EagleHerald staff writer
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a two-part story concerning the endeavor to establish the Bay of Green Bay as a “non-regulatory” research reserve. Part two comes Friday and delves further into the local aspects of what area community members and leaders hope those efforts will bring for the Peshtigo/Marinette region, including the potential development of a NOAA-funded, state-of-the-art research/visitor center.
MARINETTE—Absorbing a notion of the irreplaceable abundance of resources inherent in the Bay of Green Bay’s coastal ecosystems requires only a single still moment beneath the canopies of silver maple, elm, cottonwood and other forest species along the northeastern edge of the Peshtigo River, just before its waters spill into Green Bay.
The first ruddy beams of sunlight skimming across low morning clouds, where the river fans out into a wide freshwater estuary, stirs a calming multitude of soundscape ecology, to which can simply listen in that stillness. The sounds converge from every direction into a diverse orchestration: echoing primeval trills of various bird species; the nearby buzz of the firefly and the subsequent splash of a walleye breaking the river’s surface, aiming to make a meal of that large insect; and the millions of murmuring frogs.
And not to forget the plunk of a fisherman’s lure, proof of how area communities rely upon such aquatic environments for recreation, economy and also, advancement of science and education.
The bay represents one of the largest surface freshwater estuary systems on the planet, and there is no skimping on the details when it comes to the importance of its estuarine systems (See Understanding Estuary). And aligning with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s (UWGB) 30-years-and-going endeavor to protect that natural resource, officials with the university kick-off a collaborative effort this week to raise public support to establish a large portion of the bay as a region dedicated to research, conservation, education and stewardship.
THE NERR PROGRAM
Under the oversight and major funding of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (See NERR by the numbers), a coordinated undertaking between UWGB and various members and organizations of coastal bay communities (including the Peshtigo and Marinette areas) seeks to join a scientifically venerated network of 29 sites across the nation of “non-regulated” research reserves. Together, those regions consist of over 1.3 million acres of coastal estuarine habitat.
If successful, a large regional area of the bay would enlist as part of a nationwide network of coastal zones designated as NERRs (National Estuarine Research Reserves) with one local community serving as headquarters to a state-of-the-art research/visitor center. In each NERR, various coastal communities, individuals and organizations partner with NOAA to expand scientific understanding of these complex environmental habitats.
As noted by regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited (DU) Brian Glenzinski in a recent UWGB press release, the development of cooperative partnerships dedicated to forming the Green Bay NERR (GB-NERR) can precipitate far-reaching benefits for conservation, wildlife and funding opportunities. Those benefits can help catalyze great return for local communities, augmenting education, recreation and scientific research, which feed back into economies.
“Green Bay is an incredibly important area for migratory birds and a priority for DU and we have, therefore, established a conservation delivery program with partners in the area,” Glenzinski said. “One of the most useful partnerships is with UW-Green Bay, in which we can immediately study and evaluate the conservation practices installed to gain a better understanding of restoration efforts in the Bay and apply findings to future projects. The GB-NERR has great potential to elevate and expand this cycle for benefit of (the Bay of) Green Bay, the Great Lakes and beyond.”
According to Emily Tyner, Director of Freshwater Strategy at UWGB,—while the push to seek NERR designation remains in its infancy—discussions promoting the endeavor between UWGB officials and various area leaders and the public, hope to convey those benefits. Area officials taking part in those discussions include members of the public, business leaders in the City of Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce and the of the Marinette and Menominee Chamber of Commerce; Peshtigo School District officials; area businesses; and Marinette County officials.
“Those conversations are part of our broad outreach to all the communities around the Bay of Green Bay,” Tyner said, emphasizing the need for a team effort. “Our goal is to get the designation ... it is not a (City of) Green Bay goal but a regional goal to have Green Bay (water) designated.”
In essence, NERR designation would bring a centralized research/visitor center facility to a selected community within the bay. From there, scientists, educators and the public could facilitate research and education across the entire span of NERR, which could include a vast area of the bay’s coastal estuarine shorelines. According to Tyner other national NERR systems range in size from 500 acres to more than 200,000 acres of non-regulated reserves.
