Barge operators and recreational boaters will see a limited navigation season on the Missouri River this year. The US Army Corps of Engineers has just begun releasing water from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota. Because of an ongoing drought in the Missouri River Basin, Corps spokesman Paul Johnston says while the navigation season begins April 1st, it is likely to be shortened, by as much as two months. He says this year the Corps is releasing only enough water to meet the minimum navigation targets downstream. If there’s no navigation in some parts of the river, like near Sioux City, the Corps will not try to boost the water release in an effort to try to save water in the reservoirs. The Missouri River navigation season normally ends on December 1st, although it was cut back to early October last year. Johnston says the exact length of this year’s season will be determined by how much water is in the reservoir system in early July. Johnston says lower water levels will require barge operators to carry lighter shipments. In addition, because the river will be low, boaters on the river from Omaha to Sioux City are going to have to look out for obstacles that traditionally have been covered by water. Johnston says power plants along the river also will have to be especially careful to meet water quality standards limiting the temperature of the water they discharge.
Archives for March 2005
One of Iowa’s 150 legislators is hoping to strike out — a lot — this weekend. Senator Mark Zieman (pronounced ZEE-man), a farmer and trucking company owner from Postville, bowled a perfect 300 game at the state bowling tournament three weeks ago and is on his way to the National Bowling Tournament this weekend in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a championship bowler,” Zieman says. “I just got a little lucky.” Three weeks ago in that state bowling tournament, Zieman hit two milestones — that first, perfect game of 12 strikes in a row, and he bowled his first 700 series, too. That means he scored over 700 points in three consecutive games. Zieman bowls in a league that travels from bowling alley to bowling alley in northeast Iowa.
“It’s a sport I can do all winter long. It’s also a social event because there’s a lot of people in a small area and so you can visit with a lot of people,” he says. “It’s also a good excuse to get out of the house once in a while in the winter.”
Zieman, who is 60 years old, bowls every other week when the Legislature is in session in Des Moines. “I started 40 years ago, and probably averaged 110, 120 and I’m carrying over a 200 average now,” Zieman says. As you might suspect, Zieman will be taking his own bowling ball to the national tournament. It’s multi-colored with lots of blues and greens and is a fingertip ball, which means the holes in the ball aren’t very deep and he holds and releases it from his fingertips.
During an interview with Radio Iowa on the Senate floor, Zieman said he throws the ball with a hook, depending on the condition of the lane.
“You always throw a ball according to the conditions because the conditions won’t change for you so you have to change for the conditions. It’s about like working in this place (the legislature),” Zieman said, laughing.
Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson asked him if he had named his bowling ball, but he was reluctant to answer on tape. “Not what I’m going to say on there,” Zieman replied, laughing and pointing to the recorder. “No, I’m not going there.” So the name of Zieman’s lucky bowling ball will remain secret.
The Iowa House today (Wednesday) will consider a bill that would improve the state’s Sex Offender Registry. The death of a 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl, allegedly at the hands of a convicted sex offender, has sparked even more action. A proposal to be offered today would re-establish a no-sex-offender zone around schools. In addition, Senator Chuck Larson of Cedar Rapids is trying to get a House member to propose doubling the prison time for those convicted of engaging in lascivious acts with a child. “I would think that this is something that both Republicans and Democrats would be supportive of,” Larson says. While there’s been talk about reinstating the death penalty in Iowa, it’s probably not going to happen. A spokesman for Governor Vilsack says Vilsack opposes it since Iowa “already has a death sentence” because a life prison sentence means the convict will never be released and will die behind bars. Senator Larry McKibben, a republican from Marshalltown, ridicules that statement. “You know, people will tell us life in prison is the deterrent, they’re put away for life, well, when you kidnap someone, rape someone and then you’re really almost incented, and that’s a really horrific thing to say about these animals that do this, but you’re almost incented to kill that victim because that’s the one that all legal data will tell you that’s most likely to convict you in a court of law,” McKibben says. He says it’ll take more pressure from the public to get lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty.McKibben says there are “far too many bleeding hearts” in the legislature who will oppose capital punishment
