Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Work on Enbridge pipeline along Highway 197 begins Aug. 4

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Motorists on Highway 197 in Bemidji will experience lane shifts and closures beginning Aug. 4 as crews do maintenance work on the Enbridge pipeline.

The work will occur along a ¼ mile stretch of 197 south of Carr Lake Road. Flaggers will be present, with lane shifts creating a short two-lane section of traffic flow. There will be an 11-foot lane width restriction in the area.

Work is anticipated to be complete by the end of August.

MnDOT asks drivers to slow down in work zones. Motorists who speed through a work zone or do not obey flaggers’ traffic directions will be fined $300 beginning Aug. 1, under a new law passed during the 2014 state legislative session.  
For statewide travel information, visit www.511mn.org.

Political campaign signs not permitted on state highway rights of way

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Placement of campaign signs and other unauthorized objects in state highway rights of way is not allowed under state law, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. In addition, campaign signs may not be placed on private property outside of the right of way limits without landowner consent.

Highway rights of way include the driving lanes, inside and outside shoulders, ditches and sight corners at intersections.

MnDOT crews will remove any unlawfully placed signs and impound them at one of its local maintenance truck stations.

Violation of the law (Minn. Stat. 160.27) is a misdemeanor. Civil penalties also may apply if the placement of such material contributes to a motor vehicle crash and injures a person or damages a motor vehicle that runs off the road.

In addition, the Minnesota Outdoor Advertising Control Act (Minn. Stat. 173.15) prohibits placing advertising materials on public utility poles, trees and shrubs, and painting or drawing on rocks or natural features.

Political campaign signs are treated in the same way as any other signs wrongly placed on state highway property by businesses, churches, private citizens or charitable groups.

For information regarding the proper placement of campaign signs or where to find signs that have been removed, contact the local MnDOT office at 218-846-3600. See also www.mndot.gov/govrel/rw_signs.html.

For real-time travel information anywhere in Minnesota, visit www.511mn.org.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Apply now for mentored upland bird hunts

Families and youth can apply now for an opportunity to hunt with experienced upland bird hunters on Saturday, Oct. 18.

The mentored hunts are being offered through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever and the Ruffed Grouse Society. The application deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 2.

“Those new to bird hunting can learn techniques, equipment needs and the skills to be safe and successful in the outdoors,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator.

In the youth hunt, youth must be 12-17 years old as of Oct. 18, have earned a firearms safety certificate and possess a small game license if required. Youth must have a parent, guardian or adult authorized by a parent or guardian accompany them as a mentor, without a firearm. The adult must also go with the youth during the pre-hunt orientation.

In the family hunt, all participants can hunt, but they need to be 12 and older, have little to no pheasant hunting experience, and have the appropriate safety certificate, stamp and license.
Applications and more details about the hunt are available online at www.mndnr.gov/discover or by contacting Kurre at 651-259-5193 or michael.kurre@state.mn.us. Successful applicants will be notified via mail or email by the end of September.

Submit designs for Minnesota’s 2015 waterfowl stamp

Wildlife artists can submit entries for the 2015 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp from Monday, Aug. 18 through 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29.

The Harlequin duck is the only waterfowl species eligible for depiction on the stamp, which is sold along with hunting and fishing licenses or as a collectable.

“We’re grateful for artists who submit entries to the stamp contest and people who buy the stamp,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The contest offers no prizes and is open to Minnesota residents only. Artists are not allowed to use any photographic product as part of their finished entries. Winning artists usually issue limited edition prints of the artwork and retain proceeds. Judging will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4 at DNR headquarters in St. Paul.

Artists who want to submit entries should closely read contest criteria and guidelines for submitting work, available from the DNR Information Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155, and online at www.mndnr.gov/contests.

Hunters can target Canada geese in August

Hunters can harvest Canada geese in west-central Minnesota from Saturday, Aug. 9, through Sunday, Aug. 24, the Department of Natural Resources said.

Individual hunters are allowed to shoot up to 10 Canada geese per day, but there is no limit to the number of Canada geese a hunter can possess.

“The state’s Canada goose population remains high, and more goslings hatched this year than last,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR. “In the western portion of the state, large numbers of Canada geese continue to damage crops. The August management action is one way to control goose numbers.”

The August goose harvest will open only in the intensive harvest zone in west-central Minnesota, with shooting hours from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. A small game hunting license, special goose permit and state waterfowl stamp are required. A federal waterfowl stamp is not needed; however, it is needed to hunt geese and other waterfowl beginning in September.

“This is the second year we have held an August goose management action,” Cordts said. “Last August, hunters harvested about 25,000 Canada geese. Hunter success is dependent on weather, progress of small grain harvest and other factors.”

