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Woody vegetation becomes fuel for generation plant

The energy generating facility is in the heart of downtown St. Paul.

On many of our local Waterfowl Production Areas there is a concerted effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove much of the encroaching woody vegetation, trees and brush on the landscape and restore the type of prairie and oak savannah that was once present before humans made their mark on the terrain.

The vegetation is being cut down, mulched up and trucked out to an energy generating facility in the heart of downtown St. Paul, Minn.

On Sept. 24, a friend and I, plus members of the USF&WS, had an opportunity to tour this unique plant that utilizes wood waste which normally would be put in a landfill, burned or left on site to rot. It now is converted to electricity, steam or energy used to heat or cool buildings in the vicinity of the plant.

According to a flyer published by the facility, "District Energy St. Paul is the largest hot water district heating system in North America and a national leader in renewable energy. The system currently provides heating service to more that 80 percent of downtown St. Paul, Minn., including the State Capitol Complex. More than 185 downtown buildings and 300 individual residences, representing 31 million square feet of building space, are connected to the system. The customer base includes multi-family, commercial, industrial and large institutional structures."

Prior to the physical plant tour, we were provided an overview of the past, present and future vision of the company.

We were told that more than 300,000 tons of wood chips are utilized each year. This biomass makes up 70 percent of the fuel needed for the operation. The plan is to move toward 100 percent biomass usage but for now coal (25 percent) and gas (5 percent) are supplemental energy sources.

Presently the wood chips can be economically trucked from up to 75 miles away. Depending on the use of rail or barge, this range could be expanded.

Waste fly ash from the plant is used for fertilizer and the rough ash generated from the process is now used as a landfill covering. Further uses of the byproducts of this biomass combustion are currently being evaluated.

What a great way to dispose of waste material that normally wouldn't be utilized and at virtually no cost to the provider. This is a truly a win-win situation for everyone involved. Storm damaged trees also can be a source of biomass for the plant. A few years back I think the City of New Richmond benefited from such an arrangement after a storm passed through our area.

The plant is located right next to the Science Museum on Kellogg Boulevard, very near the Mississippi River and a rail line. A sign above the door reads "District Energy St. Paul, Hans O. Nyman Energy Center" and a Snoopy Statue resting on his doghouse resides out front. Look for it when you're in the area. It is a remarkable facility.

Fisheries meeting

Each year Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fish managers and wardens look at the areas they manage and formulate recommendations for new or modified rules and regulations that will be considered for the future.

Some of these suggestions have their inception from Conservation Congress advisory questions voted on at the Spring Hearings each April. These suggestions are backed up by hard data and are very well thought out before they are submitted. They are then forwarded to a fisheries review board made up of fisheries experts, wardens and stakeholders along with legal support assuring that what moves forward is a viable product.

Those rules and regulations that are selected are then formulated into DNR questions that will appear on the Spring Hearing Questionnaire to be voted on by the public. If approved, they will move on to the Natural Resource Board for review and could become law through legislation.

On Oct. 5 I was invited to Madison as a Conservation Congress fisheries representative to sit in with the fisheries review panel to go over more than 40 of these submissions from all over the state. Of the 41 fisheries submissions and eight warden requests, the changes were given low or high priority. The idea was to keep the questions at a manageable number of around 20 to be included on the Spring Questionnaire in 2010.

The proposed changes were also sorted into three groups consisting of bass/walleye, rule simplification and current rule guidance categories. A trend seen by fisheries managers is that in some lakes, as the bass population goes up, the walleye population goes down and the size structure of the bass also declines. The bass/walleye group of proposals was lumped together and a uniform approach to these will then be developed.

Besides going over the fisheries proposals, the meeting also serves as a forum to bring up emerging new issues.

One such subject was the recent identification of a new invasive crawfish species called the red swamp crawfish identified in a Germantown pond. This crawfish is a native to Louisiana and is raised for food and also serves as a science classroom dissection specimen. How it got here is still being investigated. Control measures were described and a plan of action was implemented in a timely fashion allowing this invader to be isolated and hopefully eradicated before it can spread.

Being a part of this meeting, knowing the expertise, qualifications and background of the individuals comprising the review board and observing how they professionally address the problems assures me that the resources of the State of Wisconsin are in good hands.

Warden Paul's Corner

Shining Wild Animals

Often during hunters safety courses the question is asked, "What is shining?"

Shining is using a light to locate or "shine" wild animals, typically deer. The light used could be headlights, a flashlight or a high powered portable light. In addition, laser sights on guns, bows or crossbows are lights by definition and are illegal.

Many individuals like to shine animals at night just to watch the animals because many of the animals are nocturnal and not able to be seen during daylight hours. Some hunters like to shine wild animals and deer to see where they are so they can hunt them. The following restrictions apply to shining.

It is illegal to use or possess with intent to use, whether or not a firearm, bow or crossbow is in possession, a light for shining wild animals (including vehicle headlights) between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. from Sept. 15 through Dec. 31.

While shining, it is illegal to use or possess with intent to use a firearm, bow or crossbow. Lastly, it is illegal to shine at any time on federal refuges and Waterfowl Production Areas.

NOTE: Some areas may prohibit shining by a local ordinance. Check with your local Sheriff's Department to find out if that restriction occurs in your county.

For questions or to report a violation, contact Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.