Letter from the editor

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Little fishes bring some big things

On the Fourth of July, I wandered into a patch of shade, where Mike Wilson happened to be ably pitching the AWAYSIS destination park to a small gathering of curious visitors.

There are millions and millions of dollars in exciting developments to talk about, but I was pleased to hear Mike make a point that could be forgotten in the rush to build.

Stitzostedion vitreum.

No, that isn't the sound of your editor sneezing on his computer screen. That's the scientific name for the beautiful little fish we know in these parts as walleye.

What does a fish have to do with a $30 million economic development project, a fancy hotel, condos, golfing, a big water park, a sandy beach, a playground?

More than you might expect.

Without that fish, there would be no AWAYSIS today, I suspect. No lodge. Probably no new Casino Beach Marina. Not even dredging.

Storm Lake has become a crucial fishery for the state. Tiny fry and fingerlings go in, healthy female walleye come out to give up the eggs that will soon be the fish that are stocked across half the state. And those fish draw fishermen like moth to a flame.

The first bit of dredging the state provided wasn't designed for tourism, but to make a small area of the lake deep enough to protect those walleye and other Storm Lake fish from a deep freeze in a shallow lake, which could cause a fish kill that would be disastrous to the DNR walleye stocking system.

So, in a way, those fish brought the dredge. And DNR director Jeff Vonk has continued to be instrumental in our developments, bringing an ideal environmental aspect to the projects. Remember too, the number of lake users - a large part of which has been anglers - was crucial in continuing the funding that has assisted the community in expanding dredging into a model of lake preservation.

In turn, the dredging momentum is largely what spawned - forgive the pun - the AWAYSIS destination park effort. If we could save a lake, we could do nearly anything.

Still, what does the fish have to do with a Fourth of July speech?

In that speech, as Wilson spoke of all the major developments, and the infrastructure that goes with them such as road and sewers, he made sure to mention that the innovative storm water system that will be part of AWAYSIS must be designed in a way not to disturb a particular stretch of shoreline where those wonderful walleye like to spawn in the spring. Something of a lover's lane for pickerel.

And so things come full circle. The little fish gave us the means that led to dredging and evolved into development. It has been, and will continue to be, a dorsal-finned force in attracting tourism and revenue to Storm Lake. And it's only fair that it gets a nod in the final stage of planning for all the exciting attractions our community will create.

When they build AWAYSIS, there will probably be a tasty walleye on the menu in the upscale western lodge hotel. But few who lift a fork of Stitzostedion vitreum will guess what a role the little fish played in a very big project.


And on the subject of fish, here's one every angler should have on their tacklebox:

"Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught." - Anonymous


Iowans should be worried about a federal proposal to cut $9 billion in funding for agricultural nutrition programs. The only reason it isn't in the headlines is because it targets our most powerless citizens. They are too busy making ends meet to fight political battles.

It is estimated that 300,000 Food Stamp families would be eliminated from the rolls to realize these cuts.

Sure, a few abuse the system. You see them use food stamps, then go through the line with cash for beer and smokes. But in the vast majority of cases, the need is real, these are working but underemployed people, and stamps are all that are keeping children from suffering hunger.

The feds may be willing to bet that small food pantry programs and churches will make up the difference. But we can see Upper Des Moines Opportunity maxed out here, and churches reaching the limits of what they can do. Are our senators ready to be accountable - for hunger?