WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: At least a dozen barges are tied up in the Mississippi River north of Winona
At least a dozen barges and their expensive cargo are tied up in the Mississippi River north of Winona, Minnesota. That's because sediment from recent flooding washed into the river, and it created numerous sandbars. Tugboat captain Delbert Pemberton tells KTTC TV of Rochester Minnesota he's never seen such a tie-up. Observers said at least nine tow-boats are being delayed north of Nelson in Buffalo County, and a few are stuck near Winona. Mitch Serjogins of the Army Corps' Lock-and-Dam Number-four at Alma says nothing's getting through there. He said the barges suddenly faced conditions with high water and then low water -- and they're not making it through the channels. Pemberton says dredging will solve the problem, but it could take a week before his own barges and up-and-running again. He said he could not imagine the damages, as barge employees get paid while being stranded -- while businesses wait for the cargo that's been halted.
The board of Wisconsin's job-creation agency is expected to vote on a new policy at its next meeting to prevent state tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca unveiled the measure yesterday in suburban Milwaukee, before a meeting of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation board on which he sits. Governor Scott Walker, who chairs the board, has made outsourcing a major issue in his re-election bid against Democrat Mary Burke. Walker told reporters he endorses Barca's proposal. It would require companies that receive W-E-D-C incentives to notify the agency if they outsource jobs, or change future employment levels they promised to achieve. The firms would also have to certify that they need the state incentives in order to expand or locate in Wisconsin. Barca says they're necessary moves to protect taxpayers, and make sure public money is not used to send jobs overseas. Agency spokesman Mark Maley says his department will create wording for the proposed new policy. He said it could apply to companies that move jobs to other states as well as other countries.
Governor Scott Walker claims in his latest campaign ad that his challenger Mary Burke might have cost Wisconsin taxpayers 25-million dollars. However, the figure has come into question, after the A-P said that Walker's G-O-P campaign used "creative math." Burke ran the former state Commerce Department when it helped attract drug-maker Abbott Laboratories to Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County. However, the company never moved from its Illinois headquarters. Now, the U-S Department of Housing and Urban Development is ordering the state to pay back a 12-point-three million dollar federal grant. Tom Evenson of the Walker camp notes that Burke's agency spent the grant -- and the state will need a similar amount to give it back to HUD, thus the possible 25-million dollar expense. However, the A-P notes that Abbott still has time to carry out its original plans -- and the grant only has to be paid back if 24-hundred jobs are not created in Pleasant Prairie by 2016. Burke's camp denies that she made a bad deal -- and they point to a recent comment by Pleasant Prairie administrator Mike Pollocoff in saying the project is still alive. He said Abbott has planned a campus that its business can grow into when the time is right. Evenson said it cannot be a good deal for anyone if the land remains vacant. The money eventually went to Abbott, and the firm has not commented.
Early voting is underway for Wisconsin's fall primaries. Municipal clerks have opened their windows for a two-week absentee voting period which ends a week from Friday -- four days before the August 12th Election Day. Majority Republicans have scaled back early voting, which ran for several weeks a few years ago. Earlier this year, the G-O-P banned the absentee voting after seven at night and on weekends, saying small towns cannot hold the same hours as the bigger cities -- and there needs to be uniformity statewide. Critics said the Republicans were just trying to inconvenience the Democrats, because they're generally more successful in winning elections in the bigger cities. Scot Ross of the liberal One Wisconsin Now says the change affects mainly younger people as well as city dwellers. Meanwhile, Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy says the biggest question he gets is why voters cannot vote in both parties' primaries. As he points out, the purpose of primaries is for parties to pick their own finalists for November. Wisconsin is unlike most other states because it has an open primary -- where voters can choose their parties anonymously. In most states, voters must publicly ask for a certain party's ballot.
A Wisconsin House Democrat wants to force oil companies to use a stabilizing agent, to make it safer to transport North Dakota crude throughout the country. La Crosse Congressman Ron Kind says Texas requires the process -- and he has asked U-S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to make it mandatory nationwide. Kind says the process is not all that expensive, and it's required for oil that's shipped through pipelines but not on trains. The government has been trying to address the safety of shipping oil by rail after a series of fiery fatal mishaps. In May, the Insurance Journal wrote that some lawmakers and regulators were pushing to remove the most volatile elements from crude oil before it's shipped from the Bakken oil fields. That article focused on removing flammable natural gas liquids. It mentioned that oil firms might have to spend billions on processing towers which were not put in at Bakken. The Insurance Journal quoted Phillips 66 C-E-O Greg Garland as saying the concept of chemical removal needs to be considered as part of safe deliveries. The federal D-O-T has said all options are on the table -- including better tracks, slower train speeds, and re-inforced cars which go around urban areas. About two-thirds of Bakken's oil is shipped by rail.
After all the rain we had a few weeks ago, it's hard to believe that many Wisconsin farms are short on moisture. The National Ag Statistics Service said 20-percent of farm fields in the Badger State were short of moisture as of Sunday -- and three-percent were very short. A number of county reporters said the crops look good, but we could use some rain. The National Weather Service says a series of weak low-pressure systems is going through the Badger State this week. There will be at least a chance of showers and thunderstorms each afternoon. Meanwhile, cool temperatures continue to slow the maturity of the Wisconsin corn. Forty-four percent of the corn is silked, up 22-percent from a week ago but still eleven points behind the average for the past five years. Soybean blooms are now five-percent ahead of the norm after a strong spurt in the last week.
A western Wisconsin man was injured and a Twin Cities man died in a power line construction accident in south central Minnesota. It happened yesterday along the Cap-X-2020 transmission line project near Fairfax. Both men were working for Donovan Construction of Ham Lake Minnesota. The injured survivor was from Osseo. He was being treated in a burn unit at last word, and his condition was not disclosed. A spokeswoman for several utilities involved in the Cap-X project said the two were working on a tower when they were jolted. Lori Buffington calls it a terrible accident. It remains under investigation by the Renville County sheriff's department and Minnesota's Occupational Safety-and-Health Administration. The victims' names were expected to be released today.
Contaminated water has forced a state rest area to close indefinitely on Interstate-94 at Lake Mills. A firm that operates the rest area for the state D-O-T said repairs began yesterday on a public water system which serves the facilities. Routine tests in mid-July showed that the water had fecal coliform bacteria. After another test, the D-N-R issued an order on July 21st barring people from drinking water at the Lake Mills rest area -- and a water boiling advisory was issued for others nearby. Officials are not sure how or why the water got contaminated. A D-N-R official said chlorine must be added and then flushed from the water system -- and then two negative samples must be taken before the water can be ruled safe to drink again.
A former Milwaukee Brewers' minor league infielder beat out a Waukesha native to win the heart of A-B-C's "Bachelorette" last night. Andi Dorfman chose contestant Josh Murray over Nick Viall (vy-all) -- the two finalists in a two-month-long televised competition for Andi's heart and hand in marriage. The 29-year-old Murray played for five seasons in Beloit, Ogden, West Virginia, and Brevard County -- and he never got past the Single-"A" level of the minors. He played two years for the Beloit Snappers in 2003-and-'04. The Snappers will celebrate Murray's accomplishment with various fan giveaways during a home game tomorrow night. The 33-year-old Viall won a state high school track title, was a standout at U-W Milwaukee, and he's now a sales executive in Chicago. Sturgeon Bay physician Jason Leep was also among the 25 contests trying to win Dorfman's heart. He was sent home on the night of the series' opener.