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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Saint Louis River Pipeline Crossing
Cloquet, MN

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 34.2
• River Elevation: 1,121 Feet
• Pipeline Operator: City Of Cloquet
• Bridge Type: ???
• Bridge Length: 235 Feet (Estimated), 88 Foot Longest Span (Estimated)
• Bridge Width: 4 Feet (Estimated)
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable
• Height Above Water: ??? Feet
• Date Built: 1969 (Unconfirmed)
Note—I have not yet visited this structure as of August, 2010.

Paper mills use large volumes of water. The water is used both in the manufacturing process as well as for mechanical power. It is not surprising that paper mills are most often located next to a dam to take advantage of the power of falling water. That was a major consideration when the Potlatch Corporation originally built this paper mill in Cloquet in 1899.

The city of Cloquet also drew water from the Saint Louis River for its municipal water supply. This was recognized as a hazard in the mid-1900s due to decades of industrial pollution. The impact to water flow rates in the river was also not desirable. As a result, the city of Cloquet developed a plan to draw water from Lake Superior and pipe it up the hill for use by the city and the Potlatch mill. Several other local cities joined the project so they could share this water. The pipeline went into service around 1969 or 1970. It operates under DNR permit 78-2147.

The water pipeline runs generally east and west for 20 miles. It starts under 75 feet of Lake Superior water about a mile and a half off shore of Park Point just east of the Sky Harbor airport on Minnesota Point. The first of two pump stations is located on Minnesota Point, the Walter Stock Pump Station #1. The pipe crosses the bay just south of Barkers Island, passes under the city of Superior water treatment plant, then runs along 18th Avenue East. The pipe runs west along North 28th Street, then Billings Drive, where it passes back underwater in a small park just north of White Birch Trail. The pipe emerges from underwater in Gary New Duluth and runs parallel to and about a block south of North 85th Avenue West. The pipe starts to climb Thompson Hill, passing under the state trail and under Knowlton Creek Boulevard. At this point, it connects to the Paul Wagtskjold Pump Station #2, and into the Paul Wagtskjold Reservoir.

The water pipe continues its journey west by climbing to the top of Thompson Hill skirting the north side of Spirit Mountain, and passing just behind the McDonald's at I-35 and Boundary Avenue. I am not sure of the path that the pipe takes from this location. It may run along the south side of I-35, or it might cross I-35 at this location. At any rate, it ends up at the Mace Harris Reservoir located one mile northeast of the interchange of I-35 and Midway Road. This reservoir marks the high point of the pipeline at 1426 feet, some 824 feet above Lake Superior. From the reservoir, the pipe heads southwest to near the interchange of I-35 and highway 61. The pipe passes under 61, then crosses 61 again to run along the north edge of Esko. A branch of the pipe feeds the city of Esko. The pipe continues west northwest directly to the Sappi Paper Mill, where it crosses the Saint Louis River on a bridge located above the waterline.

In recent years, the city of Cloquet has converted to using wells for public drinking water. As a result, the city no longer uses the pipeline under routine circumstances. The pipeline water is available for use in emergencies for fire fighting. The cities of Thomson and Carlton also use the pipeline water for fire fighting. The major water user remains the Sappi Paper Mill, who purchased the Potlatch Mill in 2002. As of 2010, Sappi is planning to install an additional paper machine. This machine would increase water demands from the recent 11.5-million gallons of water per day up to 15-million gallons of water per day. Engineers have confirmed that the water pipeline, pump stations, and reservoirs can provide over 17-million gallons per day. Sappi has prepared a extensive environmental impact statement as part of their application for a building permit. In reading this document, it is clear that Sappi has taken this process seriously and is very committed to running a clean plant and minimizing their environmental impact.

The water pipeline was originally built with concrete pipe. I have seen reports that it was approximately 38 inches in diameter, but I have not yet confirmed that number. Much of the original concrete pipe has since been replaced with ductile iron pipe. The section near I-35 and highway 61, including the pipeline that crosses under I-35, was replaced in the mid-2000s with 54 inch diameter pipe.

