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MINNNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Mississippi River mayors want more federal money

MEMPHIS - Mayors of cities along the Mississippi River say they're in dire need of more federal money for projects that will keep commerce flowing. T

The Delta Regional Authority and the Mississippi River Cities-and-Towns Initiative agreed to do what they can to reduce freight bottlenecks and increase container shipping. To achieve that, the mayors say they'll need Congress to approve more funding for lock-and-dam improvements and dredging projects.  Backers say some locks-and-dams on the river are more than 50 years old, and need to be updated to avoid failures that could severely hold up shipping.


 The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in January been canceled.  Organizer Pat Olson says they are taking a year off to regroup.  The past two years have been tough:  In 2012 the Beargrease was canceled due to lack of snow.  This year it was delayed for two months to guarantee there would be enough snow.  It takes about $50,000 to run the marathon and mid-distance races.


Murder suspect Andrew Dikken of Renville is offering a plea deal to prosecutors but they have not yet responded.  On Wednesday, Dikken's attorney filed a document offering to plead guilty to the Granite Falls murders of his ex-girlfriend Kara Monson and her new boyfriend, Chris Panitzke, and accept a 52-year prison sentence.  28-year-old Dikken is accused of entering Monson's Granite Falls home September 2nd and shooting her and Panitzke. Earlier this month prosecutors asked for a DNA sample from Dikken to see if it matched that found on a tool used to cut gas lines at Monson's home.  It's also possible a grand jury could be called to indict Dikken on first degree murder charges because there is evidence that he threatened Monson's life before she was killed.  Dikken is currently being held on three million dollars bail and his next court appearance is December 9th.


The Cambridge boy killed yesterday when he was hit by a car while riding his bike has been identified as 13-year-old Colin Larson.  The Isanti County Sheriff's Department says the 16-year-old boy driving the car, also from Cambridge, suffered minor injuries.  No arrests have been made, no citations have been issued and the crash remains under investigation. Officials say the schools the boys attend will provide counseling on Monday when students return from the teachers convention break.  


A Le Sueur man is dead after an ATV accident Wednesday in rural Nicollet County.  The sheriff's office says family and friends searched for 66-year-old Douglas Kamps after he rode into a wooded area between Highway 169 and County Road 20 and never returned.  Kamps was later found by authorities pinned under his ATV and pronounced dead at the scene.  An autopsy will be performed by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office.


Volunteers have fanned across a Hopkins park for a missing man who was last seen disoriented and wearing a hospital id band.  Police have asked for the public's help in the search for  30-year-old Christopher Simondet and his 85-pound bulldog, who have been missing since last Sunday.  Family members say he is bipolar and probably without his medication. Police say Simondet has been seen several times in the past few days but they've been unable to locate him.  Volunteers began combing Burnes Park in Hopkins early this morning.


Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is calling upon a federal agency to investigate and remedy complaints from senior citizens about improper Medicare claims handled by Humana.  Swanson has sent a letter to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services containing more than 25 sworn affidavits from Minnesota patients and medical providers complaining of claim denials, overcharges for co-payments and failure to follow appeal procedures.  Swanson says these errors often "hit senior citizens hard in the pocketbook." About 17 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries nationwide are enrolled in a Humana Medicare Advantage plan. 


State regulators are giving the green light to Xcel Energy's proposal to add 750 megawatts of wind power to its grid.  The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved four projects in the Upper Midwest.  They are the Pleasant Valley wind farm near Austin, the Odell wind farm near Windom, and two projects in North Dakota  Xcel expects consideration from North Dakota regulators by the end of the year.  Officials say the projects represent a 42-percent increase in the company's wind power capacity in the region.