Flagpole dedicated to honor lives lost in Thresher sinking

The town that’s home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard dedicated a flagpole in memory of the crew of the USS Thresher on Sunday, a day after an emotional memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of the deadliest submarine disaster in U.S. history.

At a morning ceremony at Memorial Circle in Kittery, hundreds of people gathered around the newly installed flagpole that towers to a height of 129 feet – one foot for each of the 129 men who lost their lives.

The memorial service was held Saturday for the Thresher, which was built at the shipyard and based in Connecticut. The 278-foot-long submarine sank about 220 miles off Cape Cod on April 10, 1963.

“The loss of 129 officers, sailors and civilians continues to fill our hearts with grief,” as well as pride and gratitude, said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the speakers at the flagpole dedication.

“The USS Thresher Memorial guarantees we will never forget those who are on eternal patrol.”

Marcye Philbrook, a Kittery resident who was 2 when her father, Quartermaster Julius Marullo Jr., died aboard the Thresher, told the Portsmouth Herald there was some disagreement about whether the memorial flagpole was too tall, but for her, the size was just right.

“It meant more than I ever could have imagined when that flag went up,” she said. “I think it’s just perfect.”

Collins and Vice Adm. Michael Connor, commander of Navy submarine forces, both pointed out that the tragedy led to the implementation of a program called SUBSAFE, an extensive series of design modifications, training and other improvements to ensure similar disasters didn’t occur.

“Their loss was certainly not in vain,” Connor said. “They made submarines safer, but they also made the world safer.”


Panel to hold public hearing on lobster by-catch proposal

A large turnout is likely Monday when a legislative committee holds a public hearing on a proposed law to allow fishermen to keep lobsters they inadvertently snag in their nets in offshore waters and bring them to Portland.

It’s now illegal for boats that go after cod, haddock and other groundfish to bring their lobster by-catch to shore in Maine, although it’s legal to do so in Massachusetts.

Bill supporters say allowing fishermen to keep lobsters would bring more fishing boats to Portland and help maintain port businesses that serve the fishing industry.

Similar bills in past years have been defeated in the face of strong opposition from lobstermen. Lobstermen say giving net fishermen a few lobsters isn’t going to save Maine’s fishing fleet.


Park officials to close trails to protect peregrine falcons

Acadia National Park officials are closing several popular hiking trails to protect peregrine falcons that have been showing pre-nesting courtship behavior.

The closure of the popular Precipice Trail and other trails near the park’s Precipice and Valley Cove cliffs is expected to last until early August. That’s about five weeks after any newborn peregrine chicks would be expected to take their first flights.

The peregrine falcon is listed as a Maine endangered species. Acadia was selected in the 1980s to be one of the reintroduction sites for a peregrine falcon recovery program. In the past 20 years, more than 100 chicks have fledged on Mount Desert Island.


Study says UNE has annual $738 million impact on state

The University of New England says it has an annual $738 million economic impact on Maine.

The Biddeford-based university says a new study concludes that the school pays its 1,059 employees over $76 million a year in salary and benefits, and spends another $69 million in non-personnel operating expenses. The study also says UNE students spend $33 million per year in Maine, and that the school attracts more than 15,000 out-of-state visitors who spend another $11.5 million.

The report says UNE’s economic impact has risen by 31 percent in the past three years.

The study was done on UNE’s behalf by the Planning Decisions research and planning firm.

UNE has 8,000 students, including 5,600 who are full-time, and campuses in Biddeford and Portland.


Court schedules arguments on NOM donor list appeal

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments this week on a national anti-gay-marriage group’s efforts to keep its donor list confidential.

The National Organization for Marriage is appealing a Superior Court judge’s decision refusing to vacate subpoenas issued by the Maine Ethics Commission demanding the names of NOM’s donors in a 2009 gay marriage referendum.

Voters that year overturned a law passed by legislators allowing same-sex marriage in Maine. The National Organization for Marriage donated about $1.9 million in the campaign.

Maine’s campaign disclosure law requires groups that raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence elections to register and disclose donors. NOM says the identities of its donors are shielded by the First Amendment.

Oral arguments before Maine’s high court are scheduled Thursday in Portland.


Suspect faces two charges after crash snaps pole in two

Police arrested a Bowdoin man Sunday after he allegedly crashed a sport utility vehicle and fled, leaving his injured passenger behind, according to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department.

Using a tracking dog, Somerset County Deputy Sheriff David Cole found Toby Johnston, 35, about 3 a.m. in nearby woods and arrested him on charges of operating under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident, the sheriff’s department said.

The passenger, also from the town of Bowdoin, was taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan for treatment of his injuries, police said.

Police said they received a report about 12:44 a.m. that a northbound 2003 Chevrolet TrailBlazer left Route 201 at the West Road intersection and hit a utility pole. The impact snapped the pole in two, police said.