Gator attack, daring plane landing, salmon surging: News from around our 50 states

·43 min read


Montgomery: Alabama public health officials are warning people to avoid eating any fish from some state waterways because of contamination. The state Department of Public Health issued its latest fish consumption advisories this month. They are based on nearly 500 samples of specific fish species taken during the fall of 2020 from 41 bodies of water, health officials said. Restrictions on consumption are broken down by waterbody and presented as the safe number of meals of a species that can be eaten in a given period of time. In some locations, people are advised to avoid all fish. Mercury is often cited as the fish contaminant of concern.


Fairbanks: It has been a record-breaking year for sockeye salmon catches in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Nushagak District this year, an official said. “We’re approaching 27 million total run,” said Tim Sands, a state Department of Fish and Game area management biologist. “Our average run would be 9 million, so to be triple the average is amazing.” The region has experienced numerous record-breaking days, Fairbanks television station KTVF reported. The record for catch in the Nushagak District on one day was more than 1.7 million set on June 30. “Then the very next day we broke it again at 1.8 million,” Sands said. “For perspective, up until 2017, we never had a single day in the history of this district where we harvested a million sockeye in a day. We did it seven days (this year).” Other Bristol Bay areas also are doing well. “I can tell you right now in Bristol Bay, we’re over 35 million harvest, and we probably have, I’d say, probably close to another 5 million at least to go,” he said. Sands said he He is hopeful the strong run will continue next year. “I’m not a forecaster, but certainly I am optimistic that next year for sure should be a very good year,” Sands said.


Phoenix: Gov. Doug Ducey has appointed a former longtime Arizona Public Service lobbyist and a retired Microsoft executive to oversee Arizona’s three universities. Ducey announced Monday he’s picked Jessica Pacheco and Bob Herbold to fill two vacant seats on the Arizona Board of Regents. Pacheco was vice president of external affairs for APS parent company Pinnacle West Capital Corp., before leaving last year to start a public affairs firm. She oversaw the utility’s lobbying, political activities and public image when it controversially spent millions to elect favored regulators. Herbold had a long career with Proctor & Gamble and Microsoft before retiring in 2001 as chief operating officer of the software giant. He now runs a foundation that provides scholarships to graduates studying engineering and computer science, according to the governor’s office. The Board of Regents oversees Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. Pacheco and Herbold replace Karrin Taylor Robson, who left to enter the Republican primary for governor, and Kathryn Hackett King, whom Ducey appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court.


Little Rock: The number of people hospitalized because of the coronavirus jumped by 106 over the weekend in Arkansas, which is leading the nation in new virus cases per capita. The Department of Health said Monday that the state’s virus hospitalizations increased to 787. Of those, 291 patients are in intensive care and 124 patients are on ventilators. Most of the new hospitalizations, 79, occurred since Sunday, the department said. The state’s virus cases increased over the past three days by 2,552 to 365,132 total since the pandemic began. The state reported 15 new deaths. The department recently stopped reporting daily COVID-19 numbers on weekends, releasing the figures on Mondays instead. Arkansas’ cases have surged in recent weeks because of the delta variant of the virus and a low number of people getting vaccinated. Only 35% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Sacramento: A California initiative that would require state regulators to reduce plastic waste has qualified for the November 2022 ballot, officials said. Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office said the initiative exceeded the required 623,212 valid petition signatures needed for the measure to go before voters next year. If passed, the law would compel the state to take multiple steps to reduce plastic waste, including requiring that single-use plastic packaging, containers and utensils be reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Producers of single-use plastic packaging would be taxed, with the revenue allocated for recycling and environmental programs. In addition, the state Legislature would be prohibited from reducing funding to specified state environmental agencies below 2019 levels. The measure is supported by a coalition of environmental groups.


Pueblo: Colorado State University Pueblo’s campus ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic was recently judged as one of the nation’s best. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities recently selected CSU Pueblo to receive its 2021 Excellence and Innovation Award for Campus Pandemic Response for its submission, “A Study in COVID-19 Response and Planning: Pandemics and the Resiliency of CSU Pueblo, the People’s University.” One of its highlights: After partnering with Maryland-based medical technology company Spartan medical – which in turn partnered with data company NTT Data Services – to expand the university’s capabilities for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing on campus, CSU Pueblo reduced positivity rates from 20% to 1% in the partnership’s first six weeks.


Hartford: A coalition of state agencies and organizations launched a new “elder justice hotline” on Monday to provide a “one stop shop” to help older people navigate state services, for everything from age-based discrimination to neglect issues. The hotline and an online complaint portal became operational on Monday. Amy Porter, commissioner of the Department of Aging and Disability Services, said this new centralized number, (860) 808-5555, will make it easier for people to find the support they need. Staffed by the Consumer Assistance Unit of the state Attorney General’s office, it will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Callers will be referred to the appropriate state agency for help.


Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, was the first Hispanic American elected to the state Senate, according to his biography on the General Assembly’s website.
Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, was the first Hispanic American elected to the state Senate, according to his biography on the General Assembly’s website.

