Week of January 23, 2006

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World

IGFA’s 2006 World Record Game Fishes annual is now available

Sportfishing’s most valued reference book for the avid angler

DANIA BEACH, FL ---The book has been referred to by outdoors/fishing writers and avid anglers alike as “the most comprehensive piece of fishing information available anywhere.”     The 2006 World Record Game Fishes book published by the non-profit International Game Fish Association (IGFA) continues its legacy as one of the most reliable and complete source books of international fishing records and fishing-related reference materials. Members of the IGFA will be receiving their copy beginning the week of January 16. 

 

The popular annual is the official guide to saltwater and freshwater catches – for nearly 400 species around the world -- in all-tackle, line class, fly, junior angler and U.S. state records.  In 2005 a record total 1,234 applications were received and reviewed by the IGFA world records department and of those 864 were approved with 144 still pending.  The total number of fish record categories stands at 8,950 with nearly 100,000 files.

           

The 2006 edition of World Record Game Fishes features a

great deal more than a listing of the thousands of world records, international angling rules and the protocol for documenting a world record submission. It’s also a guide to species identification and drawings, illustrated articles, tag and release information, and offers a worldwide network of fishing stakeholders communicating and acting upon their passion for fisheries research and conservation.

 

It also includes listings of IGFA’s certified captains, weigh stations, certified observers and the IGFA’s member discount program.

           

Recognized as the official keeper of world saltwater fishing records since its founding in 1939, the IGFA entered the field of freshwater record keeping when Field & Stream transferred its 68 years of records to the association in 1978. 

           

The 2006 World Record Game Fishes book is only available from the IGFA with a $35 annual IGFA membership.  The membership also includes on-line access to the most current updated world records on the IGFA web site, six issues of the International Angler bi-monthly news magazine, unlimited admission to the IGFA’s interactive Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Fla., plus much more.


Rental EPIRB Saves Two Transatlantic Rowers

Stormy Capsizing Ends Atlantic Crossing

Two rowers participating in what's billed as the "toughest rowing race in the world" are safe after their 24-foot rowboat capsized January 15 in the stormy Atlantic Ocean and left them clinging to a barnacle-encrusted, upturned hull for 16 hours before rescuers could arrive.  Rowers Sarah Kessans and Emily Kohl were able to get help by activating their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), which they had secured from the BoatU.S. EPIRB Rental Program.

 

At 1649 hours Sunday, January 15 a 406 MHz EPIRB activation alert was picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard.  The alert, coming from a location some 1000 miles east of Cuba, was identified as an EPIRB belonging to the BoatU.S. Foundation's Rental Program.  Following protocol, rescuers immediately contacted the BoatU.S. 24-hour dispatch center which 

forwarded the boat and crew details gleaned from the rower's rental registration form.

 

With the distressed vessel identified, a full-scale search and rescue operation was launched and the tall ship Stravos S. Niarchos, was vectored to the racer's location.  After sailing some 120 miles through the night under rough conditions, Stravos S. Niarchos reached Kessans and Kohl, who were cold, tired and disappointed that they wouldn't be completing the race. They were saved by jumping into a life raft that was towed astern of the ship.

 

The EPIRB Rental Program is funded by the voluntary contributions of 630,000 BoatU.S. members.  EPIRBs can be rented from the Foundation for as little as $50 a week.   For more information, call 888-663-7472 or visit http://www.BoatUS.com/foundation/epirb.


National

Shippers File Brief in Federal Ballast Water Case

Urges court not to rush to regulate under the Clean Water Act

San Francisco -- A Shipping Industry Ballast Water Coalition has filed a remedy brief in the Northern California Federal District Court case of Northwest Environmental Advocates and its partners against the USEPA.

               

The coalition consists of INTERTANKO, the American Waterways Operators, the Chamber of Shipping of America, the International Council of Cruise Lines, the Lake Carriers' Association, and the World Shipping Council.

               

According to INTERTANKO, the brief, whose four main arguments are detailed below, sets out the 'remedy' that should be imposed as a result of the Court ruling that the EPA's long-standing exclusion from Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements of operational discharges from ships is not authorized by the CWA and is therefore invalid.

