Coast Guard due to begin ice removal from Kennebec

Several Coast Guard cutters will head up the Kennebec River on Tuesday, marking the start of a three-day-long operation aimed at removing ice from the river between Bath and Gardiner.

The public is being advised to remove ice fishing shacks before the annual ice-breaking effort begins.

The Coast Guard will break and flush ice from Merrymeeting Bay to Gardiner to reduce the risk of ice jamming and flooding as inland snow and river ice begin to melt and flow out to sea.

The 65-foot Portland-based cutter Shackle, the 65-foot Rockland-based cutter Tackle, and the 65-foot Southwest Harbor-based cutter Bridle will participate in the ice-breaking operation.

“Despite decreased ice coverage and thickness this year compared to recent years, there is still a need for our crews to perform this critical and dynamic mission,” Capt. Christopher Roberge, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, said in a prepared statement.


Sixteen high schools move to drama festival finals

Sixteen high schools, including several from the Greater Portland area, have qualified to compete next weekend in the state finals of the 2012 Maine Drama Festival.

Windham, Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth, Falmouth, Freeport, Westbrook and Catherine McCauley high schools all qualified for the March 23-24 finals.

More than 2,000 students from more than 70 high schools across Maine competed in the regionals, which were held at eight different locations during the past weekend.

Schools competed in two classes: Class A (500 or more students) and Class B. A panel of three judges decided which schools advanced to the state finals.

The Class A finals will be held at Falmouth High and the Class B finals at Yarmouth High.

The winners will qualify to compete in the New England Drama Festival on April 26-28 in Guilford, N.H.


Group formed to promote responsible gambling

With casino gambling expanding in Maine, a new group is being formed to promote responsible gambling and generate awareness about the dangers of problem gambling.

A combination of private, state and nonprofit groups, led by Maine’s Office of Substance Abuse and the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, is involved in the effort. Hollywood Casino in Bangor, which has just expanded operations to include table games, is participating.

Besides promoting responsible gaming, the group is encouraging people who may have a gambling addiction to seek treatment.

Bike coalition announces dates for bicycle swaps

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine has announced the dates for its two bike swaps.

The group will hold its Great Maine Bike Swap at the University of Maine’s student recreation and fitness center in Orono on April 22, and at the University of Southern Maine’s Sullivan Gym in Portland on April 29. The swaps run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Organizers say the swaps feature hundreds of used bikes of all types — mountain bikes, road bikes, classic cruisers, children’s bikes and hybrids. Admission is $3, but free for USM and UMaine students and children under 12.


House expected to decide on three abortion bills

Abortion opponents call a bill before New Hampshire’s House “informed consent” because it requires women to wait 24 hours and be given information on fetal development. But pro-choice groups say it is insulting to require women to wait and would require biased counseling.

The bill is one of three related to abortion that the House is expected to vote on this week. One would ban partial-birth abortions, already prohibited under federal law. Another would change a requirement when a minor seeks permission to have an abortion without notifying her parents. In those cases, a judge must issue a ruling within 48 hours. The bill would change that requirement to within two court business days.