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City changing Monterey lagoon design


The city is changing the design for work at the Monterey lagoon after parting ways with a contractor who had said the city’s earlier plan was unworkable.

City engineers are using criteria from GEI Consultants to design shallower slopes for a planned detention pond in the lagoon, Public Works Director Paul Woodard said.

The plan still is to build a detention pond and peninsula, including park space, with materials in the lagoon, Woodard said.

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The earlier contractor, Drax, had told the city the “organic muck” at the bottom of the lagoon is not suitable for piling into a peninsula or berm. Drax also expressed concern about contamination in the muck.

The city dropped Drax for Monterey restoration work, saying the company breached its contract by refusing to complete the lagoon project as specified, according to a Sept. 4 letter from the city.

Drax President Andrew Langum said he does not believe his company breached the contract because it was working on other projects in the contract up until the day the city ended the relationship.

Drax wanted to conduct additional testing on soil in the lagoon after it learned the soil would not hold its shape when made into a peninsula. More tests on soil integrity and contamination in the soil would help inform the project, which needed to be reworked, Langum said.

Soil was exposed after the Monterey Dam was removed and the lagoon drained in summer 2018.

Bjoin Limestone of Janesville was hired Sept. 5 to take over from Drax on the remaining restoration projects other than the lagoon.

Woodard said after the city has completed its new lagoon design, it will take the design back to GEI Consultants for review and amend Bjoin’s contract to include the necessary work.

Woodard said Wednesday he was unsure how hiring GEI, reworking the design and amending Bjoin’s contract will affect the cost of the project.

The goal still is to complete the project this fall, but weather or unforeseen issues could delay that, Woodard said.

Angela Major 

Plants flourish in the marshy lagoon area near Monterey Park in Janesville.

City action

Shallower slopes and less fill are the keys to making the project work, Woodard said.

If the city can create a design with shallower slopes and less than 4 feet of fill all the way around, the peninsula should work, Woodard said.

City Manager Mark Freitag on Monday addressed the city council about the Monterey restoration.

The city’s concern is with the structural integrity of the soil, not contamination, Freitag said.

Freitag said the city and the state Department of Natural Resources have been aware of what the DNR classifies as “minor exceedances” of contamination limits since 2015, when Inter-Fluve completed a sediment report in preparation for the dam’s removal.

Two soil samples were taken from the lagoon in 2015 as part of sampling up and down the river. Langum and residents critical of the city’s decision to remove the dam say more samples to test for contamination should have been taken in the lagoon.

The DNR in December 2018 granted the city an exemption, giving it permission to use about 26,700 cubic yards of contaminated material in the bay to create a detention pond and peninsula.

DNR officials based their decision for the exemption on information from a remedial action report created by Inter-Fluve on the city’s behalf, according to the December 2018 exemption.

The remedial action report, based on samples from the 2015 report, indicates contamination exceeding recommended levels is found primarily in the upper layer of the soil.

The risk posed by the contaminated soil is “assumed to be low” because the “primary exposure pathway” for people would be them touching or eating it, according to the remedial action report.

The DNR would not allow a project that poses an unacceptable risk to public health and safety, said Mark Aquino, director for the south central region of the DNR.

DNR staff considers all state and federal laws when permitting projects and work with the state Department of Health Services and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Aquino said.

The agency typically relies on data provided by the project applicant and does not conduct its own testing, Aquino said.

Angela Major 

The city is changing the design of its restoration project at the Monterey lagoon after parting ways with Drax, a contractor who had said the city’s earlier plan was unworkable. Drax also expressed concern about the amount of contamination in the soil at the lagoon.

Ongoing business

Langum said he wants the Monterey-area restoration to be successful and has no animosity toward the city.

He thinks the city should take a two-week pause to test more samples for contamination and integrity before making plans.

Since Sept. 4, city officials and Drax have communicated about leftover projects and payment, Langum said.

