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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.

"EPA lets states set emissions limits"--Olympian
The Environmental Protection Agency has overturned the Bush Administration’s ban on state-by-state emissions standards. Now the EPA will allow California, Washington, and other states to institute standards that are tougher than what the federal laws call for. The states will be allowed to enforce their strict standards until 2012, at which point all states will need to comply with new standards imposed by the EPA that will be established in summer of 2009. - 07/01/2009

"Liquor stores in NCW, state hit by shortages"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Some people might have a safer, saner, and, indeed, more sober 4th of July than they were expecting. For this they should thank(?) a computer glitch in the distribution system run by the Liquor Control Board. That agency controls the distribution and sale of liquor in Washington. Many liquor stores and bars in North Central Washington have received only partial shipments of the distilled spirits they ordered. The state was hoping to generate additional tax money by keeping liquor stores open on the 4th of July, but this alcoholic dry spell might lower this revenue stream. - 07/01/2009

"Neighbors complain about bikini fireworks stand"--Tacoma News Tribune
A Puyallup fireworks stand is causing a bit of a firestorm within the community. The problem isn’t that fireworks are illegal there, as they are in many communities in Washington, but that the staff are bearing a little too much skin. City officials say they have received numerous complaints about the lack of adequate clothing worn by the female employees at the stand, but since there is no city ordinance regarding wearing bikinis, nothing can be done. Many people offended by the stand say that the bikini theme is inappropriate because it is located next to a park and school. The fireworks stand is on property owned by Walt’s Auto Care, which has said that it may take public comments into consideration if the stand applies for another lease next year. - 07/02/2009

"New laws help tenants evicted due to foreclosure"--Seattle Times
New state and federal laws are now in effect to help renters deal with foreclosures on homes and other rentals, but laws meant to help consumers may prove to offer more confusion. Federal laws require new owners to give tenants 90 days’ notice before starting the eviction process, while Washington state laws mandate 60 days’ notice. However, legal experts say that in cases where federal and state laws are contradictory, the laws offering consumers more protection are supposed to take precedence. Foreclosures can be tricky issues for renters, because they may not know the home has been foreclosed on until they receive a notice from the bank. The old laws said that renters had just 20 days to move after an eviction notice had been posted, and new property owners were not required to give any notice before filing for eviction. Federal and state laws also contradict one another regarding payment of rent when the new owners take over the property. - 07/06/2009

"Researchers stunned by inmates' success raising endangered frogs"--Longview Daily News
A multi-year prison sentence can give a person time to kill. Fortunately for the Oregon spotted frog prison time can also give inmates time to nurture. The Oregon spotted frog is listed as an endangered species by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Inmates at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center are growing Oregon spotted frogs as part of a sustainable prison project in cooperation with the Evergreen State College and the WDFW. The Cedar Creek project is having more success than simlar projects in zoos because the inmates can spend more time tending the frogs than zoo staff can. - 07/06/2009

"Study that says Snake dams don't stifle fish survival knocked"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The salmon in the Snake and Columbia Rivers are endangered species. Decisions involving the Endangered Species Act are supposed to use sound science. The waters get muddy when scientists disagree. A recent article in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences suggests that young salmon encounter no more danger passing through the four Snake River dams and the four dams on the Lower Columbia River than those salmon that only pass the Columbia River dams. Other scientists are criticizing the article on the grounds that the samples used were small and not necessarily comparable. The outcome of these arguments could have a role in deciding whether or not to breach the Snake River dams. - 07/07/2009

"Deal balances habitat, logging"--Olympian
In a first-of-its-kind deal with federal and state wildlife authorities, timber company Port Blakely Tree Farms has agreed to alter its timber stands in Lewis and Skamania counties to attract endangered northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets. In exchange, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Department of Natural Resources will not increase restrictions on the company’s ability to log in those areas, even if the species do take up residence there. The agreement will last sixty years, during which time Port Blakely will increase acreage of timber 80 years or older, and will thin certain areas to create better hunting grounds for the spotted owls. Conservation group Washington Forest Law Center supports the agreement as both business- and environment-friendly. - 07/08/2009

