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New owners of Kinkaid Marina renovating restaurant, promise lake season to 'knock your flip-flops off'

MURPHYSBORO — The new owners of Kinkaid Marina are looking to bring the party back to the lake.

They posted news of the sale on Kinkaid Marina’s Facebook page earlier this month with a promise that “lake season is going to knock your flip flops off!!!”

“It needed a whole new face-lift,” said Brittney Dirnberger. The owners are opening a new restaurant, spiffing up the place and preparing for a summer packed with events for boaters and campers. They are planning regular bands and fun activities for the kids throughout the lake season. 

Dirnberger and her husband, Mark, are among the three Cape Girardeau couples who purchased the marina’s assets from its longtime owner. The other new owners are Agan and Stephanie Alkan and Mike and Diane Rampley.

They also entered into a 32-year land lease agreement with the Kinkaid-Reed’s Creek Conservancy District Board. The privately owned assets include the boat slips, camping spots, marina area, boat shop and restaurant.

Dirnberger said the purchase has been a long time in the making. They had hoped to close in September, but it was this winter before they finally worked out all of the details. Two of the then-prospective buyers drove to Florida to deliver the check to the previous owner, a snowbird who also has a home in Murphysboro. 

One of their first major undertakings is remodeling the restaurant on site. Each of the new partners brings special expertise to the table, she said. Her husband’s specialty is restaurant management. They are the owners of Bella Italia and Katy O’Ferrell’s in Cape Girardeau. The Kinkaid Marina restaurant has, for years now, only been open for breakfast and lunch. Dirnberger said that the new place will now serve three meals a day. They hope it draws people from across Southern Illinois in addition to the regular marina crowd.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Fred Gilbert of Rockwood works on the trim for a vintage Chris-Craft boat that is being converted into the bar for the Moody Muskie's Boat Bar & Grill at Kinkaid Lake outside of Murphysboro. The owners hope to have the establishment open in early April.

“We’re ripping it out and starting from scratch,” she said.

The bar is being fashioned out of an old, restored Chris-Craft boat. The restaurant's name — Moody Muskie’s Boat Bar & Grill — is a nod to the muskellunge freshwater fish that draws many fishermen to the lake in its pursuit.

The restaurant will open by Memorial Day Weekend. Depending on their progress, there may be a soft open sometime before that, she said. Dirnberger said she also wants to remind people that the marina includes a full-service boat shop that is staffed by a 20-year experienced mechanic.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

The boat shop at the Kinkaid Lake Marina will soon feature convenience store items as well as boat supplies.

Dirnberger said she has had a long love of Kinkaid Lake, and along with the other business partners, is thrilled about this new venture. She and her husband have been boaters and campers there for going on a decade. She said the previous owner also is passionate about the place, but fell into ill health in recent years and was unable to give it as much attention as he had previously. “I think he’ll be proud to see what we’ve done with it,” she said. She described the regulars there as family.

“We really all love each other and love the lake,” she said. “We’re like a big blended family. It’s a good environment for kids. It’s just really needed some people to own it who could love it again, and put the life back into it.”

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Brittney Dirnberger's name.

SIUC turns to students to help fix Illinois government

CARBONDALE — Each year, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale receives thousands of pages of reports on the fiscal and political health of Illinois.

They’re important tools for policy making, said Institute Director John Shaw, but in a state that needs a major shakeup, the endless debate between small groups of experts in Springfield and Chicago feels like a stale approach.

So Shaw and colleagues at the Simon Institute came up with a novel idea that shouldn’t be so novel: ask young people to envision the future of their state.

On March 28th and 29th, some 35 students and teachers from eight local universities will gather for two days on the SIUC campus, to discuss Illinois’s challenges and its way forward, at SIUC’s first-ever Renewing Illinois Summit.

“We thought, let’s bring together smart university students from across Illinois, who will be voting with their feet in a few years about whether they stay here or not,” Shaw said. “It might be worth hearing what they have to say, before decision day arrives.”

The Institute reached out to the leaders of political science departments at Eastern, Western, Northern, Illinois State, Illinois Wesleyan and McKendree universities, as well as Wheaton College. Each department selected several bright students to represent it in Carbondale, alongside the Simon Institute’s Student Ambassadors.

