NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020


Earthquake recorded near Wright

GILLETTE (WNE) — A 3.6-magnitude earthquake was recorded about 9 miles east of Wright on Tuesday afternoon.

No injuries or damage has been reported as of Wednesday morning, said Robby Gallob, emergency management coordinator for the town of Wright.

The modest earthquake is the 12th recorded in Campbell County since records began being kept in 1967, said Campbell County Emergency Management Coordinator David King.

The largest earthquake in the county was a 5.1 temblor that was centered 27 miles west of Gillette in 1984, King said.

From all of the earthquakes to happen in Campbell County, ranging from magnitude 2.1 to 5.1, he said there have never been any reported injuries or damage.

Although the recent quake happened in the vicinity of coal mines, because of its 9-mile deep epicenter and acknowledgement from the U.S. Geological Survey, it is unlikely that it was a coal blast mistaken for an earthquake, King said.

Another earthquake was recorded near the same area in 1993, about 10 miles east of Wright, King said.

Unlike the western part of Wyoming, where seismic activity is more common, the Powder River Basin between the Black Hills and Big Horn Mountains is relatively tame.

“We do have some fault lines and so forth, but they’re not seismically active, nothing like the western part of the state is,” King said.

The fault lines that have been active in Campbell County are relatively minor and unnamed, he said.

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State issues health advisory for Buffalo Bill algae

CODY (WNE) — The Wyoming Department of Health has issued a recreational use advisory for Buffalo Bill Reservoir due to a harmful cyanobacterial bloom.

Buffalo Bill State Park announced the news Monday on Facebook, less than two weeks after letting the public know an area of the reservoir was under investigation for the presence of cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae. There was at least one case of a dog dying after swimming on the south side of the reservoir that prompted the investigation.

The Department of Health issues advisories to inform the public that there may be health risks for people and animals in areas where HCBs occur.

Lakes and reservoirs under a recreational use advisory are not closed since HCBs may only be present in certain areas of the waterbody and conditions can change frequently. The advisory will remain in place until the bloom has fully dissipated and cyanotoxin concentrations are below recreational use thresholds identified in Wyoming’s HCB Action Plan, or until the primary recreation season ends on Sept. 30, whichever comes first.

On Sept. 16, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality staff visited the reservoir and observed a potential bloom. Water samples were collected and cyanobacteria densities exceeded the 20,000 cells/mL recreational use threshold identified in Wyoming’s HCB Action Plan. Cyanotoxin results are pending.

The Wyoming Department of Health is working directly with DEQ to ensure that signs are posted. The status of advisories in Wyoming as well as other HCB resources can be found at WyoHCBs.org.

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Evansville teacher Wyoming’s ‘Teacher of the Year’

CASPER (WNE) — A fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Evansville Elementary School has been named the 2021 Wyoming teacher of the year. 

Alexis Barney received the honor Tuesday during the Wyoming Education Summit. 

Barney is Evansville’s English language arts goal team leader and serves on the leadership team, according to a news release from the Wyoming Department of Education. Her teaching philosophy involves empowering students to be kind and courageous life-long learners who are inquisitive and excited about the world around them, she said. 

“Our attitude is going to be infectious.” Barney said in a statement. “I want to empower people to see things in a different light, helping them to find resources and really turn those ‘can’ts’ into ‘cans.’” 

Barney was raised in Saratoga. She graduated from the University of Wyoming-Casper and earned a master’s degree in 2016 at Capella University. 

In a statement, Evansville Principal Wayne Tuttle described her as one of the finest educators he has worked with during his three-decade career. 

“Students thrive in Alexis’ class because of her high expectations, innovative engagement strategies and relevant learning,” Tuttle said in a statement. “When a principal looks for an educator to be an anchor of their school for decades to come, they are searching for someone of Alexis’ quality.” 

As the state’s teacher of the year, Barney will act as a liaison among the teaching community, the Wyoming Legislature, the education department and the school district, according to the news release. 

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Bighorn Canyon use increases

LOVELL (WNE) — It’s not for any reason they could have predicted. Still, the use of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, particularly in the south near Lovell, has seen an increase this year. 

That’s the news Mike Tranel, superintendent of Bighorn Canyon NRA, shared with the Lovell Chamber of Commerce Member Luncheon on Monday. 

The number of aquatic invasive species tests conducted tells the story in raw data. 

In May of 2019, rangers conducted 47 tests on watercraft in the Horseshoe Bend area. In May of 2020, that number jumped to 302. In June of 2019, rangers conducted 419 tests, and in 2020 that number increased to 604. 

The most significant increases occurred in July and August. July’s number jumped from 763 in 2019 to 1,020 in 2020, while August’s numbers jumped from 554 to 1,035. September has seen a more modest increase. 

Overall, the trend that has led to increased traffic within the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area’s southern district has been seen across the nation. As international and out-of-region traffic has decreased, regional traffic has increased.

“If you take out international travel, flying across the country to go somewhere, people aren’t doing that, by any means,” Tranel said. “People are traveling more regionally. For Big Horn Canyon, it has been very similar.”

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