Money's there, but seller isn't for
By Steve Kuchera
Duluth News Tribune
Published October 30th, 2004
A million dollars in federal money are available to help
purchase and preserve 350 acres of wetlands and uplands
on Superior's Clough Island.
Problem is, there's not a willing seller.
"There are no active negotiations going on between
the property owner and the department or, to my knowledge,
any other organization," said Duane Lahti, Lake Superior
basin water program supervisor for the Wisconsin Department
of Natural Resources.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the $1 million
grant for the Clough Island Preservation and Restoration
Project on Thursday. In all, the service announced more
than $13 million in grants to protect and restore coastal
wetlands in 10 states.
"That release gives one the impression that there
is a project and we are actively purchasing property,"
Lahti said. "That is not the case. What it should
have said is that the money is available if, in fact,
a project comes into being or there is a willing seller."
A project manager with the island's owner, Progress Land
Co., said he doesn't know if the Savage, Minn., company
wants to sell any of its property to the DNR.
"This is all pretty new," said John Stainbrook.
"I would like to get more information."
The 500-acre island -- sometimes referred to as Whiteside
or Big Island -- is zoned suburban, which requires 5-acre
lots for each housing unit. While Progress Land Co. hasn't
applied for zoning changes and permits to develop the
island, initial plans included a golf course, hotel, marina,
dozens of estate homes, and hundreds of townhome and condominium
The federal grant requires the state and several partners
to match the $1 million. If the preservation project doesn't
advance, the state must return the grant money, USFWS
spokeswoman Rachel Levin said.
"I have never heard of a situation where a grantee
has turned money back to us because a project has not
been completed," she said.
Still, the grant pleases those who hope to protect the
"We're hoping that this commitment of public conservation
dollars may provide an avenue to work with the current
land owners and see if a deal can be reached," said
Daryl Peterson, field representative at the Northeastern
Minnesota office of The Nature Conservancy.
Most of Clough Island was owned by the Whiteside family
from 1904 until 2002. The Nature Conservancy had been
in long-term negotiations to buy it from the Whiteside
family trust. But developers offered $1.2 million compared
with The Nature Conservancy's bid of about $500,000.
The Nature Conservancy wanted to restore the island's
former farmland into wildlife habitat and protect shoreline