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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.

"BLM decision halts volcano-area mining bid"--Longview Daily News
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has turned down a lease application by General Moly to mine on a 900 acre parcel just north of the Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument. (The BLM decision can be found here.) Although the mineral claim in question is outside the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monutment, BLM has jurisdiction because it's within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Under the General Mining Law of 1872, mining companies can stake claim on minerals on federal lands. - 05/01/2008

"Fungus threatens state’s frogs, salamanders"--Seattle Times
According to biologists and wildlife managers, the state’s amphibians are being attacked by a deadly fungus, chytridiomycosis, which has been spreading around the world. Washington’s only remaining population of northern leopard frogs is also in jeopardy, and may well become extinct because of the fungus. Scientists are concerned about the sharp drop in amphibians because they affect the entire ecology—without amphibians, the number of insects would rise, and species that eat frogs would go hungry. Experts still aren’t sure where the fungus came from or how to treat it, but some suspect global warming may play a part in its prevalence. - 05/02/2008

"Stalking by proxy is still stalking: Court upholds Ferry County man's conviction"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that stalking is stalking, whether you do it or have somebody do it for you. Women are the usual victims of stalking. The case arose when a man in Republic was convicted of having his friends stalk his former girl friend. Apparently this was a way to get around the restraining order that kept him out of contact with her and at least 100 feet from her. His friends testified they made written reports to him about her actions. The Court was split on a 6 to 3 vote with majority and dissenting opinions. - 05/02/2008

"Chum haven threatened?"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
What's good for one endangered species can be harmful to another endangered species. Chum salmon love to spawn in the few remaining fresh water seeps along the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam. Other salmon spawn upstream of the dam. The safest way for the upstream salmon to get past the dam is to spill water and the salmon over the dam's spillways (the alternative is having the salmon go through the dam's power-generating turbines). The problem with spilling water is that it adds dissolved gases to the water. A recent study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shows that these dissolved gases harm the young chum salmon. - 05/05/2008

"Western State Hospital passes big inspection for accreditation"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, an organization that accredits hospitals based on several criteria, passed Western State Hospital without conditions in its latest inspection. The inspection was critical for the Lakewood psychiatric hospital, which has been working to improve its use of restraints and seclusion in treating patients. The commission included several recommendations for improvements, but found nothing so drastically wrong as to impinge on the accreditation process. Western State Hospital serves as the main psychiatric hospital for 19 western Washington counties, with almost 1100 patients. The Joint Commission does not publicly release inspection reports. - 05/05/2008

"Yakima's crime rate plummets to lowest in decades"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs has released its compilation of crime statistics for 2007. Yakima is generally pleased its crime rate. Property crime was much lower in 2007 than in 2006. However, aggravated assault showed a violent increase. The Wenatchee World reported that "Crime rate dips in Chelan, Douglas counties". The crime rate in Wenatchee held steady overall while the crime rates in the surrounding areas dropped. Again, there was an increase in violent crimes. The jump in violent crime was also seen in Spokane. The Spokesman-Review says "Violent crime, arson rates increase". At least they were able to point to a drop in property crimes. - 05/06/2008

"Gas tax holiday would cost state $126 million"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
According to the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the gas tax holiday proposed by presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and John McCain would save the average consumer a total of $28 this summer. Meanwhile, the association predicts that the holiday would cost the federal government $8.5 billion to cover the shortfall in funds. Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has come out against the proposed tax holiday, as have Washington senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations subcommittee, and state senator Mary Margaret Haugen, chairwoman of the Transportation Committee. The three senators say that a temporary repeal of the federal gas tax, which is 18.4 cents a gallon, would harm the Highway Trust Fund, which is used to maintain and repair the nation’s bridges and highways. - 05/06/2008

"Doubt cast on value of master's degree for teachers"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Washington state public school teachers who have graduate degrees get paid more than teachers who lack a graduate degree. Testimony at a hearing of the Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance cast doubt on the correlation between having a graduate degree and being a better teacher. The purpose of the task force is solve the contentious issue of public education funding. One aspect of this problem is finding the right basis for teachers' salaries. Steve Aos from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy based his testimony on a study done by the Institute in December 2007. - 05/07/2008

"State closes “flawed” office to help black children in welfare system"--Seattle Times
The Office of African-American Children’s Services (OAACS) in Seattle has been shut down by a federal civil rights investigation. The office was a pilot project of DSHS, started to help black children in King County. A 2005 study showed that African-American children tend to end up in foster care and remain in the welfare system in larger numbers and for longer periods than white children in King County. The OAACS office was an attempt to rectify that problem. However, the office failed to meet standards in several reviews and the federal Office of Civil Rights told them that they cannot treat children differently based solely on race. The OAACS has been renamed the Martin Luther King, Jr. office, and is currently helping kids based on zip code; meanwhile, new plans for helping black kids are being developed. - 05/07/2008

