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News from around Wisconsin (10:07 p.m. 12/3/09)

No Asian carp found yet in Ill. fish kill

CHICAGO (AP) — No Asian carp were spotted Thursday in a Chicago canal during a massive fish kill aimed at trying to keep the giant fish from reaching the Great Lakes, officials said.

Environmental officials said the lack of Asian carp may suggest the voracious fish hasn’t reached Lake Michigan yet. But they warned that that it’s too soon to declare victory against the giant carp.

Ten of thousands of other species of fish, from gizzard shad to drum fish, floated to the surface of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Thursday after authorities dumped more than 2,000 gallons of toxin into a nearly six-mile stretch of the waterway the evening before.

The toxins were dumped while an electrical barrier normally used to prevent any Asian carp from the Great Lakes was turned off for maintenance. The fish kill, which includes hauling the dead fish in giant containers to a landfill, was expected to last until Saturday, said Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris McCloud.

None of the feared silver or bighead species of Asian carp appeared to be among the estimated 200,000 pounds of poisoned fish, McCloud said.

“It’s a good sign in terms of keeping them out of Lake Michigan,” he said. “There was a possibility we’d find some.”

The Asian carp — which can grow to 4 feet — were imported by Southern fish farms but escaped into the Mississippi River in large numbers during flooding in the 1990s and have been making their way northward ever since. No Asian carp have yet been found in Lake Michigan.

Wis. Senate leader demands DNR fire deer experts

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A powerful state senator called Thursday for wildlife officials to fire anyone involved with deer management after hunters killed the fewest deer in years during Wisconsin’s traditional November hunt.

Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, said the Department of Natural Resources has draconian herd-control policies that have devastated the deer population, leaving hunters empty-handed. The experts who designed the regulations deserve to lose their jobs, he said.

“They’ve earned what they got coming. They’ve screwed us over too many years in a row now,” Decker told The Associated Press. “They got what they wanted. They wanted a decimated deer herd. I don’t think anybody trusts them anymore.”

DNR officials rejected Decker’s demand.

“We know there is hunter frustration, but the suggestion to fire staff is not a constructive proposal,” DNR Secretary Matt Frank said in a statement.

Wisconsin’s November deer hunt is as much a part of the state’s culture and image as cows, cheese and the Green Bay Packers. Hunters constantly complain about the DNR’s deer regulations, but Decker’s statements reflect a new level of anger over two years of anemic hunts.

At the heart of the issue are the DNR’s herd-control policies.

Environmentalists, shippers criticize ballast plan

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A government plan to prevent foreign species carried in ship ballast tanks from invading seacoasts, the Great Lakes and inland waterways is riddled with loopholes and would take effect too slowly, environmentalists said.

Shipping companies, meanwhile, contend the regulations proposed by the U.S. Coast Guard would make costly and unreasonable demands while adding to a confusing patchwork of federal and state requirements for handling ballast water.

The Coast Guard is accepting public comments on the rules through Friday and could make changes before issuing a final version, said Cmdr. Tim Cummins of the 9th District Prevision Division in Cleveland. No deadline has been set for completing the regulations.

More than 300 comments had been submitted by Thursday.

Environmentalists have long demanded a crackdown on the dumping of ballast — millions of gallons of water and muck that ships carry to help keep them stable in rough seas. The soupy mixtures often harbor microorganisms, fish and other aquatic life scooped up in overseas ports.

When discharged in U.S. waters, the foreigners often multiply and overrun native species, doing vast ecological and economic damage. Dealing with shipborne invaders such as zebra mussels is believed to cost more than $200 million per year in the Great Lakes region.

In recent years, the U.S. and Canadian governments ordered oceangoing ships to exchange ballast water or rinse empty tanks at sea to try to kill or wash out invaders.

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