Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Optimum Timing for Dredging in Great Lakes Harbors Takes a More Scientific Turn

“Dredging Windows” Are Topic of Scoping Meeting for Pilot Project"
May 22, 2018

By Marie Zhuikov

It can’t happen just any old time. Removing sediment from or adding it to harbors to help ships pass or for construction projects is regulated by state and federal rules designed to lessen impacts to the plants and animals living in both marine and fresh water.

“We used to call them fish windows,” said Gene Clark, Wisconsin Sea Grant coastal engineer. “But we’ve learned that other species can be affected by the timing of dredging as well – things like mussels, amphibians and wild rice. It’s not just a fish window, it’s an environmental window for dredging.”

These timing windows were first created almost 50 years ago, spurred by the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969. They hardly ever change and are enforced through the permitting process by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state departments of natural resources. The designations of these windows were set by natural resource experts, however specific science-based data to help them was lacking.

According to a white paper on dredging windows in the Duluth-Superior Harbor, a number of new scientific tools are now available to “evaluate the specific impacts of dredging, to more accurately monitor the biological integrity and specific biological functions of different parts of our harbors, and to assess changes due to season variation. In addition, new engineering technologies have resulted in new dredging methods and construction options to reduce the impacts of the dredging process, as well as in-water facilities maintenance and fabrication.”

Bringing dredging windows up to date was one of the most important issues identified by harbor stakeholders when asked where they thought Sea Grant could make a difference, Clark said. At stake is money and time, not to mention the wellbeing of the environment.

“The timing of the dredging windows can be very strict, and they can make projects more costly,” said Clark. “The problem doesn’t just affect our harbor. All dredging projects on the Great Lakes have this issue, too.”

Clark believes that with more information about where critical habitats are in the harbor and when important wildlife activities are going on, such as fish spawning, money can be saved on behalf of taxpayers and the contractors.

Clark has teamed with Dale Bergeron, Minnesota Sea Grant maritime extension educator, and members of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority to work on the issue. They have been working for a year to write a white paper, develop a process for deciding what studies are needed, and provide a template for studies in other ports.

 “Our goal is to facilitate discussions between the regulatory agencies, the U.S. Army Corps and the contractors,” Clark said. They also plan to work with academic researchers to find funding for the studies.

One activity is taking place next week on May 30. A select group of people from the Duluth-Superior area have been invited to participate in a scoping meeting to conduct a “Science-based Review of Environmental Windows for Dredging and In-water Construction in the Duluth/Superior Estuary and Harbor.”

On the agenda is the history of dredging windows, and defining biological issues such as locations of high- and low-productivity areas and the impacts of seasons and climate variability, and discussion of new technologies that are available for dredging and reducing turbidity. The resulting tasks will take the form of a pilot project, for which funding will be sought.

“Perhaps in a couple of seasons, we’ll have enough information so we can actually make a difference in when dredging windows are set, and potentially save the corps some money, save the contractor money and save some angst on behalf of the permitting agencies,” Clark said.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Brenda Rosin      Schaff called the meeting to order at approximately 7:30 PM.   

Everyone present introduced themselves and their club affiliations.

Attendance:  Brenda Rosin Schaff, Ron Gray, Klye Olsen,  Duane Marcell, Brandon Witt, Ryan Flohr, Dave & Karen Schmitt, Steve Spielbauer, Dan & Diane Floryance, Jim Gilles, Jean Tackes, Jill Levy, Rick Frye, Rick Kirkley, Mary Lee Hatland, Don & Judy Kirby, Cliff Schulz, Wayne Avery, Cornell  Stroik, Dave Mueller, Kiven Groff, Barb Stevenson

Brenda opened the meeting by thanking everyone for there attendance. Because Klye Olson of the DNR had to leave to go back to work she had Klye described what his job consists of on a typical day. Kyle gave a detailed description of what his day is like.        

Brenda  then asked Dave Mueller to give us an up-date on the Hunger Task Force Hatchery and his stocking of the ponds. Dave talked about the various fish the hatchery has, their growth rates, talked about the pump problems they have had to over come. Dave also talked about the stocking of the ponds, species stocked, numbers stocked and dates of he stocking.