"Duwamish tribe sues to reverse ‘extinct’ status"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
In 2001, the federal government reversed a decision to recognize the tribe of Chief Seattle, and now the Duwamish are suing. The Bureau of Indian Affair’s Branch of Acknowledgment and Research grants recognition to Indian tribes, which then brings in federal money for housing and health care, and allows tribes to conduct business ventures such as opening a casino. The Duwamish tribe is suing the federal government on the grounds that the reversal of its recognition at the beginning of the Bush administration was politically motivated. Other tribes may be opposed to Duwamish recognition for several reasons, including having to share federal aid and facing business competition from yet another casino. - 05/08/2008

"Farm bill could help Washington crop exports"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A newly revised farm bill will be voted on by the U.S. Congress next week. The bill provides $1.3 billion in grants for so-called specialty crops—fruits and vegetables. Washington is the third largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the U.S., following behind California and Florida, and agriculture is the largest industry in the state. The farm bill would include $1 billion for the Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program run through schools, and funding for pest management and research. The bill also reforms the federal subsidy program, although fruit and vegetable growers are not eligible for federal subsidies. Though specialty crop growers had initially asked for $5 billion, state lawmakers and agriculture representatives are generally happy with the bill. However, many expect that President Bush will veto the bill because of the expense. - 05/09/2008

"State puts ignition interlock devices to the test"--Yakima Herald-Republic
A law going into effect on January 1, 2009 will allow people awaiting trial for driving under the influence (dui) to continue to drive legally, but there's a catch--actually an ignition interlock device. The device works by measuring the alcohol content in a person's breath; if it measures any, the car won't start. (The Washington Administrative Code has information about the required specifications for ignition interlock devices.) The law, based on House Bill 3254, aims to reduce the recidivism rate among people convicted of driving under the influence. The ultimate goal is to reduce dui-related fatalities. - 05/09/2008

"Delayed melting in Cascade Mountains leaves reservoirs low"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
With the winter snowpack still firmly in the mountains, reservoirs around the state are lower than they would usually be this time of year. Rainfall for April was down, and cooler than average temperatures kept snow from melting and filling the reservoirs. However, the Natural Resources Conservation office says that a late melting snowpack could mean good news in the long run, since it would help insure plenty of water in the reservoirs later in the summer. The late melt also decreases the likelihood of spring flooding. So far this year, water levels at Riffe Lake are 50 feet below normal, and Lake Cushman and Alder Lake are 15 feet below normal. - 05/12/2008

"Report outlines human trafficking: A 'considerable concern' in Spokane"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Western Regional Institute for Community Oriented Public Safety (WRICOPS) has released a report on human trafficking in Spokane. Victims of human trafficking are often forced into prostitution. Human trafficking is the subject of state and federal laws. WRICOPS is one of the Regional Community Policing Institutes that part of the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. It's based at Washington State University at Spokane. - 05/12/2008

"BNSF agrees to sell a Renton-to-Snohomish rail line to the Port of Seattle"--Everett Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
An agreement between Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and the Port of Seattle was settled on for a 42-mile line running from Snohomish to Renton. The negotiations have apparently lasted for years, and the sale won’t be final until the fall. Twenty-six percent of the railway corridor is in Snohomish County, which is hoping that the railway can be used for commuter trains. Meanwhile, King County contributed $2 million to the deal in order to secure a bicycling and walking trail along the corridor. The Port of Seattle says it will allow public debate on the usage of the railway once the sale is final, but homeowners along the tracks are already protesting the idea of commuter trains. - 05/13/2008

"Backward-evolving Lake Washington fish lends clues about genetics"--Seattle Times
The threespined stickleback fish of Lake Washington has evolved in an unusual way in response to a major cleanup of its habitat. The formerly murky waters of Lake Washington were good for the stickleback, which hid the fish from its predators, cutthroat trout. Now that the lake has been purged of much of its pollution and visibility has risen from 30 inches to 25 feet, one would expect the stickleback to be in danger. However, researchers have found that the stickleback, which were once armor-plated from head to tail, were able to quickly devolve into their former version. Scientists think that the fish mated with marine versions of their species, which are plated, when a fish ladder was put in, and that enabled their quick adaptation. Now about 49 percent of the stickleback in the lake are armor-plated, an astonishing example of genetic flexibility. - 05/15/2008

