Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

Southwest Virginia localities honored in Digital Counties Survey

Three Southwest Virginia localities were named winners in the annual Digital Counties Survey.

In the under 150,000-population category, Montgomery County ranked third, Franklin County fourth and Bedford County eighth.

The national survey by the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties identifies the best technology practices among U.S. counties, including initiatives that streamline delivery of government services, encourage collaboration, enhance cybersecurity and apply innovative and emerging technologies to county priorities.

The full list of winners is online.

* * *

Blacksburg shooting range to close for maintenance

The Blacksburg shooting range in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests will be closed July 25 through Aug. 1 for maintenance and repair work.

The Eastern Divide Ranger District said in a news release that it is working with community volunteers to complete several work projects, including cleaning up trash, grading the range, improving the parking area and access road, treating encroaching non-native vegetation and resetting and leveling the gates and the entrance to the range.

Anyone who has questions or who would like to help with the work can call Beth Christiansen at 540-552-4641.

* * *

Water levels on New, Roanoke rivers could rise rapidly, power company warns

Boaters, kayakers and other recreational river users downstream of Claytor and Leesville dams should be prepared for rapidly rising water levels on the New and Roanoke rivers starting Wednesday, Appalachian Power said Tuesday.

The National Weather Service is calling for high temperatures, and PJM, the independent regional transmission organization that manages the electric grid in 13 states, has notified Appalachian Power it may need to increase power generation at its hydroelectric plants to maintain the reliability of the regional electric grid if called upon to do so, the utility said in a news release.

Below Claytor Dam, water levels could increase up to 2 feet in a matter of minutes. Water levels below Leesville Dam could increase as much as 8 feet over a seven-hour period. Water levels in both places could continue to fluctuate throughout the week, Appalachian said.

Boaters and other river users should monitor AEP’s website for additional information and follow the Smith Mountain and Claytor Facebook pages for updates.

Located on the New River in Pulaski County, the Claytor Dam is operated by Appalachian Power. The total installed electric generating capacity of the plant is 76 megawatts. Leesville Dam, with a generating capacity of 50 megawatts, is part of the Smith Mountain Project, a 636-megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric facility on the Roanoke River.

* * *

State cosmetology board votes to reduce hours required for licensing

The Virginia Board for Barbers and Cosmetology voted this month to reduce by a third the hours required to obtain a cosmetology license in the state, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The reduction from 1,500 to 1,000 hours must still clear several regulatory steps, including a public comment period, before it becomes final.

The board, which is under the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, worked with a panel of advisors representing businesses and schools to review the education and training that the state mandates for cosmetologists, the release said.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s first executive directive, issued in January, ordered all executive branch entities to reduce by at 25% the number of regulations not mandated by federal or state statute.

“Excessive regulation imposes a significant burden on Virginia’s economy,” the directive read. “Restrictions, prohibitions, and requirements can exist within the administrative code for years without review, while new laws and regulations are steadily added. The growing regulatory burden on businesses and individuals requires time, money and energy for compliance. This represents opportunity loss that inhibits job creation and economic growth.”

The 1,500-hour requirement has been in place since 1963. While the overall hours are being reduced, greater focus within the training program will be placed on topics related to public protection, particularly infection control and chemical safety, the release said.

“Since day one we have been executing the Governor’s commitment to reduce 25% of Virginia’s regulatory burdens on the 40 plus occupations and professions regulated by DPOR boards,” Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater said in the release. “We obviously still have a lot of work ahead of us — Virginia’s workforce and businesses will benefit substantially by the elimination of unnecessary regulatory obstacles to jobs and economic opportunities.”