Work at Interstate 40 and Bellemont traffic interchange continues this week

BELLEMONT – The Arizona Department of Transportation is scheduled to continue paving at the Bellemont traffic interchange next week as part of the improvement project on Interstate 40 from Parks to Riordan.

ADOT advises drivers to allow extra travel time while work occurs on the eastbound ramps (Exit 185) as follows:

· Tuesday, Sept. 26, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
· Thursday, Sept. 28, from noon to 6 p.m.
· Friday, Sept. 29, from 4:30 a.m. to noon.

Motorists can use the interchanges at Parks (milepost 178) and A-1 Mountain (milepost 190) to travel between eastbound I-40 and Bellemont. Signs will mark the detour routes. The Bellemont bridge over I-40 will remain open at all times, and no restrictions are scheduled on the westbound I-40 ramps.

For more information about this project, visit azdot.gov/I40Paving.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors. For more information, please call Coralie Cole, ADOT community relations project manager, at 602.501.4899 or ccole@azdot.gov. For real-time highway conditions statewide, visit the ADOT Traveler Information site at www.az511.gov, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.

Want to learn outdoors skills?

PHOENIX — Are you a beginner interested in learning more about hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoors activities, but don’t know where to start? Do you have a need to be directly connected with your food source and the experience?

The Arizona Game and Fish Department, along with an extensive network of partnering organizations, offers dozens of events throughout the year to suit almost everyone’s needs through the Outdoor Skills Network. The events are organized based on skill level and interest: introductory, beginner, developing, intermediate and experienced.

You can find a schedule of upcoming events, see a description of the skill levels, and sign up for events online at www.azgfd.gov/outdoorskills. The online registration system is mobile-friendly.

“Keep in mind that the event types and descriptions are merely guidelines to help you choose what is best for you — they are not prerequisites,” said Doug Burt, the department’s hunting and shooting sports program manager. “In the end, we want attendees to have the right expectations and the right experience. That’s the key to keeping folks engaged in hunting and traditional outdoor recreation activities.”

There is no cost to Arizona taxpayers for this program. Game and Fish does not receive any of the state’s general tax funds and operates under a user-pay, public-benefit model. The program is an investment in the continuance of wildlife conservation efforts and outdoors recreation participation in Arizona.

Green light: Go fish!

AZGFD, ADEQ release “Green Light” list of fish, including all trout, Arizonans can eat without restrictions

PHOENIX – Arizona anglers have a ton of “Green Light” reasons to keep catching and cooking fresh fish.

For the first time, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) have launched an initiative to highlight a “green light” list of fish species from specific waters that may be consumed without limits.

The list includes all trout statewide. Arizona has a total of 220 waters that AZGFD manages for trout, making up approximately 40,000 surface acres of lakes and 1,000 miles of rivers or streams.

These “Green Light Fisheries” also include channel catfish supplied for the AZGFD Community Fishing Program.

See all the green light waters on the ADEQ interactive e-Map, including other waters and fish species classified as “Green Light Fisheries.”

Capacity Development and Operator Certification Workshop

Current certified operators can earn professional development hours (PDHs) at our upcoming FREE workshop, featuring three training tracks: Operator Training, Public Water System Management Training and ADEQ Drinking Water Rule Review.

Dates
Oct. 17 – 18, 2017

Location
Little America
2515 E Butler Ave.
Flagstaff, AZ 86004

Details

Operator Tracks:
ADEQ Rule Review Sessions – Essential for both operators and owners or managers of PWS. Covers important drinking water rules and regulations applicable to all Arizona PWS. ADEQ staff will discuss reporting requirements; revised total coliform rule; NEW- Wastewater topics; stage 2 disinfection byproducts; common drinking water reporting mistakes and more.

Operator Training – Designed for current water or wastewater operators or those planning to become certified operators. Current operators earn Professional Development Hours (PDHs) toward certificate renewals. Topics include: water sources and treatment options; microbiology and water chemistry; well construction; operator math and more.

