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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.

"K East Basin declared sludge-free"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
What takes up 37 cubic yards, will be radioactive for millenia, clogs pipes, and whose cleanup is years behind schedule? The radioactive sludge at the bottom of the leaking, 50 year old K East Basin at Hanford. Workers finally transferred the last of the sludge to the sturdier K West Basin, marking a milestone in the K Basin Closure Project. The sludge was a mixture of old nuclear fuel rods, dirt, and corroded concrete from the sides of the basin. Wrokers encountered more of it than expected and then had to develop techniques on the job for removing the water covered sludge. Now workers have to clean the irradiated basin prior to tearing it down. - 06/01/2007

"NASA chief discounts issue of global warming: Scientists say remarks are arrogant, ignorant"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Michael Griffin, head of NASA, said in an interview aired on May 31 that while he believes that global warming exists, "I am not sure that it is fair to say that is a problem we must wrestle with. "This statement is in contrast with a NASA press release from May 30 about current research showing that global warming is reaching a "dangerous point". Scientists contacted after Mr. Griffin's interview take global warming more seriously than he does. - 06/01/2007

"Washington traffic tickets will soon cost more"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) Keep your checkbook handy if you're going to drive more than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit or run a red light. Those are among the traffic violations that will earn you a $124 traffic ticket. Part of the increase was set by the Washington State Supreme Court. The other part of the increase was to pay for new state laws covering auto theft and treatment for traumatic brain injury. Incidentally, now police can issue e-tickets for traffic violations. - 06/04/2007

State doubles funding to protect public lands - Seattle Post Intelligencer
This year, the Washington State Legislature doubled the amount it is spending on land acquisition and development for wildlife habitat and recreational access. The increased investment this year is largely a result of a much more organized lobbying effort by the environmental community, coordinated through the Priorities for a Healthy Washington Coalition . The coalition approached the Legislature with a focused set of its four priorities, and lawmakers passed all four: the $100 million funding for the Wildlife and Recreation program , a Clean Air/Clean Fuels bill , a Puget Sound restoration plan and a ban on toxic flame retardants. - 06/04/2007

"Tribe, PUD make deal on power"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Yakama Nation and the Grant County Public Utility District (PUD) have turned a settlement over dam licensing into a win-win situation. The PUD needed the Yakamas' approval for renewing the licenses for the Priest Rapids and Wanapum Dams. The Yakamas agreed in return for cash payments for power allocations and aid in in developing energy sources. The cash will be spent on its utility, Yakama Power, and fish and wildlife programs. - 06/05/2007

"Gregoire acts to thaw relations with Alaska"--Seattle Times
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire has gone north to Alaska for some fence mending. She wants to work with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to smooth over differences on drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and friction over a bill in the Washington Legislature that would have taxed cargo containers, thousands of which go to Alaska. (A substitute bill passed that only studies the possibility of such a tax.) Governor Gregoire hopes that Washington and Alaska can coordinate their positions when the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada is renewed. The goal of the treaty is prevent overfishing of salmon in the North Pacific. - 06/05/2007

"Gangs -- Yakima fights back"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Spurred on by community activists like Dora Trevino who lost a son to gang violence, the city of Yakima is considering outlawing gangs. Police estimate there are 1,200 people associated with gangs in the city. Yakima would be following the lead of Sunnyside which outlawed gangs last month. Any anti-gang ordinances in Yakima would probably not be as broadly worded as Sunnyside's anti-gang ordinance. - 06/06/2007

"Migrant workers' camps shut down in Basin"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Substandard conditions forced the state to close three migrant worker camps in Eastern Washington. The Department of Health's Migrant Farmworker Housing Program closed the camps because of a variety of problems including water, electrical, and sewage systems that were not up to code. The Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development made arrangements for 49 displaced farmworkers to stay at a motel with group rates. It is also working the Othello Housing Authority for a long-term solution. - 06/07/2007

Affordable housing gets green standards - Seattle Post Intelligencer
State officials have released a green-building standard for state-funded affordable housing projects. The Legislature passed legislation in 2005 to require all major state-funded buildings to meet such standards, but affordable housing had been exempt . - 06/07/2007

"Workers die at alarming rate: King County building boom leads to accidents"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
2006 was a deadly year for construction workers in King County. The total of 14 workers killed that year in on the job accidents is higher than the average number of such deaths during 2001-2005. The Department of Labor and Industries" works with workers and employers to create safer working conditions. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics" maintains national statistics on workplace accidents and fatalities. - 06/11/2007

