State briefs for July 26

Sheriff: ‘Sociable’ couple still missing after house burned

JOHN DAY, Ore. — A “sociable” couple whose remote house burned to the ground last week in Oregon remained missing Wednesday and police said there has been no sign of them on their phones or social media.

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Authorities have stopped short of calling the disappearance of Terry and Sharon Smith suspicious, but Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said Tuesday, “we’d like to know where they are at, whether it’s good or bad.”

The Smiths, both in their 60s, have not been heard from since July 18, when their home south of John Day went up in flames.

They normally split their time between the eastern Oregon residence and Hawaii, and had arrived baxk in Oregon a few weeks ago. They visited family in Springfield after their return.

Cadaver dogs have not picked up the scent of any human remains in the ruins of the burned home on 80 acres off a remote road, he said.

Their truck — a silver or gray 2006 Toyota Tacoma with Oregon license plate 714 EGG — is also missing.

“It’s very frustrating, because it’s not like them to just take off and not let someone know where they’re at,” nephew Josh Smith of Springfield said.

A neighbor called 911 around midnight on the night of the blaze to report what was thought to be a forest fire in the distance. Responding crews found the’ house burning.

Josh Smith and his wife, Amy, went to the John Day area Tuesday to help search for the couple.

Other friends and family members also have tried to find the couple and search the area, but to no avail. They know the Smiths were at home earlier on the evening of the fire.

“Our phone has been ringing off the hook with family and friends,” Palmer said. “They’re a very personable, social couple. It’s just blown a lot of people away that they’re not on social media or their phones.”

Lawsuit seeks stop to erosion control project on Maui shore

WAILUKU, Maui — Two Maui shoreline protection groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the Hololani condominium association from beginning work on a measure to halt beach erosion.

The West Maui Preservation Association and the Na Papa’i Wawae ‘Ula’ula group filed the suit last week, claiming changes to a shoreline protection project in Kahana were not approved.

The Hololani Association of Apartment Owners planned to begin work next month on installing sheet piles. A hearing in state court has been scheduled for Friday.

Faced with erosion threats, the Hololani association began shoreline hardening measures over a decade ago. It installed sandbags and erosion blankets as temporary solutions, and it sought to construct a 400-foot (122-meter) seawall. The Maui Planning Commission gave approval for the seawall project in 2014.

The project required an easement because it would encroach onto the state-owned shoreline. The Hololani association sought approval from state Legislature this year, but lawmakers did not act on the easement request.

The group altered the project plans to install only the sheet piles off of state shoreline, getting approval from then-Planning Director Will Spence.

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The Maui Planning Commission should have made the decision on the project changes, bringing the matter before public hearings, said Lance Collins, the protection groups’ attorney.

“The new sheet metal armoring project is Hololani’s attempt to work around its failure to obtain approvals for a different seawall and rock revetment from the state earlier this year,” the two groups said in a statement.

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