A Native American group is hoping it can open a cultural support center in central Iowa this year. Howard Crow Eagle of the “Central Iowa Circle of First Nations” says other ethnic groups have similar offices already. He says if you go to Des Moines, you’ll have a cultural center for all kinds of different cultures, he points out — Latinos, the Irish, Italians, African Americans — but there is not a Native American cultural center. Crow Eagle says the group’s goal is to create a single location for information that would help Native Americans across the region. If a Native American came into Des Moines, he says they really wouldn’t know who to contact or what resources were available to them, so what he hopes to do is set up a cultural center where if a visitor comes from another state or if someone is planning to move to Iowa comes in, they can get the resources they need. In addition to offering cultural support, Crow Eagle says the organization is active in teaching about the Native American perspective. Right now, they focus on cultural awareness, education, and schools. He says they go into colleges and do a lot of lecturing on the Native American way of life. In April, the Central Iowa Circle of First Nations will bring together Native Americans from across the country for a traditional dance celebration in Stuart. See their website and plans at http://www.cicfn.org
Iowa’s part of a nationwide settlement that’ll see the Blockbuster movie rental chain be a little clearer on what happens to you if you failed to return a movie or game on time. Bob Brammer, a spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General, says the issue came up over Blockbuster’s new “No Late Fee” policy. Brammer says there were fees the company didn’t advertise. He says seven days after the due date the customer is charged the price of the item, and if you didn’t want to buy the item, there was a dollar-twenty-five “re-stocking” fee. Brammer says it was a judgment call that the company was pushing the lack of a late fee in its advertising — but failing to mention the other fees. “There’s probably no really bright line on where the fine print needs to be bigger,” Brammer says. “We felt like in this case there really was no fine print at all.” The agreement requires Blockbuster to clearly spell out its policies. He says the policy will have to be clearly advertised, and the company will have to make a refund to people who felt they were misled by the refunds. Brammer says if you felt you were misled by the company you need to file a claim. He says they want you to file at the individual stores if possible, or you can find a claim form on the A-G’s website, or mail a refund form to the company headquarters in Dallas. Blockbuster has 25 company-owned stores in Iowa and two franchise stores.
Iowans got serious reminders last year about the power of tornadoes with 15 people being injured in storms that contained twisters. National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Johnson says 2004 was a record year for tornadoes in Iowa. Iowa recorded 120 tornadoes last year, beating a record of 105 tornadoes set four years ago. Between May 21st and 24th, almost 50 tornadoes were reported statewide. Johnson says tornado sightings have increased over the last few years due to more storm spotters being available for the weather service. Johnson says whenever the conditions are favorable for severe storms or tornadoes, the weather service will issue a watch for an area. As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa, there will be a tornado drill starting at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning (Thursday) with a test tornado watch and test warnings being issued. It was originally scheduled for today, but there’s a potential for severe weather today, so the Weather Service is keeping the warning pipeline open for real alerts. For more information, surf to “www.nws.noaa.gov”.
City and county governments may have dodged a property tax freeze. A committee of legislators working with the governor recommended a property tax freeze for local governments that do not begin sharing services by 2011. But Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston, says many of his colleagues objected to that, so they’ve decided instead to reserve state grants for cities and counties that do find ways to save money through consolidation of services. “There were a few people (who) thought it was going to be a tough sell to the legislature, so then from a pragmatic standpoint, do I want this whole debate to fall to the ground over a property tax freeze in 2011?” Angelo asked. He believes the alternate plan will be a big enough “stick” to get action on consolidation and sharing in local government.Governor Tom Vilsack admits denying state grants and loans to local governments that fail to share services may not be as big a threat as a property tax freeze, but he thinks it will produce results. “There’s a potpourri of state grants that go to local government, so if the stick is going to be ‘Okay, you’re not going to be competitive or you’re going to be put at a competitive disadvantage for these funds, you’re not going to get these funds, these funds are going to be frozen,’ whatever it is, it sends an economic message to a community, ‘Hey, we’d better get engaged in this conversation ’cause we’re going to lose out on dollars,'” Vilsack says. But Vilsack says legislators must set a hard and fast deadline for counties and cities to being sharing, or the state won’t see any results. “And the state ought not be investing in communities that aren’t willing to invest in this process,” Vilsack says.