"Crossroads at the port: Eminent domain is an option if IDD levy fails"--Vancouver Busines Journal - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Port of Vancouver is intent on expanding along the Columbia River. It wants to acquire 218 acres formerly used by the aluminum industry. The Port needs the land for a second rail line to serve businesses on Port land. It will cost $78 million to purchase and develop the property. The Port will try to raise the money through an Industrial Development District tax levy election in August. If the levy doesn't pass, the Port would have to exercise its right of eminent domain to acquire the property. - 06/08/2007

"Presidential primary in state to be Feb. 19"--Seattle Times
Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, legislators, and political party leaders agreed on holding Washington state's Presidential primary on Feb. 19, 2008. The primary had been scheduled for May 27, 2008, for all practical purposes well after the Presidential candidates had been selected by other states' primaries. It is up to the policitcal parties how they use the results of Washington's primary. The Republican party will select 51% of its nominating convention delegates based on primary results. The Democratic party will chose its delegates in party caucuses. - 06/12/2007

"Study points to Crab Creek for new reservoir"--Moses Lake Columbia Basin Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A report done by the Washinglton State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says that the Lower Crab Creek Basin would be the best location for a reservoir in Central Washington. The reservoir would store at least one million acre feet of water drawn from the Columbia River. The water would be used for irrigation, industrial, and home use as well as being available to support fish runs. - 06/12/2007

"Office asks if bulk vit needed to treat Hanford waste"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A Government Accountability Office report questions whether bulk vitrification is the best way to handle Hanford's nuclear waste. (A summary of the report can be found here.) Vitrification--the conversion of nuclear waste into inert glass--was chosen as a way to treat nuclear waste because it was supposed to be fast and relatively inexpensive. It turned out to be far, far over budget and many years behind schedule, in part due to the project's fast-track planning. The Department of Energy has said in Congressional testimony that encouraging progress is being made on the vitrification project. - 06/13/2007

"Bush administration wants cut in protection for spotted owl: Proposal would trim preserved habitat"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a draft plan to reduce the critical habitat of the spotted owl. (The proposal is summarized in a press release.) of the spotted owl by 20%. The original plan, written by the Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Team, was noticeably revised in Washington DC before it became the current proposal. The timber industry has voiced support of the current proposal. Environmentalists are opposed to it. - 06/13/2007

"Local VA hospitals in trouble: Accreditation threatened as inspectors cite ‘immediate threat to life’"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO, now knwon as the Joint Commission) has come down hard on Veterans Administration hospitals in Seattle and Fort Lewis, and a clinic in Bremerton. The Joint Commission is an independent, nonprofit organization that sets healthcare standards and inspects hospitals and laboratories throughout the United States. It could take away the VA facilities' accreditations due to lack of adequate care, particularly in mental health situations. - 06/14/2007

"Emissions testing a clear success"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) Spokane residents who take a deep breath when they realize that their car needs its emissions test should realize the air in their lungs is cleaner because of that program. Spokane's air was much dirtier in the 1980s when the emissions testing program started. The combination of vehicles having to meet emission standards in order to get licensed and improved automotive technology helps explain why Spokane's air now meets air quality standards. - 06/14/2007

"Court rules against unions in fee case"--Seattle Times
The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Washington Education Association (WEA) in a case about use of funds for political purposes. The issue in Davenport et al. v Washngton Education Association was whether the WEA could use fees collected for nonmembers for political purposes without their consent. Campaign finance laws in Washington have changed since this case first came to trial, but they may in turn be challenged. The laws can be found Revised Code of Washington Chapter 42.17. - 06/15/2007

"State economy surges; surplus tops $1 billion"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Summertime and the state coffers are bulging--for the time being. The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council announced that stronger than expected tax revenues in May and June show that Washington's economy is robust. Overall the economic news is positive, but some projections show an eventual drop in revenues. - 06/15/2007

"Sweeping legislation aims for better care of veterans"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
It's not so much a coincidence as it is things coming to a head. Even as the Joint Commission withholds accreditation from Veterans Affairs medical facilities in the Puget Sound Area, the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act was passed by the Senate Armed Forces Committee. This bipartisan legislation was driven by reports of inadequate military and VA medical treatment for veterans at Walter Reed Hospital and other hospitals. - 06/15/2007

