation Union suggested its campaign donations helped make the nomination happen.

The nomination of Elliott, and of Joseph Szabo as administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration — both of whom worked for the UTU — “is tribute to the political influence of the UTU, which flows from the UTU PAC,” according to a recent press release statement attributed to Mike Futhey, UTU International President.

The words were bandied about at a Senate Commerce Committee meeting, with chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., referring to “this UTU idiocy.” The UTU is headquartered in Cleveland.

The committee’s top Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, suggested a hold on the nominee until the panel receives assurances the union was not suggesting any undue influence. Rockefeller quickly endorsed it.

UTU spokesman Frank N. Wilner said that a letter was being sent to Rockefeller.

According to comments attributed to Futhey in the letter to Rockefeller released late Wednesday: “the statement that appears to attribute Mr. Elliott’s nomination to the influence of UTU PAC was not in any way appropriate and is certainly not an accurate reflection of the facts surrounding his nomination.”

Federal district judge approves expansion of Smoky Canyon Mine

Boise, ID (AP) — An environmental group promises to appeal a federal ruling that on Tuesday approved the expansion of a phosphate mine into a roadless area near Yellowstone National Park.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Mikel Williams said the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management followed the necessary steps when considering the J.R. Simplot Company’s request to expand its Smoky Canyon Mine.

The J.R. Simplot Co. has mined phosphate rock from leased land in the Caribou National Forest since 1983, supplying about 1.5 million tons of phosphate ore a year to the company’s Don fertilizer plant in Pocatello.

But the Smoky Canyon Mine’s phosphate reserves were expected to be completely played out by the summer of 2010, and last June the Bush administration approved a plan to let the mine expand into roadless areas of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

The company said the expansion into land about 100 miles south of Yellowstone National Park would provide enough phosphate to keep the Don plant running for another 15 years.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition sued, contending the expansion would further harm a region already polluted with selenium from past phosphate mining. Pollution from other mines in the 1990s resulted in the deaths of horses and hundreds of sheep grazing in areas tainted by selenium.

United Airlines moving operations center to downtown Chicago

Chicago (AP) — United Airlines reports it will move its operations center from suburban Chicago to the downtown building that until recently was known as the Sears Tower.

The move will bring 2,800 jobs into the city from Elk Grove township, near O’Hare Airport. The earliest United will make the move is late next year. United already moved its headquarters from the same area to downtown two years ago.

United reported it is not using one-third of the space in Elk Grove, and updating the space might cost as much as $90 million.

Also, the city of Chicago is giving United tax incentives and other money. United did not disclose the size of the incentives.

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