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Washington State News Archive

Below are archived news items for the current month. To view a previous month, choose it from the list below.

"Record return of sockeye"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The sockeye salmon fishing season begins today, and anglers and wildlife advocates will be happy to know that record runs are predicted for this year. The number of sockeye salmon counted at Bonneville Dam in June was the highest daily count on record. The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife has updated its total season prediction to a run of 375,000 salmon. Idaho biologists are excited, because Snake River sockeye salmon numbers have been devastatingly low for many years. The larger the number of fish over the Bonneville Dam, the more fish that will likely make it to spawning grounds in Idaho. The Bonneville Power Administration and the state of Idaho are hoping to start up a smolt hatchery at Springfield, Idaho, which could revitalize sockeye numbers in the state. - 07/01/2010

"Whatcom retailers adjust to sales tax confusion on Canada Day"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Shortly after the Washington Dept. of Revenue determined that British Columbia residents could qualify for a sales tax exemption when shopping in the state, a Skagit County Superior Court judge stayed the exemption from taking effect. However, it appears most B.C. shoppers who flooded down I-5 on Canada Day took the news in stride. The city of Bellingham and Whatcom County asked the judge to stay the exemption because the lack of sales tax revenue would hurt local governments who depend on the revenue for funding. Meanwhile, retailers say not allowing the exemption hurts businesses south of the border. The Canadian dollar is currently strong, and B.C. residents flock to Bellingham to shop. A hearing is set for July 9 to determine the legality of the sales tax exemption. - 07/02/2010

"Cell phone law spurs 6-fold increase in tickets"--Vancouver Columbian
Since June 10, when the new laws against driving while using cell phones went into effect, state troopers have pulled over 1,138 drivers for talking or texting on a cell phone. Out of those, 667 were issued tickets and 471 were only issued warnings. Only 34 of the tickets went for texting. Hands-free cell phone devices, such as headsets or ear pieces, are still legal. Several studies show that talking or texting while driving drastically increases the likelihood of accidents on the road. Washington is one of eight states that have banned all hands-on cell phone use while driving. The new law moved the infraction from a secondary offense to a primary offense, meaning that officers could pull drivers over for the use of a cell phone without any other reason. - 07/05/2010

"$30 million for Puget Sound cleanup"--Tacoma News Tribune
The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary program is awarding nearly $30 million to various efforts to revive the Puget Sound. Much of the money will go towards helping Native American tribes clean up salmon and other wildlife habitats, and a large grant will also be given to the Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency dedicated to preserving and protecting the Sound. Washington’s U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are co-sponsoring a bill in Congress to establish a Puget Sound Recovery Act, which would bring even more federal dollars and attention to the area. - 07/07/2010

"A reversal on Plan B"--The Olympian
The Washington State Board of Pharmacy has voted unanimously to change its rules to allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense certain drugs as long as they provide customers with referrals to other pharmacies. The vote comes during a pending lawsuit that has pitted the state against pharmacists who have refused to fill prescriptions for the medication with the brand name Plan B. In 2007, the state pharmacy board ruled that pharmacists could refuse to fill prescriptions out of moral concerns only if they required someone else at the same pharmacy to fill the order. Lawyers from both the state Attorney General’s office and the pharmacists involved in the case have agreed to stay the trial, planned for June 26, during the rulemaking process. - 07/14/2010

"County added 820 jobs in private sector"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Although Spokane County lost 200 government jobs in June, the private sector added over 800 jobs, with the majority increase being in construction. Manufacturing, retail, and health care sectors also added jobs. Overall, the county’s unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent for June, a decrease from 9.1 percent in May. According to the Employment Security Department, some of that decrease can be attributed to workers moving out of the area. Statewide, unemployment fell from 9.2 percent in May to 8.9 percent in June, with the private sector adding 4,500 jobs. However, the government cut about 8,000 jobs statewide in June. - 07/16/2010

"Oil cap kept shut despite seep near ruptured well"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The federal government is allowing BP to keep the cap shut on the Deepwater Horizon oil leak, despite evidence that oil and natural gas may be seeping into the seafloor. Apparently federal officials are satisfied that BP scientists are monitoring the well closely. Sources say the oil company has agreed to uncap the leak if new underground seepage becomes apparent. BP is currently drilling relief wells to control the pressure on the capped leak, and may also begin pumping oil to ships on the water’s surface. To date, between 94 million and 184 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, and BP has made $207 million in reparation payments. - 07/19/2010

"Plans for Hanford rail cars gain steam"--Richland/Pasco/Kennewick Tri City Herald
The Department of Energy might consider making some contaminated rail cars held at Hanford part of the B Reactor tour. The rail cars used to carry irradiated plutonium rods to cooling facilities as part of the plutonium production process during the 1940s, although the practice stopped in 1951. DOE is deciding whether to dispose of all the rail cars, or keep some for display at the B Reactor site, in which case they would need to be decontaminated. Energy officials say the public would not be allowed to enter the rail cars. - 07/20/2010