Lewes: Sen. Ernie López, a Republican from Sussex County, said he will retire from the General Assembly next year. The senator has held his beach-bestrewed seat, which includes Milton, Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, since 2013. He was the first Hispanic American elected to the state Senate, according to his biography on the General Assembly’s website. He announced Friday that he will step down when his term ends in November 2022. In a statement, López said it has been a “tremendous honor” to be a senator for nearly a decade and that he looks forward to finishing out his term that will include six more months of lawmaking during next year’s legislative session that runs from January to the end of June. López said he made the decision after taking his two daughters on a college tour through New England earlier this month and realizing he “didn’t want to miss another day” with them before they go to college. He said he plans to work full-time at the University of Delaware, where he is an extension specialist at the College of Agriculture.

District of Columbia

Washington: J. Thomas Manger, who has run large police departments in Maryland and Virginia, has been selected as chief of the U.S. Capitol Police in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, in which pro-Trump rioters stormed the building, disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Manger, who most recently served for 15 years as chief in Montgomery County, Maryland, was picked for the position following an extensive search, according to four people briefed on the matter. The people were not authorized to discuss the selection process publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The decision came as the Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies are struggling to determine the best way to secure the Capitol and what direction to take the 2,300-person force that guards the building and the lawmakers inside it and functions as mashup of a national security agency and local police department. The department has asked for more funding for more officers and better riot gear. In the meantime, the massive fence that encircled the grounds was taken down in the past few weeks. The Capitol Police Board, which includes the House and Senate sergeant at arms and the Architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force and led the search.


A female alligator measuring more than 8-feet long, pictured on top, was captured alive at Halpatiokee Park after it bit a man who fell from his bicycle. Two other gators in the bin were from residential stops trapper John Davidson made before arriving at the park.
A female alligator measuring more than 8-feet long, pictured on top, was captured alive at Halpatiokee Park after it bit a man who fell from his bicycle. Two other gators in the bin were from residential stops trapper John Davidson made before arriving at the park.

Stuart: An alligator attacked and seriously injured a man at a park Monday, officials said. The attack occurred shortly before noon at Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart, according to a Martin County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post. The man was riding a bicycle when he lost control and fell down an embankment toward a body of water, officials said. The female alligator measured at more than 8-feet long, weighing an estimated 170 pounds, and was captured by trapper John Davidson, who was called to the park. Davidson was able to capture the alligator quickly, he said, and believes it might have a nest nearby that prompted it to stay close to the area. The trapper planned to return to the park Tuesday to search for the eggs and safely relocate them. “You got to be careful when you’re around the water, especially this time of year” said Davidson, a retired firefighter who has been a trapper for about 10 years. “The females are sitting on nests and are particularly aggressive.” The alligator is being relocated to a farm near Fort Drum, Davidson said.


Brunswick: A judge on Monday dismissed all charges against a man convicted of the 1985 slayings of a couple at a south Georgia church, exonerating him after he spent two decades behind bars, the man’s attorneys said. Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett granted a motion by prosecutors to dismiss the case against Dennis Perry, 59. Scarlett last year gave Perry the chance for a new trial after DNA recovered from the crime scene matched a different suspect during reinvestigation of the case. He also ordered Perry’s release from prison while prosecutors decided whether to refile charges. Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Keith Higgins, who took office in January, decided not to pursue the case. Perry, who had maintained his innocence, said in a statement he “knew that eventually someone else would see the truth.” The Swains were killed inside Rising Daughters Baptist Church in Waverly, Georgia, in 1985. Perry was convicted in 2003 largely on the testimony of his ex-girlfriend’s mother, who said Perry had told her he planned to kill Harold Swain. The state didn’t disclose to the defense that the woman was paid $12,000 in reward money for her testimony. Perry received two consecutive life sentences in prison. The new DNA evidence has cast suspicion on another man in the slaying. Authorities were led to that suspect after reporting by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found his alibi was fabricated, Perry’s attorneys said.


Honolulu: Oahu restaurants and bars have the option to do away with social distancing if customers provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test. But many restaurant operators aren’t doing so because diners don’t want to show their vaccination cards or present test results, Hawaii New Now reported Monday. Honolulu allows eateries to participate in the program under Tier 5 of its COVID-19 pandemic reopening guidelines. Restaurants that did so encountered backlash. “In the beginning, we were so excited,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, the executive director of the Hawaii Restaurant Association. “It gave restaurants an option.” Matsuoka said she expected smaller restaurants to participate in the change. “But as time went by, we found guests didn’t want to show their card or weren’t vaccinated,” she said. “Visitors were upset because guests came from states with less restrictions.” Sarah Nguyen, owner of The Pizza Press in Pearl City, said she asked her employees about the program, and decided against it. “I wanted to respect each person’s privacy. It would be hard to manage and I didn’t want to put my staff in a position where a situation would arise,” Nguyen said.


