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Nate McVey

New VHS Laws in Wisconsin

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Here is a press release from earlier this month, not sure if any of you had seen it;

SUBJECT: NRB acts to contain a deadly fish virus believed to be in Lake Michigan

Anglers and boaters required to take precautions to prevent spread

MADISON – To prevent a new and deadly fish virus from spreading to walleye, musky, yellow perch and other fish in Wisconsin inland waters, effective Saturday, April 7, anglers and boaters are required to take steps to help confine the virus to waters where it’s already found or suspected.

The state Natural Resources Board on Wednesday, April 4, unanimously passed emergency rules prohibiting anglers and boaters from moving live fish, dead fish, and water out of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes waters, the Mississippi River and those waters’ tributaries up to the first dam.

Wisconsin officials believe Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus, or VHS, is likely present in these waters or will soon be because they are connected to waters where the virus has been found.

VHS is not a threat to human health but it caused major fish kills in 2005 and 2006 in lakes St. Clair, Erie, Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and the virus was discovered in Lake Huron fish in February, according to Mike Staggs, Wisconsin’s fisheries director.

“This deadly, invasive virus is a very serious threat to our fisheries and to Wisconsin’s $2.3 billion fishing industry,” Staggs says. “We don’t want anglers and boaters to accidentally spread it from where it already is, or from where we think it already is.”

Because the virus can infect so many different ages and species of fish, VHS could spread more quickly in inland lakes, which are much smaller than the Great Lakes, potentially devastating fish populations and fishing opportunities. Walleye, spotted musky, yellow perch, blue gill and northern pike are all susceptible to the virus, as are common bait species such as emerald and spot-tail shiners.

The rules, which are similar to measures other Great Lakes states have taken, require anglers and boaters to:

• Be careful with live bait. If you want to use crayfish, frogs, fish, or fish eggs as bait, they must be purchased from a Wisconsin bait dealer OR captured legally in the water you’ll be fishing OR captured in an inland lake or stream and used in another inland lake or stream. Leaches, worms, and insects are OK.

• Be careful with dead bait. If you want to use dead fish, fish eggs, crayfish, or frogs they must be used only on Lake Michigan (including Green Bay and tributaries up to the first dam) OR used on the inland lake or stream where it was captured OR preserved by means other than refrigeration or freezing, neither of which is assured of killing the virus.

(more)

• Don’t take live fish off the Great Lakes or Mississippi River. You may not take live fish or fish eggs (including both bait and game fish) away from Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, the Mississippi River or any of their tributaries upstream to the first dam or barrier impassable to fish. This includes fish caught and kept in livewells, leftover bait, or any minnows or fish eggs being collected for bait. There are some limited exceptions; contact your DNR office for information for those situations.

• Drain your boat and live well and empty your bait bucket before you leave the landing. After fishing or boating on the waters of the Great Lakes or Mississippi River (including tributaries up to the first dam), you must must immediately drain all water from the boat and boat trailer, bilge, live well and bait bucket. Place unused bait in the trash.

• Notify DNR if you see a fish with hemorrhages on its skin. Call your local DNR fish biologist to help the agency monitor state fish populations for the virus. DNR is testing wild fish from Lake Michigan and Lake Superior this spring and will respond to fish kills.

“The states in the lower Great Lakes didn’t know about the virus and how it was spread until it was too late,” Staggs says. “Anglers and others were already accidentally moving the virus around. We now have the benefit of knowing that the virus is likely here and that we must take steps to prevent its further spread. We truly need anglers’ and boaters’ help in protecting Wisconsin’s fishing future, the health of our waters, and the local economies they anchor.”

DNR fisheries and other staff who work on the Great Lakes are taking the same prevention steps with their boats, and are disinfecting all eggs collected from Great Lakes fish before they are brought into state hatcheries, and are taking other measures to keep the virus from being accidentally spread to wild and hatchery-raised fish.

Until recently, the virus was known to be present only on the East and West coasts of the United States, in Europe and in Japan, may have arrived in the Great Lakes in ballast water from a commercial ship or through the movement of wild fish. It infects cells lining blood vessels, causing severe hemorrhaging and death. So far, most fish kills due to the virus in the Great Lakes occurred right after ice out, continuing until water temperatures reached 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

Learn more about VHS by visiting DNR’s Web site: http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/pages/vhs.html.