Manager/Owner Track:
Public Water System Management Training – Designed for owners of public water systems, board members of water-related organizations or municipalities, and superintendents and managers of public water systems. Topics include: emergency planning for water utilities; hazard analysis and risk mitigation; emergency response; water audit/water loss/leak detection; energy management; emerging technologies for small water systems; metering and remote sensing; and more.

Participants are responsible for their own lunch, travel and lodging.

View Agenda PDF
Register at this web site
Questions? Contact Mel Rose, 602-771-4695

During Child Passenger Safety Week, remember life jackets and helmets for kids

PHOENIX — In conjunction with Child Passenger Safety Week, the Arizona Game and Fish Department would like to remind boaters and off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders of the importance of life jackets and helmets for kids.

State law requires all passengers 12 years old and younger to wear a life jacket while on board a boat or watercraft. And when it comes to OHVs, operators and passengers under 18 must wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-safety rated helmet designed for motorized vehicle use.

“When you’re gearing up to take your kids out to enjoy Arizona’s outdoor recreation, ensure that everyone has the appropriate safety gear,” said Josh Hurst, off-highway vehicle law enforcement coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “A properly fitting helmet or life jacket is the most important piece of equipment that you and your children can wear when hitting OHV trails or going out on a boat.”

The best time to check the size and fit of safety gear is before you leave the house. Make sure that everyone in the family, especially children, has the necessary and appropriate safety equipment.

To ensure your child has a properly fitting helmet for riding on or operating an OHV, refer to the helmet manufacturer’s instructions and information. Good fit is essential for ensuring the best protection, and getting advised by a professional is helpful when determining the best option and fit for a child. For more information regarding general helmet information and frequently asked helmet questions, visit the Snell Memorial Foundation website at www.smf.org.

Before heading out to the lake, make sure that life jackets fit snug. Have a child lift his or her arms overhead while you lift up on the life jacket by the shoulder straps; if the jacket rides up above the ear lobes, it’s too big. If you get out to the lake and realize you’ve left a jacket at home, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has installed life jacket loaner stations near the boat ramps at lakes Pleasant, Havasu, Saguaro and Mohave.

Child Passenger Safety Week, which takes place Sept. 17-23, focuses on car safety, but it’s important to remember that safety comes first no matter the type of vehicle or watercraft. The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is promoting the week in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and information about events taking place in the state can be found online.

Northern AZ prairie dog burrows dusted to combat plague near Williams, Flagstaff

FLAGSTAFF — The Arizona Game and Fish Department, together with the Kaibab National Forest Williams Ranger District, recently applied insecticidal dust Williams and Flagstaff-area Gunnison prairie dog holes for fleas.

Last month fleas tested near the Red Lake area north of Williams tested positive for plague, a potentially fatal disease that could eradicate prairie dog colonies and other infected animals. Plague-infected fleas were also recently found at an AZGFD research plot at Garland Prairie near Flagstaff.

“Unfortunately, it has been a very busy year for plague,” said Holly Hicks, a small mammals biologist with AZGFD. “An infestation can prove detrimental for prairie dog populations because they are highly communal animals, and the disease spreads easily in a colony. That is why it is important for us to identify an infected colony and dust it with insecticide to reduce the risk of infection to other animals and people.”

Crews recently dusted prairie dog holes across 664 acres near Red Lake about 10 miles north of Williams.

On September 3, an AZGFD biologist found a deceased prairie dog, which tested positive for plague near Garland Prairie. To prevent the spread, an additional 800 acres were dusted, including around plots currently being used for sylvatic plague vaccine research.

The disease is carried by fleas which spread the disease through host animals. While prairie dogs are host to fleas, the fleas can remain in the burrow after their host dies and attach themselves to the next host that comes along, which may or may not be another prairie dog.

Badgers, coyotes and foxes are also host to fleas and are more likely to cause a widespread outbreak of the disease because they travel further distances.

