Gentlemen (and gentlewomen) grab your NCAA brackets.
The line is open. But let me mention:
* DROOPY DRAWERS: A bare 19 people — most of them Republicans — had the good sense to vote against Rep. Tracy Steele's bill to ban droopy pants in school. It passed the House and goes to the Senate. I can't believe there's a school district in Arkansas that isn't already capable of enforcing proper dress codes.
* TAX CUTS: It's official. As I related this morning, the House, Senate and governor are on board for a $35 million package of tax cuts. Some further government trims may be necessary, including pay raises for higher level employees. Could yet be some squabbling over the revenue stabilization act, but I think most of the money issues are done. All can claim victory. Well, verdict's out on the general public welfare of all this.
* HYPOCRITE OF THE DAY: Let's give it to Rep. Andy Mayberry, who owns a community newspaper and who masquerades as a government-cutting fiscal conservative. He OPPOSED a bill passed in the House to allow counties to save millions by publishing certain legal notices on the Internet rather than in newspapers. Mayberry, just to show how uninformed he is, claimed that newspapers are still citizens' primary source of information. Sorry, Andy, the Internet surpassed newspapers THREE YEARS AGO.
* FISH KILL WASN'T COMMIE PLOT/BIRD WATCHING OK, SORTA: Sigh. That big fish kill on the Arkansas River had something to do with high oxygen and nitrogen in water after spillway releases. Next they'll say the Beebe blackbird deaths has a natural explanation, too. And keep reading on the jump after that amazing news. The Game and Fish Commission today resolved that it was OK to go to selected wildlife management areas just to look at wildlife, not kill it. But the commissioners took pains to say that sissy bird watchers would not be allowed to get in the way of real men shooting stuff or jerking it out of the water. Someday, Ark. G&FC will join even Texas in recognizing that wildlife enjoyment is just as profitable for the state as wildlife shooting and hooking and provide something more than this sort of grudging B.S. resolution by way of a welcome mat to watchers, hikers and simple lovers of the outdoors. But, by Arkansas standards, this remains progress, however slight. PLEASE SEE JUMP FOR DETAILS
* HATE CRIME: Here's the federal release on the men arrested on civil rights charges for allegedly fire-bombing the home of a mixed-race couple near Hardy.
* LU HARDIN: The former senator and UCA president who has pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges filed a petition with the Arkansas Supreme Court today for voluntary surrender of his law license.
GAME AND FISH RELEASE
According to recent tests, two large fish kills below Ozark Dam on the Arkansas River were likely caused by increases in atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen in the water after spillway gates were opened.
About 83,000 freshwater drum and 800 yellow bass died Dec. 29 after 10 spillway gates were open for 10 hours. About 500 drum died Jan. 28 shortly after seven gates were open for two hours.
Bob Limbird, an AGFC district fisheries supervisor; Frank Leone, an AGFC fisheries management biologist; Kelly Winningham, an AGFC fish pathologist, and Andy Goodwin of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff conducted experiments Feb. 15 at Dardanelle Dam and Feb. 17 at Ozark Dam and filed the report. They had the cooperation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UAPB and Arkansas Tech University.
They tested the water below Ozark Dam for temperature, oxygen, oxygen saturation and total gas saturation with spillway gates closed. About 50 minutes after 10 gates were opened, drum and white bass began struggling.
“We collected 21 freshwater drum and four white bass,” the report states. “All fish were floating upside down at the water’s surface but were still alive. All fish were stiff and had hard sides. Internal examination revealed the fish had distended and full air bladders.”
Tests taken after the gates were closed showed the water temperature unchanged, a drop in dissolved oxygen and a rise in total gas saturation.
A similar test below Dardanelle Dam revealed similar results.
According to the report, “The results of our test give us a high level of confidence regarding the cause of death as related to the Dec. 29 and Jan. 28 fish kills observed below the Ozark Dam on the Arkansas River. It is our opinion that these kills were the result of increased atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen gases being added to the water following the opening of the spillway gates of Ozark Dam.”
The AGFC Fisheries Division decided to conduct the tests because Winningham and Goodwin believed Gas Bubble Trauma may have caused the Jan. 28 kill. The fish had full air bladders, which made it impossible for them to dive and orient their bodies.
“Freshwater drum are highly susceptible to gas supersaturation and gas bubble trauma,” states the report. “In addition, a very deep hole (48 feet deep) exists below gate 5 (Ozark Dam) and may act to congregate freshwater drum during the winter months. These facts may help explain why freshwater drum were the most affected species during the kill events.”
GAME AND FISH RELEASE II
At today’s monthly meeting in Little Rock, commissioners for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission passed a resolution to support watchable wildlife activities on selected wildlife management areas.
AGFC Commission Chairman Craig Campbell, said he wanted to make it clear that these activities would not hinder Arkansas sportsmen. “This resolution will not interfere with the activities of hunters and anglers,” Campbell said.
Arkansas Speaker of the House Robert Moore of Arkansas City was in attendance and spoke in favor of the resolution.
“I want to commend you on your efforts in this resolution today to embrace the utilization of your WMAs so that all Arkansans have maximum access for passive recreational activity,” Moore said. “I applaud you for this effort today and I look forward to working with you in implementation of this public policy.”
Rep. Clark Hall of Marvell also spoke in support of the resolution. Hall is the chairman of State Agencies and Governmental Affairs in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Hall praised the agency’s new director, Loren Hitchcock.
“I would like to commend the commissioners for their appointment of your new director. He’s done a magnificent job in representing this agency.”
Hall went on to commend the agency’s enforcement division. “Your officers in the field are a great professional force. They represent you well.”