Boise: Environmental groups have notified Gov. Brad Little and other state officials of their intent to file a lawsuit over an expanded wolf-killing law they believe will result in the illegal killing of federally protected grizzly bears and lynx. The Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and others on Monday gave a required 60-day notice of their intent to sue if Idaho officials don’t prohibit all hunting, trapping and snaring in grizzly bear and lynx habitat. For lynx, the conditions could cover most of Idaho except for the southwestern portion of the state. For grizzly bears, the areas would include portions of northern, central and eastern Idaho. Wolves are found in roughly the northern two-thirds of the state. In May, the Republican governor signed into law a measure lawmakers said could lead to killing 90% of the state’s 1,500 wolves through expanded trapping and hunting. It took effect July 1.


Participants try to snag Asian carp during the Redneck Fishing Tournament in Bath, Ill.
Participants try to snag Asian carp during the Redneck Fishing Tournament in Bath, Ill.

Bath: A central Illinois fishing tournament that was canceled two years ago because the Illinois River flooded and last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic is returning next month. The Redneck Fishing Tournament held in Bath along the river for about a decade is gain on the calendar, with this year’s event set for Aug. 6-7. “We’re back, and the fish had better look out,” event organizer Betty DeFord told the ( Peoria) Journal Star. The event will also include bands, a beer garden, raffles and food vendors, with the proceeds going to veterans organizations. Admission is $3 for the day and $5 for the weekend. The tournament is one of the more creative responses to the invasion of the Illinois River by Asian carp – a fish that overwhelms natural ecosystems and is known for jumping out of the water high into the air. The tournament is noteworthy for another reason: Fishing poles are not used. Instead, competitors either use nets to catch the fish as they leap into the air or collect them as they land inside their boats. Previous winners have caught hundreds of the fish in just a couple hours.


Indianapolis: Indiana University can require its roughly 90,000 students and 40,000 employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations under a federal judge’s ruling that might be the first of its kind regarding college immunization mandates. In a ruling dated Sunday, U.S. District Judge Damon Leichty in South Bend rejected a request from eight IU students who sought to block the requirement while they pursue a lawsuit claiming that the university’s policy violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to receive unwanted medical treatment. James Bopp, an attorney representing the students, said he plans to appeal the ruling, which he believes is the first by a federal judge in challenges to such mandates, which have been imposed by hundreds of U.S. public and private colleges. Leichty wrote that the students haven’t presented evidence showing they could prevail in the case, and that the Constitution “permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff.”


Tom Conley, president and CEO of private security firm Conley Group, argues with John Noble, 26, as Noble demands to know why he and others were being denied access to a Des Moines City Council meeting on June 28.
Tom Conley, president and CEO of private security firm Conley Group, argues with John Noble, 26, as Noble demands to know why he and others were being denied access to a Des Moines City Council meeting on June 28.

Des Moines: Des Moines will no longer consider doubling the funding for a private security firm after a newspaper investigation revealed its top official had referred to local racial justice protests as “terrorism” and made denigrating remarks about Black activists. The move came after a Des Moines Register investigation into comments by Tom Conley, president and CEO of the Des Moines-based Conley Group, in emails to city officials and on his Facebook page. City manager Scott Sanders said he had instructed the city clerk to remove from Monday’s City Council agenda a proposal to allocate $550,000 for the firm’s services, more than doubling the contract signed in October, the Des Moines Register reported. Sanders said although the city is satisfied with the professionalism of the firm’s services, the comments must be “properly investigated.” The firm provides security services for several municipal and school buildings. Conley stood by his opinion that last summer’s protests should be considered terrorism. “If somebody doesn’t want to do business with me because of my opinions, then don’t … I’m just a candid individual, Conley said.


Topeka: The health department in Kansas’ most populous county urged its public schools Monday to require students and staff who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks indoors when classes resume for the fall. The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s guidance came with confirmed cases of the faster-spreading delta variant continuing to rise across Kansas and fueling larger numbers of new COVID-19 cases overall. “We want a return to normalcy, but we need to be cautious and get vaccinated if eligible.” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, the department’s director. Lance Williamson, a registered nurse and infection prevention consultant for the University of Kansas Health System, said wearing masks is a “basic precaution” against COVID-19. The state reported Monday that confirmed delta variant cases increased by 20% since Friday, up 158 to 950. Confirming variant cases requires genetic testing of patients’ nasal swabs or saliva samples. State data also showed that Kansas averaged 440 new COVID-19 cases overall for the seven days ending Monday, the highest such average since Feb. 26.


Frankfort: Gov. Andy Beshear urged front-line workers dealing with the public to wear masks, even if fully vaccinated against COVID-19, because of risks from the more infectious delta variant blamed for sparking an increase in coronavirus cases. With large swaths of Kentucky still showing lagging vaccination rates, Beshear offered mask-wearing recommendations to protect Kentuckians from the threat posed by the variant. Beshear continued to implore unvaccinated Kentuckians to get the shots. The COVID-19 vaccines offer “significant protection” against serious illness and death, including from the delta variant, he said, adding: “This is all it would take to protect America, if folks would do it.”