"Budget ideas, many pleas not to cut State: Governor's forum brings out interest groups" -- The Olympian
Gov. Chris Gregoire’s website on transforming the budget lit up with more than 80 comments in the first hours of its existence. An interactive website allows citizens to share, comment and vote on budget ideas. Four public hearings on the budget are also scheduled. A standing-room only crowd of about 450 showed up to the University of Washington Tacoma for the first on Monday. One thing people attending the forums aren’t asked for is advice on how the state can find more money. The website and the hearings are some of the tools the governor is using to develop the state’s 2011–13 spending plan in the process she calls “Transforming Washington’s Budget.” - 07/20/2010

"Narrows Bridge traffic, revenue struggle to stay in black"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Figures in a quarterly update on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge traffic and toll revenue show lower than estimated numbers on both counts. This might lead to an increase in tolls according to Washington Transportation Commission officials. Toll revenues were down 2.4 percent in 2010, and the projected shortfall for 2011 is 4.5 percent with no toll hikes. In addition to monitoring traffic and revenues, the commission is also adding a third tolling category – bills for toll violators, rather than fines. It has not yet been decided what the new billing rate will be, but public hearings will be held to discuss the new rate. - 07/21/2010

"Olympia Capitol rotunda closed after one-pound piece of plaster falls” – The Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Capitol rotunda in Olympia is closed after a one-pound piece of plaster fell from the columns high overhead. Nobody was injured when it fell but officials have roped off the area and an inspection is scheduled for Wednesday. The rotunda will be closed indefinitely, but tours are still going on and visitors can see the elaborate ceiling from different vantage points within the Capitol. - 07/21/2010

"Kittitas County changes course on water rights"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Until recently, Kittitas County has contended that the holder of senior water rights was an issue that could only be regulated by the state Department of Ecology, and was set to write a policy for building permits that stated as much. The county has said that its only concern was ensuring enough water for its residents when issuing permits that depended on digging new wells. That stance resulted in the state banning the county from issuing any well permits in the upper county since last year. Now the county has backed off, saying that it will work to make sure legal water rights exist before issuing permits. The state says that this will help to maintain “water budget neutrality.” - 07/22/2010

"State Rep. Barbara Baily seeks official opinion on Oak Harbor public meeting policies" -- Whidbey News-Times
Following requests from the Whidbey News-Times and the city of Oak Harbor 10th District Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor has agreed to ask the state Office of the Attorney General to issue a formal opinion on a recent ordinance the city council adopted regarding its standing committee meeting rules. The city council approved an ordinance that made the city’s four, three-member standing committee meetings “regular” meetings of the council. The new rule made it legal for a quorum of four or more council members to attend three-member standing committee meetings without being advertised beforehand as special meetings. The new rule has been repeatedly called into question by Tim Ford, an open government ombudsman for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. The Washington Attorney General, as the chief law officer of the state, provides official opinions on questions of law at the request of designated public officials on issues arising in the course of their duties. Rep. Bailey plans to submit materials to the attorney general when she travels to Olympia this week. - 07/21/2010

"Longview developing comprehensive map of city's trees" -- The Daily News Longview
Longview has been named aTree City USA but how much of the city does the tree canopy really cover? The Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program According toLongview Parks and Recreation Director Rich Bemm, the plan will also analyze the tree canopy in different land-use zones, including residential, commercial, parks, open space, natural areas, agriculture, institutions and schools. The results will provide the city with "a valuable tool for helping developers understand the value of preserving existing trees, including additional trees in their development plans and considering trees as mitigation to the stormwater management requirements." - 07/21/2010

"High wheat yields expected for Mid-Columbia"--Richland/Pasco/Kennewick Tri City Herald
The Washington wheat crops are expected to produce high yields this year, thanks to a wet spring. As much as 65 bushels an acre of winter wheat may be harvested this year, up from 59 bushels last year. The total production between Oregon, Idaho, and Washington is predicted to reach a ten year high of 310.2 million bushels. Despite the good yield, wheat prices aren’t expected to get much higher than they are now, at an average of $4.92 per bushel. The USDA has estimated that this year’s world production of wheat is the third-highest on record. - 07/23/2010

"Farmers across state, U.S. face crackdown on pesticide use"--Tacoma News Tribune
The Environmental Protection Agency and National Marine Fisheries Service are moving to enforce an eight-year-old ruling by a federal judge that required the agencies to review the effects of 54 pesticides on endangered species. The agencies want to restrict at least three pesticides, carbaryl, carbofuran and methomyl, from being used within 1,000 feet of salmon habitat. They also plan to study 11 more pesticides more closely to monitor their effects on endangered salmon and their habitats. Supposedly the Endangered Species Act has required the EPA and marine fisheries service to provide such regulation, but the study and use of pesticides has not been carefully examined until recently. Farmers are concerned about the effects of restricting pesticides on crop production. - 07/26/2010

