Bald Eagle Fatally Shot in Western PA

ATV riders contacted the state Game Commission when they found an injured bald eagle in a rural part of northern Cambria County on May 10th.  Wildlife conservation officers arrived on scene to find an injured mature bird with blood coming from its mouth.  The eagle died on the way to the state veterinary laboratory in State College. 

“The lab confirmed that it suffered at least gunshot wound,” explains Tom Fazi, Southwest Region information and education supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  “It’s a rural area, but maybe somebody saw something or heard something, and we’re looking for any leads… to find out who may have done this.” 

The Game Commission’s Tip Hotline is 1-888-PGC-8001.  You can also call the Southwest Region office directly at 724-238-9523.  A cash reward may be offered for information leading to an arrest, and tipsters may remain anonymous.  It is believed the bird was found on or around the day of the shooting. 

Pennsylvania’s bald eagle population is growing, but they are still classified as a threatened species.  Bald eagles are also protected under state and federal law

(photo courtesy of Hal Korber, Pennsylvania Game Commission)

Saving Amtrak Service through Western PA

Amtrak currently runs one train per day in each direction between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, but the so-called “Pennsylvanian” line was at risk of being slashed if the state didn’t pick up part of the tab.  Amtrak had been asking for $6.5-million dollars a year in state subsidies, but eventually agreed to a $3.8-million dollar deal with Governor Tom Corbett. 

However, the worrying isn’t over in western Pennsylvania just yet.  “The bottom line is we can pay for this service if the transportation funding package does pass,” says PennDOT press secretary Steve Chizmar, “if it doesn’t then it remains to be seen.” 

In February Governor Tom Corbett proposed a transportation funding plan that would raise $5.4-billion dollars over five years.  It included earmarked funds for intermodal transportation.  Many lawmakers were hoping for an even bigger bite at the apple and Senate Transportation Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) plans to introduce his transportation funding package next month. 

Pennsylvania kicks in $8 – 9-million dollars a year to help fund the Keystone East line, which provides Amtrak service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.  It does not currently fund the Pennsylvanian line that runs west of Harrisburg. 

The $6.5-million dollar figure Amtrak initially proposed would have amounted to a state subsidy $27-per person, per trip.  The Corbett administration objected to that figure, and Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch called it an “unfair assessment” during last month’s budget hearings. 

On its way from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvanian makes stops in Lewistown, Huntingdon, Altoona, Johnstown and Greensburg.

Salvation Army Deals with Sluggish Economy, More People in Need

The Salvation Army bell ringers are hard at work as their campaign heads into its final days.   The economy appears to be having an impact on the number of coins and bills stuffed into the slots of the Red Kettles. 

Major William Bode, the Western Pennsylvania Division Commander, says they’re a little behind last year, at a time when the need continues to increase. He says they’re seeing a lot of new people turning to the Salvation Army for help.  However, he remains optimistic they’ll reach their goal.

Major Bode says people do not have to look for a kettle; they now have a social media campaign as well. You can give on line at  You can find a virtual kettle for your local area, or start your own kettle and encourage family and friends to donate. The Salvation Army is on Facebook and Twitter as well with information about giving.

In Western Pennsylvania, you can also text the words “GIVE PGH” to 80888 to make a $10 donation to support the campaign.    You can also mail donations to your local Salvation Army.

***Photo courtesy of The Salvation Army

Lawmakers Stepping in to Highmark, UPMC Dispute

Time is running short to resolve the stalemate between Highmark and UPMC.   As it stands now, UPMC plans to end its contract with Highmark next year, meaning 20 hospitals and 27 hundred doctors would no longer be in network for the insurer’s subscribers.

State Representative Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny), says he feels it’s the responsibility of the legislature and Governor’s administration to step forward and work to break the stalemate any way they can, for the good of the people they were sent to Harrisburg to represent.    

He’s proposing legislation (HB32) that would give the state Insurance Commissioner more authority to step into contract disputes between hospital systems and insurers.  Representative DeLuca says his bill would make it possible for the commissioner to require an expiring or terminating contract to continue for another term if it’s determined that action would be in the best interest of the citizens.

State Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa says it’s not their practice to step into disputes between private entities, but this is a time when it’s necessary for the greater good.  He says they’ll be introducing comparable legislation in the State Senate

Representative Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), House Democratic Leader, says concern about the dispute between UPMC and Highmark transcends partisan lines. He says the unwillingness of UPMC to continue talking through the disagreement with Highmark is causing problems for employers who must make long range decisions about health care for their employees.  He says it’s causing problems for workers and retirees who face uncertainty about access to health care and the likelihood of higher costs.

Rep Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) has introduced legislation (HB1910) aimed at UPMC’s specialty hospitals. He says the measure would make certain any insurer could have access to Western Psychiatric Institute, Children’s Hospital, Magee-Women’s Hospital, The Hillman Cancer Center and the cancer network. 

The State House Insurance Committee has been holding hearings on the stalemate.

Heavy Rains Have Led to Landslides in Western Pennsylvania

The rain is causing some costly problems for roads in Western Pennsylvania. 

There have been more rainy days than sunny days in the last month and a half, some with torrential downpours, leading to several dozen landslides.

Jim Struzzi, spokesman for PennDOT’s District 11 , says in some cases rocks and mud have fallen onto the road, and in others the roadway slope has slipped away, causing the travel lanes to subside and crack. District 11 covers Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence Counties.

Struzzi says the due to the geography of the area, there are a lot of shale deposits that, when they become saturated, become loose and slick.  He says rocks then tend to give way.

Struzzi  says the immediate goal is to get the debris and mud cleared when slides occur so the roadway can be reopened to traffic,  if that’s possible.  Some of the affected roads still have lane closures. One of the major roads that has been hit with a landslide is Route 65, the Ohio Valley Boulevard.  Struzzi says it’s not the first time they’ve had to deal with rocks coming down on Route 65, because it does run along the Ohio River.

Struzzi says there were 32 active slides just in Allegheny County alone.

Repairs are expected to be costly. Struzzi says conservative estimates, just to deal with the major landslides, put the cost at between $15 and $25 million dollars.   He says that’s funding that they just do not have at this time. Struzzi says the situation will require  some tough decisions. 

Struzzi says with the way the weather has been going, and is predicted through July, they’re going to have additional landslides to deal with in Western Pennsylvania.