If chosen, the bay would be the third location within the Great Lakes NERR system, accompanied by the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, established in 2010 in Superior, and the Old Woman Creek NERR, established in 1980 on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio.
Tyner underscored that while the GB-NERR will focus on the promotion and stewardship of estuary and coastal water systems through research and education, it will establish the bay as a national “non-regulatory” estuary.
“I want to emphasize that this is a non-regulatory reserve; no new regulations are imposed,” she informed the EagleHerald. “There won’t be restrictions on fishing, hunting, shipping, etc.”
While NOAA serves as the lead federal agency in the selection process, it begins with grassroots coordination and support of many partners, from community members to higher levels of government. Step one starts with a “letter of interest” to NOAA from the state in which the NERR would reside.
Step two entails the site nomination process using state-defined selection criteria and a selection committee consisting of scientists, educators, resource managers and non-governmental organizations. Through public forums and selection committee discussions, the state determines the location and passes the nomination to NOAA.
“UWGB is looking for that public support and public engagement,” said Kristen Edgar, a Town of Peshtigo (TOP) supervisor who is among local officials participating in the NERR discussions.
Edgar appreciates the potential benefits of establishing GB-NERR and possibly developing a research/visitor center in the area, which would serve as the focal point for the entire GB-NERR.
“If we can raise that public engagement and show that people in the area are supportive and that they will be involved, that can make a difference,” Edgar said.
Once site nomination is approved, step three tackles the drafting of an environmental impact statement and management plan for the site, which also includes a request for funding. This step continues the public engagement and feedback through informational meetings before developing the final draft of the impact statement and management. The last two steps involve largely contractual and ceremonial activities to officially establish the long-term research, water quality monitoring, educational programs and coastal stewardship activities of the NERR.
The process is long and detailed, but UWGB already made many big initial steps, including the recruitment of community interest into the value of establishing a NERR.
As a collective community that includes the cities of Peshtigo, Marinette, Menominee and their surrounding areas, Peshtigo Area Chamber of Commerce President Tony O’Neill represents another community leader expressing interest and spreading the word about the program’s possibilities. He is particularly interested in establishing the advanced GB-NERR research/visitor center facility in this area. However, he realizes none of it can happen without strong support and cooperation among those neighboring communities.
“Overall, I think as a (collective) community-type venture, the opportunity to be considered for the (designation) is just fantastic,” O’Neill said. “I believe we have such a great area consisting of different diversity compared to other areas that we should definitely consider it a positive note (toward) our selection (chances). I would like to see how the community comes together to actually push forward with this. Marinette, Peshtigo, Menominee, we are an area by design more so than we are as individual governments. So as an area, we need to pull together to try and bring this here.”
WASHINGTON —The U.S. on Tuesday recommended a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots, setting off a chain reaction worldwide and dealing a setback to the global vaccination campaign.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they were investigating unusual clots in six women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died.
The acting FDA commissioner expected the pause to last only a matter of days. But the decision triggered swift action in Europe and elsewhere as the drugmaker and regulators moved to halt the use of the J&J vaccine, at least for now. Hundreds of thousands of doses were due to arrive in European countries this week. The European Union has been plagued by supply shortages, logistical problems and concerns over blood clots in a small number of people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Any slowdown in the dissemination of the shots could have broad implications for the global vaccination effort. The J&J vaccine held immense promise because its single-dose regimen and relatively simple storage requirements would make it easier to use, especially in less affluent countries.
The clots, which happened 6 to 13 days after vaccination in veins that drain blood from the brain, occurred together with low platelets, the fragments in blood that normally form clots.
More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been given in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
Seth Shockley of Indianapolis received the J&J vaccine Sunday and was initially worried when he heard about the potential side effects Tuesday. But his concerns faded when he learned there were only six confirmed cases of blood clots.
