Friday, February 26, 2010

Gitchee Gumee update

I figured its time to get back to the main subject of this blog after drifting a bit through the winter months. Lots of stuff is happening regarding the lake that it's named for, and I think a quick synopsis is in order.

First off, the lake continues to warm up, 1.2 degrees C per decade. That doesn't seem like much but its almost five times faster than any other lakes in the area. For we kayakers, anxious to switch from the dry suit to the thin neoprene vest and shorts when the air is 80F and the water 42F, that may sound like good news. Likewise for our paddling companions, who implore us to jump into that 42F water to rid ourselves of our sweaty wet neoprene 'aura'. Unfortunately, the lamprey eel really likes a bit warmer water as well and signs of lake trout predation have increased significantly, according to a sea grant study of the lamprey/lake trout relationship. The lamprey is a nasty, snakelike thing that sucks the life out of native lake trout, thanks to the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway in the '50's. I've only seen one in the water and my paddling companion does not know I saw it. We were taking our boats out of the water at the mouth of the Brule and it swam between the VOR's legs as she was lifting the back end of her boat. Given her attitude toward anything even vaguely reptilian, I felt that ignorance was bliss in this case. Even though they control the lampreys through chemical means and various weirs on streams, a warmer lake does not bode well.

On the Asian carp front, it looks like the carp summit on 8 Feb resulted in a fairly predictable result. We are going to throw money at the problem. The locks where they are likely to get in are still open and the barriers that exist are known to be ineffective during high water (let me see...water is generally highest in the spring, when the snow melts, which is when carp spawn.....hmmm). I'm certain that plans, drawings, and studies are in the works, using this bonanza of bucks, and that effective barriers will be constructed just as soon as it warms up, the water level subsides, and the construction plans can be approved by the DNR in 5 states, US Fish & Wildlife Service, the EPA, and the Great Lakes Czar. Should be any day now. My suggestion is to not attempt any violent high braces in Lake Michigan; the resulting splash could have in a 50 pound carp in your face.

Lawyers, Guns, and Money, one of my favorite Warren Zevon songs of all times. It would appear that state firearms regulations now apply in National Parks (and lakeshores). This would mean, for we Wisconsinites, that cased and unloaded firearms are OK, we can chase a grouse of deer during the season (I think),and also that we can swagger around the park with six shooters on our belts, as long as they are clearly visible. This was clarified in an attorney general's opinion by northern Wisconsin's beloved JB "Wyatt Earp" VanHollen, the Wisconsin AG. I'm sure a new kayak accessory, the DeckHolster holster, would be OK too, in case those pesky jet skiers or cigarette boaters go too close but, once again, I'm not a lawyer. This law by the way, was passed in classic congressional fashion by tacking it on to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 as an amendment and sneaking it through. Sneaking, weaseling, skulking, underhanded, unethical.....readers can insert any adjective that they would like.

On the good news front, the Obama administration has developed a five year plan for rescuing the Great Lakes from things like toxic contamination, shrinking wildlife habitat and invasive species. The carp funding is part of this deal. I wish they had come up with some other time frame than 5 years because that always conjures the Politburo in the old Soviet Union and their unattainable, often harebrained Five Year Plans. This plan has earmarked more than $2.2 billion bucks to help restore the lakes ecosystems after a hundred years of neglect and outright abuse. Lets hope that at least a portion of this funding can be actually directed at the issues that need attention. If the Federal standard average of 33% of funding actually reaches the issues that need it, that's still $733 million of needed help to the area.

On the land acquisition front, the Wisconsin DNR purchased the last 40 acres in Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island in the Apostles. It was a hell of a lot more expensive than the initial purchase back in 1963 but I guess that's to be expected. As we western Bayfield County landowners know, having an 'alien' 40 in the midst of your holdings can be both problematic and a source of tension for the landowner who has to cross your property to access his or her acreage.

Finally, the timber harvest has commenced, after a two year delay, on the above mentioned Reefer Creek acreage. The woods is virtually unrecognizeable from its former state but within two years it should be back into shape. Popple, or aspen, was harvested along with balsam 'two sticks' or larger. This means our smaller balsams, spruce, beloved mature white and red pine, as well as all the hardwoods like maple, oak, and ash, are all still standing. Like our other buddy who had a sale, we plan on planting some white pine and other trees to facilitate the regeneration. This also means I can remove the tag line from my emails, "Please print this email and a copy for 3 or 4 friends. I have a timber bid coming up". It could also mean the funds for a new boat......jeez, did I actually type that? Its a good thing the VOR only reads this blog now and then. Learning of two foot long lampreys slithering between her Chota's and more boats in the garage could possibly put her over the edge. Unfortunately, we've been double booked and won't be heading to Madison for Canoecopia this spring. Please send any hot new boat ideas my way. Quietly and discreetly of course. My friend Guy, now out in Portland, acquired a new Cetus LV. Sounds interesting. Very, very interesting.


RoyM said...

"NOT" going to Canoeacopia.....How will You Cope? ia

long winter ends only if You go to Canoeacopia......sorry to here of the double booking

Best Wishes

Silbs said...

I'll miss not seeing you at -copia. But now we will have someone to talk about.

Our DNR guy thinks Michigan may be too cold for the carp to take hold. Perhaps Igor could clone an eel that only attacks the carp.

DaveO said...

Roy, I'll be up in your neck of the woods, extending winter with some cross country skiing and Big Top music. Silbs, I hope you're right although it would only take a few cold tolerant fish (I seem to remember some Darwin guy writing about this)to forment disaster. I was also wondering how, if a ship can go through these locks, could a 'carp barrier' prevent a carp from just following the fish??