Those in areas where plague and/or rodents are known to be present are urged to take the following precautions to reduce their risk of exposure:

  • Do not handle sick or dead animals.
  • Prevent pets from roaming loose. Pets can pick up the infected fleas. De-flea pets routinely. Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations.
  • Avoid rodent burrows and fleas.
  • Use insect repellents when visiting or working in areas where plague might be active or rodents might be present (campers, hikers, woodcutters and hunters).
  • Wear rubber gloves and other protection when cleaning and skinning wild animals.
  • Do not camp near rodent burrows and avoid sleeping directly on the ground.
  • In case of illness see your physician immediately as treatment with antibiotics is very effective.

More information is available at https://www.cdc.gov/plague/.

Ben Avery Shooting Facility offering discount on National Hunting and Fishing Day

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is inviting recreational shooters to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day on September 23 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility.

Arizona hunters and anglers who show their valid hunting or fishing license will receive an $8 discount for unlimited shooting (rifle only) from noon to 5 p.m. at the benchrest range, where steel targets will be placed at intervals up to 300 yards.

Those who don’t have a valid hunting or fishing license still are invited to come out and participate at the regular price ($15). All skill levels are welcome. There will be range safety officers available to assist all shooters. As a reminder, eye and ear protection is required and can be purchased at the shooting sports center.

The shooting sports can provide a lifetime of enjoyment with family and friends. It’s a safe, fun activity enjoyed by an estimated 50 million Americans, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The world-class Ben Avery Shooting Facility, one of the nation’s largest publicly operated shooting facilities, drew more than 225,000 recreational shooters in 2016. The facility is located at 4044 W. Black Canyon Highway in north Phoenix.

National Hunting and Fishing Day, an annual celebration of hunters and anglers, features a unique twist in 2017. Richard Childress, NASCAR legend and honorary chair for this year’s event, is asking hunters and anglers to take someone new hunting or fishing, or to their local shooting range.

Those who pledge to introduce someone to the outdoors between now and Sept. 23 will be eligible to win a Richard Childress Racing VIP race weekend package or an outdoors getaway that includes a two-night stay in a log cabin at Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, Mo., several outdoor excursions and experiences, and passes to Johnny Morris’ new Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. For more information, visit www.nhfday.org, or call (417) 225-1162.

Each new hunter and angler helps to fund conservation. Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) (PDF) funds are comprised of excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment (including 11 percent on ammunition), the benefit of which comes right back to the states for habitat improvements, shooting ranges, boating access and more.

Jaguar in Chiricahua Mountains video is male

AZGF photo

PHOENIX — Contrary to a news release from a Tucson-based group, biologists from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that a jaguar recently captured on a trail video camera in the Chiricahua Mountains is a male.

“This Center for Biological Diversity footage confirms that this is a jaguar we’ve seen before, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has photographic proof that this animal is unequivocally male,” said Jim deVos, assistant director for Wildlife Management at AZGFD. “We promptly informed the organization when the news release was issued that there is clear anatomical evidence of this jaguar’s gender.”

The news release quotes CBD employee Randy Seraglio as saying, “The really exciting part of all this is that we don’t know yet what sex (it) is,” and it refers to “The possibility that it may be a female… capable of jump-starting jaguar recovery in the region.”

A story in the Friday edition of the Arizona Daily Star says that Arizona Game and Fish Biologist Tim Snow informed Seraglio of the cat’s gender on Thursday morning as soon as their news release was made public, but CBD has yet to correct the release on their website.

“One must wonder about CBD’s motives for mischaracterizing this animal, given the clear evidence to the contrary,” deVos said. “We recognize the importance of finding a new jaguar in Arizona, however, no female jaguars have been seen in Arizona in more than 50 years. Those that have come here from Mexico have all been solitary males,” deVos said.

The proliferation of trail cameras near the border has afforded a glimpse into travels of Arizona’s unique visiting jaguars, but the distance from the nearest breeding population in Mexico and the decades-long lack of a documented female make a population in this state unforeseeable.