Baton Rouge: Lawmakers entered uncharted territory Tuesday, holding their first veto override session under the nearly 50-year-old state constitution, with uncertainty about whether they will have the votes to overturn bill rejections or what the rules of engagement are. The majority-Republican House and Senate decided to return to the Capitol largely because of two bills rejected by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards: a measure banning transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams of their identified gender, and legislation allowing people 21 and older to carry a concealed handgun without needing a permit and safety training. But they also can consider other measures that Edwards rejected, such as his removal of specific projects from budget bills, or legislation that sought to ban coronavirus vaccine mandates, mandated regular audits of elections and required local school systems to publish their finances in the Louisiana Checkbook online site.


Augusta: Voters could make Maine the first state in the U.S. to decide to amend the state constitution to establish growing and consuming food as a constitutional right. The proposal will be added to the Nov. 2 ballot, the Portland Press Herald reported. Efforts to establish food rights is an evolution of the movement that produced the Maine Food Sovereignty Act. The act authorized cities in Maine to adopt local food ordinances. “You have to have a right to food because food is life,” said Sen. Craig Hickman, a farmer and a supporter of the potential amendment. Critics of the amendment said it could have unforeseen consequences for food safety and animal welfare as judges interpret the amendment in future court cases. The bill was approved by a majority in the House and Senate and will not require the approval of Gov. Janet Mills before it goes directly to the ballot, the newspaper said.


Annapolis: State Sen. Paul Corderman, R-Washington, filed Monday to run for his District 2 seat in the 2022 Republican primary election. Corderman was appointed to the seat after former Sen. Andrew Serafini retired last summer. At that time, Corderman served in the House of Delegates from District 2B, which roughly includes the city limits of Hagerstown. He was appointed to that seat late in 2017 when former Del. Brett Wilson, R-Washington, was appointed as a judge in the Washington County Circuit Court. Corderman, who had served on the Hagerstown City Council, was then elected to return to the delegate seat in 2018.


Provincetown: A popular tourist town on Cape Cod issued a new mask-wearing advisory Monday after more than 100 people tested positive for the coronavirus following the Fourth of July holiday. The public health advisory from Provincetown officials encouraged residents and visitors to the town, a popular LGBTQ+ summer destination, to resume wearing masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. It also urged crowded venues and other businesses where social distancing isn’t possible to verify that patrons are vaccinated. The advisory was approved during an emergency meeting with the town’s select board and board of health. Dr. Catherine Brown, of the state Department of Public Health, said the state has alerted other jurisdictions about the cluster of cases tied to Provincetown. Local officials said the majority are Massachusetts residents but more than 40 are from out of state. They said more 90% of those infected were men and that their median age is 35. Officials said they’re also investigating how many of those infected were already vaccinated.


Mount Pleasant: Students fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at Central Michigan University can enter to win full-year scholarships and hundreds of gift cards, the university announced Monday. The university will name winners Aug. 2 and Aug. 23, Sept. 13, and Oct. 4. Each drawing will have 100 students who will get a $75 gift card and one student who will win full-year scholarship equal to 30 domestic undergraduate credit hours or 18 domestic graduate credit hours to be used for the 2021-2022 school year. In the announcement from the university it cited a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where only 34% of adults ages 18 to 39 have received a COVID-19 vaccine. All participating students will receive a 20% discount at the university bookstore in an effort to get students vaccinated before the fall semester starts, said Jennifer DeHaemers, vice president for student recruitment and retention.


St. Paul: An invasive weed that can choke out native plants and fish habitat has been found in one of Minnesota’s largest and most popular walleye lakes, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said. The DNR has confirmed the discovery of starry stonewort in Leech Lake, located in northwestern Minnesota. The bright green microalgae plant has now been verified in 18 of the state’s 11.842 lakes, according to the DNR, including nearby Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish. Leech Lake is largely within the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation boundaries. It is one of the 10 largest lakes in Minnesota with nearly 200 miles of shoreline, area tourism officials said. Starry stonewort has never been eradicated from any U.S. lake, but early detection is the key to effective management, the DNR said. It is most likely spread when fragments have not been properly cleaned from trailered boats, personal watercraft, docks, boat lifts, anchors or other water-related equipment. The species was first discovered in Minnesota in 2015 in Lake Koronis, which is located near Paynesville in Stearns County. The state has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to fight the weed.


Jackson: Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s top public health official, said the state is seeing a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in July. The State Department of Health said 2,326 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Friday through Sunday. That is largest three-day increase of cases reported in the state since February. As of Monday, the Health Department said Mississippi has had 329,130 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. The department said 7,468 people in the state had died from the virus. Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation, and the increase of cases is happening as schools prepare for the new academic year. Classes begin July 26 in the northern Mississippi city of Corinth and in early to mid-August in most other districts. The state Board of Education on Thursday adopted policies requiring all school districts to restart in-person learning as the main form of instruction for 2021-22. During the previous year, districts had the option for in-person or online instruction, or a combination of the two.


