Wisconsin regulators delay rules setting new PFAS restrictions

MADISON, Wis. — Environmental regulators in Wisconsin voted today to table rules setting new restrictions on firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals.

The Department of Natural Resources’ policy board made the decision in a unanimous vote. The department has estimated local governments and businesses would have to spend about $2.3 million annually to comply with the regulations on containment and disposal of the chemicals amid objections from industry groups and Republican lawmakers.

The department drafted the regulations in response to a law that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed in February that bans the use of firefighting foam except in emergencies and testing at facilities with DNR-approved containment and disposal protocols.

The law goes into effect Sept. 1 and requires the department to enact emergency regulations by Sept. 7. With the regulations tabled, the law will go into effect without definitions of containment and disposal measures.

Business groups including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Paper Council sent the board a letter on Friday claiming the DNR doesn’t have the authority to limit PFAS in wastewater and department’s effluent limits aren’t based on science. State Sen. Steve Nass and Rep. Joan Ballweg, Republicans who co-chair the Legislature’s rules committee, echoed those concerns.

DNR Secretary Preston Cole told the board that the department would begin discussions with industry stakeholders immediately.

PFAS are human-made chemicals that research suggests can decrease female fertility, increase the risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women and lower birth weights. The chemicals have been used for decades in a range of products, including firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, fast-food wrappers and stain-resistant sprays.

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UW System administration announces layoffs, other cuts

MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin System administration will lay off an untold number of employees over the next two years as part of $10 million in cuts that interim President Tommy Thompson announced Tuesday.

The layoffs affect employees of UW System Administration only. The system’s 13 universities are making their own reductions that were necessary due to a loss in revenue and state-ordered cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The layoffs of system employees will total about $6 million over two years, which represents a 10% cut to state-supported salaries. There are about 370 employees at UW System, so a 10% cut could mean the loss of almost 40 jobs. Thompson did not have a number of how many people would lose their jobs.

“These are new layoffs,” Thompson said at a virtual news conference. “It’s actual positions.”

Gov. Tony Evers has ordered a $250 million budget cut to all state agencies, including UW, but the actual amount the university will take is still being negotiated, Thompson said. That will be on top of a nearly $49 million budget cut to the university in a previous round of reductions ordered by Evers.

Thompson said more cuts would be coming, in addition to those he announced Tuesday. Evers’ administration projected earlier that the state budget would face a $2 billion cut to the coronavirus. He’s ordered about $320 million in cuts so far.

“I can’t tell you exactly where the rest of the cuts are going to come from, but I can tell you we will do what is necessary to comply,” Thompson said. “We’re arguing right now over the size of the further cut put out by the administration.”

Previously announced furloughs at UW System will save $1.3 million. Thompson also announced that out-of-state-travel, and the purchasing of supplies and equipment, would be limited through June 30, 2021, for a savings of $2.4 million. Additional savings were expected through eliminating several memberships, sponsorships, and subscriptions and using virtual meetings.

About half of the $10 million in savings will be put toward a new scholarship for underrepresented and under-served students, Thompson said. Those scholarships are set to begin in the fall 2021 semester.

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2 days after storm, group of Maquoketa businesses still without power

MAQUOKETA, Iowa – Several businesses in Maquoketa remain without power this morning.

The businesses include Theisen’s, Taco John’s, RonAnn’s Flowers and Gifts, Sybesma Eye & Vision Center, Obie’s Bar & Restaurant, Frenzi Coffee, Fidelity Bank & Trust and Dutrac Community Credit Union, according to Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Executive Director Wendy McCartt said the businesses all are located on the west side of U.S. 61 and are all Alliant Energy customers. McCartt said these businesses have not been given a time frame for when power will be restored. Immediate attempts to reach Alliant Energy by phone were unsuccessful.

While many of these businesses have closed, McCartt said some are still trying to operate without power. Theisen’s remains open, guiding customers through the store with flashlights.

McCartt said the restaurants, including Taco John’s and Obie’s, have been particularly impacted by the power loss due to them being unable to properly refrigerate their food supplies.

“It’s tough on all the businesses, but they are being hit the worst by this,” McCartt said.

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22 new COVID-19 cases in Dubuque County in 24 hours, 5 more in Delaware County

Twenty-two additional cases of COVID-19 in Dubuque County were confirmed from 11 a.m. Tuesday to 11 a.m. today, increasing the county’s total number of cases to 1,714.

No new related deaths were reported in Dubuque County. That total stands at 31.

There were 157 new tests reported in that 24-hour period for a total of 21,071, which equates to a positivity rate of 14% for that 24-hour period. The county’s overall positivity rate is 8.1%.

Delaware County reported five new cases, raising its total to 120. Clayton County reported three additional cases in that 24-hour period, increasing the county’s total to 107. Jackson County added two additional cases for a total of 158. Jones County remained unchanged at 133.

