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POSTED April 23, 2013 9:40 p.m.

ORANGE COUNTY SUPERVISORS OPPOSE BEACH BONFIRE BAN: SANTA ANA  (AP) — Orange County supervisors have thrown their support behind the California tradition of beach bonfires in the face of a proposed ban.

yhe Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to oppose a broad ban and let cities decide for themselves on seaside fire pits.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer said beach bonfires are a piece of Americana like "mother and apple pie."

Residents of Newport Beach have pushed for removing the fire rings, saying the smoke is drifting into homes and causing health hazards.

Cities including Huntington Beach have opposed the move.

The decision will fall to pollution regulators. The South Coast Air Quality Management District is expected to vote on a ban on May 3, and the California Coastal Commission will vote after that.

BIOLOGIST PLEADS GUILTY TO FEEDING KILLER WHALES: SAN JOSE  (AP) — A Northern California marine biologist has pleaded guilty to illegally feeding killer whales in the wild, federal prosecutors said.

Nancy Black pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in San Jose to one count of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The law protects marine animals by prohibiting the feeding of mammals in the wild, prosecutors said.

Initially, Black — who runs popular whale watching tours on Monterey Bay — was accused of feeding the killer whales, and misleading investigators by editing video footage of her encounters with other whales during a whale watching trip, then lying about it.

As part of a plea agreement, Black admitted that when she was on her boat in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in April 2004, she and her crew tied rope to pieces of gray whale blubber that were floating in the water to facilitate viewing of orcas eating the blubber, prosecutors said.

Black admitted in court papers that she didn't have a permit to feed the whales.

As a marine biologist, Black's work has been featured on PBS, National Geographic and Animal Planet. She has also worked with federal agencies on the study of whales, including the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, which is part of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

She also operates Monterey Bay Whale Watch, which offers year-round whale watching trips, where she is listed on the company's website as owner and lead naturalist.

BAY AREA DAM PROJECT SUFFERS $200M SETBACK: MILPITAS (AP) — The project to upgrade a reservoir that serves as the San Francisco Bay area's main backup water supply has suffered a $200 million setback.

Crews building a new dam on the Calaveras Reservoir have come across an ancient, buried landslide that has forced them to redesign the project, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on TuesdaY.

The changes will increase the costs from $416 million to $620 million and push back completion by more than 2 years to 2017. The existing dam has been deemed seismically unsafe.

"It's an ancient landslide thousands of years old, buried below the surface and masked from view," said Dan Wade, the regional project manager for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's $4.6 billion plan to overhaul the Hetch Hetchy water system and make it seismically safe. The system relies primarily on the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park and serves about 2.6 million customers in the Bay area.

The dam replacement is among dozens of projects that are part of the Hetch Hetchy overhaul.

UCLA FIRST SCHOOL IN UC SYSTEM TO BAN SMOKING: LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA has become the first school in the University of California system to ban smoking on campus.

The no-tobacco policy was launched Monday on Earth Day. The policy will operate on an honor system.

The ban also includes smokeless tobacco and the sale and advertising of tobacco products.

UC President Mark G. Yudof has called for all 10 schools in the system to go smoke-free by next year.

3 INJURED WHEN SUV PLOWS INTO AUBURN RESTAURANT: AUBURN  (AP) — Police are still trying to determine what caused an SUV driven by a woman in her 70s to plow into a restaurant's outdoor seating area in Northern California, leaving three people injured.

One of the victims of Monday afternoon's crash in the Placer County city of Auburn was pinned under the SUV and was critically injured. The two others were in serious condition.

Auburn Police Chief John Ruffcorn says investigators are looking into the possibility of mechanical failure as well as driver error in the crash.

He says the driver remained at the scene and was very upset. She has not been cited or arrested.

BODY BURIED IN FRESNO YARD MATCHES MISSING TEEN: FRESNO  (AP) — Authorities say a body uncovered in a Fresno backyard is that of a teenage boy who disappeared four years ago.

Fresno police spokesman Sergeant Jaime Rios says DNA taken from the body matches the DNA of missing 15-year-old Fresno teen Steven Humphrey. The DNA match was confirmed by the Department of Justice.

The body was found in a shallow grave last Tuesday, after investigators received a tip that a body might be buried in the backyard and served a search warrant.

Humphrey was reported missing in January 2009 and lived in the neighborhood when he vanished. He was described as an endangered runaway, but his relatives believe he was the victim of a homicide.

Rios said investigators are still awaiting the coroner's report for the cause of death.

 

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