Wilson Bridge Legislation Planned
Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) plan to introduce legislation today that would allow construction of a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge to proceed despite a U.S. District Court ruling two months ago blocking the project until more environmental review is finished.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater, the congressmen urged the Clinton administration to support the bill if legislative action is required to put the construction of the new span back on schedule.
Other members of the region's congressional delegation have been wary of supporting such a measure, warning that exempting the project would set a precedent gutting the country's environmental regulations. Instead, members are waiting for a report from administration officials about whether engineering for the proposed 12-lane bridge can continue while planners complete their study of other alternatives.
Shrubs May Be Fatal to Bird Species
Federal wildlife agents in Virginia think they know what's responsible for the deaths of hundreds of federally protected birds on state highways: shrubbery.
More than 400 sleek, brownish birds called cedar waxwings died in April, apparently when they were hit by cars and trucks after they flew in to sample the berries on a type of shrub planted along highways, wildlife agents say.
The shrub Elaegnus pungens is planted along highway medians to block the glare of headlights at night. It has berries that mature in the spring and apparently are irresistible to cedar waxwings.
During the last week of April, wildlife agents found 459 dead waxwings on Richmond area roads. The death toll for all other bird species combined: 11. The next week, the berries disappeared from the shrubs, and so did the bird bodies. Agents will meet with state transportation workers June 28 to discuss the problem.
Newport News Pursues Reservoir Plan
Newport News officials say they'll seek help from Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) and Virginia's congressional delegation to persuade the Army Corps of Engineers to let the city build a controversial water supply project in King William County.
The engineering corps' Norfolk District commander has reached a preliminary decision to deny Newport News the needed federal permit. The Army says the project would destroy valuable forest and wetlands and could disrupt the lives of American Indians.
Newport News and other southeast Virginia cities want to build the reservoir and supply it with as much as 75 million gallons of water a day pumped from the Mattaponi River.
King William County's Mattaponi Indian tribe views the project as a threat to its survival.
Funds Used Improperly, Inspector Finds
The Montgomery County inspector general has found that more than $30,000 in public money was used improperly to pay college tuition for three county employees.
The report, made public yesterday, alleges that $32,991 in tuition payments made by the Division of Fleet Management Services "demonstrates a complete lack of any serious commitment to stewardship and accountability regarding public resources."
Montgomery has a program that pays employees as much as $730 a year for approved college tuition. The inspector general's office found that the three employees, whom it didn't name, each received an average of $4,713 during the last three years without proper approval.
Inspector General Norman Butts has forwarded one case to the state's attorney's office for possible criminal prosecution. In that case, the employee allegedly overcharged the county $1,900 in tuition reimbursement.
Council Approves After-School Spending
The D.C. Council gave final approval yesterday to Mayor Anthony A. Williams's proposal to spend $15 million on after-school programs for children in the District.
By a unanimous vote, the council approved a plan outlining how the children's initiative and other programs would be set up and managed in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The measure also authorizes Williams to spend $6 million in a pilot program to extend health insurance to 2,400 low-income childless adults.
The $15 million for community-based children's programs would be awarded by a nonprofit corporation run by a seven-member board, whose members would be appointed by the mayor and the council. The council's legislation stipulates that "at least 95 percent" of the money must be distributed to groups providing educational or recreational services to children.
The measures will be included in the $4.7 billion city budget that is headed to Capitol Hill for review.
Gay Community to Work on Homes
Members of the District's gay community will be working on Habitat for Humanity homes today as part of this week's Community Pride Festival organized by the Whitman-Walker Clinic and a gay organization, One in Ten.
The festival, which usually focuses on social events and lectures, is including a number of general community service projects in its programs this week. Volunteers prepared building lots on Saturday and will begin construction today of homes for low-income residents. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), formerly head of the clinic, and new clinic Executive Director Elliot Johnson will join the work crews.
Volunteers also are agreeing to "adopt" elderly residents from the Rock Creek Manor Retirement Home, and on Sunday, they took a group to lunch at Union Station and to a matinee at the Kennedy Center.
All week, festival organizers and volunteers are soliciting canned goods and other nonperishable foods for the Capital Area Food Bank and the Whitman-Walker Clinic Food Bank.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"The humidity might come down ever so slightly, but it's going to be quite a toasty day."
--Mark Tobin, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, on the outlook for today.