"Salmon begin long journey back to Yakima Basin"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Sockeye salmon are returning to Lake Cle Elum by truck, but returning nonetheless as part of the Yakima/Klickitat Fisheries Project. The native sockeye population in the lake died out decades ago when a dam was built at the lake's outlet that leads to the Yakima River. The dam was built to provide a steady supply of water for irrigation. Now the Yakama Nation, in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, are reintroducing sockeye salmon in the lake in hopes of eventually creating a self-sustaining sockeye run on the Yakima River. The sockeye will be able to use a flume at high water to reach the river. Eventually a permanent fish ladder will be built. - 07/08/2009

"Washington's Plan B ruling overturned"--Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a federal judge issued an overly broad decision last year when he said that Washington could not enforce a state mandate on pharmacies to provide all legal drugs to consumers. The case arose because some pharmacists and pharmacies refused to sell the Plan B pregnancy-prevention drug to consumers of legal age, on grounds that the drug produces results that are tantamount to abortion. Plan B is a drug similar to birth control pills that prevents an egg from being fertilized if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. A 2007 state Pharmacy Board rule said that pharmacies could not refuse to provide the pill; the federal judge then ruled last year that the state’s mandate broke religious freedom rights. However, this new ruling by the court of appeals overturns that ruling and sends the case back to U.S. district court for review. - 07/09/2009

"State plans to close outer Mystery Bay to shellfish harvest"--Peninsula Daily News
The Department of Health will close the outer area of the bay because it says the number of boats and moorings there is in excess of what is allowed under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. The Department of Natural Resources has already removed several buoys and is in the process of contacting owners of others in order to help the shellfish harvesting resume. Apparently the number of boats that can be accommodated within the bay, about 100, means that much of Mystery Bay classifies as a marina and therefore shellfish harvesting cannot be allowed there. However, in areas where there are only moorings for less than ten boats, shellfish harvesting would be permitted. - 07/10/2009

"Get ready, Seattle: You're about to be a light-rail town"--Seattle Times
This coming Saturday, Sound Transit will launch Seattle’s first light-rail train route, which will run from downtown Seattle to Tukwila. Later this year, the route will be extended out to the SeaTac airport. Overall, the system is expected to cover 53 miles from Federal Way to Lynnwood and areas in between, but won’t be completed until 2016. So far the cost of the light-rail project has remained within its budget of $2.4 billion, but taxes to pay for the system will continue to be collected until 2030. Light rail has long been a contentious issue in the Puget Sound region; similar light-rail projects were defeated by voters in 2007, 1995, 1970 and 1968. Extensions of the monorail were passed by voters but the project was never completed. - 07/12/2009

"PUD planners work against rising costs to keep rates low"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Public Utility Districts in along the Columbia River have traditionally relied on dams to generate hydroelectric power. Three public utility districts in Central Washington--Chelan County PUD, Douglas County PUD, and Grant County PUD--are looking toward a future with a wider range of power sources. The PUDs are faced with commercial, legal, and environmental pressures to do this. First, there is the continued growth in local demand. RCW 19.285.040, based on Initiative 937 that passed in 2006, requires utilities to get 15% from renewable resources by 2020. Climate change could adversely affect the river flow that generates hydroelectric power. Finally there are the contracts the PUDs have signed to sell power outside their counties (like this sale, for example.) - 07/12/2009

"Kittitas County residents weigh rewards vs. hazards"--Yakima Herald Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Desert Claim wind farm vs. NIMBY--renewable energy, jobs, and tax revenues vs. fire hazards, dead eagles, and liability issues. Those were the points brought up at the Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council hearing in Ellensburg. The crowd was deeply divided on the risks and benefits of this proposal to have 95 wind turbines on a 5,200 acre site. The Central Washington Corridor near Ellensburg is a prime location for wind farms. - 07/14/2009

"Federal officials pass over Washington for ferry stimulus spending"--Everett Herald
State officials are fuming after yesterday’s announcement that Washington will receive only $750,000 of a $60 million stimulus package aimed specifically at local and state ferry systems. U.S. Senator Patty Murray was especially flummoxed, since she had fought for the inclusion of the ferry provision in the economic stimulus bill on behalf of the state. Washington has the nation’s largest ferry system. The $750,000 awarded to Washington will be used to construct a new ferry terminal for the Guemes Island ferry in Anacortes. Secretary of Transportation Roy LaHood said that the grants were awarded to projects where there was the most need for jobs, where transportation options were lacking, and where the projects could be completed in two years. - 07/15/2009