A Linn County lawmaker wants longer prison sentences for people convicted of child sexual abuse. Earlier this year, Senator Chuck Larson, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, tried to double the prison time for those convicted of engaging in “lascivious acts” with a child, but other lawmakers blocked his proposal. Larson is hoping the tragic death of a 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl, allegedly at the hands of a convicted sex offender, sparks action on his proposal. He also wants those who’ve preyed in the past on kids to be supervised once they’re released from prison, whether they’ve completed a treatment program or not. “Obviously, this is incredibly sad and these were changes that many of us had attempted to make long before this case emerged,” Larson says. “I believe now we have an opportunity to make these changes which will ensure public safety in the future,” Larson says. Roger Bentley of Brandon, who has two sex crime convictions, has been charged with the girl’s murder. Elizabeth Robinson, chairwoman of the Iowa Board of Parole, says under current law, someone convicted of lascivious acts will be released in just two-and-a-half years. Robinson says Bentley refused treatment when he was in prison, and they kept him to the last day they could, but then had to release him back in 1997. Robinson says her personal feeling is that sexual offenders should be under “lifetime” supervision once they’re released from prison. “I think they should have someone to answer to always,” Robinson says. Bentley got time off for good behavior in prison, and Larson wants to deny that kind of early release to sex offenders who refuse to undergo treatment while they’re behind bars. “At a minimum, I think we as lawmakers need to consider significant, very significant increases in teh penalties,” Larson says. The Parole Board chairwoman says she was heartsick when she first heard about the abduction and murder of Jetsetta Gage. “I’m telling you it is very frustrating and this is not the first case. We have a lot of the ‘short-termers’ (sex offenders) who refuse treatment,” she says. “I’m a mother and a grandmother and when I go to bed at night, I think about the children. I think about the releases that we’ve done.” Karen Muelhaupt, a member of the Board of Parole, also met with Larson this (Tuesday) afternoon, Muelhaupt says the Parole Board has for years been concerned about the short sentences for sex offenders convicted of engaging in lascivious acts with a childn. She says unfortunately, it takes something like the death of the 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl to raise public awareness of the problem. Muelhaupt says if sex offenders who prey on extremely young kids are going to get more time behind bars, the state needs to commit more money to treatment programs for those offenders. Larson also wants the state to set aside more money to compile a D-N-A registry of everyone who’s in prison and everyone who’s admitted to prison.
The Iowa softball is ranked 21st nationally as the Hawkeyes get set for the start of Big Ten play this weekend. Iowa is off to a 27-5 start which is not a surprise considering the Hawks have 10 letterwinners back from the 2004 squad that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Among those returning is the pitching combination of senior Lisa Birroci and Junior Ali Arnold. Iowa coach Gayle Blevins says they’ve also brought in some nice new players to mix with the experience. Among the newcomers is freshman Emily Nichols who has already broken Iowa’s single season home run record with 12. Blevins says they felt confident Nichols would be a good player and she says it’s was nice to see her make the first year adjustment to the college game.The power game has been a big part of Iowa’s success as the Hawks have slammed 38 homers to this point. Blevins says while they do play for the big inning more often, they still use the bunt game that is such a big part of the sport. She says that all depends on who they’re playing.The Hawkeyes visit UNI Wednesday in non-conference play. They open the Big Ten race on Friday at top-ranked Michigan.
The UNI football team’s quest for another Gateway Conference title begins today as the Panthers open spring drills. The Panthers return 17-starters from last year’s team that finished 7-4 and won its final six games.UNI coach Mark Farley says the defense is the area where they have the most questions. He says despite a large number of returning starters there will be a number of position battles. Farley says many of the starters have 6 or 8 starts and weren’t fulltime starters and they need to make sure those player make progress and aren’t just content to be a starter.Spring drills will culminate for Northern Iowa with their annual Spring Game, Saturday, April 23rd in the UNI-Dome.