May 29 Montana News Briefs

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

State senator announces run for Montana secretary of state

HELENA (AP) — A Democratic state senator from Missoula says he’s running for Montana secretary of state in next year’s election. Bryce Bennett’s announcement Wednesday makes him the first Democratic candidate for what will be an open seat with current Secretary of State Corey Stapleton running for the Republican nomination for governor. Republican Senate President Scott Sales of Bozeman previously announced his candidacy. The 34-year-old Bennett was first elected to the state House in 2010 and served four terms. He is serving his first term in the Senate after being elected to that chamber in 2018. Bennett is the vice chairman of the legislative committee that oversees the agency that runs state elections. He says that if elected, he’d run an efficient, transparent and accountable office.

Glacier park tourists contribute $344M to area’s economy

KALISPELL (AP) — Tourists visiting Glacier National Park last year contributed $344 million to economy in areas around the park. The National Park Service says 2018 spending was up 25 percent over the $275 million spent in 2017. The Daily Inter Lake reports visitors spent 40% of those dollars on lodging, 16 percent at restaurants and 10 percent for transportation at businesses within 60 miles of the park’s borders. Nearly 3 million people visited Glacier park last year, supporting 5,230 jobs.

Atlantic Richfield proposes treating more Berkeley Pit water

BUTTE (AP) — Atlantic Richfield is proposing building a second water treatment plant at the Berkeley Pit in Butte to dramatically lower the level of toxic water at the Superfund site. The Montana Standard reports Arco’s parent company wants to eliminate risk in the “unlikely” event of a dam failure at a tailings impoundment that is part of the current treatment process. If the dam failed, the water would flow back into the former open-pit copper mine that now holds nearly 50 billion gallons (189 billion liters) of acidic, metal-laden water. Mark Thompson, Montana Resources vice president of environmental affairs, says a second water treatment plant could draw down the pit’s water levels by somewhere between 50 feet and 150 feet (15 to 46 meters). The Environmental Protection Agency would have to approve the proposal.

Glacier park rockslide, avalanche trap bicyclists for hours

WEST GLACIER (AP) — A rockslide and avalanche stranded 13 bicyclists for about eight hours on the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road that winds through Glacier National Park. Park officials say the cyclists were cold but otherwise not hurt Monday. The park had closed the road to pedestrian and bicycle traffic after a significant rockslide blocked the road and prevented emergency vehicle from traveling. But many cyclists had already traveled past that point. Park officials say an avalanche blocked the road, preventing the bicyclists from returning to West Glacier. A road crew cleared the rockslide and then cut a path through the avalanche debris to free the cyclists. It’s not uncommon for park visitors to become trapped by a slide once or twice a year.

Former Montana deputy pleads guilty to sexual exploitation

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A former Montana sheriff’s deputy has pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child. The Great Falls Tribune reports 52-year-old Virgil Allen Wolfe entered his plea May 17. He faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years up to 30 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 29. His trial had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Wolfe was arrested in February on 80 state charges after a 17-year-old girl reported Wolfe had been molesting her since she was 6 years old, including taking photographs of her. Federal prosecutors later took over the case. Wolfe was a sheriff’s deputy in Lewis and Clark County from 1999 to 2008 until then-Sheriff Cheryl Leidle fired him for unrelated reasons.

Authorities identify victim of ATV crash south of Helena

HELENA (AP) — Jefferson County officials have released the name of a 60-year-old woman who died in a weekend allterrain vehicle crash northeast of Butte. Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Mercer tells the Independent Record that Frieda Huberty of East Helena died when her ATV crashed into a tree Sunday afternoon on a muddy road near Bernice, a community off Interstate 15 west of Boulder. The Montana Highway Patrol says Huberty failed to negotiate a sharp left-hand turn.

Vintage airplane from Montana lands in England

MISSOULA (AP) — A vintage airplane restored by volunteers in Montana has landed in England. The Missoulian reports the World War II-era plane and its six-member crew took 10 days to make the trip to Duxford Air Base, landing Tuesday. The “Miss Montana” and 14 other planes plan to fly across the English Channel to Normandy, France to take part in the 75th commemoration of the June 6, 1944 D-Day attack, including dropping skydivers from Montana. The “Miss Montana,” is a smokejumper and transport plane owned by Johnson Flying Service in Missoula. Its history includes dropping 15 smokejumpers on the Mann Gulch Fire north of Helena in August 1949. Twelve of the firefighters died, along with a fire guard who had been on the ground, when the fire blew up.