The photo above is looking south across the Saint Louis River into the morning sun towards the Sappi paper mill in Cloquet. The pipeline is about a quarter mile downstream in an area that is not accessible by the public. This vantage point is located just upstream of the Cloquet Dam, and just downstream of the Knife Falls Dam. The image below is clipped from the Bird's Eye view in Bing Maps. The river is flowing from top to bottom. Water in the pipeline flows from right to left towards the mill.


Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
These two photos show where the water pipe crosses the bay between Park Point in Duluth and the city of Superior. Park Point is in the distance, with Lake Superior beyond the sandbar. The water intake is located about 1-1/2 miles offshore approximately 75 feet below the surface of the lake. The pipe passes under the gap in the trees. The building located in the gap is the Minnesota Point Pump, part of the City of Superior water system. The Walter Stock Pump Station is in the trees just to the right of the gap. The pipe crosses to the right of the island on the right side of the photo above, or about in the center of the photo below.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
The water pipe passes under these settling ponds (above) along highway US-53 in Superior. The southern tip of Barker's Island is visible just beyond the railroad tank cars. After crossing under US-53, the pipe passes through the city of Superior water treatment plant. The photo below shows the top cap of one of the underground reservoirs at the facility.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
These two photos were taken along Knowlton Creek Boulevard in the Fairmont Park neighborhood of Duluth. The photo above shows the path where the water pipe is buried as it climbs a particularly steep grade. The photo below is the No Trespassing sign on the driveway leading to the the Paul Wagtskjold Pump Station and Reservoir. The City of Cloquet notation confirms that this facility is part of the Lake Superior Water Pipeline.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
While the driveway to the water pump station is posted for No Trespassing, there happens to be a public trail located at the edge of the site, as seen in the photo above. The photo below is a view looking though a gap in the trees of the Paul Wagtskjold Pump Station. The Spirit Mountain Ski Area is located in the background.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
The photo above is the Paul Wagtskjold Reservoir, also seen looking through the trees from the public trail. The photo below is a view of the Paul Wagtskjold Reservoir looking to the north from an overlook on Skyline Parkway.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
These two photos are views of the Mace Harris Reservoir, located on Maple Hill Road about 3/4 mile north of Interstate highway I-35 and 1/2 mile east of Midway Road. Maple Hill Road was cut in half when this reservoir was built. The approach from the west is marked for no trespassing. One can get with 350 feet of the reservoir approaching from the east, as shown in the photo above. Since the reservoir is tucked in behind the peak of the hill, and it is surrounded by trees, there is no good public view. In fact, the photo below, a telephoto shot from a half-mile away, is the only view that I could find from a public road. The tank was well hidden until the leaves dropped from the trees in this autumn view.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
I had a chance to visit Park Point in the fall of 2010 to check out the site of the water pipe intake. Park Point is a large sand bar located at the western tip of Lake Superior. The photo above is looking northeast into Lake Superior. The water pipe goes out into the lake below this vantage point. The water pipe heads northeast of this location, with the intake being located about a mile and a half offshore in 75 feet of water. The photo below is looking east across Park Point. A short white pole near the right side of the photo marks the path of the water pipe. The small building is the Minnesota Point Pump, part of the City of Superior water system. The Walter Stock pump is behind the trees on the right side of the photo.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
The photo below, looking into the bright afternoon sun, is looking across the bay between Park Point and the City of Superior. The water pipeline runs through the gap between the fence and the trees, crosses under the bay, and lands on the far shore near the construction crane located on the right edge of the photo. The photo below is looking south across the bay where the water pipeline crosses between Park Point (on the left) to Superior (on the right). The runway for Sky Harbor airport is visible on the right. The water pipeline is located at the far end of this runway. The structures in the distance are the BNSF taconite docks.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
These two photos are close views of the electrical cabinets that feed the two pump houses. It is interesting to note that the MN Point Pump has a backup electrical generator, but the Walter Stock Pumping Station does not. The two reservoirs on the water pipeline can continue to feed water through small interruptions in power at the intake pump.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
The two photos are the south face of the Walter Stock Pumping Station. The photo above is a close view of the name on the building, while the photo below is a wider view.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge
These two photos are additional views of the Walter Stock Pumping Station. The photo above is looking southeast, while the photo below is looking east. Lake Superior is located just beyond the far side of the building.

Lake Superior Water Pipeline Bridge

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