None of the Iowa counties in the Telegraph Herald’s coverage area reported any new related deaths in the 24-hour period.

The Iowa Department of Public Health continues to report one long-term-care outbreak in Dubuque County, with three positive cases reported at Luther Manor Grand Meadows. One of those people has recovered.

Statewide, Iowa reported 499 additional cases in the 24-hour period. The state’s total stands at 49,702. There were 12 additional related deaths reported statewide. Iowa’s death toll stands at 949.

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Big 12 moves ahead with fall sports beginning in September

The Big 12 Conference reaffirmed its decision to press on with college football and other fall sports today, joining the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences in taking the field amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came one day after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they would not be participating this fall. There is a chance the other two Power Five leagues will push their seasons to the spring, but that remains to be determined.

In the meantime, the Big 12 board of directors approved a plan to begin fall sports after Sept. 1 with football playing a schedule in which each team can play one non-conference game before league play begins Sept. 26. The schools will all play each other to give them 10 total games with the Big 12 title game scheduled for Dec. 12.

The league’s schools have agreed to enhanced COVID-19 testing that includes three tests per week in “high contact” sports such as football, volleyball and soccer. Rigorous testing that includes echocardiograms, a cardiac MRI and blood tests will be required before athletes can return to play. All non-conference opponents also must adhere to Big 12 standards.

“The virus continues to evolve and medical professionals are learning more with each passing week,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “We are comfortable in our institutions’ ability to provide a structured training environment, rigorous testing and surveillance, hospital quality sanitation and mitigation practices that optimize the health and safety of our student-athletes. We believe all of this combines to create an ideal learning and training situation.”

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Hundreds of thousands without power days after Midwest storm

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Hundreds of thousands of residents in Iowa’s three largest cities remained without electricity today, two days after a rare wind storm that hit the Midwest devastated the state’s power grid, flattened valuable corn fields and killed two people.

Major parts of Iowa suffered outages Monday as straight-line winds toppled trees, snapped poles and downed power lines. The storm known as a derecho had winds of up to 112 mph near Cedar Rapids, as powerful as an inland hurricane, as it tore from eastern Nebraska across Iowa and parts of Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois, including Chicago and its suburbs.

Crews have been working around the clock to restore electricity, but they’ve been hindered by large trees that are blocking many roads and sitting on top of power lines. Those trees must be removed before power can be restored.

Iowa’s three largest metropolitan areas of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport still had widespread outages as of this morning. Other cities including Marshalltown and Clinton were also hard hit by the derecho, which produces winds that come across in a line and can spread damage over a large area more like an inland hurricane than a quick more powerful tornado.

Alliant Energy said about 180,000 of its customers are without power, about half of which are in the Cedar Rapids area. MidAmerican Energy said about 120,000 of its Iowa customers remain without power, more than half them in the Des Moines area.

Mediacom said today that it has restored internet service to about half of the 340,000 customers that were offline a day earlier in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. But many others may be without service until their power is restored, a process that could still take multiple days in places.

The storm caused extensive crop damage in the nation’s No. 1 corn producing state as it tore across Iowa’s center from west to east.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said Tuesday that about 10 million acres of Iowa’s nearly 31 million acres of agriculture land sustained damage. About 24 million acres of that is land typically planted primarily in corn and soybeans.

In addition, tens of millions of bushels of grain that were stored at co-ops and on farms were damaged or destroyed as bins blew away.

Cedar Rapids said that 60 patients were treated at local hospitals for storm-related injuries.

The only known death in Iowa was a 63-year-old bicyclist who was hit by one of several large trees that fell on a bike path outside of Cedar Rapids. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, the storm killed a 73-year-old woman who was found clutching a young boy in her storm-battered mobile home.

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2 missing teens last seen in Lafayette County now located

GRATIOT, Wis. — Lafayette County authorities reported this morning that two 16-year-olds who had been missing have been located safe.

On Sunday, the local authorities issued a statewide alert for Katherine M. Heimann, of Gratiot, and Alexander R. Rogers, of McHenry, Ill.

Heimann had been last seen in that Gratiot at about 2:30 a.m. Friday, and authorities said Rogers left his residence on Thursday night, drove to Heimann’s residence and picked her up.

The updated release did not specify where the two teens were located, but the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department shared a Facebook post that stated that the two were located in Georgia.

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1 of 2 girls convicted in Slender Man stabbing loses appeal

MADISON, Wis. — One of two Wisconsin girls who repeatedly stabbed a classmate because she believed a fictional horror character named Slender Man would attack her family if she didn’t kill the girl lost an appeal today.

Morgan Geyser was 12 at the time of the 2014 attack. Geyser’s attorney Matthew Pinix had argued that she should have been charged with second-degree intentional homicide, which would have placed the case in juvenile court. Instead, she was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, which put the case in adult court.

But Wisconsin’s 2nd District Court of Appeals found that the Waukesha County Circuit Court correctly kept the case in adult court.

