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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published March 6, 2012

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Fix a Leak Week a good time to save money, water

Plumbers offer free inspection for leaks

Fix a Leak Week

MADISON -- March is a prime time to fix leaky toilets and faucets that can waste up to 10,000 gallons of water a year and add 10 percent to the average residential water bill, state water use officials say.

Tips on how to detect leaks, free plumbing inspections from participating plumbers, and video and radio messages are available during "Fix a Leak Week," March 12-18.

"We encourage all homeowners, renters and property managers to do some detective work to find and fix leaks," says Jeff Ripp, Wisconsin Public Service Commission assistant water division administrator.

Steve Elmore, who coordinates outreach for DNR's water conservation efforts, says that March is a good time to check for leaks because it's easier to detect them when people aren't watering their lawns. Usage levels reflected on a water meter represent household use, and higher-than-normal readings can signal a problem.

Plumbers from the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association of Wisconsin are also joining in the effort by offering a free leak detection home inspection during Fix a Leak week. Visit the PHCC website www.phcc-wi.org (exit DNR) to find a nearby participating plumber.

Fix a Leak Week is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program, DNR, PSC and the state Department of Buildings and Professional Services.

To help save money on your water bill and to save water for future generations, Elmore offers these tips:

In many cases, fixture replacement parts pay for themselves quickly and can be installed by handy do-it-yourselfers, or contact your favorite plumbing professional. WaterSense also has partners with certified landscape professionals who can check irrigation systems for leaks. Visit www.epa.gov/watersense (exit DNR) to find WaterSense labeled products or an irrigation partner in your area.

State agencies are also sponsoring a Fix a Leak Week Challenge and encouraging people to pledge to check their home for leaks and tell us what you found and fixed. Visit Fix a Leak Week to sign up online for the challenge, vew Fix a Leak Week video and for more tips to stop your drips.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Elmore (608) 264-9246; Shaili Pfeiffer, DNR (608) 267-7630

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Bears with cubs on public property need understanding and space, not food

EAU CLAIRE - With longer days and warming temperatures, bears are moving around their winter dens and in some cases are easily visible. Sows, in particular, will stay close to their dens to care for cubs.

Wildlife biologists with the state Department of Natural Resources are asking people to give these bears a lot of space. Curiosity is natural, and seeing bears is exciting, but when people gather at these sites, the sows feel threatened, according to John Dunn, a DNR wildlife biologist.

Black bear sow
This black bear sow in Eau Claire County is feeling threatened by people getting too close to her cubs.
DNR Photo

DNR conservation wardens report that people have gotten too close to a sow with cubs in Eau Claire County and have also tossed food at bears. The bears do not need human food and this amounts more to harassment than charity, biologists said.

"In this case, you have cubs that are probably two months old," Dunn said. "They are dependent on their mother for warmth and food and nursing. If there is a certain level of harassment, she will abandon them. We are depending on the public to leave the sow alone so she can take care of her cubs."

DNR employees report that a similar situation in Wood County has been troublesome. In that case, with a sow and cubs easily visible in a road culvert, people have thrown food at the bears and the landowner reports seeing spotlights shined into the den at night.

Additionally, while black bears are not generally a threat to people, Dunn said, and will tolerate a fair level of harassment without becoming aggressive, there are limits. When a sow with cubs has a den in a publicly accessible location, public safety becomes an issue.

In the Eau Claire county case, the sow has already exhibited aggressive behavior indicating it is feeling threatened and doesn't have enough space to feel safe with its cubs, Dunn reports. Fortunately, the bear has moved its cubs a short distance onto private property, still visible but less accessible.

DNR employees have increased monitoring efforts, have spoken to neighbors and have sought assistance from local law enforcement.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Markowski, DNR wildlife technician, Eau Claire, 715-839-3838; John Dunn, DNR wildlife biologist, Eau Claire, 715-839-3771; Ed Culhane, DNR communications, 715-781-1683.

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DNR needs partners for loaner life jacket pilot

'Kids Don't Float' project targeted to start Memorial Day weekend

MADISON -- In an effort to help boaters of all ages stay safe on the water this summer, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking partners to help run a loaner life jacket pilot of the Kids Don't Float program at several boat landings.

