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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Congressional delegation urges President Obama issue disaster declaration

WASHINGTON D.C. --  Minnesota's congressional delegation is urging President Obama to issue a major disaster declaration for the state. 

Governor Dayton formerly requested federal assistance Wednesday to help the state recover from significant storm and flood damage.  Minnesota's senators and representatives wrote the president, saying, "given the degree of damage, we strongly encourage you to issue such a declaration in a timely manner and allow FEMA to begin to supplement state and local recovery efforts."  Preliminary damage assessments continued today in Nicollet, Blue Earth, Hennepin and Ramsey counties.


The brutal winter is being blamed for a drop in iron ore shipments on the Great Lakes.  Glen Nekvasil, with the Lake Carriers' Association, says ore shipments through the end of June are down 17-percent from a year ago.  He says it's going to be tough to make up the lost tonnage because the vessels are already operating at their most efficient speed and they can't be loaded or unloaded any faster.  He says they hope Mother Nature will be nice the rest of the year.  The harsh winter produced thick ice cover and nearly brought shipping to a standstill.


The Minnesota DNR says too many boaters are breaking state laws intended to make it harder for aquatic invasive species to spread in lakes and rivers.  As a result, the DNR is ramping up enforcement this weekend.  Conservation officer Phil Seefeldt says there are higher expectations of boaters now -- after years of educating on AIS regulations.  He says you don't want to be known as the person who spreads zebra mussels. Seefeldt urges Minnesotans to take an extra five minutes to look around their boats, drain their live well water and bait water and do their part.  The most common violation is people keeping their boat plugs in while transporting boats.


 "The right person, in the right job, at the right time."  That's how University of Minnesota Board of Regents Chair Richard Beeson described -U- President Eric Kaler when the board approved a contract extension.  On a unanimous vote at Wednesday's meeting, the board approved a contract extension for Kaler that increases his salary 2.5-percent to just over $625,000 for the coming school year.  It also increases the school's annual contributions to Kaler's retirement.  By the time the contract expires in 2020, the University's contribution to Kaler's retirement fund will total $1.3 million  dollars.  Board Chair Beeson said that since taking office in 2011, Kaler has shown significant progress in meeting the U's goals.  He also noted that more work remains to be done in such areas as student debt and reducing administrative costs.