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Minnesota roundup: Ice should be 4 inches thick for walking on lakes; Water pipe burst damages restaurant; 2 more state news stories

ST. PAUL—With ice forming on Minnesota lakes, outdoor enthusiasts may be tempted to get out before ice is thick enough to support foot traffic.

The Department of Natural Resources conservation officers have a message — stay off the ice until at least 4 inches of new, clear ice is present.

"Each year we see people going out on the ice before giving it enough time for a solid freeze. People unexpectedly fall through and sadly lives have been lost because it was just too soon to be out on the ice," said regional enforcement manager Capt. Cory Palmer. "While no ice is 100 percent safe, we recommend following the DNR ice thickness guidelines before heading out."

The DNR offers the following guidelines for new clear ice: 4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot, 5 inches for snowmobile or ATV, 8-12 inches for car or small pickup, 12-15 inches for medium truck.

Ice thickness may vary greatly across a single body of water, making it important to check the ice conditions before heading out.

Water pipe burst damages restaurant

ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—A water pipe that froze and burst causing an estimated $20,000 in damage will close an Italian restaurant in Alexandria for a couple weeks.

Jason Mueller, owner of Bello Cucina, said water from sprinkler pipe damaged a significant amount of the lounge area.

Mueller opened the Alexandria Bello Cucina earlier this year. Other locations include Morris, Fergus Falls, St. Joseph, Spicer and Marshall.

According to the National Weather Service, the overnight low in Alexandria was 13 below zero.

Breeding bull from N.D. arrives at growing new bison herd near Mankato

MANKATO, Minn.—The first breeding bull has arrived at Minneopa State Park near Mankato, bringing to 15 the number of bison at the park, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The yearling bull comes from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and spent a month quarantined at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley.

Eleven bison were reintroduced to Minneopa in the fall of 2015. The herd expanded to 14 with the birth of three calves in 2016. It's hoped the newly-acquired bull will successfully breed bison cows within the existing herd, strengthening the herd's genetic similarities with its free-ranging ancestors from two centuries ago.

That point is important, said Tony Fisher with the Minnesota Zoo. "We need to occasionally bring animals from outside the herd to ensure the herd's genetics maintain a healthy amount of diversity." Genetic testing of the herd from 2011-2014 found them largely free of any genetic material that would have come from cross-breeding with cattle. Less than 1 percent of all American plains bison tested so far have been found free of cattle genes.

The bison are part of the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd, managed through a formal agreement between the DNR and Minnesota Zoo. The partners are working together to preserve American plains bison and plan to grow the herd to 500 animals at several other locations including Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne and the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley.

Moe to join Minnesota State Board of Trustees

ST. PAUL — Former state Senate leader Roger Moe will join the Minnesota State Board of Trustees.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton announced his appointment of long-time Sen. Roger Moe, D-Erskine, Thursday, Dec. 15.

Moe, 72, was senator 1971 to 2002, and was the longest-serving Senate majority leader in state history. He unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002, and has been lobbyist and consultant since.

"I am confident he will help further Minnesota State's mission of providing Minnesotans with high-quality learning opportunities that prepare them for success," Dayton said. "Sen. Moe has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to public service on behalf of Minnesotans. I thank him for his willingness to once again serve the people of our state."

The 15-member Minnesota State Board of Trustees is responsible for governing the system, formally known as Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Moe's term begins Tuesday, Dec. 20 and runs through June 30, 2020.

The former senator received his bachelor's degree from Mayville State University in North Dakota.