"Travelers, backcountry recreation on alert for avalanches"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Heavy winter snowstorms followed by a cold, dry spring has left a lot of snow in the northwest's mountains. Snowpacks in the Cascades range from 130% to 330% above normal. The combination of heavy snow and warming temperatures has led the Northwest Avalanche Center to warn of avalanche danger in the backcountry. The Washington State Department of Transportation is closely watching avalance danger on the North Cascades Highway which recently reopened. Meanwhile the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports that "Inland Northwest braces for potential flooding". The National Weather Service warns that the melting snowpack in the inland northwest moutnains could cause flooding throughout the region. The flooding could hit the Clark Fork-Flathead-Pend Oreille Basin and the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene River Basin. - 05/15/2008

"USGA will pay Pierce County $2.5 million to use golf course"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The U.S. Golf Association will pay Pierce County to use Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place for the U.S. Open in 2015. In return, the county will need to pay for certain upgrades to the course and build a practice course for tournament golfers. In addition, the county will be expected to host the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship, and will have to bear most of the costs associated with it. However, the Pierce County Council is convinced that hosting both tournaments will result in a profit for the county, with estimates at about $100 million for revenue that will be brought in by use of hotels, restaurants, and other services. The U.S. Open is expected to attract around 60,000 people a day. - 05/16/2008

"Grand Coulee water plan released"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A primary reason for building the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in the 1930's was to provide irrigation to arid Eastern Washington. Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam, is still seen as a key to providing water for irrigation, salmon recovery, growth, and aquifer replenishment for the region. The Department of Ecology has issued a draft environmental impact statement for an ambitious plan to release 82,500 to 132,000 acre feet of water a year to the area east of Moses Lake and into the Odessa Aquifer. This draw down will lower Lake Roosevelt by 1 to 1.8 feet each summer. The Colville Tribes and the Spokane Tribes, along with other local governments, will be compensated for the effects of the drawdowns. - 05/16/2008

"Hard time: Washington DUI law gets tough on repeat offenders"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Getting convicted of driving under the influence (dui) once in Washington can can cost you a suspended license and some jail time; getting convicted of dui enough times can land you in prison. House Bill 2130 in 2007 made a dui conviction a felony if a person already has four dui convictions or a conviction for vehicular assault or vehicular homicide within the last 10 years. This law was passed in response to the high recidivism rate for people arrested for dui. - 05/18/2008

"Bush says he won’t back bill that bails out lenders"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
President Bush says he won’t sign the homeowner’s relief bill Congress is currently working on if it helps out mortgage lenders, whom he accuses of practicing speculation. He acknowledged that the country is experiencing hard times economically, but said he would only support a bill that sought to help responsible homeowners and not their lenders. Congress is working on passing bipartisan legislation that would allow for government-backed mortgages to help out homeowners in need and prevent foreclosures. - 05/19/2008

"Opponents of assisted suicide want donor names kept secret"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Human Life of Washington has filed a federal lawsuit to ask that parts of Washington’s campaign finance laws be thrown out. The anti-abortion and anti-assisted-suicide group says it should not have to file as a political action committee if it advertises against Washington’s Initiative 1000, an assisted suicide ballot measure. The group claims that any advertising it does about the initiative should be considered “voter education.” The Public Disclosure Commission says that such voter education is considered campaigning by state law. One of the reasons the group is going to court is to prevent the names of their donors being made public. Human Life claims their donors would be harassed by proponents of I-1000. The so-called Death With Dignity measure will be on the November ballot. - 05/20/2008

"No seat belts, more fatalities so far this year "--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Statistics suggest that you can increase your chances of winning a Darwin Award by not wearing a seat belt. Washington has one of the highest rates of seat belt use for any state and is below the national average for traffic fatalities. At the same time, 61% of Washington's traffic fatalities are people not wearing seat belts. The fatality numbers are higher on rural roads and highways. The Washington State Patrol will be doing "Click It or Ticket" patrols to catch people not wearing seat belts. - 05/20/2008

"Governor: Alaska to challenge polar bear listing"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Governor Palin of Alaska announced that she and other government officials will try to have the polar bear listing overturned, because she argues that listing the polar bear as a threatened species will cripple the state’s oil and gas industries. The governor said that the polar bear population has actually increased in recent years and further stated that there is not enough evidence to place it on the threatened list. In his decision to place the polar bears on the threatened list, Interior Secretary Kempthorne claimed that sea ice, which is a polar bear’s main habitat, is shrinking so much that it is having an impact on the bears’ ability to hunt. Summer sea ice has shrunken to 40 percent below that of summer sea ice present in 2000. U.S. Geological Survey studies have shown that fewer polar bear pups are surviving and that male bears weigh less than their forebears. - 05/22/2008