Because of the distance from other jaguar populations, some 130 miles south of the US border, Arizona is not considered optimal jaguar habitat.

Arizona Game and Fish Commission proposes amendments to Articles 6 and 11

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has proposed to amend its rules following the 2017 five-year reviews of Article 6, Rules of Practice Before the Commission, and Article 11, Aquatic Invasive Species, to enact recommendations developed during the reviews.

The Article 6 (PDF) recommended amendments are designed to align the rule with statute, enable the department to provide better customer service, and reduce regulatory and administrative burdens wherever possible.

The Article 11 (PDF) recommended amendments are designed to make the rules more concise and easier to understand.

The commission approved the Notice of Proposed Expedited Rulemaking amending Articles 6 and 11 at the Sept. 6 Commission Meeting, and it will review the final expedited rulemaking at its Dec. 1 meeting.

Under A.R.S. § 41-1027(A)(7), an agency may use the expedited rulemaking process to implement, without material change, a course of action proposed in a five-year review report approved by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council provided the rulemaking does not increase burdens or costs to, or reduce procedural rights of, persons regulated by the rule. The commission approved the Article 6 and Article 11 five-year review reports at its Dec. 2, 2016, meeting, and the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council approved the reports at the March 7, 2017, Council Meeting.

An exemption from Executive Order 2015-01 was provided for this rulemaking by Hunter Moore, natural resource policy adviser for the Governor’s Office, in an email dated May 1, 2017.

Copies of the proposed expedited rulemakings are also available on the department’s website at https//www.azgfd.com/agency/rulemaking/.

Thermal cameras at Loop 101 ramps successfully detect wrong-way vehicles

PHOENIX – Thermal cameras now being tested for detecting wrong-way vehicles on freeway off-ramps in the Phoenix area successfully alerted authorities to two recent overnight incidents along Loop 101 (Agua Fria Freeway) in the northwest Valley.

Early Sunday, September 10, a thermal camera being tested at the Loop 101 interchange at 75th Avenue detected a wrong-way vehicle entering the eastbound freeway. The detection triggered an alert to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Traffic Operations Center, which activated warnings on overhead message boards, and to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. State Troopers found the vehicle stopped along the left shoulder of northbound 101 near Grand Avenue, and no crashes occurred.

Early Monday, September 11, a thermal camera detected a vehicle apparently traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes of Bell Road that then made a wrong-way turn to the northbound Loop 101 off-ramp. ADOT and DPS were again alerted to the detection. Video from the thermal camera shows the driver turning around at the top of the ramp and apparently returning to Bell Road. State Troopers who responded didn’t locate the vehicle or driver.

ADOT recently programmed existing thermal cameras used for traffic-signal sequencing at 11 freeway interchanges to test detection of vehicles entering off-ramps in the wrong direction.

Testing of these thermal cameras is taking place while ADOT moves forward on the installation of a comprehensive pilot wrong-way vehicle detection and warning system along a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 17 in Phoenix. The system, scheduled to be fully operational by early next year, also will use thermal cameras to detect wrong-way vehicles in an effort to reduce the risk of serious crashes.

This testing is one way ADOT is moving toward expanding wrong-way countermeasures as quickly as possible beyond the I-17 prototype system currently being installed.

In addition to thermal cameras, the I-17 prototype system will use warning signs for wrong-way drivers and advisories for right-way drivers. The system will automatically focus highway cameras on the wrong-way vehicle and send automated alerts to the Highway Patrol, helping troopers intercept vehicles faster.

On the I-17 ramps, wrong-way vehicles will trigger alerts, including illuminated signs with flashing lights, aimed at getting drivers to stop. The system will immediately warn other drivers through overhead message boards as well as law enforcement. Cameras in the area will automatically turn to face the wrong-way vehicle so traffic operators can better track it. On the freeway, thermal cameras placed at one-mile intervals will signal when a wrong-way vehicle passes so State Troopers can plan their response and get out in front of the wrong-way driver, providing a faster response.