Brenda addressed the clinics and the weather conditions we had for the clinics. She noted she still has not heard from all the parks with the final numbers. She will send out final numbers when all the clubs get there numbers in. She noted that she and Ron had received e-mails stating that we should have cancelled the clinics due to the weather conditions. As everyone knows it is our policy to run the clinics no matter what the weather conditions are because a larger part of the teaching is conducted in doors. At this point in the meeting an open discussion took place. Points discussed were the logistics of the following. Present fishing regulations for kids only fishing, limitations in time frame and equipment of stocking, park reservations, commitments of volunteers for additional dates, providing the kids a season to fish without adult competition, scheduling around the Easter holiday, life of the stocked trout in the ponds as water warms. During this discussion the subject of illegal adult fishing came up.  After discussion the best thing to due is call the DNR hot line. After all discussion a vote was taken on continuing our policy of not cancelling due to weather conditions.  

Brenda talked briefly about the donations we received and the thank you letters that need to be sent out. She also addressed the schedule for next year. Ron commented that we could start working on next years flyer today by having the members in attendance commit to next years clinic dates which were announced as Feb. 9th and Apr 13th 2019. Badger Fisherman’s League stated they could not continue with the clinic’s due to a lack of help and the Wisconsin Fishing Club stated they are dropping out of the ice fishing clinics due to poor attendance at their park. Wern Valley indicated they will no longer support the clinics due to a lack of volunteers. Ron said he will then move forward with notifying the clubs not in attendance at this meeting for their commitments to next years clinics so the flyers can be finalized. He will also need to talk with the Waukesha County Parks to see which parks will be available next year. During discussion it was noted that the registration forms used needed some space adjustments for entry information. Brenda said she will  make adjustments for next year.

During discussions Brenda noted that American Legion Post 537 gave the Kids Fishing Clinics a very generous donation. Ideas discussed for using this donation were fish tanks for displaying fish and fishing tackle that could be purchased for kids prizes at the clinics. Discussion also noted that donation barrels could be placed at the clinic sites for donations to the Hunger Task Force who supports the clinics at their many distribution sites.

Brenda introduced  Cornell Stroik treasurer of the Wisconsin Council of Sport Fishing Organizations (WCSFO). Cornell gave a talk about how and why the WCSFO was formed and their interface between the sport fishing clubs and the department of natural resources. He indicated the WCSFO is a 501C3 organization and finances the printing of the kids fishing hand books. He indicated that most of the kids fishing clinic clubs presently belong to the organization. The president of the WCSFO has retired from his position due to health reasons. Cornell has asked that the organization look into training someone for his position. Ron Gray is taking over the position as secretary from Brenda due to her health reasons. This leaves the offices of President and Vice President open and the need for someone to train for treasurer. The WCSFO holds two 2 scheduled meetings a year one in March and October on the third Saturday of the month. The WCSFO has a seat on the DNR fishery advisory board.

Brenda asked if anyone was interested in these positions and would like to run in an election for them. Two members were and a request was made by another if we could hold off on an election so their club members could be notified. Brenda stated we will hold an election meeting on Thursday May 24th . The location will be the Milwaukee Casting & Sportsmens Club at 18200 W. Cleveland Ave. New Berlin, WI at 7:00 PM. Please note: That you or your club must be a member of the WCSFO to be considered for these positions.


Ron Gray,  Secretary

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Draft proposal to remove Lower Menominee River Area of Concern Restrictions on Fish Consumption available for public review and comment

After nearly 30 years of cleanup and remediation efforts, the Wisconsin and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources are seeking public comment on our joint recommendation to remove the listed impairment for Restrictions on Fish Consumption from the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern (AOC). A draft proposal is now available for public review that summarizes the remediation actions taken and results of follow-up testing that indicate AOC targets are being met. The proposal also includes documentation of stakeholder involvement in this process.