"This program is all about keeping everyone - especially kids - safe while out enjoying Wisconsin's many rivers and lakes," said Chuck Horn, the DNR acting boating law administrator and former conservation warden heading the effort. "There are cases when people launch the boat thinking they have a life jacket for each passenger, and they don't. This program will HELP ensure all in the boat will have one, as the law requires."

The DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement hopes to replicate the successful life jacket program started in Homer, Alaska, in 1996 to combat that state's high rate of child and youth drownings. Alaska started the program with several boat landing stations where life jackets were available to be borrowed at no cost and returned after use. Today, Alaska has more than 500 loaner stations statewide.

"This is definitely an honor program. If you need a jacket, take one before you launch and simply return it to the station once you're off the water," Horn said. "We are optimistic we will have partners because Wisconsin is fortunate to have so many organizations and citizens who care deeply about the resources and the people who enjoy them."

Donated jackets needed, partner duties

Horn says the DNR will provide the plans and materials for the loaner stations along with a starter supply of loaner jackets. "And the program also would gladly accept donated life jackets. If the pilot grows into a program, the jackets will be needed."

The partners could be groups, clubs, associations, agencies or individuals interested in boating safety. The partners would have several responsibilities, including:

What's the law on life jackets?

The U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin law require a boater carry one wearable life jacket, also known as a PFD, or personal flotation device, for every passenger on board - including the operator. Boats that are 16 feet and longer must have a throwable type PFD -- such as a ring buoy or Type IV cushion. The cushion can be a square with handles on the side.

Also, the U.S. Coast Guard requires children 13 and younger to wear their life jackets on federal waterways such as the Great Lakes or Mississippi River.

Why are the wardens doing this?

Horn says since 1994, 13 kids have drown in boating related incidents in Wisconsin and 92 percent of those were not wearing life jackets.

"That 90 percent-plus statistic of drowning victims not wearing life jackets extends to all ages," he said. "This program has helps highlight safety and the role of life jackets play while boating."

To learn more about the program and becoming a partner, contact Charles.horn@wisconsin.gov.

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Veteran staffer named DNR Small Business Ombudsman

MADISON -- A veteran state environmental manager has been named as the Department of Natural Resources' small business ombudsman, a position responsible for serving as a liaison to small business and helping them meet clean air laws and other environmental requirements.

Eileen Pierce
Eileen Pierce
WDNR Photo

Eileen Pierce has been selected to serve as DNR's small business ombudsman, drawing on her expertise over the past 23 years of working in the agency's air, waste and remediation programs in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wisconsin Rapids, and Madison.

"Eileen's extensive experience interpreting and implementing environmental regulations makes her a great choice as ombudsman," says DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Eileen is particularly well positioned to serve the needs of Wisconsin's small businesses."

Pierce said she is committed to helping Wisconsin small business owners succeed and achieve their environmental performance goals. There are 1,865 companies of 500 or fewer employees with an active air permit.

Pierce will be serving many more firms with other permits, including federally and state permitted activities such as water use and discharge, solid waste handling, hazardous waste generation and water regulation and zoning more.

"I hope to make a real difference for small businesses and the environment by helping small businesses sort through the various environmental regulations, by advocating that impacts on small businesses be considered as we develop and implement regulations, and by helping resolve disputes for individual small business owners."

Under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, each state is required to implement a small business technical and environmental compliance assistance program including an ombudsman for small business, a small business technical assistance program, and a compliance advisory panel.

The Wisconsin program was established at Department of Commerce in 1993. The program moved to DNR in 2011.

The small business ombudsman has three main responsibilities: communication, advocacy, and compliance assistance. Although the ombudsman's role has its origin in the Clean Air Act, in many states including Wisconsin, the scope of these responsibilities includes all environmental regulatory programs that affect small business.

See Wisconsin Small Business Clean Air Assistance Program for more information .

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Eileen Pierce, (608) 275-3296 (desk), (608) 279-5637

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Drillers of exploratory boreholes can help protect groundwater from contamination

EAU CLAIRE - With the rapid expansion of frac-sand mining in Wisconsin there has been a corresponding increase in soil-exploration drilling as landowners and others seek to identify large sand deposits.

The resulting bore holes, unless properly sealed, present a risk to groundwater resources because they create a pathway for surface runoff to contaminate underground aquifers.