Students will learn to analyze state government with the help of experts like former state representative Jim Nowlan, former Illinois Attorney General candidate Erika Harold, and Illinois official state historian, Samuel Wheeler.

Together, they’ll analyze budgets, and debate priorities. They'll also get some time to just hang out, dining together and bowling at the Student Center.

The summit will focus on three major challenges facing the state, Shaw said: the budget, the future of higher education, and the condition of politics in Illinois.

In each case, students will take on difficult questions: How does a state that’s billions of dollars in debt find billions more to fix its roadways and bridges? How can a network of state universities with competing interests become more cooperative and streamlined, to stop losing so many students to other states? How can politicians find compromise in a time of polarized politics?

At the end of the summit, the students will present their views and their recommendations, to be compiled into a final report, Shaw said, and sent to the Illinois General Assembly and Governor J.B. Pritzker.

There probably won’t be a magic pill solution, Shaw said, but he thinks the project will capture the interest and attention of policy makers.

“I think they may say, ‘hey this is a different voice than we’ve heard before, on the issues. They might have some perspectives we’ve not really thought about much,’” Shaw said.

The Institute, which studies ethical government and conducts political polling, will be repeat the summit regularly, Shaw said, bringing new student leaders and new universities in to the conversation.

“This is their state,” Shaw said. “Let’s see what they have to say about its future.”

US, Canada ground Boeing 737 Max 8s after Ethiopia crash

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order Wednesday grounding all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian airliner that killed 157 people, a reversal for the U.S. after federal aviation regulators had maintained it had no data to show the jets are unsafe.

The decision came hours after Canada joined about 40 other countries in barring the Max 8 from its airspace, saying satellite tracking data showed possible but unproven similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and a previous crash involving the model five months ago. The U.S., one of the last holdouts, also grounded a larger version of the plane, the Max 9.

Daniel Elwell, acting head of the FAA, said enhanced satellite images and new evidence gathered on the ground led his agency to order the jets out of the air.

The data, he said, linked the behavior and flight path of the Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 to data from the crash of a Lion Air jet that plunged into the Java Sea and killed 187 people in October.

"Evidence we found on the ground made it even more likely that the flight path was very close to Lion Air's," Elwell told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

Satellite data right after the crash wasn't refined enough to give the FAA what it needed to make the decision to ground planes, Elwell said. But on Wednesday, global air traffic surveillance company Aireon and Boeing were able to enhance the initial data to make it more precise "to create a description of the flight that made it similar enough to Lion Air," Elwell said.

The Ethiopian plane's flight data and voice recorders will be sent to France for analysis, Elwell said. Some aviation experts have warned that finding answers in the crash could take months.

Officials at Lion Air in Indonesia have said sensors on their plane produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering an automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome.

President Donald Trump, who announced the grounding, was briefed Wednesday on new developments in the investigation by Elwell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and they determined the planes should be grounded, the White House said. Trump spoke afterward with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg and Boeing signed on.

"At the end of the day, it is a decision that has the full support of the secretary, the president and the FAA as an agency," Elwell said.

Airlines, mainly Southwest, American and United, should be able to swap out planes pretty quickly, and passengers shouldn't be terribly inconvenienced, said Paul Hudson, president of, which represents passengers. The Max, he said, makes up only a small percentage of the U.S. passenger jet fleet, he said.

"I think any disruptions will be very minor," he said. "The first quarter of the year is the slow quarter, generally for air travel,"adding that the airlines have planes on the ground that aren't being used on trans-Atlantic flights that could be diverted to domestic routes.

Boeing issued a statement saying it supported the FAA's decision even though it "continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX." The company also said it had itself recommended the suspension of the Max fleet after consultations with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

"We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution," Boeing said.

The groundings will have a far-reaching financial impact on Boeing, at least in the short term, said John Cox, a veteran pilot and CEO of Safety Operating Systems.

In addition to those that have already been grounded, there are more than 4,600 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes on backlog that are not yet delivered to airlines.

