Gazing at Galaxies Far, Far, Away from GRAEF…

By Jason Jacobson

Saturn 2012-05-18

Saturn 2012-05-18

Last night, as the skies cleared and the stars shined brightly, I was able to look up in the north sky and see the International Space Station fly through the sky for a brief few minutes.  It is amazing to think about all we have learned about space flight and our universe in just the past century, and even more amazing to think about what still lies out there to learn.  Life is GRAEF is about the people that make GRAEF the great company that it is to work for.  But what do the people of GRAEF like to do when they need to clear their head and just get away from work for a while.  Something that many people don’t know about me is my interest in astrophysics and astronomy in general.  When away from work, it gives me time to free my mind and learn about our incredible universe and what role our tiny planet plays in this vast space that surrounds us.

My interest in astronomy started early in my life.  Like many kids, my brothers and I received a small telescope as kids and spent the nights upstairs at the farmhouse that we grew up in gazing out the window at stars thousands of light years away and observing the moon which as kids looked so close to us through that lens.  Later on in grade school I had the assignment of doing a report on a constellation.  My report was on the constellation Orion.  Writing that report on “The Hunter” and talking about the thousand year history of observing it and describing the stars that make up its belt was something very exciting for me to research.  To this day I still love picking out Orion in the winter sky and thinking back to that report that I did many moons ago.

Jacobson Observatory

Jacobson Observatory

In my adult life I started to study and read books on Astrophysics.  I know, you must be saying to yourself “how boring”, but this led to my renewed interest in astronomy and my purchase of a new telescope.  Looking close up at craters of the moon, observing Saturn and it’s rings, spotting Jupiter and its moons made me feel like a kid all over again.  You can see some of my crude smartphone pictures of Saturn and Jupiter inserted in this post.  My astrophotography skills are still in their infancy.  But gazing out in my telescope at galaxies far, far away (thousands of light years) and nebulas and star clusters makes you think about the small part we play in this universe.  I like to watch meteor showers and observe those comets that have come out of deep space and zoom past us thanks to the gravity pull of our sun.  It’s amazing to think about the destruction that these comets can cause when colliding into a planet in our solar system, but equally amazing to think about the life giving elements that these comets possess.  There is a current NASA mission ongoing right now that will land on a comet in November 2014 and examine what elements lie inside these life giving masses of ice and rock.  It might answer a lot of questions about life while also creating more questions to be answered.

Jupiter 2011-10-14

Jupiter 2011-10-14

I find continuing exploration of our solar system and the entire universe to be critical in advancing our education in this country and around the world.   The most important thing I see in advances in astronomy and space exploration is that kids in the future can continue to fantasize about universe exploration and dream about what they can find and discover.  Our planet is just a very small part of this universe, but it takes all those planets, stars, galaxies and the binding space between them to make up our complex but astonishing universe.  Just like the people at GRAEF, it’s the individuals who combine their skills together to make it all come together and create a company that does astonishing and wonderful projects around the country to benefit all.

Grant Opportunities for Harbor/Boat Launch Projects

By Ron Van Straten

Q: What is the recent news regarding grant opportunities for harbor/boat launch projects?

A:  We are proud to announce that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has awarded roughly $52,000 to the Village of Howard, Wisconsin.  This money will help the village upgrade two boat launch facilities on Duck Creek.

Q:  How did GRAEF make this happen?

A:  GRAEF worked with the Village to prepare the applications and convince the Wisconsin Waterways Commission (agency supervising the grant program) that the two Howard projects were worthy of funding.  The two projects will allow the Village of Howard to lower the boat launch facilities to accommodate lower water levels in Duck Creek and the lower portion of Green Bay.  This will make the boat launches which are currently “high and dry” to be useful again even with the low water levels.

Q:  How does this grant funding program work?

A:  Each year the Wisconsin Recreational Boating Facilities Grant Program provides roughly $2.5 million for local projects that enhance and expand recreational boating opportunities in Wisconsin.  This is a match funding program.  This year the program provided funding for 45% of eligible project costs for 15 projects across the state.  Project funds can be used for either development of boating opportunities or aquatic weed harvesting equipment.  Technically, dredging is an eligible grant funded activity, but from a practical standpoint, it makes it more difficult to secure funding if dredging is included with the project.  In the Howard situation, we used the term “ramp excavation” to explain the removal of sediments required to facilitate the boat launch projects.

Q:  Where there any interesting twists to the Village of Howard projects?

A:  GRAEF worked with Howard Village Staff to develop cost estimates and information required for the grant applications.  We needed to convince the selection panel that these projects represented wise investments.  Because the Village of Howard does not currently charge for use of the boat launch facilities, the Wisconsin Waterways Commission could reduce the amount of the grant awards for each project by $5,000.   The Wisconsin Waterways Commission feels that boat launch facilities should generate some user fee income to offset the cost of these projects.  The Village of Howard is considering this situation to decide whether to charge for boat launch use or accept lower amount of grant funding.

Q:  When are applications due?

A:  Applications are due June 1st of each year and the awards were made last week (August 2, 2012).  It is anticipated that the projects will be constructed within one year of project award.

Q:  What are the key requirements for a Recreational Boating Facilities grant application?

A:   One of the key requirements for a complete Recreational Boating Facilities grant application is a Chapter 30 permit issued from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  The chapter 30 permit application is fairly extensive for a project that involves removal of sediments and alterations to the lake bed, and generally can take several months to acquire.  For this reason it is recommended that any applicant start the planning process early if they intend to apply for Recreational Boating Facilities grant funding.  One other key requirement for Recreational Boating Facilities grant funding is that the facility needs to be available to power boats.  Because much of the funding for this grant program is derived from taxes levies on the sale of large power boats, they require that the boat launch facility be designed to accommodate more than just kayaks and small canoes.