Drax did not finish boulder placement work it started in late August because the contract was terminated. Langum said he asked city officials if they wanted the remaining 12 boulders placed, but they declined, citing the end of the contract.

In the last couple of weeks, Drax submitted an invoice to the city for about $150,000, and the city declined to pay, Langum said.

Woodard said the invoice was for both work completed and work not completed.

The city intends to work with Drax to come up with an appropriate amount to pay, Woodard said.

Langum said he believes the city will do what is right and pay the company.

During Monday’s meeting, city council member Doug Marklein asked city staff questions he had heard from residents about the restoration, including:

  • Does the contamination present a health hazard?
  • Why was soil integrity not tested sooner?
  • Why did the city ask Drax to stop testing?
  • Would a fence around the lagoon be a good idea?

Freitag said there is contamination of various degrees all along the river.

If the DNR told the city it was OK to complete its project, there must be no major hazard, Freitag said.

The city could not determine the integrity of the soil in the lagoon until the water receded, Woodard said.

City officials told Drax to stop testing because they had declared Drax to be in breach of contract and had ordered the company to stop working, Woodard said.

Erecting a fence around the lagoon would be difficult. If people touch the soil and later wash their hands, they will be fine, Woodard said.

Marklein told The Gazette he was satisfied with city staff’s responses.

The city could have communicated better with the community about issues in the lagoon, but the city is working with finite public relations resources, Marklein said.

He believes the city is trying to get the project done as quickly as possible with the best possible outcome.

Florida is in for more dead corals, sea rise and floods, says new UN climate report


Oceans have spared the world the worst of climate change, but those days could be over soon, according to a new United Nations report on climate change.

The ripple effect for Florida, whose economy depends on the bright blue waters that ring the state, could include more dramatic flooding, faster, as well as a scary new phenomenon that is killing coral reefs and reefs.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released this week, said the ocean’s days of soaking up excess carbon and insulating the world from the worst impacts of climate change are numbered.

“It is virtually certain that the global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system,” scientists wrote.

In a world with carbon dioxide emissions run rampant, the new report paints a bleak picture, said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University professor and coordinating lead author for the sea level rise chapter of the report, which includes the results of thousands of scientific papers reviewed by more than 100 scientists.

“Right now we’re just headed in a very bad direction,” he said. “We’re building in more and more damage for ourselves while we think about what to do. And the only way to avoid that is to start cutting emissions.”

Without severe emissions cuts, he said, sea level rise will outpace humanity’s ability to adapt. The difference is severe. By 2100, “business as usual” emissions put the world on track for 3½ feet of sea rise. If the world manages to cut emissions enough to keep the world below 2 degrees Celsius of warming—the magic number scientists said could limit the worst effects of climate change—that rise could be slashed in half.

The report said sea level rise is accelerating faster than expected and included revised curves that show the world is likely to see about 43 inches of sea rise by century’s end if emissions aren’t cut. That’s a sharp jump from the 2013 version of this curve, which projected 31 inches of sea rise by 2100.

Ben Kirtman, a University of Miami professor who also served as the coordinating lead author of the 2014 IPCC report, said the 2019 projections involve a lot of new research, including some that shows glacial melt is now the biggest contributor to sea level rise.

If there’s any good news for South Florida, it’s that local leaders are already planning for worse sea level rise, faster.

South Florida expects two feet of sea rise by 2060, according to a 2015 unified sea rise projection by the South Florida Climate Compact, and more than five feet by 2100. This projection includes sea level rise curves created by NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which predict more dramatic sea rise than the IPCC report. That projection is being updated for 2020.

Sea levels don’t rise uniformly around the world, Kirtman said. It depends on geology, geography and ocean currents. Since 1982, Miami has seen about 6 inches of sea level rise, he said. Galveston, Texas, saw closer to 8 inches, while Honolulu saw about an inch and a half.

