- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006



State, U.S. eye restoring islands

Maryland and federal officials are considering spending more than $1 billion to dredge silt from shipping channels to restore two Chesapeake Bay islands.

The plan by the Maryland Port Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers would have tons of silt and sediment deposited off Dorchester County.

The plan, reported yesterday by the Baltimore Sun, aims to restore shoreline on Barren Island and to create a 2,000-acre wildlife preserve at James Island. Both are slowly vanishing because of rising water levels and erosion.

The projects would be similar to the government’s restoration of Poplar Island in Talbot County, which cost about $400 million.

If approved by Congress, the island projects could handle the port’s disposal needs for about two decades, said Scott Johnson, a Corps of Engineers project manager.

Port officials say they must clear approach channels for big coal and container ships, and to do that, they need a place for about 3.2 million cubic yards of sediment each year — enough to fill Baltimore’s M&T; Bank Stadium twice.

“It’s a lot of money,” Mr. Johnson said of the James and Barren proposal. “But when you look at the fact that you have to do something with the dredge material and you have the opportunity to turn it into something beneficial, people are pretty much endorsing it.”


Boy, 12, killed when hit by car

A 12-year-old boy was killed last night when he was hit by a car while crossing a busy street after dark.

Montgomery County police said the child was hit at about 5:45 p.m. on Strathmore Avenue near Montrose Avenue. He was crossing Strathmore, running between the cars that were stopped in rush-hour traffic. Traffic in the other direction was moving quickly and the boy was hit after he ran from between two stopped cars, investigators said.

The driver of the minivan that hit the boy remained at the scene.

The boy died at a hospital.


Group: Bay still dangerously polluted

The Chesapeake Bay is in miserable shape, said an environmental group that yesterday graded the Bay’s health a “D” for an eighth consecutive year.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation gave the Bay failing grades for pollution, dissolved oxygen, water quality and underwater grasses important to help filter the water. Even the bright spots in the report — an increase in oysters, for example — were only marginal improvements. Oyster health scored 3 out of 100 last year; in 2006, oysters improved to 4 out of 100.

Will Baker, president of the nonprofit foundation, said he considered it unlikely the Chesapeake Bay would meet 2010 goals for improvement without more cleanup efforts from surrounding states.

“Clearly a great deal more needs to be done,” Mr. Baker said.

Mr. Baker called on Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania to adopt better incentives for farmers to reduce runoff into rivers and creeks that lead to the Bay.


Court rejects ACLU on absentee ballots

The Maryland Court of Appeals yesterday rejected a request that absentee ballots postmarked on Election Day be counted, even though voters were supposed to have them postmarked by midnight on the eve of the election.

The court issued a ruling shortly after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups. The state’s highest court didn’t give a reason for its decision.

Attorney Daniel Joseph told the court earlier in the day that because local boards were overwhelmed by a record number of absentee ballot requests, some ballots were not sent out until three days before the election. He said many voters got the ballots too late to mail them by Monday night.

Ballots that were postmarked on time will be counted if they reach local election boards by Friday, the day the boards are to begin the final tally of results from the 2006 federal, state and local elections.


Smith assured of win for state’s attorney

After eight years as deputy state’s attorney in Frederick County, Republican J. Charles Smith is assured of moving into the top job.

Absentee ballots extended Mr. Smith’s winning margin in last week’s election for state’s attorney. With some provisional ballots yet to be counted, Mr. Smith is more than 3,500 votes ahead of Democrat William Poffenbarger.

Mr. Smith will succeed Scott L. Rolle, a Republican who ran an unsuccessful campaign for state attorney general.


WWI veteran marks 109th birthday

Charlotte Winters may be the last living female World War I veteran, and on Friday she marked her 109th birthday at the Fahrney-Keedy Memorial Home in Boonsboro.

Miss Winters was born in the District in 1897. She enlisted in the Navy in 1917. She was a yeoman and worked at a naval gun factory in the District until she was discharged in 1919.


Police identify body found in September

Police in Harford County have identified a body found in a field just outside Aberdeen as that of a 25-year-old Aberdeen woman reported missing in June.

Jennifer Lynn Blankenship was last seen June 4. Hers was one of four bodies found in remote areas of Harford County this summer, beginning in late May. Miss Blankenship’s and another body, yet to be identi-fied, were found in September.

Authorities have not said whether the deaths were related.

Charles Eugene Burns, described in court records as a laid-off laborer, was charged Oct. 31 with murder in the death of Lillian Abramowicz Phelps, 43, whose body was found June 14 next to a road near Havre de Grace. Mr. Burns also has been charged with assaulting five other women in the area, police said.



County sheriff retires amid drug charges

The rural county sheriff who faces federal charges in a scheme to sell drugs seized from criminals stepped down yesterday.

Attorney John Lichtenstein said Henry County Sheriff H. Franklin Cassell informed county officials that he is retiring effective immediately.

Sheriff Cassell has not been in the office since he and 12 of his current and former officers plus seven others were indicted at the beginning of the month in a federal drug case.

He said last week that he would stay off the job on unpaid leave until the case was resolved. But he also said that county supervisors had asked him to resign and that the department’s operations were hindered otherwise. The board scheduled a meeting for tomorrow to discuss Sheriff Cassell’s status and to consider a recall petition drive.

He has been sheriff since 1992, after a career with the Virginia State Police.

Sheriff Cassell is charged with impeding the investigation by federal agents and with money laundering.


UVa. sees fewer black students

The number of black students in this fall’s first-year class at the University of Virginia is down sharply from last year.

School officials don’t want that to turn into a trend.

William B. Harvey, UVa.’s vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, says the school was “taking things a little for granted” and lost black students to other schools.

The number of black freshmen dropped nearly 19 percent, from 319 to 260, according to a survey released by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

The journal dropped the university from second place in its rankings last year to 10th this year in the percentage of black freshmen.

The Charlottesville school’s total undergraduate population is about 8 percent black, down from 9 percent last year and 10 percent in 2000.

Mr. Harvey said UVa. needs to convince black students that they will thrive at the school.


Pilot killed in valley crash

State and federal investigators are trying to find out what caused a fatal plane crash in the Shenandoah Valley over the weekend.

Virginia State Police Sgt. Les Tyler said Jim Pellien, 58, of Alexandria, was killed when the small plane he was piloting crashed in Shenandoah County at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Mr. Pellien reportedly was headed to the Bryce Resort Airport when the single-engine plane went down in woods about a mile from the airfield.


Griffin resigns as GOP chairman

Kate Obenshain Griffin resigned yesterday as chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia in the wake of U.S. Sen. George Allen’s failed re-election bid.

Mrs. Griffin announced her plans in a letter to Republican leaders. She said she will serve as Mr. Allen’s chief of staff for the remainder of his term, taking over the position held by Dick Wadhams before he became Mr. Allen’s campaign manager.

Mr. Allen narrowly lost his bid for a second term to Democrat James H. Webb Jr. in last Tuesday’s election.

Mrs. Griffin’s resignation will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow. She led the party for just over three years.


Kaine leads group on European mission

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and some administration and business leaders are in Europe on a seven-day trade mission.

Mr. Kaine left Saturday and will return this weekend. Stops include Denmark, Sweden, Britain and Germany.

The governor is accompanied by Secretary of Commerce and Trade Patrick O. Gottschalk and representatives of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and Virginia Tourism Corp.

The Virginia delegation met yesterday with executives of the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group in Denmark, parent company of APM Terminals, which is expanding its operations at the Port of Virginia.

The governor will host a Jamestown 400th anniversary celebration in London this week.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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