The DNR in August will announce details of fall waterfowl seasons, including the September Canada goose season that runs from Saturday, Sept. 6, through Monday, Sept. 22, and the regular Canada goose seasons that tentatively begin Saturday, Sept. 27. Details on the August goose management action can be found at www.mndnr.gov/waterfowl.

Trap shooting club facilities can grow through DNR grant program

Minnesota shooting clubs that would like to develop or rehabilitate trap-shooting facilities open for public use can apply for funds through a new Department of Natural Resources grant program.
The Minnesota Legislature authorized more than $2 million for matching grants to recreational shooting clubs for developing or rehabilitating trap shooting sports facilities for public use, with an emphasis on enhancing youth participation opportunities. As part of that program, the DNR created an expedited small trap range grants program to provide grants from $2,500 to $25,000 for eligible projects, which must be matched 1:1 up to a total project cost of $50,000. A general grant program for larger projects will be announced later this year.

Applications for the expedited small grants program are now open at the link listed below. The application deadline is 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 1. Those selected for funding will be notified in September.

“This new program aims to increase opportunities for youth trap shooters, youth trap teams and adult shooters,” said Chuck Niska, DNR shooting range program coordinator. “Ideally we’d like to see many applications submitted this summer, range work completed this fall and expanded opportunities around the state next spring.” 

The development of the program follows a significant rise in youth trap shooting, especially by high school students who are part of a statewide league.

“Existing trap ranges sometimes struggle to meet demand,” Niska said. “Our hope is that these grants will enable facilities to add additional trap fields, upgrade equipment or make other improvements that enable more people to participate in this popular activity.”   

Each grant recipient is required to equally match the amount of funds the DNR awards them. 

A total of $500,000 is available for this first phase of the grants. In the near future, the DNR will announce details of the general grant program for larger trap shooting facility projects exceeding $50,000.

Grant application packets are available at www.mndnr.gov/grants/recreation.

St. Croix State Park will pilot archery hunting this fall

St. Croix State Park in Hinckley will pilot an archery hunt for part of the 2014 fall deer season. The archery hunt will be Sept. 29 through Nov. 7, with the exception of Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2, when the park will close for a youth firearms hunt. One hundred archery tags will be available; the deadline to apply for them is Aug. 15.

After a 2011 storm downed trees and dramatically changed the landscape, the number of rifle hunters allowed in the park was reduced for safety reasons. The archery hunt is being added to help safely maintain a healthy deer herd while allowing the park’s pine trees to regenerate.

Deer like to browse on the buds of immature pine saplings, which damages trees and stunts their growth. Consequently, when there are too many deer in an area, pine trees often struggle to reach maturity.

“We used to allow roughly 550 rifle hunters for our four-day deer hunt, but we decided to reduce rifle hunting until the vegetation has a chance to come back,” said Karl Sieve, assistant park manager. “In order to keep our deer herd in check, an archery hunt seemed like a great alternative for us.”

To apply for the fall archery hunt, hunters should write their name, street address, email address and telephone number on a postcard and send it to St. Croix State Park, 30065 St. Croix Park Road, Hinckley, MN  55037. Hunting parties of up to four people can apply together by putting each applicant’s contact information all on one card. The park plans to allow one additional antlerless tag per hunter for the archery hunt, as well as the normal either-sex archery tag.

Successful applicants will be notified by Aug. 22. Any questions regarding the hunt can be directed to the park headquarters at 320-384-6591.

New work zone safety laws begin Aug. 1

ST PAUL, Minn. — Motorists who speed through a work zone will be fined $300 beginning Friday, Aug. 1, thanks to a new law passed during the 2014 state legislative session.

“Many work zones are in place across the state, and many workers are in those work zones improving our state’s transportation system,” said Charlie Zelle, Minnesota Department of Transportation commissioner. “This law is important because it provides added protection in areas that can be vulnerable to careless drivers.”

Motorists who do not obey work zone flaggers’ traffic directions also can be charged a $300 fine.

“Safety in the work zone is one of our top priorities,” added Sue Groth, state traffic engineer. “We hope this new increased fine will draw the attention of motorists to slow down when driving past workers.”

To bring additional attention to work zone safety, the Towards Zero Deaths effort, a multi-agency partnership that uses education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response to promote safe and smart driving behavior, launched a statewide “Orange Cones, No Phones” safety campaign earlier this summer.

The Minnesota TZD partners include the departments of Health, Transportation and Public Safety. Since its launch 10 years ago, the TZD effort has helped decrease roadway fatalities by nearly half, from 655 in 2003 to 387 in 2013.

