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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: The brutal winter actually helped folks along Lake Superior

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Pierce County Herald
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Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

There's another sign that the brutal winter is actually helping folks along Lake Superior.  The lake's International Board of Control said water levels rose by double the normal amount for May -- and the largest of the Great Lakes is now about six-inches above its normal levels for June first.  Lake Superior rose eight-inches in May, reaching its highest average levels for the month since 1997.  This comes just a year after warnings that the Great Lakes' water levels were too low -- causing problems on beaches, and shippers carrying lighter loads so their boats don't run aground.  Recently, a study found that the cold winter reduced evaporation on Lake Superior, thus keeping water from disappearing.

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The state D-N-R has closed part of a wildlife area near Portage that has become a make-shift shooting range and a headache for neighbors.  Workers set up a snow-fence yesterday to close a parcel in the Swan Lake Wildlife Area.  It's where shooting activity increased over the past three years, just a quarter-mile from a subdivision.  Residents have complained that stray bullets land in their yards, and the heavy shooting activity often begins at six in the morning.  The shooters took advantage of tall and sandy berms at the site, plus a state law which allows shooting on public lands in 54 counties -- including Columbia, where the site is located.  The D-N-R says it has negotiated more public access at other ranges and gun clubs throughout the area, to preserve opportunities for recreational shooting.  

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Wisconsin's low-income heating assistance program could save up to a million dollars, if the state could get part of the program's federal funding earlier.  That's what Governor Scott Walker recently told President Obama and the federal human service agency.  Walker says an earlier funding allotment would let the state buy up to 15-percent more propane fuel at cheaper prices during the summer.  He says it's one way to prevent a repeat of the propane shortage, and its skyrocketing prices, from last winter.  Walker has asked the federal government to provide eight-million dollars of the state's heating funds before the next federal fiscal year begins October first.  Yesterday, a working group from the Midwestern Governors Association met in Madison to discuss ways to ward off the type of propane shortage that affected a quarter-million Wisconsinites last winter.  Walker praised this week's announcement that the Federation Co-operative and C-H-S will open a new propane terminal this fall near Hixton in Jackson County.  The governor calls it a "great and welcome addition to Wisconsin's propane infrastructure."

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More Wisconsin teachers are less hesitant to find better deals and move on, since the Act-10 collective bargaining limits took effect almost three years ago.  The Appleton Post-Crescent said 145 teachers and administrators resigned from public schools in the Fox Valley in the last school year.  That's 41-percent more than previous year, and almost double from 2011 just before the controversial Republican bargaining clampdown took effect.  Retired Neenah high school counselor David Sebora said staffers used to stay put until age-55 so they could get great retirement packages.  That's no longer the case, and he wonders how an increased turnover will affect schools and their students.  Menasha Superintendent Chris Vander Heyden said some teachers are doing what talented private sector workers have done for years -- finding better offers elsewhere, then going back and asking their present employers to match them.  With more teachers coming-and-going, Frederick Yeo of U-W Oshkosh says it's harder for schools to adopt new educational practices.  That's because principals won't know what their teaching staffs will look like from year-to-year.  The Post-Crescent says many school districts have still not created new compensation policies in the wake of Act-10, which remains under a legal challenge in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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An attorney for the state elections' agency says it will not recommend that any candidates be left off this fall's ballots, just because those who signed their petitions were not legible in printing their names.  Attorney Mike Haas said yesterday that a number of candidates had printed signatures stricken, under a new law that requires signers to both write their names and print them legibly.  But Haas said nobody fell short of their required numbers of signatures solely because of legibility issues.  Republicans passed the new law after Governor Scott Walker's camp couldn't determine the identities of everyone who signed the petitions to recall him in 2012.  This week, Assembly G-O-P elections committee chair Kathy Bernier cried foul, saying the Government Accountability Board was enforcing the law too strictly.  A board spokesman said it was not enough for a signature to be read clearly -- and that the person's printed name also had to be completely legible.  One candidate accused the board of splitting hairs by rejecting a printed name that was squiggly.  Two candidates had all their petitions rejected because they used old forms which did not have room for signers to print their names.  The board is still taking challenges to papers from 316 state and federal candidates.  They'll decide next Tuesday who qualifies to get on the August 12th primary ballot.

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There's another sign that the brutal winter is actually helping folks along Lake Superior.  The lake's International Board of Control said water levels rose by double the normal amount for May -- and the largest of the Great Lakes is now about six-inches above its normal levels for June first.  Lake Superior rose eight-inches in May, reaching its highest average levels for the month since 1997.  This comes just a year after warnings that the Great Lakes' water levels were too low -- causing problems on beaches, and shippers carrying lighter loads so their boats don't run aground.  Recently, a study found that the cold winter reduced evaporation on Lake Superior, thus keeping water from disappearing.

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Lots of people are interested in a new emphasis on recreational "silent sports" in far northern Wisconsin.  The tourist agency in Vilas County says more than five-thousand people picked up new trail maps in the first two weeks they were available.  The maps show the details for over 60 biking, hiking, paddling, and ski trails throughout Vilas County.  The state Tourism Department kicked in 40-thousand dollars for the new maps.  An app is also being developed, so trail users can get helpful assistance on their smartphones.  There's been a recent effort in northern Wisconsin to highlight silent sports, to cater to those who'd rather not hear the noise from snowmobiles, A-T-V's, and motor boats.  Tourism-and-Publicity director Cindy Burzinski said many folks don't know about the many trail opportunities Vilas County offers -- and the new project is meant to highlight them.  

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After a slight increase in March, Wisconsin's cheese production is down again.  According to new federal figures, the Badger State made 241-million pounds of cheese in April -- three-tenths of a percent less than the same month a year ago.  The drop is the fifth for Wisconsin in the last seven months.  It comes despite a national increase of two-point-two percent in April.  Governor Scott Walker recently said cheese factories have had to bring in more of their milk from outside Wisconsin.  That's due to recent declines in the state's milk output, caused by things like unfavorable weather and poor quality feed.  In spite of that, Walker said he still believes the state can achieve its goal of making 30-billion pounds of milk per year by 2020.  Wisconsin is still the nation's top cheese producer.  Second-place California made about 38-million pounds less than Wisconsin in April -- but the Golden State's total of 203-and-a-half million pounds was six-point-two percent higher than the year before.  California had double-digit increases in its Cheddar and Italian cheese production from last year.  Wisconsin had a three-percent jump its Italian cheeses.  But the state's Cheddar output was down almost 12-percent, while its American cheese production dropped eight-and-a-half percent.

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A Madison company that's working on a system to improve breast cancer surgery has won a statewide contest for having the best business plan.  Elucent Medical won the 11th annual Governor's Business Plan Contest yesterday.  Almost 300 firms entered.  Elucent is headed by Laura King, a former executive at G-E Health-care.  The firm is developing commercial technology which seems to eliminate painful and invasive breast surgeries, by helping surgeons pinpoint the cancerous tumors they try to remove.  The Wisconsin Technology Council organizes the contest.  Elucent and a dozen other finalists will share around 150-thousand dollars in cash and in-kind prizes.  

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