WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: The recent flooding has concerned grain shippers
Wisconsin grain shippers are affected by the closing of locks-and-dams downstream on the Mississippi Rivers caused by recent rains and floods. As of early yesterday, the high water forced two locks to be cut off to commercial traffic in the Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island Illinois district. That's the busiest stretch of the Mississippi, which is the main shipping route to the Gulf Coast. Ron Fournier of the Rock Island District tells the Brownfield Ag News Service that six more locks are expected to close by tomorrow, as the river continues to rise. The district has a dozen locks -- and with that section closed, no grain can be moved for export. At least five locks-and-dams are now closed on the mid-and-upper Mississippi River. Fournier is not sure how long the shutdowns will continue. Here in Wisconsin, flood warnings continue at least until the middle of next week on the river at La Crosse, Winona, and Wabasha. Further upstream, flood warnings are due to expire tonight at Red Wing and Sunday near Prescott.
Wisconsin's health care for the poor cost taxpayers 70-percent more from 2000 to 2012. But a new study said other states raised their Medicaid spending even higher -- and because of that, Wisconsin's growth for Medicaid dropped from the nation's second-highest in 2009 to 24th just three years later. The State Health Care Spending Project said Wisconsin's Medicaid spending grew from four-point-four billion dollars in 2000 to seven-and-a-half billion a dozen years later. Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families said the numbers reflect life before Obama-care, and the next round of data should show Wisconsin's Medicaid growth to be even slower. Yesterday, the Obama White House told Wisconsin and 35 other states that they could cover more people, create more jobs, and boost federal spending in their states, if they would stop refusing to take additional Obama-care Medicaid funds to serve more people in need. The report said Wisconsin could cover an extra 120-thousand people by taking the money. Governor Scott Walker contends that the federal money would run out someday, and the state would be left with a colossal tab. Peacock said the premise of the Obama report was correct, but it did not reflect that Wisconsin added thousands to Badger-Care by changing its own policies. According to final figures, 63-thousand above the poverty line lost their Badger-Care this spring, while 82-thousand below it were covered for the first time ever. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said it's an accomplishment that no governor of either party had made in the past.
Milwaukee area food stamp recipients who had food spoil due to this week's power outages can get emergency benefits to make up for the loss. The city's Hunger Task Force will help qualified residents fill out the required forms, which are due a week from today. About 114-thousand We Energies' customers in the Milwaukee area lost their power during Monday's storms. All those people are back on, after eleven final customers in Waukesha had their power restored early this morning. To get emergency benefits, Food-Share recipients must have proof from the utility that they had extended power outages -- and they must provide affidavits showing how much food spoiled that was bought with the government aid.
Thousands of people in southeast Wisconsin finally got their electricity back yesterday, after 114-thousand customers got cut off due to Monday's storms. About five-thousand We Energies' customers were still in the dark 24 hours ago. This morning, that figure was less than 30, and most of those were new outages due to things like tree contact with power lines. Only eleven storm-related outages had yet to be resolved. They were in the Waukesha area. At the height of the storms, We Energies said one of every ten Metro Milwaukee customers had outages -- the highest numbers for a single incident in almost a decade. Wisconsin Power-and-Light said almost 350 customers had no power as of four this morning. In Iowa County, where a pair of tornadoes touched down last Sunday night, only four customers were still out. Much of Wisconsin had a dry day yesterday, after several days of rain and storms. It's supposed to stay dry through the July Fourth holiday. Our next chance of rain is on Saturday.
The Powerball jackpot is above 100-million dollars again. It's at 101-million for Saturday, after nobody won the top prize in last night's drawing. A ticket sold at Westby in southwest Wisconsin won the game's third prize of 10-thousand dollars. It matched all but one of the five regular numbers, plus the Powerball. Almost 86-hundred Wisconsin players won prizes ranging from four-dollars to 200. Last night's numbers were 8, 18, 45, 53, and 58. The Powerball was 35, and the Power Play multiplier was two. The current jackpot has been building since June 11th, when a Tennessee player won almost 260-million dollars. Saturday's cash option is just over 60-million. In Mega Millions, the top prize is 20-million dollars for tomorrow night.
In about a month-and-a-half, you'll be able to walk or a ride a bicycle for more than 30 miles on a northern Wisconsin nature trail. The Bearskin-Hiawatha State Trail has a missing link of about six miles in the middle. That gap is being closed now, and the state D-N-R expects to have it finished in about a month. Jim Wise of the Tomahawk Chamber-of-Commerce says a ribbon-cutting event is planned for August 23rd. The trail follows a former railroad bed. The Bearskin segment runs about 18 miles from downtown Minocqua to the south. It opened in the 1970's. The Hiawatha portion runs from Heafford Junction to Tomahawk. It doubles as a snowmobile trail in the winter, which gives communities the chance to promote it as a year-round attraction. Now, Wise is hoping folks will make the Bearskin-Hiawatha a tourist destination, similar to the long-running Elroy-Sparta trail in western Wisconsin.