               

After the Court issued its March 30 Order, the Shipping Industry Ballast Water Coalition was granted the right to intervene as a defendant in order to defend the maritime industry's interests in the "remedy" phase of the case. On September 6, the environmental groups and the States filed their briefs on the appropriate remedy.

               

The Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council and 14 other conservation/ environmental groups - along with the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center - first filed notice with the USEPA in March 1999 of its intent to sue for ballast dumping - violations of the Clean Water Act.

               

The environmental groups proposed that the Court give EPA 90 days to declare whether or not it intends to replace the exclusion with a new permitting system. If EPA declares that it does not intend to do so, the exclusion would be repealed 270 days after the Court's final order. If, on the other hand, EPA declares that it does intend to replace the exclusion with a new permitting system, the exclusion would be repealed 520 days after the Court's final order (by which time EPA ostensibly would have developed and promulgated the new permitting system).

 

The shipping industry brief makes four main arguments:

Congress and the executive have implemented intensive and extensive ballast water discharge control measures, which the maritime industry has long relied upon and

complied with. The National Aquatic Nuisance Pollution Control Act, as amended by the National Invasive Species Act of 1990, designated the U.S. Coast Guard as the lead federal agency to address the problems surrounding the introduction of Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) through ballast water discharges.

 

Acting on its own initiative and in concert with other federal and state agencies and cooperative arrangements, the Coast Guard has mandated a system of open-ocean ballast water exchange, or in some cases salt water flushing of ballast tanks, for all vessels, including those not traveling beyond the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

 

EPA should be afforded maximum discretion. The Court should not precipitate a rush to regulate under the CWA that would prevent EPA from accounting for the complex web of federal regulation that already is in place. If the Court must hold EPA to a deadline--as advocated by the Plaintiffs and the States--then the deadline should be consistent with the timetables adopted by the International Maritime Organization's International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, which would require the installation of treatment technology on new vessels by 2009, and the retrofit of existing vessels by 2014 or 2016, depending on the size of the vessel.

               

Any specific remedy should be stayed pending appeal. There is a significant likelihood that the Court's Order will be reversed on appeal, because the Court erred in its March 30 Order, such as by failing to take adequate account of the many ways that Congress has acquiesced in the EPA's exemption. In addition, the Coalition could be significantly harmed by a precipitous rulemaking, but the environment--already protected by an extensive web of Coast Guard regulations and other federal laws--would suffer no harm from a stay.

               

The Court should modify its March 30 Order to clarify that it is limited to ballast water discharges only. The Court's March 30 Order could be read broadly to invalidate the application of the exclusion not only to ballast water, but to all other discharges that occur in the ordinary course of vessel operations. However, the environmental and conservation groups and the States claimed injury only from discharges of ballast water. Accordingly, the Coalition proposed that the Court either clarify that its Order applies only to ballast water or, alternatively, use its equitable discretion to order injunctive relief as to ballast water only.


States Side with Feds on Supreme Court Clean Water Cases

WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2006 (ENS) - The attorneys general of 34 states plus the District of Columbia filed documents with the U.S. Supreme Court January 19 in support of the Clean Water Act in three cases set to be heard next month. They expressed support for the Clean Water Act’s core safeguard - the requirement to obtain a permit before discharging pollutants into waters of the United States.

 

 The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear these cases on February 21.

 

The issues at stake are whether the Clean Water Act protects wetlands adjacent to tributaries that flow into larger water bodies and adjacent wetlands, and, if so, whether the Constitution gives Congress the authority to protect them.

 

The first case, S.D. Warren v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection, could decide the scope of state government authority to mitigate the water quality impacts of hydroelectric dams and other federally licensed activities within their borders.

 

Powder Mill-Gambo Falls in South Windham, Maine before it became a power station, about 1900. It was purchased by S.D. Warren in 1974. (Photo courtesy Warren Memorial Library)

 

Warren owns and operates five contiguous hydroelectric run-of-river dams that provide electricity to one of its paper mills. In renewing the hydroelectric licenses, the company applied for water quality certification under the federal Clean Water Act. In 2003, Maine’s board approved certification with conditions to mitigate the water quality impacts of the dams.

