Tuesday, June 25th

Local

Our nation is getting ready to party as we celebrate our 242nd birthday July 4.

Hardie

Even though summer has just begun, I always viewed the Fourth of July as the midpoint of summer when I was a kid. Perhaps it’s because my perspective of summer was influenced by the school year. In those days we were out of school by the end of May and starting at the end of August.

It seemed like most July 4 holidays involved a little break from farming -- of course the cows had to be milked -- but there was usually a family gathering. It also helped that my great Aunt Sara’s birthday was July 2.

Naturally because it was the Fourth of July we had some fireworks. Of course we had sparklers and snakes, but we tried to obtain larger artillery like roman candles, bottle rockets and firecrackers.

Boaters and paddlers on Wisconsin's waters June 29-July 1 could see more state conservation wardens and local boat patrols on the water during the 10th annual national Operation Dry Water.

Lieutenant Adam Hanna of the Recreation Safety and Outdoor Skills section said wardens will be on the water with one mission: keep the waters safe for all to enjoy.

"We intend to stop and remove intoxicated boaters from our lakes and rivers. We also will take the time to educate as many boaters as possible about the hazards of boating under the influence," Hanna said. "Alcohol is a leading factor in boating fatalities."

Wisconsin defines impaired operators as having a blood alcohol level over the state limit of .08 percent. Officers will use the field sobriety test to determine the boater's level of intoxication. There also is a breath test.

Hanna said a boat operator or passenger with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident.

June storms packing heavy downpours have pushed lake and river levels into flood levels, tossed debris into waterways and accelerated currents statewide, warned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Captain April Dombrowski, head of the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement's Recreation Safety and Outdoor Skills Section, said the heavy rain and rapid onset of flash floods in many areas of Wisconsin resulted in road wash-outs, closures and sinkholes.

In addition to roadway issues, heavy rainfall can have a major impact on water-based recreational activities.

Dombrowski said severe weather is a reminder for all to check local water conditions before boating or paddling, swimming or any water activity. Good places to check are local tourism offices, DNR offices, local bait shops, sporting goods stores or the U.S. Geological Survey.

"One quick safety tip is to always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket," Dombrowski said. "Today's models are comfortable versions.

Wetlands of all types play critical roles in flood protection for farmland and municipalities, the water quality of surface and underground water tables and habitat for wildlife.

“Wetlands grab water and slow it down,” said Tracy Hames, executive director of Wisconsin Wetland Association. “They reduce erosion and capture sediment. They support native vegetation and enhance trout habitat. If you lose them (wetlands), you lose the trout stream.”

Hames presented a program about the importance of wetlands at the June 13 Friends of the Black River meeting. As WWA’s executive director since 2012, Hames travels the state to help communities understand how wetlands can be solutions to habitat degradation, diminished water quality and flooding.

“Wetlands are the areas between the places that are always dry and the lands that are always wet,” Hames said, “and isolated wetlands are where water flows in but doesn’t appear to flow out.

The median price of a home in Jackson County rose 6.7 percent in May from the same month a year ago.

For May 2018, the median price jumped to $133,250 from $124,900 in May 2017, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

For the first five months of 2018, the median price increased just four-tenths of 1 percent from the same period a year ago, to $124,500.

Housing sales continue to drop, reflecting the statewide trend of strong demand and weak supply.

For May 2018, 18 houses were sold in Jackson County, compared to 29 in May 2017. That’s a decrease of 37.9 percent.

For the first five months of 2018, the Wisconsin Realtors Association reported 64 houses sold in Jackson County, compared to 83 for the same period in 2017 — a drop of 22.9 percent.

Statewide, the Realtors Association reports that home sales fell 5 percent in May 2018 compared to May 2017, and the median price increased 8 percent to $188,000 over that same period, which represents the third straight month where home sales have failed to increase from their levels in the previous year.