Minnesota newspapers go deep

You hear about how newspapers are struggling. You don’t always get to see the top-notch reporting they’re still cranking out.

Several Minnesota newspapers put some good reporting and writing on display this weekend.

Mankato: A Baby’s Short & Touching Life

The Mankato Free Press started a series called “13 Days: The Short Life of Hazel Heidelberger.” The series looks at the life of a baby born with a rare heart ailment.

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Part 1: The birth and baptism

Part 2: A young couple’s dream becomes a nightmare

Hazel was a New Year’s baby, and seemed healthy. She met her family, learned to nurse, had her diapers changed. But by this evening, test results showed signs of trouble. Nurses noticed that Hazel’s heart was racing. Mom and dad noticed she was growing lethargic. No one could figure out why.

A short time later, they’d receive the kind of news every new parent fears: Something is wrong with their baby.

They don’t know it yet, but Hazel was born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, which essentially means her heart was born with only three of its four chambers. If found early enough, and with world-class help, babies can pull through. But in Hazel’s case, only a miracle could save her.

St. Cloud: Halted housing plagues central Minnesota

The St. Cloud Times details what happens when plans for big housing developments go bust. In some cases, cities get stuck with big unpaid IOUs from developers who were supposed to reimburse the public for streets and sewers.

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Story: When developments stall, cities are left paying the bills

A single house stands in the middle of the vast development, marooned in a sea of empty cul-de-sacs, tall grass and winding roads that lead nowhere.

Eighty-eight homes had been planned for the first of seven phases.

The developer, Percheron Properties, is gone. None of the $6.4 million of assessments has been paid.

Duluth: Copper could spell trouble for the Boundary Waters

The Duluth News Tribune examines the potential and the possible downsides of tapping into huge deposits of copper and other minerals near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildnerness.

Story: Estimated $1 trillion in the ground, but mining critics are concerned about BWCAW

What Duluth Metals has found is nothing short of earth-shattering for geologists — an estimated 900 million tons of copper, nickel, platinum and other valuable metals that are among the richest yet found in Minnesota.

“This is an exploratory success story that comes around once every couple of decades,” said David Oliver, geologist and project manager of Duluth Metals. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and I’ve had a lot of success… but nothing like this before.”

The finding, just a couple of miles outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, may be three times bigger and twice as rich as the better known PolyMet project proposed about 30 miles to the southwest.

The debate starts when the value of those minerals, and the possibility of long-term water contamination from acidic mine runoff, is weighed against unspoiled wilderness, recreation and clean water. From ancient peoples to voyageurs to BWCAW campers, it’s always been the water that has been most important here.

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