 

Warren appealed the conditions, claiming the state overextended its authority.

 

States have used their authority under the Clean Water Act to protect water quality, safeguard river ecosystems and restore fisheries. Stripping states of the ability to set conditions on the operations of hydroelectric dams would affect river health and water quality, threaten fish and wildlife habitat, and diminish recreational and economic opportunities on rivers across the nation, the states argue.

 

Two other consolidated cases, Rapanos v. U.S. and Carabell v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, could answer far reaching questions about how the federal government can use the Clean Water Act to restrict development on or near wetlands  that provide habitat for aquatic species, help prevent floods

and filter pollutants from waterways.

 

The cases involve Michigan wetlands. In the Rapanos case, the developer began filling in 54 acres of wetlands without a state or federal permit on three sites in Midland, Bay, and Saginaw Counties. The wetlands are connected to tributaries that flow into Lake Huron. Both criminal and civil actions were pursued by the federal government, and Rapanos was convicted of criminal violations of the Clean Water Act.

 

The case before the Supreme Court involves the civil enforcement action brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

In the Carabell case, the developer wanted to build a 112 unit condominium on 19 acres of land in Macomb County by filling in about 15 acres of forested wetlands. The wetlands are adjacent to a tributary that flows to Lake St. Clair. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit. The developer brought suit alleging the wetlands were not covered by the Clean Water Act.

 

The key issue in the consolidated cases is whether or not the federal government can use the Clean Water Act to regulate the discharge of fill in or near wetlands adjacent to tributaries to navigable waters.

 

Under the Clean Water Act, it is illegal for anyone to discharge any pollutant into navigable waters or into wetlands and tributaries adjacent to navigable waters. Rapanos and Carabell are challenging how the government defines “adjacent” and how it interprets the hydrologic interconnectedness of water systems.

 

In their amicus brief, the states argue that many states’ water quality programs are tied to federal definitions and authority, so any changes to the definitions of waters at the federal level may compromise implementation of important state programs, which in some cases have taken years to reach their current level of effectiveness and understanding by the public and the regulated community.

 

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said the states' brief supports the federal government's arguments that Congress intended the Clean Water Act to cover wetlands adjacent to tributaries.  "Michigan is the Great Lakes State," Cox said. "But those lakes will only stay great if we protect the rivers, streams, and wetlands that flow into them."  I am simply asking the Supreme Court to uphold the status quo and continue the long-standing and common sense interpretation of the Clean Water Act," Cox said.

 


Thriving under our noses, stealthily: coyotes

Scientists have long thought coyotes intently avoid cities, but a new study has found the opposite.

 

Groups of the historically maligned dog relatives are thriving in some large U.S. cities: they lurk in darkness.  This animal’s amazing ability to thrive in cities has surprised scientists, said Stanley Gert of Ohio State U, who is studying coyotes in urban Chicago.

 

Since the study began six years ago, Gehrt and his colleagues say they have found that urban coyote populations are much larger than expected; that they live longer than their rural cousins in these environments; and that they are more active at night than coyotes living in rural areas.

 

Coyotes also do some good: they help control rapidly growing populations of Canada geese throughout North America, Gehrt said. And while his coyote research is concentrated in Chicago, he said, the results likely apply to most major metropolitan areas in North America.

The study began in Chicago in 2000 when Gehrt was a researcher for the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation in Dundee, Ill. In the 1990s the foundation received growing complaints about coyotes taking pets and stalking children. In the late 1990s the county animal control agency asked Gehrt to gather information on coyote populations in metropolitan Chicago.

 

The problem with studying coyotes is that they’re very hard to catch, he explained. They quickly learn to avoid traps. But his team distributed their traps widely throughout the greater Chicago area and caught several animals. They put radio-tagged collars on them and released them.

 

The funding agency, Cook County Animal Control and Conservation Medicine Coalition, renews the study every year because the researchers keep finding results that surprise them, Gehrt said. This spring, Gehrt will publish the first round of papers from the last six years’ worth of research.