Groundwater experts with the state Department of Natural Resources are reminding individuals involved in these drilling operations that state law requires the proper abandonment of all boreholes or drill holes exceeding 10 feet in depth or which intersect groundwater. Drillers are required to file a report upon abandonment.

"These rules are in place to protect precious public water resources that are of inestimable value," said Michael Blodgett, DNR's drinking water and groundwater program manager for west central Wisconsin. "Professional well drillers are fully aware of these requirements, but we are asking all drill operators to become familiar with the rules and to follow both the spirit and letter of the law."

Blodgett notes landowners would be smart to make sure drillers properly close boreholes on the land.

The rules for properly abandoning a drill hole are established in NR 141.25, Wisconsin Administrative Code. Leaving holes open can create a direct conduit for entry of contaminants to waters of the state and is a violation of chapter 281, Wisconsin Statutes.

State law defines a borehole as "a circular hole deeper than it is wide, constructed in earth material for the purpose of either installing a well or obtaining geologic or groundwater related data." Boreholes are also referred to as drillholes.

NR 141 addresses sealing requirements for boreholes and groundwater monitoring wells. It states, among other requirements, that "boreholes and groundwater monitoring wells shall be abandoned by complete filling with neat cement grout, bentonite-cement grout, sand-cement grout, concrete or bentonite-sand slurry."

While the code specifies that a bore hole be properly abandoned within three days of its use being discontinued, DNR encourages drillers to close exploration boreholes immediately to avoid the potential for soils collapse and bridging to occur in the hole.

See silica (frac) sand mining for information on NR 141.25 along with a form to be submitted to the local DNR office after abandonment.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Blodgett, DNR drinking water and groundwater program manager for west central Wisconsin, 715-839-3745, Ed Culhane, DNR communications, 715-781-1683.

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Register now for hunter education courses

MADISON - Wisconsin hunters planning for 2012 seasons should register now for required hunter education certificate courses to avoid missing the season for failure to complete a course on time.

"Nearly all of the volunteer hunter education instructors are hunters themselves and enjoy hunting in the fall," says Conservation Warden Jon King, who took over as the state's hunting education administrator in January. "The hunter education program offers about 1,200 courses every year, but very few of them are offered from October through December."

King, who also has been a hunter education instructor himself for about 11 years and a recreational safety warden in the southern counties for the last seven, says it is not uncommon for hunters to start the search for a course a few weeks before the start of the gun-deer season. "Nearly all courses have been offered by then," he says.

Anyone born on or after Jan.1, 1973, must have completed a hunter education course and show the certificate to purchase any hunting license in Wisconsin. Also, recreational safety students are required to obtain a Wisconsin DNR Customer ID Number before the completion of any recreational safety class and must provide that Customer ID Number to the instructor.

To find a course, Look under the heading of Recreational Safety Course - Upcoming Classes. Check frequently as courses are added to the listing as instructors alert the DNR.

King, who also worked as a police officer for eight years before joining the DNR, says hunting accidents have dropped by 90 percent since the hunter education program began in the state. "The many volunteer instructors who teach hunter education and the number of our hunters who have now graduated from our courses is a big reason why hunting is safe."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon King (608) 575-2294

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Hunting and fishing licenses go on sale March 7

Licenses for current year expire on March 31

MADISON - 2012-13 Wisconsin hunting, fishing, trapping and other licenses for fish and wildlife activities in Wisconsin go on sale Wednesday, March 7. Annual licenses are valid from April 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013. Hunting and fishing licenses for the 2011-12 license year expire on March 31, 2012.

Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased: over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center; at any Department of Natural Resources service center; at all authorized license agents; or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236). People attending the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show from Wednesday, March 7, to Sunday, March 11, at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis will also be able to purchase licenses.

Department of Natural Resources customer service staff is available to assist the public by phone and online from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Spanish and Hmong bilingual customer service representatives are also available. Customers may reach Customer Service at 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936-7463) or by e-mail at csweb@wisconsin.gov. An online chat link is also available.

Information on renewing a Conservation Patrons License, which offers many different privileges, including licenses, stamps, applications, park admission and more, was included in the February issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, along with a bonus pamphlet showing how fish and wildlife license and permit fees are spent to bolster outdoor recreation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bureau of Customer Service and Licensing, (608) 266-2621

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 06, 2012




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