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POSTED January 29, 2013 8:27 p.m.

GNOMES TO STAY ONUTILITY POLES FOR NOW : OAKLAND  (AP) — Small paintings of gnomes that have popped up on utility poles have become a community sensation in Oakland, prompting Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to say Tuesday that it will keep them in place for now.

The hand-painted portraits on 6-inch blocks of wood began going up last year in an apparent effort to brighten up the blue-collar California city. There are currently more than 2,000 of the images on utility poles, with many screwed to the bases.

The gnomes have red hats, white beards and brown shoes. Some of the images contain a mushroom.

Word that PG&E planned to remove the paintings sparked an outpouring of support from residents who said the gnomes add character to the city.

PG&E spokesman Jason King planned to meet Tuesday with the artist, who requested to remain anonymous, and a member of the City Council. The utility hopes to eventually relocate the gnome paintings from the poles to other spots in the same neighborhoods.

ENVIROS SAY STANFORD UNIV. HARMING THREATENED FISH : PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Stanford University is being sued by environmental groups who claim the school is harming threatened steelhead trout at its Searsville Dam and Reservoir.

The  lawsuit was filed Tuesday and claims the school's dam blocks the fish from migrating up San Francisquito Creek watershed.

It also claims the 65-foot-tall dam degrades downstream habitat.

MOST SERIOUS CHARGE IN WILDFIRE CASE DROPPED: SAN JOSE  (AP) — The most serious charge has been dropped against a private contractor blamed for a 4,200-acre Santa Cruz Mountains wildfire in 2008.

Santa Clara County prosecutors said on Monday they weren't confident they could prove a felony reckless-burning charge against contractor Channing Verden. Verden still faces a misdemeanor count for failing to prevent the escape of a fire.

Verden left two debris piles smoldering and winds later kicked up sparks that started the weeklong wildfire. Sixty-three homes and 69 outbuildings were destroyed.


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