“I would much rather take the risk with the vaccine—a much smaller risk—than to risk it with COVID,” he said. Now he’s more worried that the reports could result in more people refusing to get vaccinated.
The FDA said the cases under investigation appear similar to the clots that European authorities say are possibly linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet cleared in the U.S. European regulators have stressed that the AstraZeneca risk appears to be lower than the possibility of developing clots from birth control pills.
Federally run mass vaccination sites will pause the use of the J&J shot, and states and other providers are expected to follow. But authorities stressed they have found no signals of clot problems with the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.—from Moderna and Pfizer.
“I’d like to stress these events appear to be extremely rare. However COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said at a news conference.
Speaking at the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease, said the pause would allow the FDA and the CDC to investigate the clotting cases “to try and understand some of the mechanisms” and “to make physicians more aware of this.”
A CDC committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases, and the FDA has also launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts.
FDA officials emphasized that Tuesday’s action was not a mandate. Doctors and patients could still use J&J’s vaccine if they decide its benefits outweigh its risks for individual cases, said Dr. Peter Marks.
The agencies recommend that people who were given the J&J vaccine should contact their doctor if they experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks.
J&J said in a statement that it was aware of the reports of blood clots, but that no link to its vaccine had been established. The company also said it would delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe as a precaution.
U.S. health authorities cautioned doctors against using a typical clot treatment, the blood-thinner heparin.
European authorities investigating the AstraZeneca cases have concluded clots appear to be similar to a very rare abnormal immune response that sometimes strikes people treated with heparin, leading to a temporary clotting disorder.
While it’s not clear yet if the reports among J&J recipients are related, doctors would treat these kinds of unusual clots like they treat people who have the heparin reaction—with different kinds of blood thinners and sometimes an antibody infusion, said Dr. Geoffrey Barnes, a clot expert at the University of Michigan.
Even without J&J’s vaccine, White House officials said they remain on track to have enough supplies to vaccinate most American adults by the summer.
“We believe there’s enough vaccine in the system—Moderna and Pfizer—for all Americans who want to get vaccinated by May 31 to do so,” said Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator.
Asked if the government was overreacting to six cases out of more than 6 million vaccinations, the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat said recommendations will come quickly.
Because these unusual clots require special treatment, “it was of the utmost importance to us to get the word out,” she said. “That said, the pandemic is quite severe and cases are increasing in lots of places and vaccination’s critical.”
The J&J vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA in late February with great fanfare. Yet the shot only makes up a small fraction of the doses administered in the U.S. J&J has been plagued by production delays and manufacturing errors at the Baltimore plant of a contractor.
Last week, the drugmaker took over the facility to scale up production in hopes of meeting its commitment to the U.S. government of providing about 100 million doses by the end of May.
At the Green Wave Pharmacy in rural Clintwood, Virginia, many customers have specifically requested the J&J vaccine. Pharmacist Sheryl Pientka said the pharmacy in the Appalachian Mountains serves low-income and elderly people who prefer to get one shot instead of two.
Although the pharmacy has Moderna vaccines in stock, some elderly and homebound customers may wait for the J&J shot to get cleared for use again, Pientka said.
“It’s a very small town where everyone knows everyone else, so people say, ‘I know so-and-so got the vaccine. If she doesn’t have a problem, then I’ll go get it,’” she said.
GB-NERR informational meetings
UWGB in conjunction with NOAA will host two virtual events to provide more information about NERR program.
The first virtual meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. and the second occurs Monday 19 at 4 p.m.
To join the live event visit the GB-NERR website at www.uwgb.edu/national-estuarine-research-reserves/
EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—The City of Menominee is working to streamline the code enforcement process for property nuisances.
City Manager Tony Graff explained that the current process, with the necessary notices and possible court hearings, if started on Jan. 1 can take all the way through the end of May or beyond to resolve. “It’s sort of similar—but not as extensive—to evictions, always erring toward the right of the property owner to give time and chance to appeal and correct the problem. We’re still maintaining the same process, with the first notice of a violation asking for compliance without a citation, so that adds about 30 to 45 days before a citation is written,” he said.