 

 


Regional

Chicago Waterway Barrier update as of January 4, 2006

The Chicago Waterway Electronic Dispersal Barrier Committee met on January 4, 2006. Chicago Army Corps Commander Col. Gary Johnson gave the opening comments with a comprehensive status report on the barrier II construction and an update on Asian carp movement, activity and abundance in the Waterway system. 

               

Construction of Phase A of Barrier II is scheduled for completion in mid-January and the safety/start-up testing phase will follow in late January.  The Corps plans to conduct low-voltage start-up tests beginning January 23; the start-up tests will take about 2 weeks. Safety testing will follow in February. It is anticipated operation of IIA to begin in late April or May.  

               

Completion of Phase B of Barrier II will soon follow and that Barrier I will continue to operate until both phases of Barrier II are tested and online. Johnson said it is anticipated both phases of Barrier II will be completed, tested and online by June. At that time Barrier I will be turned off.

               

Funding for the operation of Barriers I and II continues to remain elusive. Full construction costs are funded and the money has been turned over to the Corps of Engineers. The bad news is the Feds have only funded the operation of the electric barrier thru May 2006, and so Barrier I will be turned off when Barrier II is fully operational. The good news is the state of Illinois is on the bubble for funding the continued operation of the barrier, and through their contractual obligation, will assume responsibility for funding after federal $$ dry up.

               

"The bill to operate and maintain the new barrier, as well as the temporary barrier approximately 1,000 feet upstream, is about $1 million per year, says Mike Conlin, head of the Illinois DNR Office of Resource Conservation. Per barrier the estimated annual operating cost is about $500,000; $250,000 for electricity.

               

The first barrier was constructed in 2002 as a demonstration project, and its electrodes are wearing out.  The condition of 3 of the 12 electrodes have worsened due to corrosion, and are losing conductivity. The barrier had an original design life of 3 to 5 years. The condition of the electrode is assessed by the voltage drop across the electrode.  It is difficult to determine the extent of service life remaining. Panel members say it is necessary to keep that barrier as a backup and as an extra level of protection.

               

The committee has 2 or 3 sources to go to and have requested funding from them for the following:

1. Long-term operation of Barrier II

2. Upgrading of Barrier I to a permanent status

3. Long-term operation of Barrier I to establish “redundancy” – this is, an enhanced effort to prevent movement of invasive species into the Great Lakes, or south to the Mississippi River system.

               

This funding is still not assured but 40 Great Lakes congressional leaders (Senators and Representatives) have gone on record thru a joint letter signed December 16, 2005 requesting this redundancy.

               

Safety Testing – The barge testing is complete and the USCG has issued navigation procedures; these are now permanent. The next test will be the overboard assessment Underwriters  Laboratories has been asked to review the data to assess the

potential impact on humans. The primary focus will be the effect on a person in the water. The navy dive tables indicate the field strength at the barrier is safe for people but the UL tables raise some questions. We need to know how to navigate this stretch of the river.

 

Barrier Field tests will be performed to determine the extent of the barrier field.  The Corps did some additional safety testing in September to assess if it is safe to touch the wall while in the water. They determined that the current was low voltage (1 – 3 milliamps), and was non-hazardous.

               

Emergency Response – We also need to know what to do in case of an emergency situation. What procedures will be used in the event that we have a barge sinking as occurred a short distance upstream last year and how to operate in case of an oil spill.

                Col Johnston also suggested the Panel consider its role in the upcoming years. The Panel provides a useful and effective forum for input on invasive species issues in the Canal. Since the electric barrier has been constructed perhaps the role for the Panel may change.

 

About 140 100 transmitter-implanted common carp are in the canal. In November, 17 new carp were tagged with transmitters. The fish were provided by the USFWS during the Asian carp monitoring effort.   Once Barrier II goes online the DNR will plant some tagged fish between the barrier.

               

FWS fisheries manager Pam Thiel said Gobies were found no farther south than Peoria. This is 170 miles downstream from Lake Michigan. No Asian carp were found upstream since the 2002 capture about 22 miles below the barrier.

