(AREA) -- The Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak are saying full speed ahead on expanding the state's high-speed train service. Amtrak will take over maintenance on the former Norfolk Southern Railway route used by Amtrak's Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains February 16. MDOT purchased 135 miles of the railroad last year. MDOT says this will allow track improvements to begin to bring more areas high-speed train service. The department says improvements may begin as early as this spring. Amtrak trains currently reach 110 mph along an 80-mile stretch between Porter, Ind. and Kalamazoo. The expansion of the high-speed service is expected to start between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek and head eastward. MDOT and Amtrak say the goal is to get passengers between Chicago and Detroit in about 5 hours.
(AREA) -- With current water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron at all-time lows - and levels in lakes Michigan, Huron and St. Clair expected to continue dropping - the Michigan State Waterways Commission has adopted an emergency dredging plan that will provide zero-match grant funding opportunities for harbors of refuge, recreational boating harbors, marinas and boat launches most affected by the low water levels. As part of the plan, the DNR Parks and Recreation Division says it will redirect nearly $8.8 million of Waterways funding from existing appropriations and receive $11.5 million from the 2013 General Fund, as recommended in Governor Rick Snyder's just-released budget. In total, nearly $21 million would be dedicated toward keeping Michigan's waterways operational. There are 83 public recreational boating harbors--63 are local municipal harbors, 19 are state harbors and one is a federal harbor. There were more than 800,000 registered boats in 2011, ranking third highest in the nation. Congresswoman Candice Miller commended the effort stating that the health and sustainability of Michigan's waterways are vital to the state's economy. DNR Director Keith Creagh says the emergency dredging plan helps address the problem for this year, but a long-term solution is needed.
(PORT HURON) -- Four Port Huron residents were bound over to St. Clair County Circuit Court Thursday on charges of Criminal Sexual Conduct, Torture and Unlawful Imprisonment. The case stems from an investigation into assault over a lengthy period of time against two victims in a home in the 400 block of 14th Street in Port Huron. Officials say one of the suspects, 21-year old Vito Hale was bound over on charges of torture, three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and two counts of unlawful imprisonment. 19-year old Conrad Evenson is being charged with torture, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of unlawful imprisonment. 18-year old Bobby Joe Main faces charges of torture, two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of unlawful imprisonment. Bond was denied for all three defendants. The fourth suspect, 18-year old Talon Ferguson, was bound over on a first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge, a second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge, and an added count of torture. His bond was set at $100,000 and he is also being held with no bond on an unrelated charge. Port Huron Police say the investigation continues and details on the case are not being released.
Pictured Left to Right: Bobby Joe Main, Conrad Evenson, Vito Hale, Talon Ferguson
(AREA) -- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette believes a judge's recent opinion on no-parole sentences for juveniles covers only five prisoners and is not a sweeping decision affecting other inmates. Schuette's comments are in a letter to 83 county prosecutors. He says he wants to dispel what he calls "rumors" in news reports following a recent decision by federal Judge John Corbett O'Meara. O'Meara said Michigan prisoners should have a "fair and meaningful" shot at parole now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down mandatory no-parole sentences for crimes committed by teens, mostly murder. The judge said Michigan's parole law is unconstitutional. But Schuette interprets O'Meara's decision as affecting only a handful of inmates who filed a lawsuit, not hundreds behind bars. Attorney Deborah LaBelle disagrees. More court action is planned. Schuette's staff last fall filed a 29-page brief in the Michigan appeals court in the case of a St. Clair County man, Raymond Carp. He was 15 when he was involved in the brutal death of a woman in 2006. Schuette has said there should be no retroactive benefits for people already behind bars. More than 350 people are serving no-parole sentences in Michigan for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.
