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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.

"Report raps U.S. security effort on Northern border"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
In a report released today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that competition for statistics and doubts about the competence of other federal agents are hindering efforts to approve coordination among U.S. law enforcement agencies working along the U.S.-Canada border. While the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) is praised in the report for improving partnerships with other U.S., state, local, and tribal law enforcements agencies, it was noted that units within DHS do not always get along and the agency does not always work well with other federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Lack of attention to the internal and external conflicts “may result in duplication of efforts across the northern border, and inefficient use of…limited resources.” - 02/01/2011

"State Ecology OKs most of Jefferson County shoreline plan"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
The WA Dept. of Ecology has issued conditional approval of Jefferson County’s updated shoreline master program (SMP), which affects more than 500 miles of shorelines. Areas of concern are the plan’s flexible buffer zones, its ban on net-pen aquaculture and its direction for dock length. County commissioners will discuss Ecology’s concerns at their next meeting; their response is due March 2. If the county opts to suggest its own language changes, rather than fully accepting Ecology’s required changes, additional review and approval by Ecology would be required. Final approval will come after changes to the plan are made. - 02/02/2011

"Governors nix current design of new I-5 Bridge"--Vancouver Columbian
In a recently issued report, the independent Bridge Experts Review Panel has recommended that the current design for a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River be killed and it has offered three alternative designs in its place. Govs. Chris Gregoire (WA) and John Kitzhaber (OR) have instructed the Depts. of Transportation to discontinue work on the current open web box girder design and instead focus on an expedited review of the three alternatives suggested by the panel. The panel’s chairman says that all three bridge designs are cheaper than the open web one, although two of the designs would require Federal Aviation Administration approval because they impinge on the airspace of nearby Pearson Field. The entire Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project is currently estimated to cost $3.6 billion and project planners are anticipating splitting it three-ways among the federal government, the two states, and local revenue generated by bridge tolls. - 02/03/2011

“Study urges Pentagon to spend more on traffic projects, including at JBLM”--Tacoma News Tribune
According to a Congressionally-commissioned report from the National Research Council's Transportation Research Board, the Pentagon should spend more money to improve traffic around six bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord, that are growing in size while others are slated to close or be reduced. The Defense Department is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to improve Lewis-McChord, but no money is being spent on off-base traffic projects. The study found that “the Pentagon’s only fund exclusively for off-base traffic improvements has an almost impossibly high barrier. It requires that traffic around a base double before it opens the fund.” State transportation officials have collaborated with their counterparts at Lewis-McChord to seek grants to ease traffic and they are working on ways to fight congestion while trying to figure out how to implement the $1.5 billion in long-term capitol projects that are needed to ease traffic on I-5 around the base. Should the report convince Congress and the Pentagon to spend money, state officials are ready with a list of projects. - 02/07/2011

“Kelso can search cell phones for 'sexting'”--Longview Daily News
A new cell phone policy adopted by the Kelso School Board on Monday allows school administrators to search a student’s cell phone if there is “reasonable cause” to suspect that it contains sexually explicit pictures or messages. The policy also specifies when students may use cell phones on school grounds and it gives individual schools the right to set stricter rules if they so choose. Students can fact suspension and possible expulsion if they violate the policy, which goes into effect in September. After the American Civil Liberties Union challenged an Oak Harbor policy that allowed cell phone searches the Washington State School Directors' Association created a carefully worded policy that specifies administrators may only search a cell phone if they have “reasonable cause.” Kelso and Mukilteo are among the first districts to adopt the policy. - 02/07/2011

"County commissioners block e-cigarette sales to minors"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
On Tuesday, Spokane County commissioners made it illegal to sell “e-cigarettes,” which vaporize a small vial of nicotine without other toxic substances found in cigarettes, to minors. When the new ordinance goes into effect on March 31st, the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in unincorporated areas will be punishable by $513 in penalties. Minors in possession of the e-cigarettes will also be subject to $513 in penalties. Spokane City Council passed a similar ordinance Monday and the Spokane Valley City Council will consider a proposal from the Spokane Regional Health District on February 22nd. - 02/09/2011

"DNR chief: Timber-harvest rules compliance must improve"--The Olympian
According to a report presented to the Forest Practices Board on Tuesday, a review of 427 timber harvests and related activities between August 2006 and July 2008 showed lapses in compliance with rules governing the harvests and other forestry activities among both large and small landowners. There were issues with 21% of road-related activities and 22% of activities along streams and wetlands. State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has called for Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) forest practice regulators to report back to the board in the coming months with an action plan to improve compliance. One idea is to beef up field inspections during the application process, which would require more inspectors at a time when DNR is laying off staff due to budget cuts. Raising the forest-practices application fee is one suggestion for bringing in additional money, but the idea is not popular with landowners. Goldmark also wants compliance reports every year, instead of every two years, so problems can be addressed more quickly. - 02/09/2011

