Year in Review 2018

As the new year begins, we take a look back at the stories which made headlines in 2018.

by Marianne Gasaway

If there is a word to sum up 2018, it could be “stormy.”  As we look back on the stories that topped our news in the year just past, there is a major recurring theme: the weather.  Sprinkled among the storms was also changes on the local landscape, as longtime businesses came down or changed ownership.

January

At the time, it seemed like more of a feature story than a weather story, but it was surely a sign of the time - and the months ahead.  In January, Ventura was experiencing what many referred to as a “muskrat invasion.”  Conservation officials preferred the  phrase “planned marsh management.”  Either way, residents on the west end of Clear Lake were seeing muskrats everywhere. They were in their yards, on their decks, in buildings, and even in ice shacks.  Conservation Officers admitted they had never seen migrations to that extent, but said it was simply a response to the drain down of Ventura Marsh done in early December 2017.  Planned management of the marsh has been a key element in the success of the C.L.E.A.R. Project.  Lowering the water level effectively kills the carp in the marsh, and ultimately the quality of the water flowing into the lake is improved.

“Basically what happened is that the muskrats had settled into their huts and when warm weather arrived they became more active.  They came out and discovered their water was gone and they have gone looking for it,” explained DNR Wetland Biologist Vince Evelsizer.

Problem was, there are an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 muskrats who call the 570-plus acre Ventura Marsh home.  The majority of the ‘rats’ reside in the east half of the marsh where water is deeper.

The scheduled draw down of the marsh, combined with unseasonably warm weather throughout much of December 2017, created  an uncommon occurrence brought about by normal marsh management.  As predicted, the “muskrat invasion” subsided when the  snow melted and water levels rose again in the marsh in the months to come.

February

Thankfully, Mother Nature was cooperative in February when it was time for the annual Color the Wind Kite Festival. Crews from the popular CBS Sunday Morning show were in Clear Lake to film a story about the event.  The show had planned to film a segment in 2017, but a lack of ice forced its cancellation. But in 2018 conditions were perfect.  Organizers Larry and Kay Day said not only did the segment, which aired in March, raise awareness of the event, it also shared the beauty of Clear Lake with the entire country.  Visits to the Color the Wind website have skyrocketed, they say.

The three-day Winter Dance Party, which is sometimes challenged by weather, went off without a hitch in February.

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