August 27, 2015

Omaha preparing for Emerald Ash borer

The dreaded Emerald Ash borer appears to be heading west and Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen says the city needs to take action now. City Councilman Pete Festersen says, “About two weeks ago we thought the Emerald Ash borer was 100 miles away in Iowa. Just last week we received confirmation that it is now in Montgomery County, just 30 to 40 miles away.”

On Tuesday the City Council authorized the Parks & Recreation Department to increase resources to allow sufficient time to prepare for the arrival of the damaging insects. There are about 300 Emerald Ash trees along the city’s right-of-way and about 400 more in city parks. The Parks Department’s goal is to save as many trees as possible.

Zebra mussels discovered in Lewis and Clark Lake (AUDIO)

Zebra mussels

Zebra mussels

A discovery in a lake that straddles the Nebraska-South Dakota state line alarms Nebraska officials.

Zebra mussels have been found in Lewis and Clark Lake; first on the South Dakota side, then on the Nebraska side.

State Fisheries Division Assistant Administrator Dave Tunnik says the invasive species could cause problems as the mussels multiply, attach to concrete and plug pipes.

“The power districts are going to be very concerned, because it could possibly raise your electrical rates quite a bit because of the down time. They have to shut down the power plants to clean them out,” Tunnik tells Nebraska Radio Network.

It likely was just a matter of time.

Lewis and Clark Lake is fed by the Missouri River which been harboring zebra mussels for some time, with discoveries in Kansas City a few years ago.

This isn’t even the first time Nebraska has discovered the water pest.

In 2006, a population was discovered in the lake at Offutt Air Force Base just outside of Omaha. Efforts to wipe them out prove fruitless so Nebraska Game and Parks officials isolated them instead, keeping boats out of the lake. Zebra mussels discovered in Zorinski Lake in Omaha in 2010 were wiped out by lowering the lake level in winter and freezing them out.

Tunnik explains zebra mussels are an invasive species which came to the Great Lakes from the Baltic in Europe. They spread and cause problems.

Not only do they plague power plants, they reduce the food for fish, they coat boat docks, and create hazards on beaches.

Prevention is the key.

State officials hope boaters and anglers will cooperate to keep them from spreading beyond Lewis and Clark.

Tunnik advises letting your boat dry for at least five days once you pull it from infected waters.

“Drain it out. Dry it out. Wipe it out. Open up your doors and stuff and let it air out and dry out.”

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has issued the following precautions:

— By law, a boat that has been on a water body may not leave a launch area with water still present in any compartment, equipment or container that may hold water. Drain water on site. Dump any baitfish in the trash or at a fish-cleaning station on site.

— By law, a boat or trailer may not leave a launch area with any aquatic vegetation from that water body still attached.

— By law, a boat may not arrive at or leave any water body in Nebraska with water other than from a domestic source, except for fire-fighting purposes.

— Clean, drain and dry your boat. Zebra mussels can survive out of water for up to two weeks. After boating in infested water and before launching your boat in a different water body: pressure wash the boat with hot water (preferably more than 140 degrees F) and rinse equipment with hot water. Run water out of the lower unit upon exiting the water body. Spraying the boat and live wells with vinegar and letting it soak for 20 minutes can also kill zebra mussels. The best way to prevent the spread is to allow the boat, all compartments and equipment to dry for at least five days before launch into a different water body.

For more information on aquatic invasive species, visit

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:55]

Game and Parks asks for public help to catch deer poachers

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials want the public’s help to identify two men who apparently shot and killed a deer out of season in the Omaha area.

Game and Parks reports hunters who had placed a camera in the Ponca Hills area for the upcoming deer firearms season got photos of two individuals dragging a deer. At least one of them had a gun.

The camera was placed on private land with permission in the vicinity of Ponca Road and Shongaska Road in Douglas County.

Game and Parks gives the following description: the individuals appear to be in their late teens or early 20s. A dark-haired individual was wearing a shirt with horizontal strips and shorts. The other individual had dark hair and was wearing a light hooded sweatshirt and cuffed pants.

You can call Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers at 1-800-742-7627 with information or you can contact a conservation officer. You can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a cash reward.

Congressional delegation says Nebraskans concerned about EPA (AUDIO)

SmokestacksMembers of the Nebraska Congressional delegation say Nebraskans have expressed grave concerns about proposals by the Environmental Protection Agency during the August recess.

Members of the delegation have fanned out across their districts, holding public meetings, listening posts, coffees; listening to their constituents on a number of issues during the recess. Congress returns to Washington next month.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse says the two biggest topics are the Iran nuclear deal and “overreach” by the EPA.

The EPA alarmed agricultural groups when it proposed an expansion of its authority under the Clean Water Act, the Waters of the United States rule. Sen. Deb Fischer even convened a Senate hearing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which primarily aired grievances about the WOTUS.

Now, concerns about the EPA have been renewed with its proposal to expand its authority under the Clean Air Act, with many state officials and politicians claiming a crackdown on carbon emissions will cripple the state economy by raising electric rates.

Sasse says the EPA came into existence for a good reason, but the agency now is over-reaching.

“And the EPA just continually exceeds their statutory authority,” Sasse tells Nebraska Radio Network. “We’ve seen that mostly with the Clean Water Act, but here in the Clean Air Act you’re seeing it again. And I’m glad to see the states getting together to push back against this federal overreach.”

Questions have also been raised about how difficult it will be for Nebraska to comply with the new rules, since all Nebraska utilities are publically owned.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says the reduction of carbon emissions makes sense, the timing does not.

“The transition takes time,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, you don’t want to do something, a heavy-handed measure out of Washington, that penalizes a certain area of the country, but you want to have the incentives in place that naturally transitions us so there are not economic penalties.”

Fortenberry questions the effectiveness of the rule. He says it will make little difference what American power plants do if China continues to build coal-fired power plants with less stringent environmental rules.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Lake closed to swimmers by toxic algae, two lakes have high E. coli levels

 A health alert remains posted for Willow Creek Lake in northeast Nebraska’s Pierce County due to toxic algae.

If swallowed, blue-green algae can cause flu-like symptoms in people, while it can be fatal to small pets like dogs.

Brian McManus, with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, says the algae grows best after extended periods of hot weather.

McManus says the health warnings that are put on confirmed lakes last for at least two weeks after the first toxic reading.

“We like to get two consecutive weeks of low readings before we take the alert off,” he says.

The health alert bans swimming in lakes that have high levels of the toxin, but boating and fishing activities can still continue.

Eating fish caught in the lake does not pose any health risk, but handling the fish should be done carefully.

Dozens of public recreational lakes statewide are being tested weekly or bi-weekly for toxic blue-green algae and E. coli bacteria from May through September.

“If you’re at a lake that isn’t part of our network and you’re wondering about it, blue-green algae looks like thick, green paint, basically,” he says.

Two lakes in the state have high E. coli bacteria levels, but health alerts have not been issued for Cunningham Lake in Douglas County and Holmes Lake in Lancaster County.

More information and a list of sampling results with blue green algae warnings can be found at the department’s website.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton