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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.

"Ruling leaves grazing up in the air"--Yakima Herald-Republic
A judge in the Thurston County Superior Court ruled that one of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s pilot commercial grazing projects on the Asotin Wildlife Area was illegal. The judge found that the department moved ahead with the program even though biologists working for them disputed the viability of the project. Email obtained through the Public Records Act showed that some biologists felt the grazing program would not be beneficial to the environment in the Asotin Wildlife Area. Although the ruling does not technically affect other pilot grazing programs planned by the state, it might influence other pending court cases. - 04/06/2010

"Staff, public tell state more hospital beds needed"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri City Herald
Two hospitals in the Tri Cities area are applying to the state to add more hospital beds. The state Department of Health must approve any additions, and bases its approval on population formulas. However, residents think that the state isn’t using correct population estimates when looking at the tri cities, since the cities are growing rapidly. Many people think that the state program should use higher-than-average estimates. Some argue that the current way of awarding beds forces the hospitals into competition with each other, which they say is detrimental to the community. - 04/07/2010

"Obama, Medvedev sign treaty to cut nuclear arms"--The Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
President Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed a historic treaty that requires both nations to cut their stores of nuclear arms. Both countries will agree to reduce nuclear warheads down to 1,550. The treaty is seen as a turning point in U.S.-Russia relations, which had been seen as unfavorable under the Bush administration. However, the treaty still needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate and the Russian legislature. President Obama’s nuclear policy diverges with those of other administrations by proclaiming that rogue states and terrorists pose more of a threat than the idea of mutual assured destruction, which kept the balance of power during the cold war. - 04/08/2010

"City explores building jail"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The city of Spokane is considering building its own jail rather than continuing to contract with the county for housing inmates. The city says that is just one of many options it is exploring regarding jail space. Spokane County operates the jail in downtown Spokane as well as Geiger Corrections Center, and charges the city on a per-day basis for housing the city’s prisoners. The city and the county have often not seen eye-to-eye on the fees the county charges for its services. County officials are worried that the building of a city jail may taint efforts to build a new county detention facility. - 04/09/2010

"Senate expected to approve $667 million tax bill today"--Everett Herald
The long wait for the 2010-11 Washington state supplemental budget may soon be over. The state House of Representatives passed the budget bill on Saturday, and the state Senate is expected to do the same today. The bill is the result of a months-long dispute over whether and what types of taxes should be raised to help plug the $2.8 billion revenue gap this year. House and Senate Democratic leaders seem to have finally agreed on a tax package that will raise cigarette taxes by $1.00 per pack, and add a few cents tax to gum, candy, soda, beer, and bottled water. The agreement will also temporarily raise business and occupational taxes on businesses in the service professions, such as lawyers and hairdressers. The Senate had previously proposed raising sales taxes, to which the House would not agree. Republicans in both chambers are opposed to the idea of raising taxes. - 04/12/2010

"Panel recommends spilling, barging of salmon"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri City Herald
The Independent Scientific Advisory Board has released a study in which they dispute the recommendations of the NOAA Fisheries service regarding male salmon along the Snake River. NOAA has recommended that dams along the Snake River be turned off periodically so that migrating Chinook and steelhead salmon can be gathered and ferried in barges to the Columbia River below the Bonneville Dam. However, the independent board says that allowing some fish to spill over the dam provides useful data, because the spilling option hasn’t been fully studied on sockeye salmon or pacific lamprey. Spilling was nixed by NOAA because studies have shown that in low-water years the fish are more vulnerable to higher water temperatures and predators. Federal managers will need to decide which strategies they will use before migration begins in May. - 04/13/2010

"No national park for Mount St. Helens, yet"--Vancouver Columbian
The Mount Saint Helens Advisory Committee issued a statement on Tuesday that said they would not push for the 110,000 acre national monument to come under the supervision of the National Park Service. Instead, the recreational area will remain under the Forest Service for the time being, but members of the committee said they expect to see more funding and a commitment to better service. Last year, the Forest Service only provided $500,000 in funding for recreational services for the area, and closed the $11.5 million visitor’s center. The committee said it would re-evaluate their decision if it looks like the Forest Service is not doing enough for the monument. - 04/14/2010

"Okanogan County lags in census returns"--Wenatchee World
Okanogan County’s return rate on census forms is only 48 percent, compared to a statewide average of 69 percent, putting Okanogan County in the third-to-last place for returning the forms. Officials in the county said that a couple of factors may be in play: the diversity of the county, absent residents, and the overall political climate. However, the county stands to lose about $1,400 per person living in the county who is not counted. In addition, the county may lose representation in Congress and the state legislature if more of its residents do not get counted on the census. At the end of April, census takers will begin knocking on doors if they haven’t received completed forms in the mail. It is a federal law that all residents comply with census takers. - 04/15/2010

"Former astronaut Dunbar to leave as CEO of Museum of Flight"--Seattle Times
Bonnie Dunbar, who currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer for Seattle’s Museum of Flight, has announced that she will be stepping down. Dunbar flew five space shuttle missions with NASA and worked for both Boeing and Rockwell International before serving as the head of the museum. She is leaving to focus her efforts on obtaining a retired space shuttle for the Museum of Flight and fundraising for a building to house the shuttle. The state legislature has included $3 million in its capital budget for the so-called Space Gallery. Dunbar hails from Outlook, Washington. - 04/16/2010

"Shysters beware of new consumer protections"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The state legislature passed several laws this session to protect consumers from scam artists. Some of the new measures will help people undergoing foreclosures from being taken advantage of by companies that vow to help them get a cut of the money from a house that goes on auction. County treasurers say that homeowners are entitled to any money above and beyond what is owed to the bank anyway, so don’t need any companies with high recovery fees to do that for them. Also, loan modifiers and loan servicers are now required to be licensed in Washington, which cuts down on predatory loan officers who cut and run once they’ve received large “fees” for performing a non-existent service. Finally, another law passed by the legislature requires used car dealers to inform customers if a car has ever been returned to a manufacturer by any other owners. This new law adds to the current lemon law on the books. - 04/18/2010

"Tax plan faces legal hurdles"--The Olympian
Bill Gates, Sr. is one of the big names behind a new income tax initiative for Washington that would place an income tax on couples earning over $400,000 and singles earning over $200,000. Gates was the chairman of a tax commission that studied Washington’s tax system in 2002 and presented their findings to the legislature. Initiative 1077, the income tax proposal, is slated to go on the ballot in November, if it can earn enough signatures. The plan would reduce property taxes and taxes for small businesses, but would supposedly let the state collect about $1 billion in revenue from wealthy earners. Opponents say the proposed tax is unfair because it treats rich people differently from other citizens, and will not pass because it does not seek to amend the state constitution. Previous plans to institute a state income tax were stricken down by the state Supreme Court. - 04/22/2010

"Whatcom County: Army Corps rules would hinder levee program"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Whatcom County has about 31 miles of levees that currently receive Army Corps of Engineers funding to operate and maintain. However, the Corps has submitted some rule changes to vegetation surrounding levees that could negatively impact the county, according to officials. The new rules say that there cannot be trees on or near levees in order for the levees to qualify for the federal funds, but there are trees near the Nooksack River levee. County officials say those trees are necessary to filter out wood and debris that would otherwise damage the levee. Previously, the county had applied for a variance to get approval for the trees but the proposed rules would make approval very difficult. County officials have written the Corps to ask for an environmental impact assessment regarding the removal of trees near the levee. - 04/23/2010

"Power line plan foes air concerns"--Vancouver Columbian
A large crowd gathered in Vancouver on Sunday to discuss the Bonneville Power Administration’s plan to construct several 15-story high voltage towers through Cowlitz County and Clark County. A former state epidemiologist testified to possible health dangers the power lines may pose, and pointed to studies that show a possible connection between electromagnetic radiation and cancer. BPA disputed the health dangers, but said that it would analyze the risk in an environmental impact statement. Several audience members suggested that BPA bury the lines underground, but BPA said that option is considerably more expensive and poses maintenance and repair problems. - 04/25/2010

"Making agency furloughs worth it easier said than done"--The Olympian
Gov. Gregoire is planning on signing the state employee furlough bill today, which will require state agencies to either institute set furlough days each month, or submit their own plan for saving their agency’s share of the $45 million the legislature says would be saved with the new mandate. Gregoire’s spokesperson has said that the governor supports the mandatory furloughs and prefers that state agencies go that route instead of submitting their own plans. The Office of Financial Management predicts that the furloughs will affect between 25 and 30 percent of state workers; many employees who work in revenue, education, or public safety jobs will be exempted, and workers earning less than $30,000 per year will have the option to take paid leave on furlough days. State agencies are required to submit their plans for money-saving strategies to OFM by May 15. - 04/27/2010

"Idaho scientists find giant Palouse earthworm"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The giant Palouse earthworm is a fabled creature, and hasn’t been seen by scientists for two decades, until recently. Two University of Idaho researchers were able to unearth two worms, an adult and a juvenile. The adult measured 10-12 inches from top to tail, while the youngster measured 6-7 inches. Both were pale pink in color. Palouse earthworm enthusiasts have been trying to get the worm listed as an endangered species because they have not been seen for so long. But the last petition was turned down, citing lack of scientific evidence. The Palouse earthworm is unique because it is native to the region, whereas most worm species in the Northwest were brought here from Europe. - 04/27/2010

"Port Townsend eyes fast ferry to Seattle; $1 million sought from U.S. Senate"--Peninsula Daily News
The city of Port Townsend would like to buy a passenger ferry from an Alaskan touring business in order to start a ferry run from Point Hudson to Seattle. The ferry is a hydrofoil called the Chilkat Express that can reach speeds of 43 knots. The owners are asking a steep $700,000 for it, but Port Townsend officials think it is probably only worth about $400,000. However, the price is a moot point unless Port Townsend receives grants from the federal government. Mayor Michelle Sandoval is encouraging all Port Townsend citizens to write to Senator Patty Murray to show their support for a number of local projects that need federal funding. Opponents of the ferry fear that the increased foot traffic from Seattle would result in gentrification of their town. - 04/29/2010

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