           

The IJC and GLFC have provided some funding (about $200,000) for a project to examine an ecological separation of Lake Michigan and the Chicago Waterway. Panel members Scudder Mackey and Irwin Polls will be undertaking the work. The funding is short of the $2 Million approved by Congress for the Army Corps to do a more comprehensive study.  The federal money was never appropriated.

 

The State of Illinois is looking into possible markets and beneficial uses for Asian carp. The Dept. of Corrections serves 2 million lbs of fish per year in the form of minced fish patties. This is equivalent to 6-7 millions lbs harvested. They currently use Pollock. The patties must be uniform and the product must be on a state preferred products list.  A contaminants study was done and the fish are low in all contaminants, though PCBs are still an item of interest due to the method used for analysis.

               

The Chicago Waterway Barrier Committee has been meeting for over ten years.  Dan Thomas of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council has been representing the boating and angling community since the committee’s inception, but not without sharing the deep frustration and anger many others feel over the delays and setbacks of this project.  As with most other government initiatives this too has been laced with the frustrations of delays, funding disappointments, and yes, even dismay and disgust for some of our elected and appointed officials. Our burgeoning bureaucracy is an embarrassment to our country.

 

The next Barrier Panel meeting will be July 11th at the USEPA building, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., 12th floor, Lake Michigan room.

 


Marine Community Day 2006

Marine Community Day will take place at the Marriot at Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio.  A block of rooms are reserved until February 14th under the name Marine Community Day.   Hotel Parking is 1/2 block east of Hotel on St. Clair Ave. 

 

Attached is the registration form for Marine Community Day

2006. There is a registration fee. Fill out the form and return it with the appropriate payment  by February 24, 2006.

 

The self parking rate is $12/day or  $18 day for overnight guests.

 


Permanent Relief recommended for New Mackinaw Captain

CLEVELAND – Rear Adm. Robert Papp, Commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District, has recommended to the Commandant of the Coast Guard that Capt. Donald Triner, commanding officer of the new Mackinaw, homeported in Cheboygan, Mich., be permanently relieved of command.  

 

Papp temporarily relieved Triner of his command Dec. 15 after the cutter hit a break wall in Grand Haven, Mich.  Papp made the decision to recommend permanent relief, citing loss of confidence in Triner’s ability to command.  He reached this conclusion after reviewing investigations concerning the collision and subsequent reports of inappropriate use of alcohol by Triner and some members of his crew at an event

in Cheboygan on Dec. 17.

 

“After reviewing both investigations, I have concluded that Capt. Triner gave insufficient attention to navigation and ship-handling training during the ship’s shakedown cruise, thus contributing to the collision in Grand Haven,” said Papp. “With respect to the event in Cheboygan, Capt. Triner has exhibited personal behavior and conduct inconsistent with service norms and expectations for the commanding officer of a Coast Guard cutter.”

 

Triner is temporarily assigned to Sector Lake Michigan in Milwaukee.  Capt. Michael Hudson is now in command of the cutter, a position he assumed following Triner’s temporary relief. 


Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for January 20, 2006

Lake Level Conditions:

All of the Great Lakes are 4 to 14 inches below the levels of a year ago.  Lake Superior is expected to fall 3 inches over the next month.  Lake Michigan-Huron is below chart datum and should decline 1 inch over the next 30 days.  Lake St. Clair is expected to be at the same level a month from now.  Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are both expected to be an inch lower in 30 days.  Levels over the next few months on all the Great Lakes are expected to remain lower than 2005.    

 

Current Outflows/Channel Conditions:

The Lake Superior outflow through the St. Marys River into Lake Huron is projected to be near average during the month of January.  Flows in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers are anticipated to be below average during January.  Niagara River and St. Lawrence River flows are projected to be near average in January.

 

Alerts:

Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.  Ice information can be found at the National Ice Center web page.

Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels Data Summary

 

 

Superior

Mich-Huron

St. Clair

Erie

Ontario

Expected water level for Jan 20 in ft

601.2

577.0

573.1

570.7

244.8

Chart datum, in ft

601.1

577.5

572.3

569.2

243.3

Diff from chart datum, in inches

+1

-6

+10

+18

+18

Diff from last month, in inches

-3

0

0

+5

+4

Diff from last year in inches

-4

-9

-11

-14

-7

 


Canada

Canada's Gun Registration a Failure

Violent Crime double that of U.S.

