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Sen. Klobuchar visits GF area

East Grand Forks city leaders asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on Thursday for her help with several issues that would have benefits for both the city and neighboring Grand Forks.

East Grand Forks city leaders asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on Thursday for her help with several issues that would have benefits for both the city and neighboring Grand Forks.

They include bringing new aerial tankers to Grand Forks Air Force Base, improving air service at Grand Forks International Airport and funding a pipeline to bring water from the Missouri River to the Red River Valley.

The Air Force and airport are contributors to the area's economy and the pipeline is meant to ensure the region is not devastated in a major drought.

East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss said the rapid completion of the cities' dike project shows the benefits of working across state lines.

The mayor had credited the North Dakota congressional delegation's clout and attention as an important factor.

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The freshman senator agreed cross-border cooperation was important, saying she's been working with her colleagues, Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Rep. Earl Pomeroy, all Democrats from North Dakota .

Northwest tour

This week, she kicked off a tour of Northwest Minnesota cities with a field hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee that featured all three as well as Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. East Grand Forks was one of several stops Klobuchar made, including Browns Valley, Ada, Mahnomen, Red Lake Falls, Thief River Falls and Warren.

Klobuchar focused her remarks on issues that her committees are addressing.

In the ag committee, she said, she wants to ensure proper funding for growing the ethanol industry, including expansion of cellulosic ethanol, which is made from grass and other plant matter. That would benefit farmers with less-productive land, among others, she said.

She's also keeping an eye on the North American Free Trade Agreement. She spoke of concerns that Mexico will ruin the sugar beet industry with cheap sugar, then buying even cheaper sugar from Guatemala, which is not a NAFTA member.

In the transportation committee, she said, she's looking at new regulations to prevent the railroad industry from overcharging what she calls "captive customers." Rail costs are escalating so rapidly, she said, that it's cheaper to ship lumber from Finland to Indiana than from Grand Rapids, Minn., to Indiana.

Klobuchar touched on the war in Iraq, stating that she does not favor an immediate pullout, but wants the military to have clear benchmarks and goals.

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No less important than the senator's stance, though, was the fact that she came for a visit.

City leaders made much of the fact and pressed her to come back for a visit soon.

Klobuchar said she'd try to come back next year. She has made a goal of visiting all 87 Minnesota counties each year.

Tran reports on City Hall. Reach him at (701) 780-1248 or ttran@gfherald.com or see his blog at www.areavoices.com/gfhcitybeat .

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