Pinix said he planned to appeal today’s ruling to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He declined further comment until he had finished reading the ruling.

Geyser pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree intentional homicide for the 2014 attack on Payton Leutner, who was stabbed 19 times and left for dead. Investigators said Geyser and co-defendant Anissa Weier lured her from a sleepover to a nearby park in Waukesha. All three girls were 12.

The appeals court did not rule on whether statements Geyser made to police should have been allowed at trial. The appeals court said it didn’t matter because other evidence against her was overwhelming.

Geyser was ordered to spend 40 years in a mental health institution. Weier was committed to a mental health facility for 25 years.

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Iowa native Zach Johnson wins golf’s Payne Stewart Award

Zach Johnson had quick success after a long road to the PGA Tour. He won as a rookie and reached the Tour Championship in Atlanta, where one of the perks was attending a ceremony to watch Jay Haas accept the Payne Stewart Award.

He remembers it being powerful, inspiring, motivating.

It brought Johnson to tears 16 years later when he was selected today to receive the Payne Stewart Award.

“It makes everything I’ve done on and off the golf course worth it,” Johnson said. “It makes everything whole and complete.”

Few others got more out of their game than Johnson, who famously described himself as a “normal guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa” when he won the Masters. His 12 victories on the PGA Tour include the 2015 British Open, making him one of only six players to win at Augusta National and St. Andrews.

The award began in 2000 after Stewart, a three-time major champion, perished in a freak plane accident on the way to the Tour Championship. As it enters its second decade, the award now is regarded as the most prestigious on the PGA Tour.

Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus shared the award the first year. Since then, past winners include Haas and Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els, Davis Love III and Nick Price. It goes to the player who best exemplifies Stewart’s value of character, charity and sportsmanship.

Johnson, 44, is the first winner who has never met Stewart, which was bound to happen over time. Stewart died five years before Johnson’s rookie year. Even so, Stewart was one of his idols. For years, when asked for his dream foursome, Johnson mentioned his father, Ben Hogan and Stewart.

“I always liked his golf swing. In the most difficult of situations, his best game came out,” Johnson said. “I love how he changed his life. He was a prankster. He was a character. But he lived his faith, and I greatly admire that.”

Johnson met Stewart’s wife, Tracey, and children Chelsea and Aaron, before he made it to the PGA Tour. He was living in Orlando, Fla., and Johnson and his wife went to a Payne and Tracey Foundation event. Johnson later used the same financial advisers for his charity work.

But when he saw them most recently, there was momentary confusion.

Johnson was out of town at a family gathering when his agent told him he had two remote conferences on his schedule. Johnson figured it was about the Ryder Cup (he is an assistant captain). Johnson was trying to get logged on for the calls when his wife, Kim, came into the bedroom and said she needed a break.

Only later did he realize she was there to film him.

“I get on and it’s kind of fuzzy, and I can see smiles and I was like, ’I recognize him,” Johnson said of seeing Aaron Stewart. “And then I see Chelsea Stewart and thought, ‘Is she still with the PGA Tour?’”

Chelsea Stewart previously worked in a corporate marketing capacity at the tour. Then, he heard a voice say, “Tracey, can you hear us?”

And that’s when it hit him.

“I started crying,” Johnson said. “My wife recorded it. She knew it was a big deal. She knew how big of a deal it is to me. I love what the award represents. I love the fact the PGA Tour is honoring Payne and his legacy. … What it did for me was it highlighted the fact I’ve been around great people, whether it’s sponsors, my foundation board, the guys who started me (financially), my family. I’m so fortunate to be around good people.”

Johnson needed a group of investors just to keep alive his dream of playing golf when he graduated from Drake. He played mini-tours on any tour he could find, piling up mileage on a Dodge Intrepid. A good year meant he had money leftover to pay back his investors, which he did five out of six years traveling the country.

He made it to the Nationwide Tour and won the money list in 2003. A year later, he won the BellSouth Classic outside Atlanta, and in 2007 he became a major champion.

Now he returns to Atlanta for an award that means just as much.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan referred to Johnson as a “fearless underdog” and a statewide hero in Iowa for his charitable work in his home state.

“Zach would say he’s just a normal guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but in truth, he has one of the most compelling stories on the PGA Tour in the last 25 years,” Monahan said.

Johnson will be honored Sept. 2 during the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

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Lafayette County nursing home reports 3rd staff member with COVID-19

DARLINGTON, Wis. – The Lafayette County-owned nursing home in Darlington has reported a third staff member with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Lafayette Manor said the latest case is the only active one, however, as the two staff members previously diagnosed with the coronavirus have recovered and returned to work.

The post states that officials at the 64-bed nursing home will “continue to encourage staff to practice social distancing while not at work to prevent further spread of COVID.”

Nursing home officials are working with the Lafayette County Health Department, according to the post.

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