DUII definition could change — Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would expand the definition of drunken driving to include prescription drugs and synthetic substances that mimic drugs. Currently “intoxicants" cover only alcohol, controlled substances and inhalants. The Statesman Journal reports the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Monday on the bill that would include any drug that affects a driver’s mental or physical faculties. Drivers could claim they had an adverse reaction to medicine, but they’d have to disclose medical records to the prosecutor.
Groundwater decline — A new report shows that groundwater levels in wells drilled in the arid Columbia Plateau are declining nearly 2 feet per year on average. The report released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey examines well levels in the plateau that crosses parts of Washington, Idaho and Oregon. Scientists compiled data about water levels in 60,000 wells in the area. The report concludes that nearly three-fourths of all wells, or 72 percent, declined from 1968 to 2009. The average rate of change for all wells was 1.9 feet per year of decline. Declining groundwater levels in several Northwest aquifers have long been a source of concern. Last year, Washington officials warned that 25 communities in the Columbia River basin could have their municipal wells go dry in as soon as a decade.
Fire kills child — Investigators say a fire in a mobile home park in Vale has killed a 1-year-old boy. The Ontario Argus Observer reports the fire was reported about 11:30 p.m. Monday in the Treasure Valley Mobile Home Park. Investigators say a neighbor rescued one child, and an arson team was dispatched to the scene of the fire.
New state V.A. director — Gov. John Kitzhaber has appointed his military and veterans affairs adviser to lead the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. The nomination of Cameron Smith was announced on Tuesday and is still subject to Senate confirmation. Smith replaces Jim Willis, who is retiring March 1. Smith has been an adviser to Kitzhaber and former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and he’s a former Marine Corps captain who served three tours of duty in Iraq. He says the state must focus on connecting all veterans to their benefits as operations wind down overseas.
Animal euthanasia down — Six Portland-area animal shelters say they’ve significantly reduced the number of homeless cats and dogs they kill. The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland says the shelters killed 40 percent of the animals they took in 2006. Last year the rate dropped to 19 percent. The number of kills dropped from almost 18,000 to about 6,000. The Oregonian reports the coalition shelters have reduced euthanasia by not killing healthy animals. The shelters report success with microchips that identify lost animals and with spay and neuter programs. The number of animals taken in by the shelters is down from more than 44,000 in 2006 to about 34,000 last year.
Landslide ends chase — Officers in Brookings say a teenager who stole a taxi at knifepoint tried to get away from a deputy by heading into the country, but ran right into a landslide. KVAL-TV reports the theft happened Saturday afternoon. A deputy saw the taxi van on U.S. 101 and tried to pull the driver over. The driver turned onto Meyers Creek road, which turned out to be closed because the landslide covered it. The taxi crashed, and deputies say they arrested the driver without a struggle. The Curry County sheriff’s office said 18-year-old Cody Pettit, of Brookings, was accused of robbery, methamphetamine possession and other charges.
— From wire reports