Kansas City: Kansas City Chiefs fans will have to get tickets in advance to visit the team’s training camp this year, and they won’t be able to get autographs from players because of the pandemic. Dr. Paul Schroeppel, the AFC champions’ head orthopedic surgeon, said fans won’t be allowed to interact with players under the NFL’s protocols for preventing coronavirus outbreaks. He discussed the rules during a daily webcast by the University of Kansas Health System. The Chiefs open their training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri, on July 28 with a special event for season ticket holders, with practices open to other fans July 29, with attendance limited. Missouri has seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases because of the faster-spreading delta variant.


Helena: Environmental groups are challenging the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for permitting wastewater disposal into the groundwater for a new development in Big Sky that they said could degrade water quality in the Gallatin River downstream from Yellowstone National Park. The Upper Missouri Waterkeeper and Montana Environmental Information Center filed Friday a complaint in Gallatin County court over the department’s May decision to approve a groundwater pollution permit for a septic system owned by Lazy J South, a residential and commercial development less than half a mile from the Gallatin River. The groups said the permit could lead to increased algal blooms in the river, which is suffering from unprecedented noxious algal blooms downstream from Big Sky. Such blooms could harm recreational activities on the river, including trout fishing and whitewater rafting, according to the court filing. A spokesperson for DEQ said the department does not comment on ongoing legal matters.


Omaha: Nebraska schools are getting conflicting advice from state and federal health officials over whether students should quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. The Omaha World-Herald reported the state Department of Health and Human Services is telling schools that students who had contact with an infected person would not have to quarantine as long as they don’t have any symptoms. If symptoms develop, then the state said a student should isolate themselves. But the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said students who aren’t vaccinated and have close contact with an infected person should still quarantine. The CDC said vaccinated people who are showing no symptoms are not required to quarantine after a contact. Each school district will be left to decide which advice to follow after consulting with local health officials. The Nebraska State Education Association said it is urging school districts to follow the CDC guidelines.


Carson City: Nevada-based scientists argued in a new study that wildfire smoke might increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus. A study published last week by scientists at the Desert Research Institute found that coronavirus infection rates increased disproportionately during wildfire season in 2020, when smoke from fires in neighboring states blanketed much of northern Nevada. In a paper in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, Desert Research Institute Assistant Research Scientist Daniel Kiser and four co-authors noted the test positivity rate in Washoe County increased significantly during periods when monitors measured high levels of particulate matter in the air from wildfire smoke. For every 10 micrograms per cubic meter of small particulate matter known as PM2.5 in the air, the positivity rate increased about 6.3% two to six days later, the study found. The authors argued that the association between wildfire smoke and the coronavirus likely suggested pollution made people more prone to viruses more broadly.

New Hampshire

Concord: Applications are being accepted for New Hampshire’s “Summer Stipend Program,” which seeks to reward workers returning to jobs after unemployment. The state announced in May that it was ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Anyone who was on unemployment the week of May 15 and has since kept a job for at least eight weeks can now apply for the stipends, which are $500 for part-time workers and $1,000 for full-time employees. More than 1,700 individuals who found work between May 18-22 became eligible to apply on Monday. The program will remain active until the $10 million fund is depleted. Since the stipend was announced, more than 21,000 people have stopped filing for unemployment benefits, according to Gov. Chris Sununu’s office.

New Jersey

Ocean City: The 18-year old pilot of a banner plane made an emergency landing Monday on a bridge in southern New Jersey, snarling traffic but causing no injuries, authorities said. Landon Lucas reported that his plane started having engine trouble about 12:30 p.m. as he was flying near Steel Pier in Atlantic City, officials said. Lucas released his banner into the ocean and was trying to fly to a nearby municipal airport in Ocean City when he spotted a gap in traffic in the westbound lanes of the Route 52 causeway, which connects Ocean City and Somers Point. Lucas landed the plane without incident, witnesses said, and officials said the aircraft was not damaged. The incident remains under investigation, authorities said.

New Mexico

Santa Fe: The New Mexico Film Office said this fiscal year, which began in July 2020 during the pandemic, broke records in the state with film and TV productions spending roughly $623 million. An estimated 40% of production budgets are spent on procuring goods and services from New Mexico businesses, according to the state. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham touted the numbers, saying the productions would otherwise have been shot elsewhere had it not been for the state’s crew base, stunning locations and film incentive program. Earlier this year, NBCUniversal marked the opening of its production hub near downtown Albuquerque. It joined Netflix, which has plans to expand its footprint on the southern edge of the city. Both have received millions of dollars in state and local economic development funds as incentives for locating in New Mexico. An estimated 9,000 New Mexico residents work in the industry with an average wage of more than $56,000 annually, according to the state. About three-quarters of below-the-line crew and cast members involved in productions over the last year were residents.