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Here's something for us MN guys and gals:

Water resources bill benefits Minnesota

Press Release, Office of Congressman Jim Oberstar

Posted on BusinessNorth.com on April 20, 2007

Washington DC - Legislation to build a new lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway and invest billions in the nation's waterways passed the House of Representatives today by a wide bipartisan margin.

Congressman Jim Oberstar is the primary sponsor of the bill that he has been trying to get passed into law for the past six years.

"Unfortunately, Republican leaders in the House and Senate have not made this legislation a priority, even though it has support on both sides of the isle," said Oberstar.

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) passed the House today by a vote of 394 to 25. WRDA invests over $14 billion in our nation's waterways and funds several critical environmental protection projects.

One of the biggest items in the bill is a $341 million authorization to construct a second lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway at Sault Saint Marie. Currently, only one lock is large enough to accommodate modern vessel traffic. "I have been working to pass legislation to add this second lock since 1986," said Oberstar. "As Chairman of the

Committee I can now make sure this critical improvement is made. We have to make sure Great Lakes shippers can move their cargo cost-effectively."

The bill will also authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to begin dredging many Great Lakes harbors and channels. Funding for dredging on the Great Lakes has not been reauthorized since 2000; during that time water levels on the lakes have dropped. "Vessels carrying iron ore from the upper lakes to the lower lakes' steel mills have gone out 75 hundred tons light; it means two or three extra voyages each season," said Oberstar. "That raises the cost of iron ore and steel; affecting our competitiveness."

WRDA also authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to move ahead on key ecosystem restoration projects across the nation. Three of the largest projects are:

· Coastal Louisiana - authorizes $949.6 million to restore coastal wetlands and provide hurricane protection projects in coastal Louisiana.

· Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) - authorizes $1.8 billion for navigation improvements and $1.8 billion to restore ecosystems and protect against invasive species on the UMR-IWW.

· Everglades Restoration - authorizes $1.4 billion for the Indian River Lagoon-South project for wetlands and estuarine restoration and $375.3 million for the Picayune Strand ecosystem restoration project.

In Minnesota, WRDA authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to move ahead with several navigation projects on the North Shore of Lake Superior:

· Grand Marais and Knife River Harbors - redesigning harbor entrances and moorings to improve navigation and safety.

· Silver Bay and Taconite Harbors - shift the responsibility to the federal government for dredging, ongoing maintenance, and operations.

· Two Harbors - $5 million to construct a dredge material disposal facility.

· McQuade Road Safe Harbor - $1 million for additional recreational enhancements.

· Duluth-Superior Harbor, - fund studies to determine causes of corrosion to port infrastructure and costs of repair.

WRDA also funds wastewater treatment projects across the country, including three in Northeast Minnesota:

· $14 million for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District to build storm water retention ponds necessary to keep raw sewage from flowing into Lake Superior during heavy rainstorms.

· Central Iron Range - $12 million to build a central wastewater treatment plan for Buhl, Hibbing, Chisholm, and Kinney.

· Grand Rapids - $5 million to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities.

Oberstar also used the WRDA bill to direct government agencies to develop an emergency plan to halt the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), which is also known as the "fish virus." VHS is not a threat to humans, but could potentially devastate the fish populations of the Great Lakes. Oberstar's amendment directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work with the departments of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop an action plan.

The U.S. Senate is working on its own version of this legislation, but Oberstar expects it to be very similar. "I have met with Senate leaders and we are in agreement on the major provisions of this legislation," said Oberstar. "I am hoping we can settle any differences in a one day conference committee meeting."

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Interesting. At least it sounds like Oberstar is moving in the right direction. Maybe he read my letter. grin.gif

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My thoughts exactly grin.gif Must have been the HSO Logo I put at the top of mine. I still have not received any feedback from the petition, but I will let everyone know when I do.

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I notice that if you do a search for "VHS" on the Minnesota DNR website you get...NOTHING.

Is anyone concerned that folks coming to the North Shore right now to seine smelt will possibly be taking VHS-infected bait back to use in other watersheds across the state?

Or am I being paranoid because it hasn't been observed yet in Lake Superior waters?

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