"There are delivery dates that aren't being met, there's usage of the aircraft that's not being met, and all the supply chain things that Boeing so carefully crafted," Cox said. "If they can't deliver the airplanes, where do they put the extra engines and the extra fuselage and the extra electrical components"

Even so, Cox thinks Boeing will recover, because the planes typically fly for 30 to 40 years, and any needed fix will be made quickly, he said.

Boeing's shares have plummeted almost 11 percent since Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash. On Wednesday, the stock sank to $363.36 after the FAA announcement but then recovered to close at $377.14, up 0.5 percent for the day. It rose slightly in after-hours trading to $378.

In making the decision to ground the Max 8s in Canada, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said a comparison of vertical fluctuations found a "similar profile" between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash. 

Canada lost 18 of its citizens in Sunday's crash, the second highest number after Kenya. A Canadian family of six were among the dead.

Lebanon and Kosovo also barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from their airspace Wednesday, and Norwegian Air Shuttles said it would seek compensation from Boeing after grounding its fleet. Egypt banned the operation of the aircraft. Thailand ordered budget airline Thai Lion Air to suspend flying the planes for risk assessments. Lion Air confirmed reports it has put on hold the scheduled delivery of four of the jets.

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Environmental groups push for ‘fracking transparency,’ Republican lawmakers push back

SPRINGFIELD — Republican state lawmakers from Illinois pushed back Tuesday against a bill that would require more public disclosure from oil and gas drilling companies whenever they use hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in their operations in the state.

Their comments came during a hearing in the House Energy and Environment Committee. It is considering House Bill 282, dubbed a “fracking transparency bill,” sponsored by Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, and supported by environmental groups including Illinois People’s Action and Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment.

“Property and health concerns clearly give the public the right to know where the wells are going and what frack chemicals are being used,” Bill Rau of Illinois People’s Action told the committee. “Some horizontal wells are drilled only 500 to 800 feet below the surface, which can be within or just below strata containing groundwater.”

Fracking is a process in which oil and gas producers drill horizontal wells deep below the ground and inject those wells with pressurized fluids to break apart the rock and release deposits of oil and gas that would otherwise be impossible to extract.

Frackonomics: Will fracking ever take off in Illinois?

Old-fashioned bicycles dressed for the holidays with holly-trimmed baskets line North Street, the thoroughfare that cuts through Grayville’s downtown. The quaint street’s offerings include trinket shops, a hardware store, a Moose Lodge and a community theater.

In 2013, Illinois passed a law requiring full public disclosure of large-scale fracking operations, but that law applied only to wells that inject more than 80,000 gallons of pressurized fluids. No such wells have been drilled in Illinois since that time, largely because there is little left of the underground oil and gas reserves in the state.

The bill now being considered would extend those same public disclosure requirements to even the smallest fracking operations. Among other things, it would require the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to make public the location of every fracking permit it issues as well as the chemicals that are to be used in the fracking operation.

Rep. Chris Miller, a Republican from Oakland, in eastern Illinois, argued that the bill, like its earlier predecessor, was intended only to turn public opinion against the oil and gas industry.

“It was bad then. This is bad now,” Miller said. “I personally have signed an oil lease and I know a lot of the things you said were just fear-mongering, trying to create fear and animosity.”

Rau and Gabel, however, said the bill would not impose new requirements on oil and gas producers. They said producers would continue providing state regulators with the same information they provide now. The only difference would be that the information would be made publicly available.

But Rep. Darren Bailey, a Republican from Xenia, whose district accounts for about half of all the annual oil production in the state, said he has not heard any concerns from his constituents about fracking.

“I’m a farmer. I’m out and about working with these people. I have never had this concern or situation with people wanting to know about the oil companies,” he said. “There is nothing hidden, and jobs in our area are certainly drying up. They disappeared. They’re gone because of the restrictions we put in place in 2013.”

Rau, however, argued that jobs in the industry have decreased in part because of declining prices worldwide, and because Illinois no longer has the oil and gas reserves it once had. But he said that trend could turn around if oil and gas prices go back up, which he said could spark an increase in fracking in Illinois.

The committee took no action on the bill Tuesday, but it could be called for a vote at any time.