New York

Watertown: Lawmakers in Watertown voted to keep retail marijuana shops from opening in the northern New York city. The city council opted Watertown out of New York’s new marijuana legalization law after a marathon public hearing Monday night, according to WWNY-TV. New York approved a legalization bill in March that will allow sales of recreational-use cannabis. Sales are expected to begin next year. But the state law allows local governments to pass stricter rules on marijuana use and to prohibit retail dispensaries. Twenty-six people spoke at the hearing, most in favor of opting into the state law. “I’m asking, why wouldn’t you want to keep all of your city residents who do smoke marijuana, give them a safe place to buy marijuana, where it’s controlled?” Joanne Hughes said. Council members said they wanted more guidance from Albany and noted they could still opt back in later. Also, the public can petition the council to hold a referendum.

North Carolina

Wilmington: A nearly four-year project to repair the hull of the USS North Carolina battleship was officially completed Tuesday with water from the Cape Fear River flooding the temporary barrier surrounding the ship. A Wilmington-based company cut and replaced steel on the bow and also repainted affected areas of the hull, news outlet reported. The $11 million project began in August 2016 with the construction of a cofferdam to surround the battleship which allowed crews to drain the river water and have access to the ship’s brittle hull. With the cofferdam construction wrapping up in May 2018, work to replace the steel at the ship’s water-wind line began in June 2020. Atlantic Coast Industrial Marine Construction cut and replaced steel on the bow, as well as repainted affected areas of the hull, according to a release on the battleship’s website. Money for the repair came from fundraising effort to aid in restoration and maintenance of the battleship and its facilities. The battleship arrived in Wilmington in 1961 after serving in World War II. It has suffered from more than 50 years of corrosion from the Cape Fear River and plans to repair the ship’s hull have been on the table since at least 2010.

North Dakota

Bismarck: With nearly half the cattle in North Dakota in extreme drought locations, ranchers are making some tough decisions on thinning their herds. At Kist Livestock Auction in Mandan, weekly sales are up by 1,000 head over a typical year, an increase of one-third. Some cattle stay in the state, said Matt Lachenmeier, the auction barn’s field representative. But there’s demand for cattle in nearby states, as well, including Minnesota. “Now we’re starting to run out of homes for them,” he said. “There’s a lot of cattle moving.” Lachenmeier said ranchers are selling replacement heifers or older cows first and trying to hang on to younger cows. He said it’s hard to lose animals that have been part of a long-term breeding program, the Bismarck Tribune reported. The span from October 2020 to March 2021 is the driest on record, said Janna Block, extension livestock systems specialist at North Dakota State University’s Hettinger research center.


Columbus: A Columbus police helicopter crew that spelled out the department’s initials during an early morning patrol over a residential neighborhood committed no misconduct, an internal review determined. But the department’s flight rules will be updated to “remind” all helicopter crews not to loiter over residential areas without a clear law-enforcement purpose, The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday. The newspaper obtained the report through a public records request. The two-person crew said the maneuver wasn’t planned, but carried out after they noticed on a flight-tracking display they had unintentionally spelled out what resembled a “C” while on patrol April 17. The pilot decided to continue on to spell out a “P” and “D” while they awaited their next call for service. Officials have said the maneuver took about 10 minutes to complete, was done at normal altitude and didn’t result in any missed calls for service or additional fuel usage. It was conducted over a “random area of the city” that included some residential area, something which the report said was “not intentional.” Some city officials have criticized the officers’ actions, calling the incident “a joyride” and a waste of taxpayer dollars.


Oklahoma City: The state is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior over the federal agency’s plan to strip Oklahoma of its jurisdiction to regulate coal mining on tribal reservations, Gov. Kevin Stitt said. The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in Oklahoma City, names as defendants U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and that agency’s acting director, Glenda Owens. The U.S. Department of the Interior notified the state earlier this year it planned to strip Oklahoma of its jurisdiction to regulate surface coal mining within the Muscogee Nation reservation following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision, which determined the tribe’s reservation in eastern Oklahoma was never disestablished by Congress. Stitt claims that the decision applies only to criminal jurisdiction.


Portland: The threat of thunderstorms and lightning has prompted officials in fire-ravaged Oregon to ask for help from outside the Pacific Northwest to prepare for additional blazes as many resources are already devoted to a massive fire in the state that has grown to a third the size of Rhode Island. The 537-square-mile blaze is burning 300 miles southeast of Portland in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, a vast expanse of old-growth forest, lakes and wildlife refuges. Evacuations and property losses have been minimal compared with much smaller blazes in densely populated areas of California. But eyeing how the Oergon fire – fueled by extreme weather – keeps growing by miles each day, officials with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southwest Oregon are asking for more outside crews to be ready should there be a surge in fire activity there. The worry is that dry conditions, a drought and the recent record-breaking heat wave in the region have created tinderbox conditions, so resources like fire engines are being recruited from places like Arkansas, Nevada and Alaska. Thunderstorms could bring wind to fan the flames and lightning that could spark new ones, the National Weather Service said.


