SHERWOOD – A 42-year-old Illinois man drowned in Lake Winnebago while competing in the High Cliff Triathlon on Saturday morning.
The victim was identified as Doug Witmer of LaGrange, Ill.
The incident occurred at 7:49 a.m., according to the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department. Volunteer lifeguards, the High Cliff State Park ranger, Harrison First Responders and Gold Cross Ambulance also responded.
An investigation into Witmer’s death continues.
It’s not known whether Witmer was competing in the half-ironman division, which had a 1.2-mile swim, or the sprint division, which had a quarter-mile swim.
The DNR will be cracking down on drunken boaters this weekend.
Wardens will be out on Wisconsin waters Friday, Saturday and Sunday as part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign.
The legal blood-alcohol level limit is 0.08, the same as for driving cars.
During last year’s Operation Dry Water, the DNR says patrols spent 1,684 hours, contacting 1,870 boaters. There were 14 arrests for boating under the influence, along with 162 other citations and 599 more warnings.
Operation Dry Water is a joint program of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard.
OSHKOSH – It’s not hard to spot it. It sometimes looks like a sheen of blue-green paint on the water.
But it’s what you can’t see that health officials are warning the public about.
“There’s a possibility that as the algae grows, it creates toxins, people get into the toxin, their animals get into the toxin,” said Jeff Phillips, Winnebago County Health Department.
Different from your normal benign green algae, toxins created by blue-green algae can cause irritation, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. In severe cases, it can even cause nerve and liver damage.
Phillips says this potentially harmful type of algae blooms because the Lake Winnebago system is perfect for growing it.
High levels of nutrients, like phosphorus from some fertilizers and pesticides, primarily come from farm and yard runoff.
Eventually forming mats of algae, it can travel long distances, even down the Fox River.
For something that happens every year, are the concerns that surround it blown out of proportion? Well, at least one scientist doesn’t think so.
“I think people tend to forget, year to year, that there is a hazard associated with blue-green algae. It’s important, for every public health issue, to remind people that it’s here,” said Rob McLennan, DNR water supervisor.
Fisherman John Gorski knows that it’s here. But he says you just learn to live with the conditions of the lake.
“Like I said, every year, it’s like that. Depends on the wind. Today it was out of the west, it’s blowing it to the other side of the lake, so. It’s pretty clear today,” said Gorski.
“Is there a cost that we see?” asked FOX 11’s Bill Miston.
“I think there is, I think it kind of goes back to the people that utilize the lake for recreation, that live around the lake. The only way we can ever get a handle on the blue-green algae is really to stop the nutrient flow,” Phillips responded.
And Phillips says that will take everyone’s help and time.
The DNR says it is making an effort to reduce the number of algae blooms each year. It is studying how to reduce the amount of nutrients from area runoff coming into the Lake Winnebago system.
Experts say you can keep your family and pets safe by following these steps:
Avoid swimming, wading, skiing, or coming into contact with blue-green algae blooms.
Keep children away from algae blooms. They are more likely to transfer material from their hands to their mouths than adults.
Talk to your neighbors to make sure they are aware of any potentially threatening conditions.
Keep pets away from algae contaminated water.
If people or pets touch the algae, they should was thoroughly with clean water. Contact your health care provider or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you begin to experience any physical symptoms that could suggest exposure to the toxins. Contact a veterinarian if pets become sick.
Lake Winnebago – The recent warm spell has intensified the threat of blue-green algae on Lake Winnebago. The algae produces a toxin that can make people and animals severely sick after simple contact.
And it’s showing up unseasonably early.
Several weeks early, blue-green algae blooms are popping up on the lake. The Department of Natural Resources is issuing a warning to people on the water to avoid contact.
Diane Cappozzo of the Fond du Lac County Health Department advised, “People have to be aware that it can cause physical symptoms, and if they’re in areas where they think blue-green algae is present they really need to make sure they’re rinsing off well after you get out of the water and make sure you’re not swallowing it.”
The problem is tied to several days of intense heat.
Algae has been a problem in Lake Winnebago for years, but normally is doesn’t show up until late July. That change was brought on by a warmer than average spring and now days with temperatures in the 80s and 90s.
“Typically when we get to this point in the summer, when we get these hot sunny days, there’s plenty of nutrients in the water, and the blue-green algae starts to bloom and rise to the surface, and where the blue-green algae concentrates is a function of the wind direction,” DNR Water Resources Supervisor Rob McLennan said.
So far, the algae is mostly isolated to the northeast corner of Lake Winnebago.
The DNR expects the algae blooms to expand over the next few weeks.
“It just depends on the character of the summer as to how long it stay out there and to what degree it becomes a problem,” McLennan said.
NEENAH — The city’s Landmarks Commission has received confirmation that the Kimberly Point Lighthouse has been designated to the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places by the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The commission nominated the lighthouse structure due to its iconic role in the history of the community.
The fully operational lighthouse, located at the Northern point of Kimberly Point Park, was constructed in 1945 and is considered of local historical significance for its association with Neenah’s history of water recreation. The structure is one of only two surviving park improvements funded by the city’s prominent paper manufacturers. The other is the distinctive 1922 Doty Park bridges.
The lighthouse was increased in height by 10 feet in 1954 to increase the lantern’s visibility and slightly altered due to vandalism in the 1970s, when the first floor windows were enclosed.
Constructed of painted brick and wood boarding on the upper levels, it is decorated in elements of Colonial Period Revival and houses two public restrooms, along with a series of platforms that lead to the lantern and contemporary lighting mechanism.
Significance to community: Neenah’s early industrialists worked hard, but still made time for recreation which centered on Lake Winnebago – pursuing yacht racing in the summer and ice boat racing during winter months. Yacht racing began on Lake Winnebago around 1859 and over time became one of the premier Fox Valley sporting and social events of the early mid-20th century. Lake Winnebago continues to be a popular water recreation destination, so the Kimberly Point Lighthouse will continue to stand guard overlooking the headwaters of the lower Fox River and guide fisherman, just as it has for over 65 years.
This summer the Railroad bridge in Oshkosh is under construction and we’ve already heard numerous complaints about the bridge being closed more than it’s open.
With the bridge being constrained to one lane this has become a concern and we wanted to make sure that all boaters have the proper information to contact the bridge tender directly and if that fails to know that you have the option / right to file a complaint to the US Coast Guard.
To contact the bridge tender directly you can hail them on channel 16. If you do not have a marine radio or they do not respond you have the option to call them directly. The bridge tender is required to carry a phone and answer it at all times of operation. (8AM to Midnight.) That number is 920-456-9864.
I have it on very good information that the head of bridge operation for the CN railroad is highly committed to responding to boaters this summer with the inconvenience they are unfortunately imposing.
If contacting the bridge operator directly fails or you are not happy with the wait times or see any unsafe behavior due to bridge openings being delayed, you can submit this form to the US Coast Guard and they will be meeting with the CN Railroad to review all complaints later this year. (There is a reason the tender was required to be at the bridge starting last navigation season.)