Saltwater anglers must get a license or risk a ticket

N.C. fisheries authorities are stepping up their enforcement of a law requiring everyone 16 and older to have a saltwater fishing license to fish in coastal waters.

The Star-News of Wilmington reports that the law went into effect in January 2007, and the state just handed out warnings last year. But that grace period ended at the start of 2008, and the N.C. Marine Patrol is enforcing the law, which can involve $35 citations and $120 in court costs.

A spokeswoman for the Marine Fisheries Division says the state issued 364 citations from January to May of this year, compared with 1,056 warnings during the same time last year.

A saltwater fishing license costs $15 for N.C. residents. A combined saltwater and freshwater license costs $35.

Associated Press

Meck briefs


Foundation for the Carolinas will accept grant applications on behalf of the Crosland Foundation through 4 p.m. Friday.

Grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 will be awarded to nonprofit organizations in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area that provide affordable housing and related services.

For more details or an application, call Ashley Allen at 704-973-4594 or visit www.fftc.org and click on “2008 Grant Cycles.” Grant recipients will be notified in October. Lukas Johnson

An uptown annual tradition returns Saturday, with the Blessing of the Pets.

Father Smokey Oates of Trinity Episcopal School will lead the program, scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Center City Green Market, on Seventh Street between College and Brevard streets. That is across from ImaginOn and the Levine Museum of the New South.

Any pets are welcome. Organizers say even lizards have been blessed in years past.

Free parking is available in the lot next to the green market, or in the Seventh Street Station parking deck.

The event is open to all pet owners, not just those uptown. Steve Lyttle

Offices supporting Obama's Campaign for Change will open in Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington and Rocky Mount beginning today, the N.C. Democratic Party announced Friday.

The joint campaign with the Democratic National Committee aims to support the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama and candidates in other Democratic races. The Wilmington (1302 S 39th St.) and Rocky Mount (2517 Sunset Ave.) offices open today. The Charlotte (1523 Elizabeth Ave.) and Raleigh (130 E. Morgan St.) offices are to open in coming days. Staff Reports

Regional briefs

Cleveland County Shelby

The family of a 5-year-old boy who was killed last year in a dirt bike accident has filed a lawsuit accusing race promoters and track owners.

Cody Fidler fell when riding a bike that could go up to 30 mph on a practice round at Parker Valley Motorsports Park in Cleveland County. While he was trying to get up, a 12-year-old on a more powerful bike hit him.

His parents, Wade Fidler and Michelle Fidler, filed suit this month in Mecklenburg Superior Court. They said race promoter, Joseph Williams, his firm, JMX Racing Promotions, and property owners Charles and Juanita Parker disregarded their own safety rules at the track. Eric Frazier

South Carolina Columbia

One of two illegal immigrants charged with smuggling a teenage girl into South Carolina and forcing her into prostitution has been sentenced to more than 14 years in prison.

The U.S. Justice Department says Jesus Perez-Laguna was also ordered to pay $52,500 in restitution during a federal court hearing Friday.

Perez-Laguna and a co-defendant, Ciro Bustos-Rosales, pleaded guilty in September. They admitted transporting the 14-year-old girl across the U.S.-Mexico border and into South Carolina, via North Carolina, to force her into prostitution.

In April, Bustos-Rosales was sentenced to nearly six years in prison and ordered to pay restitution.

A third defendant, Guadalupe Reyes-Rivera, is a fugitive. Associated Press

Buncombe County Asheville

The lives of almost 100 N.C. residents would be saved each year by reducing air pollution from Tennessee Valley Authority plants, an expert from the Harvard School of Public Health has testified.

Jonathan Levy is an associate professor of environmental health and risk assessment. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports he testified Friday in the lawsuit brought by N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Cooper wants the TVA to cut pollution from its 11 coal-fired power plants in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. The state argues that emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury drift from nearby states and hurt N.C. air quality and economy.

Levy says if scrubbers and other pollution control technology were in place, North Carolina would have 99 fewer premature deaths annually from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Associated Press

Burke County Morganton

A fire that could be seen from miles away destroyed a wing of a Burke County motel near Interstate 40 late Thursday.

Nobody was injured in the blaze, at a vacant portion of the Economy Inn, on Bethel Road off Exit 106 near Morganton. Firefighters from 10 departments battled the blaze, which was reported shortly after 11 p.m. It struck a wing of the hotel that contained about 35 rooms but had not been used in recent years, fire officials say.

Eight guests staying in a nearby wing were evacuated, but firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from spreading to that part of the inn. Authorities say they do not know what started the fire. They say there was no electrical service to that part of the building. Steve Lyttle