By Don Davis
More American Indian college students may receive scholarships under a new Minnesota budget that began this month.
Commissioner Larry Pogemiller of the state Office of Higher Education said the budget contains an additional $1.25 million for each of the next two years for the Minnesota Indian Scholarship Program.
“For the past several years, eligible students have been put on a waiting list for this scholarship because funding has not kept up with need,” Pogemiller said. “We expect this additional investment to significantly reduce the current waiting list.”
Pogemiller said applicants should apply soon. Information and an application are at www.ohe.state.mn.us/indianscholarship.
To qualify, a Minnesota resident must be at least a quarter Indian; enroll in an accredited Minnesota college, university or vocational school; and qualify for either a Pell or state grant.
New highway messages
Minnesota drivers Monday began to see a different type of message on electronic interstate signs that normally warn about crashes, closed lanes and the like.
State transportation and public safety officials say they now also will use some of the 150 message boards to encourage safe driving with messages such as those designed to promote seat belt use, sober driving and keeping within the speed limit. Monday’s messages dealt with speeding as the Minnesota State Patrol engages in an anti-speeding campaign.
“Using these high-profile signs to highlight key facts about traffic safety issues can help motorists put into perspective that the poor choices they make behind the wheel lead to serious consequences,” State Traffic Engineer Sue Groth said.
State officials said messages warning drivers about road issues will take precedence over the new messages.
Heat leads to algae issues
Microscopic algae plants in Minnesota waters are being turned into harmful algal blooms, the Pollution Control Agency says.
They could harm pets, livestock and humans.
“High rainfall, which has been common throughout much of Minnesota this spring, results in nutrient-rich runoff entering our lakes, fueling algae growth,” PCA lakes expert Steve Heiskary said. “While spring and early summer temperatures were cooler than normal, lake temperatures have warmed rapidly. Given these conditions, we are likely to see blue-green algae blooms on many of our lakes.”
While most algae are harmless, the agency warns that some types can pose health risks. People or animals may become sick if they touch or ingest affected water. There have been reports of dogs and other animals dying after exposure to lake water containing toxic blue-green algae.
The biggest danger is in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich lakes, but the PCA says the dangerous algae could be anywhere in the state.
“You don’t have to be an expert to recognize an algae bloom that might be harmful,” Heiskary said. “If it looks bad and smells bad, don’t take a chance. Stay out and keep children and pets away from the water until the bloom subsides.”
August goose season set
The state’s first August Canada goose hunting season was announced Monday, the same day wildlife officials said there are fewer of the birds than any time in at least a decade.
The hunting season will run from Aug. 10 to Aug. 25, the Department of Natural Resources announced. Hunting will be restricted to an area in west-central Minnesota.
Despite the low number of the geese, the DNR says there still are too many in Minnesota.
“The state’s Canada goose population is very high and exceeds our statewide goal,” said Steve Cordts, the DNR’s waterfowl specialist. “We have continued agricultural depredation concerns in the western portion of the state with large numbers of Canada geese.:
The daily bag limit will be 10 Canada geese. A small game hunting license, special goose permit and state waterfowl stamp are required.
“It’s hard to gauge what hunter participation will be since this is the first time we have had August goose hunting,” Cordts said.
The DNR estimated this year’s Canada goose population at 250,000, down from 416,000 last year, the most of any recent year. Wildlife officials said the late spring may have lowered the number of geese.
“While that should not impact the population in the future, fewer young geese in the early fall usually makes goose hunting more difficult for hunters,” said Paul Telander, DNR wildlife section chief.
If numbers of Canada geese dropped, duck numbers are up.
The spring waterfowl survey showed about 683,000 breeding ducks, compared to 469,000 a year earlier. The long-term average is 620,000 ducks.
Mobile travel info
Minnesotans using smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices have a new way to get travel information.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has launched apps for Android and Apple smart phones and tablets to go along with its www.511mn.org Website.
The apps include information about construction, maintenance, crashes and other road situations.
“A mobile 511 app is an important tool that the growing number of people who use smart phones can use to determine the best route to arrive at their destination on time,” MnDOT’s Brian Kary said.
Invasive training required
Many Minnesota boat-related businesses must take training and obtain a permit under a new state law designed to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.
The law requires the training for businesses that decontaminate, rent or lease boats or other water-related equipment.
“Before this change, the law applied only to businesses that install or remove equipment from state waters,” said April Rust of the Department of Natural Resources.
Another law change removes a similar requirement from people who work on boats that do not leave the body of water where the work is done.