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Wisconsin motorists urged to replace fading sesquicentennial license plates

Madison (AP) — Wisconsin transportation officials want drivers with state sesquicentennial license plates to replace them if they’re fading.

Wisconsin celebrated its 150th year as a state in 1998. The state Division of Motor Vehicles issued more than 440,000 commemorative license plates between December 1996 and December 1998 to honor the anniversary.

Officials estimate about 185,000 are still on the road.

Drivers with unreadable plates can request new nonpersonalized plates for free by visiting the DMV’s Web site,

Drivers who want personalized replacement plates have to pay $15.

New campground opens Wednesday at Harrington Beach State Park

Belgium, WI (AP) — The Department of Natural Resources says the first new campground built in the Wisconsin State Park system in more than 20 years opens Wednesday.

The DNR says the new campground at Harrington Beach State Park in eastern Wisconsin has 31 electric sites, 33 nonelectric sites, five walk-in sites, a group campsite and a kayak site.

The DNR says the campground provides easy access to a mile of Lake Michigan shoreline.

State park system director Dan Schuller says the new campground cost about $3 million and includes a shower building and restroom facilities.

The DNR says the campground will close for the season Nov. 1.

Dane County Regional Airport taxiway reconstruction approved

Madison — The Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that Gov. Jim Doyle approved a $6.5 million project for the north portion of Taxiway A at the Dane County Regional Airport.

Doyle’s action releases $384,000 in state money for the project and Dane County will contribute another $384,000. The Federal Aviation Administration will provide the remaining $5,699,118.

The project should be completed by the end of the year.

U.S. Forest Service leads study of snail for possible protection

Sioux Falls, SD (AP) — A bean-sized snail found in the Black Hills in the 1990s is being studied for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act, which could restrict or prohibit human activity that threatens the snail’s survival.

Any restrictions would apply in the nine states where the Frigid ambersnail has been found: South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Consultants hired by the U.S. Forest Service to look for rare snails in the Black Hills National Forest in western South Dakota found the ambersnail at a dozen sites in Custer, Pennington and Lawrence counties in a study that was limited by financing, said Kerry Burns, wildlife biologist for the Forest Service in Custer.

Index shows home prices rise from first quarter to second quarter

New York (AP) — A closely watched index shows home prices posted their first quarterly increase in three years, signaling the housing market has turned a corner.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller’s U.S. National Home Price Index released Tuesday rose nearly 3 percent from the first quarter, though was still down almost 15 percent from the second quarter last year.

Home prices are at levels not seen since early 2003.

The monthly index of 20 major cities increased 1.4 percent from May to June, the second straight month the index registered a gain. It was still 15 percent below June a year ago.

Developer drops Kansas casino bid to support rival plan

Topeka, KS (AP) — Developers competing for a contract to build a state-owned casino south of Wichita have joined forces to push a single proposal for a casino in south-central Kansas, one of the companies announced.

Lakes Entertainment Inc., of Minnetonka, Minn., said Monday it would drop plans for a casino in Sumner County and become part of the group behind the rival Chisholm Creek proposal. That project originally was proposed by Foxwoods Development Co., of St. Louis.

Three developers originally had sought a contract with the Kansas Lottery to build and manage the Sumner County casino. Last week, Lottery officials said a partnership that included Kansas investors and two former executives with Las Vegas-based Mandalay Resort Group was joining Foxwoods. That narrowed the field to the Chisholm Creek and Lakes proposals.

Lowe’s forms joint venture with Australia retailer Woolworths

Mooresville, NC (AP) — Lowe’s Cos. said it is forming a joint venture with Australia’s largest retailer, Woolworths Ltd., to develop home-improvement stores in Australia.

Under terms of the deal announced Monday, Lowe’s will own one-third of the new Australia chain, slated to open late in the 2011 fiscal year. Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe’s and Woolworths plan to open more than 150 stores over five years. Woolworths has secured entitlement to 12 sites. It is in final negotiations to secure 15 more sites for development.

The locations will be large-format stores, greater than 100,000 square feet, and will offer products and services for trade customers and do-it-yourself homeowners. In addition, the joint venture has made a recommended takeover offer for Danks Holdings Ltd., Australia’s second-largest hardware distributor.

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