The report also found that places like Miami and Key West could see so-called “hundred-year floods,” which have a 1% chance of happening every year, annually as soon as 2050. According to a Washington Post analysis, more than 1.2 million people in Miami-Dade live in 100-year flood zones. Florida alone has $714 billion of property in the 100-year floodplain.

“By 2100, almost everywhere where we have a tide gauge and can measure tide, we’re expecting the historic 100-year tide level will be reached annually,” Oppenheimer said.

And more extreme flood events, like the 500-year flood event in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, will happen more often.

Something else that could become more common? The relatively new phenomena of marine heatwaves.

Like a heatwave on land, marine heatwaves stress out fish and coral by making things too warm for too long. Warmer water also can’t absorb gasses as well as colder water, so this hot water contains less oxygen, which all marine life relies on.

Hotter water has particularly deadly effects on coral reefs, said Mark Eakin, coordinator for NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch. Hot waters turn the microscopic algae that live inside corals, which give corals color and food, toxic. In response, the corals spit out the algae in a process known as bleaching.

“This is literally a gut-wrenching experience,” Eakin said.

Bleached corals lose their color and ability to make food, so they essentially starve to death. A twin danger of climate change, known as ocean acidification, can also harm corals. Ocean water gets more acidic as it absorbs carbon dioxide, and acidic water makes it harder for corals (or most shellfish) to grow, Eakin said. Acidification can also make some corals more susceptible to bleaching, which has become more common in a warming world.

“Back when severe coral bleaching events started to be reported in 1980s, they were once every 25 or 30 years,” he said. “Now we’re seeing events coming back every five to six years.”

The IPCC report said bleaching events, and the marine heatwaves that precede them, will happen more often in a hotter world.

The most famous marine heatwave is a Pacific Northwest patch of warm water known as “the blob.” The blob first appeared in 2013 and terrorized marine life from Washington to Alaska. Now it’s back, Eakin said. “Some people are calling it return of the blob, the blob part two, son of the blob,” he joked.

This time it’s so big it’s affecting Hawaii. If the four-month predictions are correct, Eakin said, “this is going to be the worst bleaching event ever in the main Hawaiian islands.”

Despite record-breaking temperatures on land, South Florida’s corals appear to have escaped a similar fate this year, thanks to the active storm season that cooled down Caribbean waters.

But a warmer world spells trouble for coral reefs around the globe, even in a best case scenario.

If the world managed to contain heating to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, an earlier IPCC report showed reefs are expected to decline 70 percent to 90 percent. If the world warms 2 degrees Celsius, the current goal of pacts like the climate agreement, 99% of coral reefs could die.

With two degrees of warming, sea levels could still rise a foot and a half, potentially displacing millions of people in coastal communities like Miami.

“If we’re worried about this for 2050 we have to start now, because a lot of these measures—anything that involves concrete and steel—cannot be done overnight, including moving people in a politically acceptable way, which is getting them to move voluntarily,” said IPCC author Oppenheimer. “Right now, while we’re twiddling our thumbs thinking about what we’re going to do to adapt, we’re going to be in a world with larger impacts and we’ve got to be ready.”

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Going home: 87-year-old hiker praises Rock River Trail


Lyle Lidholm rhythmically put one leather boot in front of the other last week in Janesville as he trekked south.

The midday sun warmed his white-bearded face, blooming goldenrod glistened in the dappled light along his path and, for a while, the din of traffic faded.

Playfully, he walked with a sprig of purple asters in the brim of his broad straw hat, and you could tell he was smiling inside by the look in his eyes.

Anna Marie Lux 

Lyle Lidholm, 87, of Watertown is hiking the 320-mile Rock River Trail and passed through Janesville last week.

The veteran hiker followed the Ice Age Trail from the north end of the city past Palmer Park as he carried a backpack with water and rain gear.

On this particular day, Lidholm meandered 3 miles.

“If I go 8 miles, it’s a good day,” he said at the end of the walk while sliding his hiking poles into his car.

Lidholm is not trying to set any records.

The 87-year-old has other reasons for walking the 320-mile Rock River Trail, which is often paddled in a canoe or a kayak.

