Wyoming News Update

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IRRIGATION EMERGENCY-NEBRASKA GOVERNOR

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has issued a state emergency declaration following the collapse of a major tunnel that transports water from Whalen Dam in Wyoming to Scotts Bluff County in Nebraska.

Ricketts plans to visit the Scottsbluff area Thursday to consult with local officials. The emergency declaration came late Wednesday afternoon amid concerns that the collapse is disrupting the water supply, which is vital for irrigation.

Ricketts says he's been in frequent contact with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and state lawmakers from the area.

The irrigation tunnel typically serves around 55,000 acres in Nebraska. Government officials, engineers and natural resources managers are working to restore the supply.

Wyoming officials have said they found a short-term solution to get water flowing.

COAL BANKRUPTCY-THE LATEST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal bankruptcy judge has adjourned a hearing without deciding on a purchase offer for a West Virginia-based coal company.

Judge Frank Volk told the parties in federal court in Huntington the hearing would resume Friday morning in Charleston.

Volk heard arguments Thursday from a Blackjewel LLC attorney as well as objections from attorneys representing the federal government.

Bristol, Tennessee-based Contura Energy says in a news release it has offered $20.6 million as the stalking horse bidder for three mines owned by Milton-based Blackjewel. If other qualifying bids are made by a July 31 deadline, an auction would be held on Aug. 1.

The purchase could put hundreds back to work at two mines in Wyoming and one in West Virginia. They've been closed since Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy July 1.

STATE LINE SIGNS-AUCTION

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Department of Transportation is auctioning two "Welcome to Wyoming" signs that were recently found in storage.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports the 4-by-8-foot aluminum signs feature an image of the Grand Tetons in the background and the bucking horse and rider logo with the words "Forever West" in the foreground. Joel Meena, the department's state traffic engineer, says "these are the last known state line signs to exist from that vintage."

The two signs come from the northwest part of the state, are in "like-new" condition and were not used on the roadside.

The separate online auctions are scheduled to end the morning of Aug. 5, and the proceeds will go back into the department's road improvement fund.

YELLOWSTONE BEARS

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park officials urge visitors to properly store food amid a series of problems with black bears.

Park officials said Thursday they've recently had to kill two black bears and are trying to capture a third. All three bears sought out food that people haven't stored in cars or other secure containers.

One bear had bitten into a tent, bruising a woman's thigh. Another got into unattended food at a different campsite and kept approaching people the next day.

A third bear has been damaging tents and vehicles in search of human food. Park officials plan to scare off or remove the bear if it returns.

Yellowstone officials say they have few good options besides killing bears that are dangerous because people have let them eat their food.

HIGHWAY MUD

DUBOIS, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming highway crews have been busy this week keeping one of the roads leading to Yellowstone National Park open.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation says rain-induced water and mud flowed across U.S. 26/287, about 13 miles (20.9 kilometers) east of Dubois, twice this week.

Crews plowed mud and water off the highway on Monday and Tuesday

WYDOT area maintenance supervisor Jim Thomas says the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department aided the effort by washing mud off the highway.

Workers were able to avoid a highway closure by keeping one lane of traffic open with the use of flaggers.

U.S. 26/287 connects with U.S. 89/191 at Moran Junction south of Yellowstone.

ELK POACHING

BUFFALO, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says a Buffalo man has pleaded guilty to poaching four cow elk and harassing big game from a vehicle.

The agency says Ray Ludwig signed a plea agreement that includes $5,000 in fines and restitution and loss of his hunting privileges for five years.

The case began on Nov. 27, 2018 when Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman was contacted by two hunters who witnessed and recorded a vehicle chasing a group of elk south of Buffalo. They also heard multiple shots coming from the vehicle.

Five others were charged with accessory to taking a big game animal without a license in the case. They each pleaded guilty and were collectively assessed fines totaling $2,375.