hitchhiking bill passes

By Jim Stanford on February 22, 2013

Comments: 9 Comments

Sen. Christensen at the Capitol last month.

A bill that would legalize hitchhiking in Wyoming has passed both chambers of the state Legislature and awaits Gov. Matt Mead’s signature to become law.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, passed final reading in the House today by a 52-6 vote. Earlier the Senate voted 29-1 to approve it.

“It is never over till the ink is dry,” Christensen wrote in an email. “I have my fingers crossed.”

The bill would remove language from state law prohibiting people from being on a highway for the purpose of soliciting a ride. If signed by the governor, the law would take effect July 1.

Reached at his home in Teton Village, Capt. Bob Morris, a longtime advocate of ride sharing, hailed the bill’s passage. “Hurray, that’s terrific news,” Morris said. “It should have happened decades ago.”

Morris said he did not plan to attend a prospective bill signing, even if he could hitch to Cheyenne.

Also expected to rejoice, if the governor approves the legislation: backcountry skiers on Teton Pass, rafters in the Snake canyon, and the mountain man Gator.

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Posted under Crime, Politics, Wyoming, Wyoming Legislature

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entire state hungover, following whiskey debut

By Jim Stanford on December 3, 2012

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People wait in line to purchase Wyoming Whiskey outside the opening party Saturday in Kirby. The spectacular launch of the bourbon has put the tiny town in central Wyoming’s Hot Springs County on the map for liquor connoisseurs.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead might as well have declared today a state holiday, after nearly every resident rushed out to purchase and consume ample quantities of his brother’s Wyoming Whiskey over the weekend.

The long-awaited first release of the homegrown bourbon became a marketing sensation unlike anything the state has ever seen. Not only were hundreds of Wyoming retailers shut out, but stores, too, were raided shortly after opening.

Jackson Whole Grocer opened at 7 a.m. Saturday and sold all 150 bottles in stock within 25 minutes. Yes, people lined up to buy whiskey at 7 a.m. The store had to cancel a planned tasting because there was none left to taste.

At the distillery in Kirby, a line of roughly three times the town’s population of 92 stretched from the party tent as people waited to buy a bottle, in a scene one onlooker described as reminiscent of Prohibition.

The question lingering like cottonmouth and a dull headache, though, is whether the whiskey lived up to the hype. The Casper Star-Tribune consulted a liquor expert, who described it as “one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted.”

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Wyoming Whiskey available for pre-order

By Jim Stanford on October 12, 2012

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Update 10/13: The discounted bottles have sold out (see comment).

The whiskey is made with Wyoming grains and distilled in Kirby.

For more than three years, since Wyoming Whiskey first went into an aging barrel, thirsty drinkers have asked Dave DeFazio when they can taste the bourbon. “When it’s good and ready,” has been his stock reply.

Well, it’s just about good and ready.

The state’s first distillery is installing bottling equipment and expects to have its initial shipment of 2,500 cases in stores by Dec. 1. The Liquor Store of Jackson Hole is taking advance orders and offering a 20 percent discount, with 750 ml bottles priced at $40 instead of $50. Other retailers also have waiting lists.

On Dec. 1, DeFazio and business partner Brad Mead are hosting a party at the distillery in Kirby, Wyo., about a four-hour drive from Jackson, replete with tastings, tours and a band. Mead’s brother, Gov. Matt Mead, will help christen the brand. The all-day affair begins at noon.

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Flaming Gorge pipe dream taxpayers’ nightmare

By Jim Stanford on November 28, 2011

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Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming. Click to enlarge.

Apparently unaware that Wyoming legislators can make it rain (or snow) by pumping $14 million into cloud seeding, Colorado businessman Aaron Million is pressing ahead with his proposal to pump water some 500 miles from Flaming Gorge Reservoir over the Continental Divide to Colorado’s Front Range.

In a bit of procedural sleight of hand, Million has shifted his application from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, now claiming the project will produce hydropower. In doing so he seeks whichever federal agency is most likely to give the plan a favorable review.

Former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal opposed the pipeline, as does his successor, Gov. Matt Mead. Sportsmen from southern Wyoming and northern Utah also have ridiculed the plan, which would divert 250,000 acre feet of water — or about 30 percent of the storage capacity of Jackson Lake, for a comparison — from the Green River Basin each year, into the eastbound Platte Basin.

The staggering price tag — $3 billion by Million’s estimation, up to $9 billion by other projections — regulatory hurdles and widespread doubts make it unlikely the pipeline ever will be built. But we never can be too vigilant, so click here to submit an eComment to FERC. The docket number for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline is P-14263, and the deadline is Dec. 16.

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Posted under Economy, Environment, Politics, Sports, Wyoming

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WyDOT digs into slide 24/7

By Jim Stanford on May 23, 2011

Comments: 11 Comments

Crews have begun working 24 hours a day to clear the mudslide blocking Highway 26/89 in the Snake River Canyon.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation has hired Yellow Iron Excavating of Wilson to remove debris. The slide, dubbed the Double Draw Slide, has blocked the highway since May 14.

“The slide did things that are very encouraging for us [Saturday],” said John Eddins, WyDOT district engineer. “Water flow in the middle of the slide has increased, which has moved a lot of debris down to the road.”

The agency had been waiting for as much of the unstable land mass as possible to reach the road or ooze below toward the Snake River. WyDOT officials also were encouraged that the top of the slide appears to be stabilizing, with no movement for two days, Eddins said.

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