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(GILFORD TOWNSHIP) -- Fairgrove Road was closed for six hours Tuesday after a semi truck and trailer struck a Chevy Cobalt around 4 p.m. causing the semi to jack-knife and end up in a water filled ditch. Troopers from the Caro Post say the crash occurred when the Cobalt, driven by 48-year old Kari Ann Breece of Saginaw, stopped on Fairgrove Road to turn left onto VanBuren Road. As Breece began to turn, her vehicle was struck from behind by the Kenworth tractor and trailer driven by 52-year old Dean Henne of Bay Port. Breece's vehicle was pushed into a guardrail. The semi's trailer ended up in the deep ditch. Breece was transported to Covenant Hospital in Saginaw by ambulance for treatment of serious injuries. Her passenger, 20-year old Andrew Breece, was also taken to Covenant for treatment of minor injuries. Henne refused medical treatment at the scene. Troopers say Henne was cited for failing to stop in an assured clear distance ahead. Fairgrove Road was reopened to traffic around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night.
(HARBOR BEACH) -- The Harbor Beach School Board held a special meeting Tuesday and conducted interviews with two candidates seeking the vacant seat on the board following the resignation of Neal Laeder. The board interviewed Terry Guza and Paul Hunter. Hunter was selected to fill the term, which expires on December 31, 2014.
(LAPEER) -- The Lone Wolverine Exhibit will make a stop at the Lapeer County Courthouse this Saturday, February 16 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Representatives from the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners and the Lapeer County Historical Society will be joined by State Senator Phil Pavlov of St. Clair Township, State Representative Kevin Daley of Lum, State Senator Mike Green of Mayville, Sheriff Ron Kalanquin, Mayor Bill Sprague, and "The Wolverine Guy" Jeff Ford. Discovered by a group of hunters in 2004, the wolverine was tracked during her life in the Thumb by Jeff Ford, a high school science teacher. Ford captured photos and videos of the wolverine and documented its movements in the Minden City State Game Area in Sanilac County where she primarily lived until being found deceased in 2010. Ford's efforts are highlighted in a book, "The Lone Wolverine," written by Elizabeth Philips Shaw. Serving as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Mike Green worked with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to showcase the wolverine in a traveling exhibit. Currently moving around the state, the Lone Wolverine Exhibit will be on display at the Lapeer County Historical Courthouse from Saturday, February 16 through March 3. The showing has been organized locally by Lapeer County Commissioner Linda Jarvis. The exhibits permanent location following the tour will be at the Bay City State Recreation Area in Bay City.
PHOTO CREDIT: JEFF FORD
(CLAY TOWNSHIP) -- A fare increase is expected for the ferry to Harsens Island in Lake St. Clair. Users will pay $1 more in fares starting March 10 and an additional $1 in January if the agreement is approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. A round-trip ticket for a vehicle is currently $7. The tentative agreement with the state was signed this week by Champion's Auto Ferry, which had raised the possibility last year of ending service. Harsens Island is in St. Clair County's Clay Township. The island has about 1,200 year-round residents and the summer population grows to about 5,000. The island is accessible by boat as well as a small airstrip.
(AREA) -- Michigan's House Education committee chairwoman is calling on a state department to rescind its complaint over the use of American Indian mascots in schools. Alto Republican Representative Lisa Posthumus Lyons released a statement criticizing the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for taking its complaint to the federal level. The department filed the complaint last week with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights asking to ban the use of American Indian mascots and imagery in K-12 schools and deny funding to schools that continue to use them. The complaint says the use of the mascots denies equal rights to American Indian students. Lyons says the department is "putting students' education funding at risk for political gain." She says the issue should be resolved at the local level.
In the Thumb and Blue Water area there are four schools that have used Indian mascots including Sandusky, the home of the Redskins. Superintendent Mike Carmean says the school does not discriminate against students of any culture. Attorneys have advised the district to wait and watch the developments in the complaint as 35 schools in Michigan would be affected and there would probably be an appeal of any order. Other area schools with Indian mascots include the Port Huron Big Reds, Capac Chiefs, and the Kinde-North Huron Warriors.