CUMBERLAND

Driver stops in passing lane, causes three crashes on I-295

An erratic driver triggered three accidents Friday by stopping in the passing lane of Interstate 295 during the morning commute, state police said.

The accidents occurred about 7:50 a.m. in the southbound passing lane just before the Tuttle Road overpass.

A vehicle was swerving and then came to a stop, said Trooper Doug Cropper. The next driver stopped in time, but was rear-ended. The domino effect resulted in one three-car accident and two two-car accidents.

No one was injured, but all seven cars were damaged and two had to be towed, Cropper said.

The erratic driver left the scene. Cropper said no one could provide a description for police, and no one was charged.

Cropper said speed and following too closely were contributing factors.

The highway southbound was restricted to one lane until about 9:30 a.m., Cropper said.

AUGUSTA

New president takes over at DEP commissioner’s firm

Robert Berry III has been named president of Main-Land Development Consultants Inc., the firm owned by Maine’s new environmental protection commissioner, Darryl Brown.

Berry takes over for Brown to run the company day to day, according to a statement from Main-Land.

Brown will continue to own the business, but will not be involved “in any way, shape or form,” Berry said in an interview.

Brown was sworn in this week as head of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Main-Land Development Consultants, based in Livermore Falls, provides land-use planning services including surveying, soils testing, mapping, engineering and permitting. It was recently named site developer for the new resort casino in Oxford.

Gov. LePage signs first bill of session to reach his desk

Gov. Paul LePage on Friday signed the first bill of the legislative session to reach his desk.

It changes the annual meeting date and fiscal year of the Mount Desert Island Regional School District. The legislation took effect immediately.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Elspeth Flemings of Bar Harbor, said the new law will enable the high school to develop a more efficient and accurate budget.

LePage, a Republican, said he’s glad that the first law to take effect under his name was sponsored by a Democrat, supported by a Republican and “puts people first.”

SACO

N.H. company plans to open adventure park in late May

A children’s rope and zip-line park is coming to southern Maine.

On May 22, Monkey Trunks, a New Hampshire company that operates adventure parks in Chocorua, N.H., and Orlando, Fla., will open a park on Waterfall Drive in Saco, a news release said.

The company’s parks include adventure courses with zip lines, harnesses, swings, platforms and hanging tires.

Monkey Trunks is holding a contest to let kids suggest names for the company’s monkey mascot.

Winners will receive a T-shirt and an invitation to visit the Saco location with their school class.

BOSTON

Maine resident among 50 on list of powerful women

Mary Bonauto, a civil rights attorney who lives in Portland, has been named one of Boston’s 50 most powerful women by Boston Magazine.

A longtime gay rights activist, Bonauto was chosen for her work as civil rights director for the Boston-based nonprofit Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said a news release.

Bonauto is known for leading a legal team that has repeatedly challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act, parts of which prohibit same-sex couples from receiving the same protections and benefits available to heterosexual married couples, such as shared Social Security, disability and tax benefits.

Bonauto lives in Portland with her partner, Jennifer Wriggins, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law. They have twin daughters. The couple wed in Massachusetts.

In 1999, Bonauto and two Vermont lawyers won a ruling that prompted the state Legislature to enact the nation’s first “civil union” law for same-sex couples.

Bonauto then served as lead counsel in a landmark case in Massachusetts. In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared it unconstitutional to prohibit civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The first legal same-sex marriage ceremonies ever in the United States were conducted in Massachusetts in May 2004.

PORTLAND

Clifford Elementary’s PTO hosting farewell open house

The Clifford Elementary School PTO will host a farewell open house for students, staff members, alumni and others on Feb. 13 at the school at 180 Falmouth St.

Clifford’s students and staff will move to the new Ocean Avenue Elementary School after February vacation.

People who attend the open house from 1 to 3 p.m. will be invited to add photos or other memorabilia to a large commemorative banner. Special guests are expected.

‘Chopped’ coming to town in search of resourceful chefs

Chefs, sharpen your knives.

The Food Network show “Chopped” will be in Portland for a day in mid-February to cast chefs for an upcoming season of the program.

Producers haven’t nailed down a date for their visit, but they did say that Feb. 15 is the last day they will consider new applicants from Portland.

There will be no open calls; auditions will be by appointment only.

“Chopped,” which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m., gives professional chefs a mystery basket of ingredients from which they must cook something special for the judges.

Each round, a chef gets “chopped” until there is only one left. The winner gets $10,000.

Portland chefs can apply online at www.choppedcasting.com.

Producers will go through the applications and schedule appointments with chefs they would like to meet while they’re in town.

Bangor Savings Bank opens new branch on Allen Avenue

Bangor Savings Bank completed the next step of its Greater Portland expansion Friday with the opening of a branch at 320 Allen Ave.

In May, the bank announced a $4 million expansion into southern Maine that included three new branches in Portland and one in Falmouth.

Bangor Savings is the largest Maine-based bank, with assets of more than $2.3 billion.

Maine oceanographer leads climate-change expedition

Oceanographers from Maine are part of a 23-member team studying the effects of climate change on marine life in the South Atlantic.

Barney Balch from the Bigelow Ocean Sciences Laboratory in Boothbay Harbor is heading the expedition aboard the research vessel Melville.

The ship is crossing 7,000 miles of ocean from Chile to South Africa to investigate the effects of ocean acidification on the Southern Hemisphere’s largest recurring phytoplankton bloom.

Balch told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that ocean waters are becoming more acidic as carbon dioxide builds in the atmosphere and is absorbed into the ocean.

But he said the full effects of the acidification are not yet known.

He said the findings will be written up next year.

NEWRY

Disabled military personnelhit slopes at Sunday River

Twenty-five disabled military personnel, most of them injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, are in Maine to ski at Sunday River.

Veterans No Boundaries is a program of Maine Handicapped Skiing that provides recreational activities for veterans and active-duty personnel with physical disabilities.

The event, from Friday through Sunday, is held twice a year to help veterans return to a sport or try a new sport after becoming disabled.