"Crowded prisons, ex-inmates finding hope in job programs"--Seattle Times
Susan Smith is the kind of sucess story in the struggle against recidivism that the Department of Corrections welcomes. She has turned her life around after leaving prison and holds a steady job while helping other released convicts adjust to life in the community. With forecasts showing a steady growth in the number of prison inmates and convicted individuals supervised in the community by the Department, there is emphasis on succesful re-entry into the community by convicted criminals. This strategy is a key to slowing the growth of prison costs. Washington is one of many states trying to control prison costs by alternative sentencing and programs that lessen the chance of recidivism. - 06/18/2007

"Despite high gas prices, more commuters driving alone"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) Americans love to complain about gas prices, but they love to commute alone in their cars even more. According to Bureau of Census figures 77% of Americans drive to work alone while all of 4.7% commute using public transportation. Spokane is a little above the national average when it cmes to driving alone. At least the revenues from the tax on the gas used in the lone commuter's vehicle goes to road construction. - 06/18/2007

"State’s tax ranking drops to 37th in nation"--Friday Harbor San Juan Journal - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Sales tax, gas tax, and property tax all add up, but Washingtonians still pay less in taxes in proportion to their incomes than most Americans. Residents in 36 other states pay more in state and local taxes in relation to their incomes. Washingtonians pay on average $105.91 in taxes while the national average is $112.94. The Department of Revenue is basing these comparative numbers on tax receipts in 2005. The national numbers come from information collected by the Census Bureau. - 06/19/2007

"Got water rights?"--Ellensburg Daily Record
The Department of Ecology is looking at buying back or leasing senior water rights in the Upper Yakima River Basin and the Lower Yakima Reiver Basin. The water rights controlled by the state will be used to maintain stream flowss in times of water shortages. Water rights in the Yakima River Basin are covered in Revised Code of Washington Chapter 90.38. - 06/19/2007

"San Juan County aims for rule to protect orcas: Killer whales at mercy of boaters now"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Killer whales will get the right of way in San Juan County. Boaters who harass whales by getting too close to the whales will be violating a new county ordinance. The county is taking this action because federal regulations protecting these whales from vessals are still under development. These rules would be in addition to the protection given them under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The killer whales in the San Juans area are considered to be an endangered species. - 06/20/2007

"Workers could win cancer compensation"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety is considering if some Hanford workers qualify to be members of a Special Exposure Cohort. If Hanford is recognized as a SEC site, former Hanford workers would qualify if they worked there during 1943-1946 and suffered from at least one of 22 specified cancers. Members of the Hanford SEC would get a $150,00 award. In many cases the award would go to the surviving spouse and children of a deceased worker. - 06/20/2007

"Critics say pesticide panel's too political"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Pesticide Incident Reporting and Tracking Review Panel (PIRT for short) has a mission " ensure that state agencies responsible for pesticide regulation coordinate their incident investigations, reporting, and education activities in a timely manner to protect workers and the public from pesticide misuse." Critics say PIRT strayed by injecting itself into politics when it lobbied the legislature for stricter regulation of pesticides. This month's PIRT meeting will be devoted to a refresher course on the proper protocols on how state employees should work with the legislature and the public. PIRT members are mainly mid-level employees of the Washington Poison Center, the Department of Health, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Ecology, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Washington Department of Agriculture, the University of Washington, Washington State University, a toxicologist, and a member of the public. - 06/21/2007

"States graded on special-ed compliance"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Department of Education has evaluated how each state has implemented the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and Washington needs intervention. Special education in Washington state is overseen by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Education Department previously sent letters to OSPI on Washington's attempts to meet IDEA's requirements in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. The Education Department's current response to Washington's report is not yet available online. - 06/21/2007

"Cheney's office not abiding by classified data orders"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) The National Archives and Records Administration is butting heads with Vice President Dick Cheney over Executive Order 12958. This Executive Order "...prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information." The Vice President's office has not complied with E.O. 12958 since 2003, claiming it does not apply because the Vice President is not part of the Executive Branch of goverment. The National Archives has requested help from the Attorney General in enforcing E.O. 12958 - 06/22/2007

"Tougher standards on smog proposed"--Seattle Times
If the Environmental Protection Agency toughens up its rules on air pollution, eight Washington counties' compliance with clean air standards could be lost in the ozone again. Mason, Kitsap, Thurston, Pierce, King, Snohomish, Island, and Spokane counties would have to take measures to lower ozone levels that currently meet Federal standards. The EPA has issued a factsheet on the proposed rule changes. The Department of Ecology oversees air quality on the state level. - 06/22/2007

