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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

August 2003

Readers Write

Homemade energy
Sneaky bucks
Plants online
Dumping effluents
Low salt travel
Zebra mussel control?
The lure of muskies

Homemade Energy

I enjoyed the two-part energy series(The complex business of keeping the lights on in December 2002, followed by A fresh look at energy in February 2003). It's interesting that "old Europe" is so much more advanced regarding energy consciousness and efficiency than are we. It seems that our advance towards the "bright energy future" is slowed in part by a costly, but outdated, energy infrastructure that the corporate world seems reluctant to change or replace. Also, our relatively cheap costs for using energy do nothing to stimulate our energy consciousness, efficiency or reduce energy consumption.

Not being content to wait for the future to arrive, about 12 years ago we incorporated a photo-voltaic system into the design of our new house. While we are by no means off the grid, I've discovered, over time, that even a modest solar-electric system can make a meaningful contribution to meeting our total household energy needs, even here during the short, often cloudy, winter days. Also, since I want to maximize the potential use of every solar watt of energy we collect, we've become much more aware of the demand side of the power equation for both our off-grid and on-grid applications.

So while I am waiting for the arrival of a "bright energy future" from the corporate world of energy production, I and others are already taking advantage of the photo-voltaic and wind generator options that are already available and affordable for home installation today. Every little bit helps, as they say, and every time a thunderstorm knocks out the utility power leaving my neighbors sitting in the dark, I can be found happily shooting pocket billiards in my basement illuminated by the bright glow of "sunlight."

Kurt Sroka

Sneaky Bucks

I note glances of doubt every time I tell someone that several times while hunting, I've seen bucks sneak past me in the woods. The deer seem to be walking on their knees not particularly fast with their tails down. We have all seen huge bucks loping with their heads held high, taking bounding steps, raising a racket and announcing their presence with considerable brush cracking, but not so often do we see the sneaking bucks. Is this an illusion?

Paul Nagel
Eau Claire

Plants Online

Please let readers know of a greatly expanded website about plants from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Freckmann Herbarium contains the latest information about Wisconsin flora including photographs, plant distribution, ethnobotany, discussions of natural plant communities and an easy-to-use identification guide to vascular plants.

The discussions of natural communities include descriptions from DNR botanists Emmet Judziewicz, Eric Epstein and Elizabeth Spencer, noted natural community scholars. The ethnobotany discussions include complete listings by species of how plants were used by local Native American tribes. These were written from oral histories collected from Wisconsin's Great Lakes Ojibwe nation. A new section has also been added describing bryophytes (mosses and their kin).

The identification guide includes a pictorial check-off list where you can choose noticeable traits to narrow down searches and identify specimens. The descriptions of grasses include Agnes Chase's line drawings drawn from Norman C. Fassett's "Grasses of Wisconsin."

Check it out.

Merel Black
Blue Mounds

Dumping Effluents

As a long-time subscriber, I've yet to see a story specifically about one of the most important environmental issues in our area – dumping of sewage into Lake Michigan by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

The thought of dumping waste into a source of drinking water is distressing to say the least. I wonder about the long-term possibility of Great Lake eutrophication as well as heavy metal and other contaminants from this continued practice. How serious is the impact of dumping millions of gallons of treated effluent and some untreated sewage? Why don't we hear about a plan to rectify this problem?

Robert Halser

Local efforts couple with state funding aim to continually improve wastewater treatment from the state's largest sewerage district. There have been improvements along with setbacks. As noted in our beach safety story in the June 2003 issue, MMSD has dramatically reduced the number of days when rainy weather overloads the treatment system and raw sewage is bypassed to keep sewage from backing up into streets and basements. Average annual bypassing dropped from 50 incidents to eight and the volume of the overflows has been cut 81 percent since 1994. Nevertheless, the job is far from over and a piece on the district's mixed challenges and successes is worth consideration. Certainly MMSD's management, costs, controls, expansions and technology are widely covered by southeastern Wisconsin newspapers and broadcast media.

Low Salt Travel

I read with interest the 16 pages in the February 2003 issue concerning runoff and its effect on our environment (Slow down in town). It covered many causes and solutions, but only dedicated a small paragraph to the problem of road salt.

Every year hundreds of tons of salt are spread on our highways and a large percentage of it ends up in streams, rivers and lakes. This is a very serious problem that no one seems to want to address.

Allowing a little more travel time when roads are slippery and spreading a little sand at intersections would help a great deal to reduce this problem. The only positive I see coming from overkill on salt use is for car wash operators. It's about time the Department of Natural Resources takes a look at this problem.

Jerry Johnson

Road salt use and alternative measures that assure safe driving conditions in winter are seriously discussed. Many communities are experimenting with sand/salt/ash mixtures and salt substitutes like CMA that can dry pavements with fewer environmental consequences. State transportation officials also monitor salt use and design highways to retain and retard salt runoff into waterways. Moreover, under the new state rules, polluted runoff controls will be set to contain road salt, pesticides and runoff from forestry management practices.

Zebra Mussel Control?

In an article on lake sturgeon spawning in Wisconsin carried by The Chicago Tribune the author states that one of the preferred foods for lake sturgeon is zebra mussels. This would be good news because we need to control zebra mussels in rivers and now lakes. Would planting lake sturgeon in big lakes and rivers help? I'd think that Green Bay, Lake Michigan, the Fox River, Lake Superior tributaries, the Mississippi and the Black rivers would be good places to start.

Richard Kortsch

We asked DNR sturgeon biologist Ron Bruch if stocking lake sturgeon might be a significant strategy to control zebra mussels given the sturgeons' long lives, slow population growth rates and the zebra mussels prolific abilities to spread. Here's his response:

"It is true that sturgeon eat zebra mussels, but our experience here on the Winnebago lakes indicates that the zebra mussels may not be a preferred food of lake sturgeon. Despite the high zebra mussel abundance in Lake Winnebago, the sturgeon here still prefer to eat lake fly larvae and gizzard shad. There may be other waters though where sturgeon would eat more of the zebra mussels, depending on the abundance of other food items. I wouldn't expect that the sturgeon would eat enough to control the zebra mussels in any case."

The Lure of Muskies

Long Live the Kings, December 2002, certainly caught our attention. For 41 years, I've never missed a summer fishing "up north," and, in fact, neither have my three children (ages 9, 12 and 14). This might not sound very special to you, but we live in the Sonoran Desert,where muskies and fishing do not come up in everyday conversation.

There is great anticipation when traveling to my parents' cabin in Woodruff. We talk non-stop about fishing, who will be the first to catch a fish, what kind, how big, etc. The moment we walk into the cabin, Mike, my middle child, strides over to the mounted record-breaker looking clearly hypnotized and awestruck. What my son dreams of is a monster musky, just like his grandfather's!

Each time we go out fishing, within the first five minutes Mike stares into the murky water and states, "Mom, I feel it. This time I'm going to catch a musky!" He sounds just like my father when he responded to me as a young girl. I explain to Mike that there is only a slim chance of catching one. In your article, that slim chance I was referring to described the musky as being "the fish of 10,000 casts." Due to your "phenomenal job of rebuilding the musky population," my son is confident that this summer he will come face to face with the king of our Northwoods lake. He's not so overwhelmed now that he knows it should only take 3,000 casts!

Thank you, for your successful musky management plan. My children can keep dreaming about catching the big one. Long live the kings!

Suzanne Rice Schorr
Tucson, Ariz.


The URL for a beach health website listed in our June 2003 story A beachhead for safe swimming, has changed. To view daily water conditions and historical data about water quality testing along Wisconsin's Great Lake beaches, go to Great Lakes Information Network.