BELLEVUE, WA – Canada's billion-dollar boondoggle – the national gun registration ! scheme – has proven itself an abysmal failure, as that country's violent crime rates are double those reported in the United States, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) noted last week.

 

"We looked at violent crime rates per 100,000 population in both countries, using the most recent available data," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb, "and we were not surprised at what we found. Since Canada started this ridiculous and costly program, violent crime has gone up dramatically, at the same time that crime in the United States has declined. Yet, there are people in the states who think Canada's gun legislation should be the model for America.

 

"By comparing the data," he detailed, "we found that the violent crime rate in the United States was 475 per 100,000 population, while up north, there were 963 violent crimes per 100,000 population. The figure for sexual assault in Canada per 100,000 population is more than double that of the United State! s, 74 as opposed to 32.1, and the assault rate in Canada is also more than twice that of the states, 746 to our 295 for the population rate."

 

Noted CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron: "What

happened in the states to actually contribute to a reduction in our overall crime rate is simple. We've got 38 states with shall-issue, right-to-carry concealed handgun laws. While Canada has clamped down on its citizens' gun rights, our citizens have been empowered against criminals by passage of these laws. The disparity in crime rates between the two countries says it all about how well gun registration works to stop crime, as opposed to actually carrying guns to deter criminals, and fight back if necessary."

 

A Jan. 3 story in Canada's National Post by writer David Frum confirmed CCRKBA's independent finding. Frum wrote, "Canada's overall crime rate is now 50% higher than the crime rate in the United States." Later, Frum added: "Gun registries and gun bans…do not work."

 

"Instead of promising to ban legally-owned handguns in Canada," Waldron observed, "Prime Minister Paul Martin should be urging citizens to arm themselves. He should encourage Parliament to scrap gun registration and replace it with a gun ownership and training program."

 

"Since going on the warpath against guns, Canada's Liberals have presided over the sharpest rise in violent crime in the nation's history," Gottlieb said. "There are more rapes, more robberies and more murders. If that tells Canadian citizens anything at all, it's that Paul Martin and his Liberals have literally been ‘dead wrong' on guns."


Lake Michigan

LAKE MICHIGAN FISHING SEMINARS
DATE: March 4, 2006

Topics:

BEGINNING & ADVANCED LEADCORE FISHING
Jerry Young - 10 AM to 11:30

LUNCH BREAK 12 to 1 PM

SALMON & TROUT FISHING TECHNIQUES
Captains Dave Scott, Arnie Arendondo 1 PM to 2:30

MONO, BRAIDED, and WIRE LINE DIPSEY FISHING
WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW
Capt. Dustin Pogorzelski & Craig Bender 2:30 to 4

Location: Jalensky's Sport & Marine
5307 Greenbay Rd. (Hwy 31) & 158
Kenosha, WI  Ph. 262-654-2260

Free to attend, door prizes & special sales

 


Illinois

Past year was warm and dry

2005 just misses top ten driest, warmest on record

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Preliminary data for Illinois indicate 2005 was the 11th driest and 12th warmest year since 1895.

 

Precipitation in 2005 averaged only 31.48 inches (7.75 inches below normal), compared to 26.32 inches in 1901, the driest year on record. Statewide temperatures in 2005 averaged 53.8ºF (2.1 degrees above normal) compared to 55.6ºF in 1921, the warmest year on record. Temperature extremes during 2005 year ranged from 107ºF at Monmouth on July 25 to -17ºF at Mt. Carroll on December 19,” says State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey (http://www.sws.uiuc.edu), a division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

 

“After a very cold start to December, even temperatures much 

above normal the last 10 days of 2005 didn’t warm up the statistics. Statewide December temperatures were the 24th coldest on record and averaged 26.7ºF (3.1 degrees below normal). Precipitation also averaged 1.23 inches (1.51 inches below normal), the 17th driest December since 1895. Temperature extremes ranged from -17ºF at Mt. Carroll on December 19 to 64ºF at Carbondale on December 28.