"Pot in state a growing problem"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Marijuana is rapidly growing, although illegal, cash crop in Washington state. Seizures by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), along with state and local law enforcement officers, have doubled in the last year according to a presentation by DEA officer at the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs' annual conference. Over 296,000 marijuana plants were seized last year from indoor and outdoor growing operations. An article that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2006 noted that "Pot edges cherries in value as a state agricultural product"--and that was for 2005, a year when only 135,000 pot plants were seized. The value of the pot crop isn't the only thing growing: the DEA's budget in 2007 was over $1.9 billion and its requested budget for 2009 is $2.6 billion. - 05/22/2008

"We’re stuck with nation’s worst road funding gap"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
According to a study conducted by the Urban Land Institute, the Seattle metropolitan area has the largest gap between transportation funding needs and actual secured funding. Currently there is a shortfall of about $800 per person in the Seattle area, as opposed to $400 per person in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, which came in second to Seattle for biggest funding gap. According to estimates in the study, the population of Seattle will grow by 1.4 million people by 2040, with nowhere near enough funding for roads and public transportation infrastructure to support the huge influx of people. The report also says that American cities are falling behind European and Asian cities, which are planning for population growth by installing high-speed trains. - 05/23/2008

"World War I memorial restoration to start at state capitol"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Otherwise known as the Winged Victory monument, the gold-painted statue on the capitol campus honoring the state residents who died in World War I is going to get a facelift. The monument features a sailor, marine, soldier and nurse protected by the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. The state has undertaken a study of the monument and will redo the patina on the bronze statue. Sandblasted in 1979 and then painted gold in 1989, no one knows exactly what the original patina was when it was dedicated in 1938. Now the gold paint is starting to streak and experts believe the monument is beginning to corrode underneath the paint. The legislature approved $179,000 to restore the monument, including redoing the patina to get it as close to the original color a possible. The only existing sources on the monument describe the patina as a “rich, warm brown.” The monument was sculpted by artist Alonzo Victor Lewis. - 05/26/2008

"Wheat research funding cut: Experts worry about fast-spreading fungus"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Plant diseases can devastate crops such as wheat. A particularly virulent form of wheat stem rust is spreading across Africa and Asia. Called Ug99, this disease can kill strains of wheat that are supposed to be immune to it. Unfortunately the government has cut funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cereal Disease Laboratory. Fortunately the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated nearly $27 million to the international Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project. Plant diseases are dangerous. Internationally they can lead to food shortages that can lead to political instability. Locally they threaten the economy of Eastern Washington since it's one of America's major wheat growing areas. - 05/28/2008

"House flipping now can draw hefty fines"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Anybody who wants to do some house flipping--that is, buying a house, remodeling it, and reselling it as soon as possible--in Washington had better get a contractor's license or be willing to pay a hefty fine. In 2007, SHB 1843 revised the state law regulating contractors. There were several changes to the law. The definition of contractor was broadened to cover house flippers. These changes were made at the request of the Department of Labor & Industries. - 05/29/2008

"Children’s Administration ends drive to meet standard"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Children’s Administration, a branch of the state Department of Social and Health Services, has announced that it will not try to gain accreditation by the Council on Accreditation. Despite a seven-year push to meet the standards for accreditation which had been mandated by the legislature, the division has decided that they cannot commit to the time frame required by the council. The council wanted the Children’s Administration to commit to reducing caseloads to 18 per social worker by next year and to require all supervisors to have master’s degrees. Officials say they have been able to reduce caseloads to 21 per social worker, but cannot guarantee that they will be able to reduce them to 19 without more money and more staff, which is provided by the legislature. - 05/29/2008

"B.C. smelter spills lead, acid into Columbia River"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Teck Cominco's smelter near Trail, British Columbia is back in the news for the usual reason: polluting the Columbia River. A leaky pipe at the smelter spilled over a ton of lead and 100 gallons of acid in the Columbia on Wednesday. After the leak was discovered the smelter shut down which might cut into it profits (it had an operating profit of $345 million Canadian in 2007). The British Columbia Ministry of Environment's press announcement is reassuring: "The high stream flows in the Columbia and the dilution factor are such that any content should be negligible at the border." The Washington State Department of Ecology's press announcement takes the situation more seriously, perhaps because Washington is downstream of the spill. - 05/30/2008

"Uncontacted Indian tribe spotted in Brazil"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Brazilian government agency Funai, which keeps tabs on uncontacted Indians living in the country, said a flyover spotted one of the world’s last completely isolated Indian tribes near the Peru-Brazil border. According to photographs taken from an airplane, there were male warriors in the tribe, huts, and a large area of planted land. Brazil is supposedly home to many of the at least 100 uncontacted tribes in the world. At least four different groups of people live in the Amazonian jungles. Survival International, an organization that works to keep autonomy for indigenous peoples, says the tribes may be in danger from illegal logging along the Peruvian border. - 05/30/2008

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