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Environmental study next step for proposed Minnesota veterans cemetery

If the state of Minnesota decides to put a veterans cemetery in Jay Cooke State Park, it will have the Legislature's stamp of approval.

A law that was needed to move the Jay Cooke proposal forward passed as part of a series of session-ending bills. The legislation calls for transfer of the state park land from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. State Sen. Tony Lourey, D-Kerrick, noted that the transfer will occur only if the Department of Veterans Affairs deems it's needed and only after opportunities for public comment.

"There will be at least two public hearings," Lourey said. "Veterans affairs architectural and engineering teams will do surveys to ... ensure that it will be able to operate and maintain the needs of veterans for several decades."

An Environmental Impact Statement also will be required before construction can begin.

Some local landowners and a DNR area wildlife manager for Jay Cooke State Park have called into question the suitability of the site as a cemetery. The land is mostly forested and some of it has steep changes in elevation.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has said the cost of building the cemetery will be about $8 million.