 

“The National Weather Service forecast shows an increased chance of warmer-than-average temperatures for January and for January–March. Historically, this is not surprising because January and February are usually mild after a cold December. Don’t expect too much relief of drought concerns in January and February either, typically they are Illinois’ two driest months, with precipitation averaging two inches each month compared to a monthly average of four inches during the growing season,” reminds Angel.


Michigan

Bay City State Recreation Area Hosts Winter Festival Feb 18

Bay City State Recreation Area is hosting its 13th annual Winter Festival on Saturday, Feb. 18, to coincide with the first day of Michigan's Winter Free Fishing Weekend, when anyone can fish license-free on Michigan's waters. The event is part of the DNR's Project GO-Get Outdoors campaign and is sponsored by Frank's Great Outdoors, the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club and the Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area.

 

Festival activities begin at 9 a.m. with the kids' Free Ice Fishing Derby and Ice Fishing Clinic. Children can learn tips on ice fishing and make their own ice fishing pole and lure. Pre-drilled holes for ice fishing, loner poles and free bait provided. Activities conclude with a woodland owl calling hike and candlelight walk/ski at dusk. Throughout the day visitors will be able to enjoy a wide range of outdoor recreational activities, including guided hikes, snowshoe expeditions, ice fishing classes, birding clinics, a wildlife winter tracking

demonstration and competition, an ice safety demonstration and more. Families will have fun participating in the orienteering scavenger hunt, snowman building competition, ice crystal treasure dig, snowball tournament and sled races. Many prizes and trophies will be awarded throughout the day.

 

Visitors also will be able to construct their own snow snake and enter the 8th annual Tobico Snow Snake Competition, a traditional Native American winter activity. Families also will have opportunities to construct bird feeders, bird houses and other fun craft projects. Wildlife puppet shows, a live "Birds of Prey" program, and bird banding demonstrations will be offered inside the visitor center.

 

Admission is free. No state park motor vehicle permit is required for this special Project GO-Get Outdoors event. For more information, stop by the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center, located in Bay City State Recreation Area, or call (989) 667-0717.


Wisconsin

State Senate Approves Concealed Carry Bill

MADISON(AP) -- The state Senate approved a Republican bill on January 17, that would let Wisconsin residents carry concealed weapons, setting up what could be a political clash between the Legislature and Gov. Jim Doyle. The Senate's 28-5 vote sends the bill to Doyle, a Democrat who already has vetoed one version of it and has vowed to veto this one.

 

Wisconsin is one of only four states that bans concealed weapons. National Rifle Association lobbyists working with Republican legislators have been trying make them legal here for years. The latest bill would let state residents who pass firearms training and get permits to carry hidden handguns, knives, billy clubs and electric shock weapons in most public places.

 

Republicans have pledged to override the governor's veto.   A veto override takes 22 votes in the Senate and 66 in the Assembly. Republicans control the Senate 19-14 and the Assembly 60-39.  The Senate voted 23-10 to pass an initial version of the bill in December. That would suggest Senate Republicans have enough votes to override a veto.

 

The Assembly changed the bill days later to attract more

Democratic support. Republicans added tighter restrictions on carrying concealed weapons while drinking and new school zones where concealed weapons still would be banned. The Assembly passed that version 64-32 and sent it back to the Senate for Tuesday's vote because both chambers must pass identical versions of a bill before the governor can consider it.

 

Nine Senate Democrats sided with Republicans in Tuesday's vote. Senate Minority Leader Judy Robson, D-Beloit, said the question was whether the Senate agreed with the changes the Assembly made. Several Democrats thought that made the bill more restrictive and voted for the amended version, even though they still oppose the bill.

 

Republicans think they can pick up two more votes in the Assembly to override a veto. One Republican was absent during the December vote in that house, and a then-vacant seat now is held by a Republican. Those votes would give the Assembly what it needs to override a veto.

 

Doyle vetoed similar concealed carry legislation in 2003. The Senate overrode the veto, but the Assembly fell one vote short. Fonder said the governor is sure his veto will stand this time around, too. She declined to elaborate.


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