In addition to the new work zone law, other 2014 legislation requires MnDOT to study all two-lane highways during the next five years, and where appropriate, consider raising the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph.

"We will only increase the speed limit if it is deemed safe and reasonable,” said Groth. “Two-lane state highways are already the most dangerous roads in the state, and we want to make sure any decision we make considers all factors that affect safety.”
A report of MnDOT’s findings and recommendations is due to the Legislature every January during the five-year review period.

Speed limits that aren’t established through the Minnesota Statute are set by the MnDOT Commissioner based upon an engineering and traffic investigation. For more information about how speed limits are set visit www.mndot.gov/speed/index.html.

Scour protection project on Highway 59 bridge in Thief River Falls begins Aug. 4

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Residents of Thief River Falls will see crews working on the Highway 59 crossing of the Red Lake River beginning Aug. 4, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. They will be installing scour protection measures around the piers of the bridge to prevent erosion.

Motorists are not expected to be impacted by the work, but Boy Scout Park and the public water access northeast of the bridge will be closed to the public. The Red Lake River will remain open for recreational uses, but boaters are advised to be aware of construction equipment and use caution near the work site.

Engineering and Construction Innovations of Oakdale, Minn., is the prime contractor on the project. When work is complete in Mid-October, the Highway 59 bridge will have improved scour protection, which will increase the longevity and safety of the Highway 59 bridge.

For statewide travel information, visit www.511mn.org.

BBB warns of phone scams from your own number

Burnsville, Minnesota – July 28, 2014– Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) says area consumers are reporting they’re receiving illegal marketing calls that display their own phone number on caller ID. Though it’s natural to be curious about such calls, BBB advises the public to ignore the calls or let them go to voicemail – and then delete the messages.

“This is another clever ruse scammers have devised to get people to answer their phones,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “You look down, you see your own number on caller ID…obviously you want to know what it’s all about. We’re advising people to override that instinct.”

Since the start of summer, Better Business Bureaus across the country have been hearing from harried consumers who are confused – and annoyed – by these calls, which are often dialed by computerized calling centers.

Here’s how the scam works: Your phone rings and you see your name and phone number pop up on caller ID. If you answer, a computerized message claims to be able to lower your credit card interest rates, which of course, means they will require your credit card number. In some cases, consumers are informed they can supposedly opt-out of future calls by pressing “1.” People who do so can count on receiving more calls of this nature from other shady telemarketing firms. Any action consumers take tells fraudsters that a phone number is ‘good,’ and that number is added to phone lists which scammers then sell to other scammers. In any case, these promises of lowering your credit card interest rates are not legitimate.

The practice of using technology to alter or disguise the true number of an incoming telephone call is known as “spoofing,” and its use is growing among criminals who also use this technique to pretend they are calling from a well-known company or government agency. By hijacking the names and phone numbers of organizations with which you are familiar, the callers attempt to gain your trust in hopes they can trick you into handing over personal or financial information.

Per FTC rules, telemarketing sales calls with recorded messages are generally illegal unless you have given the company written permission to call you. Some prerecorded messages are permitted — for example, messages that are purely informational. That means you may receive calls to let you know your flight’s been cancelled, reminders about an appointment, or messages about a delayed school opening. Prerecorded messages from a business contacting you to collect a debt also are also permitted, but messages offering to sell you services to reduce your debt are barred.

Other exceptions include political calls and calls from certain health care providers. For example, pharmacies are permitted to use prerecorded messages to provide prescription refill reminders. Prerecorded messages from banks, telephone carriers and charities also are exempt from these rules if the banks, carriers or charities make the calls themselves.

“The most ingenious aspect of these ‘spoofing’ calls is the lack of information available to consumers,” added Badgerow. “If they report the issue to the FTC, what are they to report – their own phone numbers?”

Nevertheless, BBB has confirmed the FTC does want to hear about these calls and other suspect robocalls. People can file complaints by visiting www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. The FTC is interested in the time and date the call (or calls) occurred and what product is being offered. 

Before responding to unsolicited phone calls, BBB advises:

Never give out any financial information – If you did not initiate the call, do not provide bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers over the phone. It’s best to end calls that make you uncomfortable or that you’re not sure about and follow up with your bank or financial institution – or government agency – directly.

Don’t rely on caller ID – Remember, scammers can use technology to make it appear as though their calls are coming from legitimate businesses or organizations – or even from your own phone number. Caller ID is a helpful feature, but it’s far from foolproof. Keep your guard up.

Trust your instincts – If something doesn’t seem right to you, end the call and report your experience to BBB, by calling 800-646-6222 or visiting bbb.org