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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Conservationist, Ag Agent Report On Activities

Marinette County Conservationist Greg Cleereman reported to the Land Information Committee on Monday, Nov. 7 that thanks to information gained through statewide networking and quick action by some members of his Land and Water Conservation Department, Lake Noquebay Rehabilitation District (LNRD) has a very good chance of getting a grant for a new $150,000 weed harvester at no cost to the district.

Earlier in the meeting Cleereman had been authorized to attend the County Conservationist meeting in Wisconsin Rapids on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 1 and 2. He said he gleans a great deal of information from these conferences, which are held twice a year.

He added that he and other staff members are all active in this and other statewide groups, and said these conferences and the networking that comes with them are helpful in many ways. It was one of the contacts made at state meetings who alerted them to the unexpected grant opportunity.

He said a friend from elsewhere in the state had come across the fact that some grant money was left in a Wisconsin Waterways program for which LNRD would qualify, but time to apply was short. Cleereman said Chuck Druckrey, Water Resource Specialist in his office, knew the existing LNRD harvester is getting old and worn. He and coworkers promptly prepared a grant application and sent it off before the deadline. Cleereman believes there is an excellent chance it will be approved.

Cleereman shared before and after photos of the footbridge across Mohawk Dam, which controls water levels in Lake Noquebay. Work was done by the Forestry, Parks and Highway departments with input from Land Information staff.

Committee Chair Supervisor Ted Sauve, termed the new bridge "a huge improvement over what was there."

Supervisor Bob Hawley, a member of the committee, said the only complaint he has heard about the new walkway is that the hill to access the walkway is too steep for handicapped access. Cleereman said although people do fish there, this is not considered a recreational bridge. Its purpose is to access control over water levels in the lake. "If it was recreational we would find a way to make it handicap accessible," he added.

He added that dam and the walkway over it have been an ongoing issue. Part of the problem has now been corrected by installing a lock device so people can no longer take out boards themselves to change the water levels. Cleereman said this was sometimes done by property owners who worried that water was getting too high and would erode their shorelines, other times they tried to block the dam because they felt water was getting too low.

Each fall the lake level is drawn down a bit to minimize ice damage.

Mohawk Dam is one of two dams owned and maintained by the county. The other is at Shannon Lake.

Cleereman said phosphorous levels in Lake Noquebay have been rising and they do not know why. Druckrey is working with LNRD and Wisconsin DNR on plans for a diagnostic and feasibility study of the entire Lake Noquebay watershed to find sources and determine how to control them.

Cleereman had done some monitoring of inlets to the lake and did not find their phosphorous levels elevated.

There were comments about outdated septic systems around the lake, and Cleereman agreed that may be a problem but there will be a study of the entire watershed. "We want to aim before we shoot," he declared.

According to a report prepared by Druckrey, installation of a drain pipe at Beecher Lake is complete and will allow the drawdown to be maintained through the winter. Cleereman said this should be a huge improvement over siphoning that has been used to draw down water levels. The drawdown and dredging are aimed at controlling weed growth. Dredging will start this winter as soon as the base is frozen enough to support the equipment. Druckrey helped prepare a "dredge spoils" disposal site by stripping top soil and installing a silt fence, and constructing a ramp to allow machinery to access the lake bed.

The department had completed annual monitoring on the Medicine Brook land trust.

Druckrey has been helping the City of Peshtigo on its proposed fish viewing platform just below the BPM, Inc. paper mill dam. It will utilize concrete pillars left from a river crossing for pipes and personnel between Badger's pulp and paper mills, which were located on opposite sides of the river.

Supervisor Fred Meintz, who represents Peshtigo on County Board, said if the platform is not built the mill will be required to remove the pillars. He noted fishing will not be allowed from the platform, only viewing.

Cleereman said he personally completed spraying for phragmites by walking to spray herbicide on about a 2-mile stretch on the Green Bay shoreline near the mouth of Little River. He agreed with committee comments that high water levels also should help control the invasive phragmites.

Until concentrated control efforts started a few years ago the phragmites had pretty much taken over the shoreline, hindering use, choking out native plants, blocking views and posing a fire hazard.

Cleereman reported Information and Education Specialist Anne Bartels had presented 22 "TOAD" educational programs to 704 people this year, compared to 16 programs to 515 people last year.

She and others in the department helped with Environmental Field Days, which was held over three days at four locations in the county to 464 people.

Bartels also helped with the Halloween Family Fun Fest at Harmony Arboretum, which was attended by more than 300 people despite a cold, drizzly night.