"Two-year colleges’ enrollment climbs: NIC sees summer jump of 22 percent as classes fill up around region"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Community colleges in Eastern Washington and North Idaho are seeing a sharp increase in enrollments and applications for financial aid. The growth in enrollment is on top of the increases that occurred last fall. These increases are driven in large part by the economic recession and need for laid of workers to be retrained. (Washington's unemployment rate grew to 9.3% in June; Idaho's unemployment rate was 8.3% in June.) At the same time, the community colleges took their share of budget cuts. Community colleges in Washington are overseen by the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges. - 07/15/2009

"Murray corrects 'oversight' of ferries"--The Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
After learning that Washington state would only receive about one percent of the money in the federal stimulus package set aside for ferries, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray got on the phone to Roy LaHood, Secretary of Transportation. The phone call resulted in an additional $7.6 million for Washington ferry projects. Murray says she explained that she was the chair of the senate subcommittee on transportation appropriations, and she was responsible for the ferry money being inserted into the stimulus bill. LaHood apparently apologized for the oversight and promised an investigation into why less money had initially been awarded to Washington. The new grants will go towards a new ferry terminal in Anacortes, and passenger-only ferries for the Seattle-Bremerton and Seattle-Vashon runs. - 07/16/2009

"Same-sex rights may see vote"--The Olympian
Proponents of Referendum 71, which seeks to reverse Senate Bill 5688, are going to file their petitions with the Secretary of State’s Elections office this Saturday. Supporters of the referendum do not want the so-called “everything but marriage” bill, passed by the state legislature in the 2009 session, to be made into law. The bill awards several of the rights given to married couples within state law to couples in registered domestic partnerships. If Referendum 71 has garnered enough valid signatures to be placed on the ballot in November, voters will be asked if they want to accept or reject the bill. >a href="">Polls taken by the University of Washington last October show that a majority of Washington voters favor giving some rights to same-sex couples. - 07/21/2009

"Retail drops in Spokane County"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
According to Department of Revenue figures retail sales in Spokane County for the first quarter of 2009 were 7.7% below where they were in 2008. It could have been worse--retail sales in Washington state as a whole were down by 12.8%. Over 7 counties showed an increase in retail sales, and they were counties with smaller populations. Retail sales in cities were also lower in the first quarter than they were a year ago. These numbers are important because these numbers are for taxable retail sales--a key source of income for city and county government services. Lower tax revenues can force governments to cut services--something that strikes home when it's a service you use. - 07/21/2009

"Flu shots may be in short supply"--Everett Herald
According to Snohomish County health officials, there will most likely not be enough swine flu vaccine for every person who wants a shot this fall. Public health agencies will distribute the vaccine first to young people under the age of 24, both because children are more likely to spread germs and because so far swine flu has been deadliest for this age group. Also on the list of first-priority are pregnant women, health care workers, police and firefighters, and people who have other health problems that might make them more likely to become severely ill if they catch swine flu. Six people in Washington and 263 people nationwide have died of swine flu this year. Washington is spending $700,000 to bulk up vaccine supplies, and is eligible to receive up to $7.3 million in federal grants to keep the pandemic under control. - 07/22/2009

"State pushed to limit TransAlta emissions: Clean air agency says it doesn't have legal authority to act"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A coalition of conservation groups is leaning on the Vancouver-based Southwest Clean Air Agency (SCAA) to take action to limit greenhouse gases from the TransAlta gas and coal-fired power plant in Centralia. This plant is a major source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The SCAA says it doesn't really have the legal authorityto do this, and points to the role of the Department of Ecology as well as the ongoing negotiations between TransAlta and the Governor's office. The conservation groups are pointing toward renewed Environmental Protection Agency emphasis on controlling greenhouse gases under the Obama administration. - 07/22/2009

"Gregoire won't lift state ban on Kittitas County wells"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Kittitas County and the Department of Ecology are at loggerheads over water rights in the Yakima River Basin. Ecology filed an emergency rule banning any new groundwater withdrawals in northern Kittitas County on July 16. This action is tied to larger concerns about the water supply in the Yakima River Basin. Ecology is particularly concerned about the 3,000 exempt wells that have drilled in the area over the last few years. The Kittitas County Commission is protesting this rule on the grounds that there is sufficient water for all users and that the rule is, in effect, a moratorium on new construction in the area (see the Kittitas Daily Record,"Kittitas County to seek repeal of well moratorium: Will call on governor today to act", July 23, 2009). The County Commission requested the Governor to repeal this rule, but she refused. - 07/23/2009