"Union files complaint against Pierce County "--Tacoma News Tribune
A union has filed a complaint with the state alleging that Pierce County edged union employees out of hours and pay by allowing nonunion workers and volunteers to do park maintenance work. In recent months, budget cuts have prompted the county to reduce maintenance at several parks. Teamsters Union 117 filed an 8 page complaint with the Public Employment Relations Commission(PERC). PERC has issued a preliminary ruling (which does not address the validity of the allegations) saying there could be a fair labor practice violation. The next step in the process will be for Pierce County to reply to the claims within a 21 day timeframe. - 07/27/2010

"Amtrak's a hot ticket in Pacific Northwest"--Longview Daily News
Amtrak trains along the Cascades route – Eugene to Vancouver, BC—have seen a twelve percent increase in ridership from the same time last year. The first quarter of 2010 saw an even bigger increase of 34 percent over the first quarter of 2009. WSDOT officials attribute the increases to high gas prices, traffic congestion, and of course, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. The Cascades route offers four daily round trip trains from Seattle to Portland, and one each daily round trip from Portland to Vancouver, BC and from Seattle to Vancouver. The federal government has promised Washington state $590 million for high-speed rail improvements along the Cascades route, but the funds have not yet been given final approval. - 07/27/2010

"Ports air support for new crossing: Officials want I-5 project to proceed as quickly as possible" -- Vancouver Columbian
The ports of Vancouver, Camas-Washougal and Ridgefield in Clark County have joined together to urge Gov. Chris Gregoire to work as “quickly as possible” to move the Interstate 5 bridge project forward. To date planning for the Columbia River Crossing Project (CRC) has cost $97.8 million. The ports say $40 billion in regional freight passes through the CRC project area annually and for business, the old saying ‘time is money’ is real. Another regional supporter the Legacy Health System spoke to the current congestion making the moving of doctors, equipment and patients difficult and the increasing public safety traffic issues. - 07/28/2010

"Proposal for Colville National Forest a collaborative effort"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
A coalition of wilderness, conservation, logging industry, and rancher groups have contributed to a plan to add 215,000 acres of wilderness to the existing Salmo-Priest Wilderness in the Colville National Forest. The plan has been in the making for the past four years, and has resulted in environmental groups agreeing to let logging interests thin and manage timber within the wilderness area. The wilderness would also include new areas for recreational use by ATVs and other motorized vehicles, although those groups would have to give up some existing trails with the national forest. Conservation Northwest is hoping to gain enough political support for the proposal to have a bill introduced into Congress by fall or winter, although passage of wilderness bills can take years to gain approval. - 07/29/2010

"Clark County mosquito crews on West Nile virus warpath " -- Vancouver Columbian
Floodwater mosquitoes are beginning to die off in Clark County but with the departure of the nuisance mosquitoes comes the arrival of another breed of the blood-sucking skeeters: the Culex variety that can carry the West Nile virus. Crews have tested mosquitoes in the county and have not found any to be positive for the West Nile virus. Elsewhere in the state, officials have found 35 positive cases of the virus in tested mosquitoes. Clark County’s long, wet spring, followed by a warm-weather streak, created the perfect climate for floodwater mosquito hatching. - 07/29/2010

"Bond sale a plus for state" -- The Olympian
State Treasurer Jim McIntire reported Wednesday that his latest bond sale was so favorable for taxpayers it saves $3.7 million in debt payments over the next year. General-fund savings from Wednesday’s sale are $8.4 million for 2011-13 and they grow to $64.1 million over the life of the bonds, which vary in maturity dates up to 25 years. The Treasurer's Office has used the relatively new federal Build America Bonds program and favorable interest rates to save the state about $647 million in long-term debt costs. - 07/29/2010

"Gregoire faces budget choice spending" -- The Olympian
Gov. Chris Gregoire says she will decide soon after Aug. 10 whether to call a special legislative session or make across-the-board budget cuts on her own to reduce a budget shortfall that is about $300 million if federal aid falls through. Executive-ordered cuts would carve 3.5 percent to 4 percent out of virtually all state-funded programs with exceptions only for basic education, debt payments and pensions. Gregoire said she will make her decision shortly after the next“all-cuts” proposal she offered last December. - 07/29/2010

"Recession was deeper than gov't previously thought"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Commerce Department issued revisions to its economic estimates, and revealed that the U.S. economy shrank last year by 2.6 percent, the largest drop since 1946. Gross domestic product did not grow at all during 2008, compared with a 1.9 percent increase in 2007. Since 2007, consumers have reeled in spending, home construction has fallen off steeply, and state and local governments have cut spending more than previously estimated. Some economists say the recession ended last summer, although the National Bureau of Economic Research, which declares the beginning and ending dates of recessions, has not yet given it an official ending date. - 07/30/2010


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