Philadelphia: City school officials are planning to consult with more air quality scientists after meeting Monday with an expert critical of the district’s $4.5 million purchase of NASA-originated air purifier technology. The expert, a Drexel professor, said the purifiers were ineffective at reducing the spread of the coronavirus and had the potential to create harmful chemicals. Preparing to welcome students in-person for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, district officials last week touted the multimillion-dollar investment in air purifiers advertised to rid air and surfaces of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.The devices have been purchased and will be installed in every classroom by the end of July, a district spokesperson said. But following the school district’s announcement, several experts questioned the purifiers’ effectiveness and safety. They included Michael Waring – professor of indoor air quality and department head of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering at Drexel University – who met with School District Chief Operating Officer Reggie McNeil on Monday. According to a spokesperson, the district used federal funding to purchase more than 9,500 devices for its 200-plus buildings. They use ActivePure Technology, which, according to its website, protects against the coronavirus by pulling free oxygen and water molecules through a “patented honeycomb matrix” that oxidizes molecules that are then released back into a room to neutralize viruses.

Rhode Island

Providence: Ten nonprofits from across Rhode Island will receive $10,000 in grants as the state reached the first milestone of its RI Gives Vax Challenge, Democratic Gov. Dan McKee said. The Democrat said 5,000 more Rhode Islanders received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. “This is a win-win for Rhode Island, our local nonprofits and the communities they serve,” McKee said. “Through the RI Gives Vax Challenge, we’re getting healthier, we’re raising awareness, and we’re able to help the organizations that have stepped up to support those most in need during the pandemic.” The recipients of the first round of grants were selected through a lottery system by the Rhode Island Foundation. They include Access To Recovery, Adoption Rhode Island, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Rhode Island, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, the Elisha Project, Pawtucket Soup Kitchen, the Refugee Development Center, the Rhode Island Free Clinic, Southern Rhode Island Volunteers, and the WARM Center. The fund has a budget of $750,000, which will be allocated in grants of $10,000 to a Rhode Island nonprofit each time the state administers an additional 5,000 first COVID-19 vaccine doses. The state provided $500,000 and the Rhode Island Foundation contributed $250,000.

South Carolina

Columbia: The process to draw new districts for South Carolina House and Senate seats as well as the U.S. House kicked off Tuesday, with senators hopeful the whirlwind of map drawing, negotiations, public hearings and final vote will take less than four months. The Senate’s redistricting subcommittee agreed Tuesday at its first meeting to hold 10 public hearings across the state starting next week and ending before the final U.S. census data on where the 5.1 million people in South Carolina live is released Aug. 16. The districts are drawn every 10 years after the federal government completes its nationwide count. The goal of the high-stakes process is to make sure all 46 of the state’s Senate districts and 124 House districts have roughly the same number of people, give or take a few thousand.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem said the state finished the last fiscal year with an $86 million surplus. Tax revenue hit a 30-year high, the Republican governor said, and finished $62 million over what was estimated. The state also spent about $24 million less than what was budgeted for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Noem credited the state’s “respect for freedom and our continued emphasis on fiscal responsibility” for the financial windfall, though federal coronavirus relief funds sent to taxpayers and state government also fueled the surplus. The state government has received more than $2.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds – money that was pumped into businesses and used to cover state expenses tied to the pandemic.Noem has pointed to the state’s growing economy as evidence her mostly hands-off approach to the pandemic worked.


Chattanooga: Volkswagen said it will stop producing the Passat at its Chattanooga assembly plant. The German-based automaker said it will stop building the sedan model in Chattanooga with a limited edition 2022 model. Volkswagen said the move is part of its transformation to build future electric vehicles. The company began making the Passat in Chattanooga in 2011. The first versions of the Volkswagen Passat family sedans and wagons for U.S. customers launched in 1974 under the Dasher name. The Passat name first appeared in the U.S. market in 1990 and has remained since. The company exported the first six generations from Europe.


Corpus Christi: Former Police Chief Mike Markle is returning to the top spot, Mayor Paulette Guajardo and City Manager Peter Zanoni said. Markle retired in May 2021 after more than 30 years of serving Corpus Christi. He previously accepted a private sector job. In June, interim chief and former assistant chief David Blackmon announced he would pull his name from consideration for the permanent chief position. Markle’s reappointment requires City Council confirmation. His first day back on the job will be July 27 if approved by the council.


Provo: Health officials have warned that algae blooms are turning up in Utah Lake that can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. The Utah County Health Department warned that samples taken from the lake water on July 13 showed that cyanobacteria cell counts have reached a dangerous level, The Daily Herald reported Monday. The warning came days after officials issued a similar advisory for American Fork Beach. Utah Lake marinas will remain open for boat traffic but water recreation “should be avoided” at the American Fork Marina, Lincoln Beach and within the Provo Bay, according to county health officials. Cyanobacteria are microorganisms that are a natural part of fresh water ecosystems but under certain conditions they can multiple rapidly, creating scums and blooms on the water’s surface and along shorelines