"State audit knocks King County water taxi operations"--Seattle Times
According to a 2010 state audit report released this morning, King County Ferry District, which operates water taxis from downtown Seattle to West Seattle and Vashon Island, lacked internal controls to ensure that its fares were properly counted. The ferry district says they had inadequate resources to monitor fares, but they will internally audit the King County Marine Division more frequently to avoid future problems. - 02/14/2011

"Federal budget cuts could hit hard in Washington state"--Bellingham Herald
Members of Washington’s congressional delegation and their staffs have been busy analyzing two different budget plans, the President’s $3.7 trillion spending plan for 2012, which was released yesterday, and the House Republicans’ proposal for $100 billion in budget cuts this year, which is expected hit the House floor today. Cuts stemming from the proposals could lead to larger traffic jams, smaller Pell Grants for Washington students, and less federal money for “everything from the environment to schools lunches to low-income heating aid,” among other things. Some officials fear that any budget cuts will have a disproportionate impact on the state because Washington is more reliant on federal aid than many other states. - 02/15/2011

"It's rush hour for 520 toll"--Seattle Times
Beginning sometime in April, the 520 bridge will become the first bridge in the nation to be tolled to raise money for its replacement. If state lawmakers ratify the proposed plan, tolls will fluctuate between zero and $3.50 each direction depending on the time of day. There will be no toll booths on the bridge; tolls will be deducted automatically via Good to Go transponders on vehicles. If a vehicle does not have a transponder, state cameras will take photographs of the license plate and a bill, with an additional $1.50 surcharge, will be mailed to the owner. Through April 15th, drivers who purchase a Good to Go transponder, which can also be used on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and for the carpool lanes on Highway 167, will get 3 free peak trips across the 520 bridge, or $10 in extra toll value. - 02/15/2011

"Feds give $20M grant to study winter wheat"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Universities in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho have been awarded a five-year, $20 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to study the relationship between climate change and cereal crops, primarily winter wheat. The area the study focuses on - northeastern Oregon, southeastern Washington, and Idaho’s panhandle – produces some of the some of the nation's highest yields of non-irrigated winter wheat. The hope is that the study will help wheat farming in the Pacific Northwest survive climate change. - 02/18/2011

"Seattle Public Schools spending targeted in criminal probe"--Seattle Times
A special state audit has found that Seattle Public Schools spent up to $1.8 million on contract work that was never done or didn’t benefit the district, triggering both a secret criminal investigation into allegations of financial fraud and a review by the School Board to figure out who, up to and including the superintendent, should be held responsible. Many of the issues surround a program that helped small businesses compete for contracts with the district and other government agencies that was shut down last fall. The school district agrees with the state auditor’s findings and “will carry out all his recommendations to improve its oversight, recover lost money and take steps to bolster its whistle-blower program.” - 02/22/2011

"Auditors: $43M wasted on failed K Basin project"--Pasco/Richland/Kennewick Tri-City Herald
According a report released by the Dept. of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, a “rush to do the work to meet legal deadlines without first figuring out if the project’s technology could be safely used and would work” led to $43 million being spent on a project to treat Hanford’s K Basin radioactive sludge that ultimately failed in 2007 without producing any results. The audit acknowledges that while many process improvement initiatives are underway, it is too soon to evaluate if DOE’s new strategy for cleaning up the sludge will be effective or not. One thing that is certain, though, is that the cost of the project has increased from $104 with Fluor Hanford, the previous contractor, to $175 million with CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., the current contractor. - 02/23/2011

"Growth in every district will redraw Wash. congressional map"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Data released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau confirms that Washington will add its 10th congressional district this year. In addition, varying rates of population growth within the existing districts means that all the boundaries will have to be redrawn to bring the average population in each district, including the 10th district, to 672,454. For the first time in years, at least one district will most likely contain voters from both sides of the Cascades. - 02/24/2011

"GAO says Pentagon can do more to fix traffic around growing bases like JBLM"--Tacoma News Tribune
For the second time this month, a government report is urging the Pentagon to improve roads around growing military bases. After studying 26 growing bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Government Accountability Office found “that the Pentagon’s main fund to pay for off-base traffic improvements if difficult to use and poorly understood.” It is encouraging the Pentagon to call together a committee of twenty-two federal agencies that has the power to coordinate projects around military bases with the hope that it could identify available funding and provide oversight it to make sure it is well spent. - 02/25/2011

"State audit finds Yacolt violated state law"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
According to a report released today by the Washington State Auditor’s Office, the town of Yacolt violated state laws by purchasing equipment from an employee’s personal business without going through the competitive bidding process and the town failed to collect building permit fees, resulting in a loss of thousands of dollars in revenue. The report points to problems in areas such as billing and receipting, town payments, payroll, community event documentation, and bank account reconciliations, and concludes that the town lacks adequate oversight and internal controls over financial operations. The town accepts responsibility for the findings, but believes that no state laws were violated. - 02/28/2011

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