Anyone wishing to review the proposed impairment removal document can find it here:
Restrictions on Fish Consumption Impairment Removal Proposal (PDF)

Information about the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern is available at this link.
Comments can be submitted to Vic Pappas, Lake Michigan Field Supervisor, at Victor.Pappas@Wisconsin.gov until May 18, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. Questions about the BUI removal may be directed to Mr. Pappas or to the Michigan DNR Area of Concern Coordinator, Stephanie Swart, at 517-284-5046 or by e-mail at swarts@Michigangov.

The removal proposal is made by the Wisconsin DNR Office of Great Waters, Michigan DNR Office of the Great Lakes and supported by the Lower Menominee River AOC Technical and Citizens Advisory Committees. Sediment removal, cleanup projects and other changes have reduced pollutants within the boundaries of the Area of Concern and existing advisories relate to pollution coming from outside of the AOC.

It’s important to note that while the area of concern is no longer a source of certain pollutants that have been found in fish, pollution is still coming from outside the area. As a result, advice about eating fish should still be followed This advice can be found at: https://dnr.wi.gov/fcsexternaladvqry/fishadvisorysrch.aspx.

To learn more visit http:/dnr.wi.gov/ and search “AOC.”

Friday, April 13, 2018

2018 Peshtigo River State Forest work plan posted for public comment

The 2018 integrated property management meeting minutes and work plan for the Peshtigo River State Forest have been posted for public review, questions or comments.  These documents can be found on the ‘Management and Business' tab of the Peshtigo River State Forest home page.
Comments on the minutes are due by April 30, 2018 and should be directed to:
Avery Jehnke, Property Manager
Peshtigo River State Forest
N10008 Paust Lane
Crivitz, WI 54114

Forest staff dealt with record rainfall and several staffing vacancies in 2017 but managed to move forward with projects, recreation operations and establish and administer timber sales, which generated approximately $181,000 in stumpage revenue during 2017.
The state forest team will have a new look in 2018. Three vacancies have been filled, including a property manager/forester and two rangers who will support recreation operations on the state forest.
The 2018 work plan includes four timber sales prepared for bidding in 2018 and several areas to be evaluated for future timber harvest.  Other projects planned include boat landing improvements, opening of a new golf cart trail, invasive species control and road work in high-use areas.

Thanks for your interest in the Peshtigo River State Forest,

Friday, April 6, 2018

Sea Grant Helps City Clean Up Its Zoning Code “Monster”

April 2, 2018

By Marie Zhuikov

The city of Superior, Wisconsin, is surrounded by water. The St. Louis River bounds it to the west, the Nemadji River to the east, the Pokegema River to the south, and the harbor and Lake Superior to the north.

“Protecting that water as well as our overall natural environment should be one of our highest priorities,” said Superior Mayor Jim Paine. To that end, city staff and a contractor are beginning a process this summer, led by Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Julia Noordyk, to review and update city codes and ordinances to reduce stormwater pollution.

The effort is thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and involves something called a green infrastructure audit. Green infrastructure includes creating natural water-collecting features like rain gardens, permeable pavement and green roofs to help soak up snowmelt and rainwater. This runoff water can often be laden with contaminants like salt in the snow or oil from roads. It bears a toxic load as it infiltrates surface waters or groundwater.

Interest in a green infrastructure audit grew from a workshop Noordyk, water quality and coastal communities outreach specialist, put on last year in Duluth with staff from Minnesota Sea Grant.
“We did a full-day workshop for communities around the Duluth-Superior area,” Noordyk said. “We had planners, city staff and stormwater engineers in the room. We talked about why green infrastructure is important and why codes and ordinances are important to green infrastructure implementation. Then the communities did an exercise that included community scoping and applying the audit tool to their stormwater ordinance.”

The workshop spurred the idea of cooperation between Superior’s Environmental Services Division of Public Works and Noordyk, which led to the successful grant proposal for the code audit. Activities will follow the process outlined in Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Tackling Barriers to Green Infrastructure: An Audit of Local Codes and Ordinances workbook, which involves community scoping, auditing codes and ordinances, and developing a strategy for adoption of the changes.

