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DNR issues ski hill permit to draw water from slowing Poplar River

Poplar River Valley
Poplar River Valley

After a review of more than 600 comments from the public, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr issued a permit to Lutsen Mountains Ski Hill to take water from the Poplar River for snowmaking despite the stream’s low water level.

For many years the ski hill has been drawing more water than its permit allowed. In an effort to rectify the situation the state passed a new law raising the amount of water the company could draw from the river. However, that law also requires the ski hill to quit pumping when water levels fall below 15 cubic feet per second for more than five straight days. But a separate law cited by the DNR allows for exceptions with just cause. In this case the DNR says the potential economic impacts to the region are significant enough to merit an exception.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr says a long-term solution needs to be found and that relying on the Poplar River for snowmaking is not a sustainable source for the ski area. He says Lutsen and legislators need to commit themselves to finding an alternative, probably Lake Superior.

In a statement thanking the DNR on behalf of Lutsen Mountain Corp. company executive Charles Skinner said the company is currently working aggressively on a financing plan including public and private funding for a pipeline from Lake Superior as its primary snowmaking source.

Lutsen estimates it would cost more than $3 million to install a pipeline to Lake Superior that would meet its needs.