Burlington: The Health Department warned Tuesday that algae blooms are turning up in Vermont waters that can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. The department is encouraging people to go to its website to view a video and photos of what cyanobacteria and blooms look like. “By knowing what a bloom looks like, and scanning the water before you go in, you’ll know if you should stay out of the water,” Bridget O’Brien, an environmental health scientist with the Department of Health, said in a statement. Cyanobacteria are microorganisms that are a natural part of fresh water ecosystems but under certain conditions they can multiple rapidly, creating scums and blooms on the water’s surface and along shorelines, the department said. Blooms have shown up most often in northern parts of Lake Champlain, causing some Burlington beaches to recently be closed, and in other regions of the lake as well as other Vermont lakes in recent years. The blooms can cause skin rashes, diarrhea, a sore throat, stomach problems and more serious health concerns for swimmers and waders, the Health Department said, noting that exposure is a particular concern for small children who might ingest the water. Cyanobacteria is potentially fatal to dogs who might drink the water or lick the residue off their fur, officials warned.


Norfolk: The Virginia Zoo is welcoming its first baby Southern white rhinoceros. The male calf was born to mom, Zina, and dad, Sibindi, on July 11, zoo officials announced Monday. He is strong, nursing well and is bonding with his mother, who is showing signs of good mothering, officials said. The calf is the first of his species to be born at the Virginia Zoo and his birth brings the zoo’s rhino count to four. The zoo’s veterinarian Dr. Tara Reilly examined the calf about 36 hours after he was born and he weighed in at 125 pounds. He is 22 inches tall and 36 inches long. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the species as near-threatened because of threats in the wild from habitat loss and illegal poaching of their horns. The new calf needs a name, so the zoo is auctioning off the right to name him. The auction runs through July 30 and proceeds will go to the International Rhino Foundation.


Everett: United Airlines plans to suspend service out of Paine Field airport in Everett beginning in early October. In a statement Monday, a United spokesperson said the airline has “continued to evaluate and adapt its network” and that the decision is “based on demand trends.” The airline now operates one daily United Express flight between Denver International Airport and Paine Field, which will be discontinued beginning Oct. 5, according to the statement. The Seattle Times reported United said it will continue to serve the region with nonstop service to Seattle from Denver, New York/Newark, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, the District of Columbia and San Francisco. John Gallagher, a spokesperson for Propeller Airports, which designed, built and operates the two-year-old terminal north of Seattle, said in a statement the move was not a surprise because “carriers are making post-pandemic adjustments to their schedules and markets.”

West Virginia

Charleston: “America’s Got Talent” winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. is being featured on an adult literacy campaign in West Virginia. A photo of Murphy, a native of Logan, West Virginia, is on billboards throughout the state as part of the “Never Too Late to Graduate” push by the state Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education. Murphy also is displaying the materials and banners at his state concerts to provide information to help people earn their diplomas and pursue other educational opportunities, the department said. “I truly believe it is never too late to graduate, and I hope others use my story as an example of how to always have a goal and a dream,” Murphy said. Murphy dropped out of school in the 11th grade, a decision that haunted him for years. He worked numerous odd jobs and at one point was living out of his car. Last year during the coronavirus pandemic, the singer took online classes during the spring and summer after his road performances were eliminated by the virus shutdown. He earned his high school equivalency diploma 30 years after dropping out.


Madison: The University of Wisconsin Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine opened a new clinic Friday that will use the latest genetic technology, and exploit connections to top scientists around the world in order to help patients who have been at the mercy of unknown diseases. Stephen Meyn, who directs the Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine, said the new clinic represents an initial investment of several million dollars and is expected to take on about 100 cases a year “and ramp up from there.” The clinic has already “reviewed more than 50 cases with a wide range of conditions from birth defects to neurologic problems to skeletal disorders and immune system problems, Meyn said. The clinic, located in the Waisman Center, will partner with the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, the Biotechnology Center at UW-Madison, Stanford University in California and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Meyn said that in addition to the clinic for patients, the project will also include research.


Yellowstone National Park: A judge has sentenced an Oklahoma man to a week in jail and ordered him to pay $1,100 for guiding visitors illegally in Yellowstone National Park. Theodore Eugene Garland, 60 of Edmond, Oklahoma, led visitors who trespassed in thermal areas and elsewhere, cliff-jumped in an off-limits area and altered a river’s flow by creating a pool for swimmers to soak in, U.S. prosecutors said in a statement Monday. Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs found Garland guilty of the violations in a nonjury trial in April and sentenced him July 2. Besides imposing the jail time and payments, the judge banned Garland from the park for the remainder of 2021. Guiding in Yellowstone requires a permit. Garland had one but video he posted on Facebook of cliff-jumping in Firehole Canyon prompted a Yellowstone law enforcement ranger to investigate, according to court documents filed in the case. An Apple podcast, Instagram photo and Facebook video revealed other possible violations such as creating a “hot pot” for swimmers at the base of Mystic Falls on the Little Firehole River, ranger Devon Beeny said in the documents. Prosecutors charged Garland with 15 counts of illegal activities and violating park regulations. Carman found Garland guilty of seven, acquitting him of others that included disturbing a black bear while it was feeding.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States

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