He wants to shine a light on the route, which also can be hiked using various trail systems along the river’s corridor, including the Glacial River and Ice Age trails in Wisconsin.

Lidholm took the first step of his journey in the tiny village of Theresa, south of Fond du Lac, on Sept. 1.

He will keep walking until he reaches a park outside of Milan, Illinois, where the river flows into the Mississippi.

“Some have canoed and kayaked the trail,” Lidholm said. “But none have walked it. If I complete the trail, I will be the first.”

He plans his daily hike, mostly rain or shine, so that he returns to his home in Watertown at the end of the day. The trail’s coordinator connects him with someone in the area where he is hiking to help him shuttle his car so it is up ahead where he ends the walk.

In addition to raising awareness, Lyle has a personal reason for lapping up the miles.

In the winter of his life, he is going home.

The trail takes him past Moline, Illinois, where he was born and spent his early childhood.

He hopes to surprise relatives who still live there.

Chances are they won’t be startled to see him on foot.

Lidholm has been walking since 1944, when he became a Boy Scout and discovered how much he enjoys the feel of the ground beneath his feet.

For the holidays that year, he received a knapsack with a cooking kit and a canteen.

“That was one of the happiest Christmases ever,” Lidholm recalled, “because those are the things you need when you hike.”

Not too many years later, he entered the military and fought with the 1st Marine Division as a tank gunner in the Korean War.

Later, he had a family and put his skills as a timber framer to use building historic Old World Wisconsin. He often spent his vacations backpacking in the Porcupine Mountains of the Upper Peninsula, where more than 300 miles of trails offer adventure.

Lidholm retired from his timber-framing business in 1997. A few years later, he decided to take up long-distance hiking. His first goal was the Appalachian Trail.

He started the 2,200-footpath in Georgia but broke his foot after 850 miles.

“I didn’t put enough money into buying good hiking shoes,” he explained.

In 2003, Lidholm joined the construction crew of the Ice Age Trail and worked on it until two or three years ago.

At age 75, he hiked all 1,200 miles of the Wisconsin path that follows the unique landscape sculpted by glacial ice more than 12,000 years ago.

Much of his journey was on snowshoes in the frigid grip of winter.

“I hiked through five major storms,” he said matter-of-factly. “In some places, the snow was up to my belly.”

Lidholm did not wait for better weather because he enjoyed the challenge.

More important, when he began, he dedicated the hike to “my buddies who didn’t come back from Korea.”

He wasn’t about to let them down.

Lidholm also has followed the paths of medieval Catholics on the Camino de Santiago, the epic pilgrimage to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. He started in the French town of Le Puy-en-Velay and crossed the rugged Pyrenees, where he found himself among huge herds of sheep and cattle. Then he walked undulating plains and wound through lush hillsides on a journey of hundreds of miles.

He walks alone.

“I don’t like to be an anchor to anyone,” he said. “I set my own pace, and I don’t want anyone to walk slower than me.”

His mind explores many things as he ambles, including politics, the past and the environment.

He enjoys the physical act of moving, one steady step at a time.

“I feel good when I walk,” Lidholm said. “I walk a couple of miles every day at home, usually at dusk when everything quiets down and I can see the sunset.”

He hopes he will motivate others to walk on the good earth and enjoy the miracles of the day.

If you are still not convinced, he offers another reason:

“I don’t have any aches and pains,” he said. “I sleep like a baby.”

Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

Obituaries and death notices for Sept. 29, 2019

Michael L. Bacon

Donald R. Cliffe

Jerry E. Haeft

Carl J. Jaeger

Laura Janette Jones

Neil G. Pfeiffer

Gerald W. Sullivan

Bernard Sumeic

Sarah E. Taormino

Angela Major 

A Craig runner is surrounded by competitors Saturday, September 28, 2019, during the Midwest Invitational boys and girls cross country meet at Blackhawk Golf Course in Janesville.