The Conservation Technician has been working on the new manure storage system for the Fair Grounds in Wausaukee but some new federal standards that just went into effect required a change in plans. Since this is a high visibility project Cleereman said they want to be sure to do everything right, so actual work will be put off until next year.

In response to a question from Meintz, Cleereman said an individual who had received a grant for a wildlife damage fence but never had it built has been repaying it. Payments have been coming in once a month for six months and there are six more months to go.

USDA Representative Mary Noll said their office had been busy in October making ARC and other payments, which is normal for this time of year.

UWEX Ag Agent Scott Reuss arrived late for the meeting. He had just come from the courtroom where Richard F. Larsen, 57, had been sentenced to five years in prison for stealing items from the storage shed at Harmony Arboretum on Nov. 11, 2015. Larsen is to serve two years behind bars plus three years of extended supervision. Restitution of $400.59 was ordered, in addition to payment of $163 in court costs plus $74.42 in other penalties. Reuss said items taken included a nearly new county-owned chipper shredder but that was not part of the restitution because it was not recovered and there was no proof that was among the items Larsen took. There will be restitution to the county for two pop-up tents, and Master Gardeners members will be reimbursed for items they had stored there that were taken. Since the county's insurance has a $5,000 per incident deductible the chipper shredder is a total loss.

Reuss saluted Master Gardener Bob Gerlinger for being instrumental in a number of projects at the Arboretum this year. He said the beaver lodge, beaver dam, simulated wetland area and bird habitat have really come into their own this year.

Plans for next year include removing the existing "shade structure," which is about 18 years old, and replacing it in spring with a new one that will have space inside for meetings. He plans to make some changes to the vegetable garden area, which will include eliminating the existing raised beds because keeping them sufficiently watered requires a great deal of time

Reuss said the Arboretum gets increasingly greater numbers of visitors each year who sometimes come just to eat lunch or walk around a bit. Largest single event this year and last was the Halloween Family Fun Night. Despite rain this year there were 293 registered visitors for the event, plus 31 volunteers and staff. Last year, in nicer weather, the event attracted just under 400 visitors.

Reuss said he, his wife and his daughter had brought some small animals that were very much enjoyed, especially by the younger children.

Reuss said they had contracted with the Highway Department to mow grass to create an additional parking area and one county deputy and a member of the Sheriff's Auxiliary directed traffic.

Supervisor Bob Holley asked about the apiary at the arboretum. Reuss said the honey bee hives were set up near the walking trail so people got a chance to see it, and overall it was a good demonstration. However, one hive swarmed and was lost.

Cleereman reported he had just spent five days building a new privy at Harmony.

Hunting is permitted in the Harmony Hardwoods and people are coming there for grouse and other game birds.

Reuss invited anyone with ideas or suggestions for the Arboretum in 2017 to get in touch with him or one of the Master Gardeners.

"Overall, I guess you'd give the Harmony Gardens an "A-Plus' for 2016", Sauve commented.

Reuss presented Wildlife Damage compensation prices in Marinette County for 2016 and included a comparison with 2015 prices. The committee approved the schedule without dissent.

Compensation farmers receive for losses from wildlife damage this year are based on the prices those crops brought last year, but it works out fairly because most stay with the program year after year, Ruess said. For most commodities prices were down slightly.

Ross Mielke, of USDA Wildlife services, thanked Reuss for computing the compensation prices and said he does a great job.

Compensation for organic crops will be far higher than for non-organic. Certified organic hay, for example, brings a 40 percent premium over the price for high quality alfalfa.

There were provisions for organic kidney bean losses to be compensated at "farm contract price" for 2016. Sauve noted there had been no mention of kidney bean price in 2015. Reuss said that is a specialty crop that farmers generally plant only if they have a contract that guarantees them a market, especially in this area. He said this is a crop rotation on the same farm that raised another crop last year. "It's an option for organic producers because of the premium price, but you have to be good at what you do."

As to the term "organic," he said they use other management practices than pesticides and weed killers, such as timing of plantings, more tillage, planting cover crops, etc. Some pesticides can be used but the format is different and the choices are fewer.

To another question, he said the term "GMO-free" is radically different than organic.

He said that on Thursday evening, Nov. 10 there is to be a presentation at the Stephenson Public Library in Marinette on the facts and myths regarding GMO in dairy products. He said many farmers are very upset about an announcement by a large dairy company that they will no longer market products with GMOs.


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