Canyon sandbars rapidly eroding
PHOENIX | Newly built-up sandbars crucial to wildlife in the Grand Canyon have eroded rapidly in the past four months, some shrinking back to the size they were before a costly man-made flood.
Torrents of water were released from the Glen Canyon Dam on the Arizona-Utah line in March to mimic natural flooding and rebuild sandbars along the 277-mile river in the Grand Canyon, where the ecosystem was forever changed by the dam’s construction more than four decades ago.
Officials had expected erosion following the three-day flood, but they hadn’t expected so much so fast.
“Circumstances conspired against our being able to protect the beaches as long as we had hoped,” Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin said Tuesday. “Substantial erosion has occurred.”
The accelerated erosion is the result of a requirement to release extra water from Lake Powell above the dam into the Colorado River, said John Hammill, chief of the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center.
Resort to revive Mirage’s volcano fire
LAS VEGAS | Real volcanos may take millennia to form, but in Las Vegas they can take just 20 years to look dated.
That’s what the Mirage hotel-casino concluded before it mounted a $25 million facelift of its iconic erupting volcano on the Las Vegas Strip.
The faux rock fountain first erupted in 1989 and its bursting spray of water lighted red to look like lava is among the city’s classic sights.
The volcano is getting 120 new fireball-throwing devices that will be choreographed to erupt in sync with a rumbling drum score co-composed by former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and piped into the desert air through a high-tech sound system, according to company officials.
The project is to be completed later this year.
Governor orders flags lowered to mark 9/11
DENVER | Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, has issued an order for U.S. and Colorado flags at all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff Thursday to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Nearly 3,000 people died when two hijacked jetliners crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, causing the twin towers to collapse; a commandeered jetliner smashed into the Pentagon; and a fourth hijacked plane crashed in western Pennsylvania.
Jason Dahl of Ken Caryl Ranch, Colo., was a pilot on the fourth plane, known as United Flight 93.
Mr. Ritter’s order is pursuant to a presidential request.
In December 2001, Congress passed a law designating Sept. 11 as Patriot Day, when it is customary for flags to be lowered.
Many schools don’t meet standards
HARTFORD | The Connecticut Education Department says 42 percent of the state’s public schools failed to meet performance standards under federal law.
The Education Department released data Wednesday showing that 349 of Connecticut’s 805 elementary and middle schools failed to make “adequate yearly progress” required by the No Child Left Behind law.
Fifty-nine of the state’s 182 public high schools also failed to meet the standards.
The number of schools not meeting the requirements is 100 more than last year.
State Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan said the recent scores show a continuing need to teach reading in elementary and middle schools, and math in high schools.
He is urging state officials to restore reading grants for the state’s neediest schools.
Fake ID case brings 2 arrests
DES MOINES | Two human resources workers at a Postville slaughterhouse facing immigration charges are accused of helping workers obtain and submit false documents.
Immigration agents arrested Laura Althouse, 38, of Postville, and Karina Freund, 29, of Fayette, on Tuesday at the Agriprocessors plant.
They were arrested on the same day the company owner and four managers were charged with more than 9,000 misdemeanors involving child labor law violations.
Ms. Althouse was charged with aiding and abetting document fraud, aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants.
Ms. Freund was charged with aiding and abetting undocumented immigrants.
A Sept. 24 preliminary hearing is set for both.
Court: Layoffs didn’t violate law
JACKSON | A federal appeals court has ruled that a military clothing manufacturer did not violate federal law when it laid off 102 workers in 2005 at its Columbus plant without 60 days notice.
The ruling by a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld the decision of a Mississippi federal judge.
American Power Source (APS) was sued in 2006 by 40 current and former workers who claimed the Massachusetts-based company violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, a law that requires employers to give 60-day notices before plant closings or mass layoffs.
APS makes military uniforms for the Department of Defense. It also has a plant in Fayette, Ala.
APS officials in Columbus did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment.
The federal law applies to employers with at least 100 employees that terminate or lay off at least 33 percent of their workers within a 30-day period.
The lawsuit sought back wages and benefits for the workers terminated in early 2005 without notice.
State monitoring bovine TB plan
BISMARCK | North Dakota livestock officials are closely monitoring a Minnesota proposal to ease bovine tuberculosis testing requirements in much of the state.
North Dakota’s state veterinarian, Susan Keller, said the state Board of Animal Health has never recognized another state’s “split zone” status. She said it’s too hard for officials to control movement of animals among the zones.
In Minnesota’s case, there would be a special zone in the northwestern part of the state where the disease has been found, and another zone for the rest of the state. It would greatly reduce the testing required for the majority of the state’s cattle producers.
North Dakota officials say they worry about whether surveillance would be adequate between the TB zone and the North Dakota border. Minnesota livestock and wildlife officials say they are confident it would be adequate.
The federal Agriculture Department is expected to decide on the split zone proposal within weeks.
2 people shot at reservation
SIOUX FALLS | A Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) officer helping with a surge in law enforcement on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and another person are being treated for gunshot injuries.
South Dakota U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley said the officer was responding to a domestic violence call early Wednesday when the shooting occurred.
He did not release the location or details of the shooting, including the names of the people involved.
The BIA and FBI are investigating.
The BIA brought in extra officers in June to help curb a high crime rate on Standing Rock, which straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. Authorities have said the surge has helped.
The effort is expected to continue at least until October.
Commissioner guilty of misusing funds
CASTLE DALE | An Emery County commissioner said he will continue his re-election bid despite pleading guilty to charges that he mishandled public funds.
Drew C. Sitterud entered a guilty plea to two class-A misdemeanor charges in 7th District Court last week. He was originally charged with three felonies, but agreed to a plea to end a potentially lengthy court battle.
Mr. Sitterud was accused of billing Emery County for mileage expenses between Nov. 25 and May 2006. He claimed to have used his own car, but actually drove a county-owned vehicle. He was reimbursed for $1,000 in expenses, but later returned the money.
Sentencing is set for Sept. 30.
Mr. Sitterud’s plea to criminal charges does not immediately disqualify him for public office.
Assembly candidate will seek recount
MADISON | A candidate for a Green Bay-area state Assembly seat will seek a recount after losing by just four votes.
According to unofficial results, Ted Zigmunt beat Lee Brocher in a 2nd Assembly District Democratic primary Tuesday night, 647 votes to 643.
Mr. Brocher of Two Rivers said his supporters want a recount. He said Wisconsin’s straight party-ticket primary may have confused voters.
Mr. Zigmunt of Francis Creek said he would do the same thing if he were Mr. Brocher and he is not sure whether the margin of victory will hold up.
Barring a reversal, Mr. Zigmunt will face incumbent Republican Frank Lasee of Bellevue in the Nov. 4 general election.
Utility mulls pipeline to reservation
RIVERTON | Utility provider SourceGas is looking at installing pipelines that would deliver natural gas to homes on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Many homes in communities such as Ethete and Fort Washakie on the reservation rely on tanks filled with the more costly propane for heating and other uses.
“Currently, there are 560 customers on the reservation with natural gas service,” said Norm Long, business relations representative of SourceGas in Wyoming. “We’ve identified in the fall of ‘06 approximately 1,580 potential [new customers] … that do not have natural gas service with the majority of them being serviced by propane.”
The annual savings of using natural gas instead of propane is about $1,170, he said.
Sen. Cale Case, Lander Republican, said switching reservation homes from propane to natural gas could save up to a total of $500,000 in one year.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports