|5/3/2018 1:37:00 PM|
New Camp Ripley commander introduces himself to Cass Board
MONICA LUNDQUISTWALKER-Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse, the new senior commander of Camp Ripley, introduced himself to the Cass County Board Tuesday.
Cass County Correspondent
He described himself as a former North Dakota dairy farmer who sold all his cows when he was deployed for one year to Iraq. When he returned, he made the military his career.
Kruse presented Camp Ripley's annual report to the commissioners, noting Ripley employs 500 uniform personnel and 300 civilians on its 53,000-acre campus between Brainerd and Little Falls.
The 2017 Ripley payroll ran $64,218,875, plus another $46,681,000 paid to disabled and retired military personnel. Its total 2017 expenditures ran $136,174,066, including $9 million to purchase buffer easements from property owners surrounding the training camp.
Camp Ripley brings a total $294,013,426 financial impact to the surrounding community, Kruse said.
Ripley lost seven buildings and suffered damage to several others in a 2016 tornado. Since then, about $31 million has been spent, with $29 million of that from the federal government, to replace and repair buildings, Kruse said. Four buildings are still under construction.
As a part of routine upgrades, Camp Ripley is replacing the majority of its "tin hut" buildings with three-season cement block structures, Kruse said.
The main training season runs May through October.
Camp Ripley has encouraged state, county and city governments to use the facility for their personnel training programs. Kruse's list of this summer's users reflects a wide diversity of agencies that will host training programs and meetings at Camp Ripley in addition to the military units scheduled.
Minnesota agencies scheduled to train or meet there include the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Department of Corrections, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation, Highway Patrol and Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Numerous local sheriff's departments and police departments, county attorneys, SWAT teams, Civil Air Patrol, Central Lakes College, American Red Cross, Gold Star Families and Central Lakes Search and Rescue are among the civilian users.
Camp Ripley hosts youth, veteran and soldier hunts and fishing programs. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also uses Camp Ripley.
Kruse said the military noise level will increase through the summer. One concern private landowners around Ripley have expressed is about low-flying planes.
The planes are practicing take-offs and landings, he said, so the pilots need to fly lower going in and out of Ripley. He said C-130s will be especially noticeable as they practice flying in and out of Ripley's gravel landing strip in preparation for deployment to Kuwait, where there will be no paved landing strips.
There also will be low-flying practice runs for dropping pallets of supplies for troops.
Camp Ripley has an environmental program to benefit wildlife, fisheries, forestry, protected species, cultural resources, pest management, wetlands, wild and fires, recreation and land rehabilitation.
Ripley won three awards for its cultural and natural resources efforts in 2017 and 2018.
The camp has installed geothermal heating between 2010 and 2014; solar thermal in 2015; microgrid distribution, engine generator and solar photovoltaic in 2016; and has a goal of 20 percent energy reduction by 2020.
Ripley tracks, in cooperation with Minnesota DNR, the movement of collared deer and two golden eagles, which were fitted with tracking devices.
Ripley created a stormwater retention pond to hold runoff from parking lots and buildings, so it will be treated before being discharged into the Mississippi River.
Previously, that water ran directly into storm drains and into the river, Kruse said.
Ripley is about half done with its program this year to burn 14,233 acres to reduce the risk of unplanned fires. It has its own fire department, which monitors the prescribed burns.
Ripley initially began its program to purchase easements from private landowners in a 3-mile radius around the camp as a buffer between the high-activity level within the camp and private land around it.
So far, 25,000 acres of easements have been purchased in 208 land deals. There are 211 more landowners interested in selling easements, Kruse said.
Now, those most likely to be affected by high noise levels are being moved to the top of the list as money for the easements becomes available, he said.
Second publication rights after Brainerd Dispatch.
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