At the start of the process when a violation is noticed, the property owner is contacted and sent an informal letter within 14 days asking to fix the problem. A formal notice of violation is sent after with a 30-day deadline, then a citation is issued. The property owner then has 14 days to appear in court and either deny, admit or admit with an explanation. If the owner admits, the district court magistrate will make a judgment and impose sanctions. With an explanation, the magistrate may opt for alternative sanctions.
If the property owner appears and denies guilt, an informal hearing is scheduled, and if the judge rules in favor of the city, the property owner can request a formal hearing. If the court again rules in favor of the city, then the court imposes sanctions, but the property owner then is entitled to an appeal by right.
If the property owner fails to respond or appear, a default judgment is entered and sanctions are imposed. The property owner is then sent a notice of default with 14 days to request that it be set aside. If the property owner still does not respond or comply with the sanctions, an abatement request is filed by a prosecuting attorney, which is then served on the property owner with a notice of hearing. The owner has 14 days to file a response. A hearing is then held, and usually the court grants the city’s request to abate the nuisance. The property owner is notified of the court’s decision and has 14 more days to appeal the decision. After that period is over, the city is then able to start taking matters into its own hands to fix the problem.
Graff said this had been an issue with a property in the city’s First Ward. According to Councilmember Jackie Nutter, who represents the First Ward, a property owner had been leaving jugs of urine outside in front of the garage for several months, among other building code violations. Graff said the city had been notified in August and began the process, but Nutter said the city kept coming to dead ends in contacting the property owner. “The tenant was not responsive to any of the fines or notices the city gave on the matter,” she said, “so as time went on the neighbors became more annoyed.”
In March, Nutter was notified by other residents that the jugs still had not been removed as the process hadn’t reached that point yet. “I was angry to find out the city still hadn’t removed them. I explained to (the residents) the process and that I don’t actually have the authority to legally act on this. I can only communicate and be the squeaky wheel to bring attention to the issue,” she said.
Graff said by then, the city had reached the point of default judgments being entered into court and were moving onto the next step of asking for an order to abate the property, since the property owner still had not responded.
“Human waste is a nuisance, but it isn’t hazardous. It’s kind of like with blood pathogens; years ago, if there was blood on a squad car (for example), you could just wipe it off and throw the towel in the garbage and nobody cared. Now if you have to deal with human fluids, there’s a lot more you have to do,” Graff said.
Since then, Graff said the property owner was reached and that a portable toilet company was contacted and hired to take care of the urine. “They came out and were able to put it into a container, which was transferred to their septic truck to be disposed of. We thought we could just take it over to our wastewater treatment plant, but we don’t have a permit (for that),” he said.
“This one provided us more knowledge as to, what do you do with about 60 jugs, half-filled at least?” Graff said. “I always thought there was a possibility for methane to build up and explode; not with urine. That was a concern for some people, but the operators said it was unlikely. This one was a challenge, and we’re still pursuing it. The next step now is the property itself because it does have a garage roof that has been compromised.”
Graff said the citizens getting involved was a benefit to solving the issue. “I think now, it also brought heightened awareness to our civil process, and we’ll see if we can do a better job and improve our process,” he said.
Since these kinds of code violations are civil infractions, Graff said warrants cannot be issued if a property owner doesn’t respond to the citations. “There’s a time period where they have a right to appeal, then ultimately we have our right to request an abatement order, and that has to be notified,” he said.
Graff said City Attorney Michael Celello has been working with the court system to bring the process down from a nine-month process, which the issue in the First Ward nearly was, to four or five. Graff said the recent addition of a part-time code enforcement officer to assist Building Inspector Derrick Schultz has helped the city handle more of these code enforcement issues.
However, Nutter said it’s still a struggle for the city to keep up with code enforcement. “We do not have the proper amount of people hired to man the work, and therefore we don’t have enough people to follow up on the issues that aren’t handled,” she said.