wealth distribution

New federal money helps Duluth tackle water issues, mayor says

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DULUTH — Duluth Mayor Emily Larson wants to make the most of the billions of dollars Minnesota is expected to get to address water infrastructure and other issues as part of the new federal money headed to the state.

Larson says the city plans to leverage “every penny,” and she had been promoting President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package as it winded its way through Congress.

“Having the federal government step back into ownership and responsibility of infrastructure is absolutely monumental,” said Larson, speaking for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a coalition of U.S. and Canadian mayors working to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. “For so long, decades really, municipalities have been left to bear the full brunt of infrastructure investments.”

The spending on water issues is crucial, coalition officials say, with money for clean drinking water, bridge repair and fortification against extreme weather. Last July, Great Lakes mayors released survey findings showing that coastal damages from climate change will cost Minnesota at least $115 million over the next five years. Duluth has already paid millions to fortify its shoreline, and essentially, the city, from increasingly violent Lake Superior storms.

The stakes could hardly be higher for Duluth, as city officials have struggled for decades over how to pay for battered roads, bridges and other infrastructure needs.

How else could money from the federal infrastructure measure aid Duluth? Here is an excerpt of a conversation with Larson.

What are the biggest infrastructure issues facing the city?

A. Water is a huge need. We just spent $22 million on Lakewalk and seawall repairs…

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