"Audit: U.S. let Iraq contractor waste millions"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) An audit done by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGUR) criticized the record keeping and practices of KBR, a major U.S. contractor in Iraq, and the government officials who should have been overseeing it. The audit identified millions of dollars overspent in food food services, contractors living better than the soldiers and staff they were supporting, and incredibly bad fuel supply records. There were no particualr problems with moral, welfare, and recreation services. KBR's services are supposed to be overseen by the Defense Contract Managment Agency - 06/25/2007

"Legal war looms over billboards: As Tacoma’s deadline for removal nears, Clear Channel won’t go quietly"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The deadline is looming in Tacoma for billboard owners to limit the size and location of their signs or remove them. The city passed an ordinance ten years ago that gave billboard owners this long to conform to the rules. Clear Channel, the only company currently involved, feels the ordinance is unconstitutional and wants millions in compensation for loss of revenue. It also claims that land onwers who lease land to Clear Channel would deserve compensation for lost revenue. Compensation for removing billboards in covered in the state's Scenic Vistas Act. - 06/25/2007

"Cost to clean up transuranic waste could be greater"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Nuclear wastes and ground water are an expensive combination. A Government Accountability Office report says that the Department of Energy's initial estimates to clean up buried transuranic wastes probably won't cover the costs for handling these wastes at Hanford and other sites. These sites are more expensive because ground water can reach the buried radioactive wastes and contaminate aquifers. An abstract and highlights of the report are available. - 06/26/2007

"CIA release of documents reveals little"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) The Central Intelligence Agency has released the Family Jewels, an in-house compilation of illegal acts performed by the CIA prior to 1973. You can read the CIA press release about the documents here. Don't expect to learn all the details--white out the words "Central Intelligence Agency", "Family Jewels", "illegal", and "CIA" from this entry and you'll have an idea what the compilation looks like. - 06/27/2007

"Gregoire appoints council of leaders to jump-start Puget Sound restoration"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Governor Gregoire appointed six members to the Puget Sound Leadership Council that will oversee the Puget Sound Partnership. The appointees come from tribal, business, and environmental backgrounds. They will steer the scientifically challenging and politically sensitive task of restoring the health of Puget Sound and Hood Canal while there's still time. - 06/27/2007

"Most of Yakima's population growth from annexation"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Yakima has become Washington's fifth fastest growing city according to population estimates released by the Office of Financial Management. Yakima has grown by annexing nearby neighborhoods. According to the Pasco Tri-City Herald, "Economy, housing contribute to growth" in the Tri-Cities area. The Spokane Spokesman-Review gloats, "We're number 2" as its population stays ahead of Tacoma's. The Tacoma News Tribune's view on growth is "No wonder traffic’s gridlocked". The Everett Herald is puzzled because "Everett's population suddenly falls" due to differing methodologies used by OFM and the Census Bureau for calculating population estimates. - 06/28/2007

"High court rejects school integration plans"--Seattle Times
A closely divided Supreme Court declared that the school assignment procedures formerly used by the Seattle School District was unconstitutional. The decision in Parent Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 hinged on the racial component that was used by the District as a tiebreaker when assigning students to schools. This article has an accompanying timeline tracking the progress of this case. - 06/28/2007

"Bald eagle comes off Endangered list: Bird-lovers offer mixed reactions"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Department of the Interior has announced the bald eagle is no longer endangered. Bird watchers hope it stays that way. The number of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states has risen from 487 pairs in 1963 to 9,789 breeding pairs in 2007 thanks to protections under the Endangered Species Act. Although the bald eagle is protected under other laws, some people are concerned that the number of eagles will fall without endangered species protection. Many of the eagles in Washington state can be found along the Skagit River. Check out the Washington Fish & Wildlife EagleCams. - 06/29/2007

"Trade act extension approved"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A program that's part of the war on drugs is hurting Eastern Washington farmers. Representative Doc Hastings was unable to amend the 1991 Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA). This law gives asparagus grown in Peru duty-free entry to the U.S. market.The idea was to give an alternative crop to coca farmers in the Andes. Instead it's benefiting agribusiness in the coastal regions. Wages are much lower and regulations are much looser there. The competition from imports has been devastating to asparagus growers in Washington. The value of the Washington asparagus crop dropped from $57 million in 1991 to $19 million in 2006. Meanwhile the ATPA has had "...a small, indirect effect on drug-related crop eradication and crop substitution efforts in the ATPA countries..." - 06/28/2007

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