Noordyk expects to have her work cut out for her, playfully stating, “I’ve already heard that Superior’s zoning code is a monster.” The mayor echoes this viewpoint. “I think everybody agrees that our zoning codes need revision. The most important thing, though, is that we have a vision for what kind of city we want as we’re revising them.”

Noordyk stresses that this is a community-driven process. “The main strategy is to bring everyone on board at the beginning. We’re not trying to do code changes that the community is against. The code audit is about going through the process and figuring out what changes make sense and will help the community reach its goals.”

The process will take several months and several community meetings. The first will be on May 17 when Noordyk makes a presentation to the Superior City Council, which is the organization that needs to approve any code and ordinance changes.

Mayor Paine is excited about the green infrastructure audit. “It’s one more step toward making a better city. Green infrastructure is generally cheaper, it’s permanent and it does the job better than anything else we can create,” he said.

Public meetings set for Superior Coastal Plain, Northwest Sands, and Northwest Lowlands Ecological Landscape regional master plans postponed due to weather

Public comment period will be extended through May 3

ASHLAND, Wis. - With a spring snow storm set to impact much of the state, the public open house meetings for the Superior Coastal Plain, Northwest Sands, and Northwest Lowlands Ecological Landscapes have been postponed. Concerns over safety for the public and staff traveling to the meetings drove the decision to reschedule.

The public open house meetings will be held later in April. Both meetings run from 5 to 7 p.m. and will be held:
  • Tuesday, April 24, Ashland at Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, 29270 County Highway G
  • Wednesday, April 25, Spooner at DNR Service Center, 810 W Maple St.
While the public meetings have been postponed, people can still learn more about and engage in the planning processes for Superior Coastal Plain, Northwest Sands, and Northwest Lowlands regional master plans online by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "master planning" and selecting the ecological landscape they would like to learn about. People will also find opportunities to offer their input on the planning and management of the properties.

In addition to the opportunities to offer input online or at public meetings, people may contact DNR Planner Phil Rynish, by email at phillip.rynish@wisconsin.gov, phone at 608-266-5854, or US mail at Phil Rynish, Wisconsin DNR, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI, 53707-7921.

The public comment period for the first phase of planning will now remain open through May 3, 2018.

Potawatomi State Park observation tower permanently closed

Significant wood decay requires tower to be dismantled

STURGEON BAY, Wis. - Significant wood decay has been found in the observation tower located at Potawatomi State Park creating unsafe conditions and requiring removal of the tower. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has permanently closed the tower, which has been closed for the winter season since last December.

A similar tower located at Peninsula State Park was removed in 2016 after studies found severe wood decay in that tower as well.

Routine inspections of the Potawatomi tower were conducted in the spring and early winter of 2017. During these inspections park staff found visual decay and movement of the structural wood tower members. DNR engineering staff were brought in and conducted additional inspections and recommended further review.

The DNR then again requested assistance from the USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, which had gained valuable experience from their inspection of Eagle Tower at Peninsula. Forest Product Laboratory staff conducted an inspection in February 2018 using non-destructive wood-testing methods to examine the wood members and the structural integrity of the tower. Their inspection found significant decay in the structural and non-structural wood members of the tower, and they recommended that the tower be closed to the public and dismantled because the decayed components could not be repaired.

"This is a difficult decision for us because we know how much our visitors enjoy climbing this tower for its panoramic views of Sawyer Harbor, Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay, but public safety is always our number one concern," said Ben Bergey, director of the Wisconsin State Park System.

The department is currently working with a number of partners to build a new fully accessible observation tower at Peninsula State Park to replace Eagle Tower that will be constructed in late 2018.

The 75-foot tall Potawatomi tower was completed in 1932. It was financed by an organization known as the Sawyer Commercial Club, which promoted economic development in the Village of Sawyer, the original name for Sturgeon Bay's west side before it was annexed in the late 1800s.
"At this time there are no plans to replace the tower, but we welcome opportunities to work with partners to provide additional recreation opportunities at the park, which could include new observation facilities in the future," Bergey said.

Any new structure would have to meet state and federal building codes and be fully ADA compliant and accessible.

The department will begin planning deconstruction of the tower immediately with the intention to complete it as soon as practicable.