"Breast-feeding a civil right under new Wash. Law"--The Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Starting July 26, Washington will be among the states that allow women to breastfeed in public without harassment and discrimination. The state Human Rights Commission will start an education campaign on the rights of breastfeeding mothers, and will give out cards to women that state the new law, and which can be presented to anyone who questions their right to breastfeed in public. Women who continue to be harassed can file a complaint with the commission. Among the new state laws taking effect on July 26 include one that will make it easier for convicted felons to regain their voting rights after they serve out their sentence. - 07/23/2009

"Court ruling on trust funds a victory for Native Americans"--Peninsula Daily News
A federal appeals court has overruled another judge’s decision that said it would be impossible to account for all of the back-royalties the federal government owed to Native American tribes over a span of a hundred years. The court ruling today said that just because the task is daunting and complicated does not mean the government should be allowed to forego payment. To make matters simpler, the ruling stated that the accounting process should not consider closed accounts or those in probate. Several Indian tribes have sued the Interior Department on the grounds that it has been bilking tribes out of royalties promised in treaties for commodities such as oil, timber, and gas extracted from tribal lands. - 07/24/2009

"Cash lures drivers to unload clunkers"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The popular name for a government program can be much more memorable and descriptive than the program's official name and acronym (carefully crafted by hardworking bureaucrats). Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS, is the program's official name, but Cash for Clunkers, its popular name, captures the imagination and is just as descriptive. This program aims to help revive vehicle sales as well as getting more vehicles with better gas mileage on the roads. The program offers vehicle buyers a rebate if they trade in a vehicle that gets less than 18 miles per gallon for one that gets at least 4 more miles to the gallon. If the new vehicle gets 4 to 9 more miles to the gallon, you get a $3,500 rebate; if the new vehicle gets at least 10 more miles to the gallon, you get a $4,500 rebate. The old vehicle is scrapped after it's turned in, thus keeping it off the road permanently. The current average mileage for automobiles and light trucks can be found here (scroll down to "Summary of Fuel Economy Performance"). - 07/24/2009

"Shoreline neighbors say Point Wells 'urban center' proposal tramples their beach-side turf"--Seattle Times
Residents of Shoreline are concerned about a large-scale development that may be erected at Point Wells. Point Wells is currently zoned for industrial use and has been the site of an asphalt production plant for over 50 years. Developers have applied for a land-use permit to change the zoning in the area to an urban center, and plan to build 3,500 dwelling units with buildings as high as 16 stories. Opponents are worried that roads in the area won’t be able to handle the additional traffic such a large development would bring, and feel that their quiet community would turn into a bustling urban area. Washington’s Growth Management Act requires that cities and counties work together and include residents in development planning. - 07/27/2009

"Colville tribes look forward to opening of Columbia River salmon hatchery"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The Grand Coulee Dam brought electricity and irrigation to the Columbia Basin--while destroying the fishing culture of the Colville Tribes. Now, as part of their fish and wildlife management plan, the Colville Tribes will build a new fish hatchery to restore salmon populations on the upper Columbia River. The hatchery will have safeguards to prevent hatchery salmon from breeding with the remaining native stocks of wild salmon. The money to build the hatchery will come from the Bonneville Power Administration by way of the Northwest Power Planning and Convervation Council. This funding is part of BPA's ongoing wildlife mitigation program. - 07/26/2009

"R&R = river & risk on hot summer days"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Drowning can ruin a summer day. That's why Kittitas Search and Rescue members are keeping a close eye on boaters, rafters, and inner tubers on the Yakima River. The number of people spending time on the water there has grown dramatically, probably becuase of the economy. The problems arise when people ignore the basic rules of water safety, particularly when alcohol is involved. Problems are also caused by people who don't get permits for parking on lands supervised by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This can lead to a $136 ticket and a frayed temper. - 07/28/2009

"Governor blasts revenue cap"--The Olympian
Gov. Gregoire publicly stated that she is against the new Tim Eyman initiative that proposes to cap how much revenue the state is allowed to collect. Gregoire said that I-1033 would end up hamstringing the state, forcing it to borrow money and slash services, putting Washington in the position California is now in. Eyman refuted Gregoire’s statements, claiming that the initiative would account for inflation and population growth and would allow voters to approve higher caps if necessary. Gregoire says that capping the revenues that governments can collect does not allow them to react quickly to economic crises. Washington’s tax burden was recently listed by Forbes magazine as number 8 in the nation, but the state Dept. of Revenue says their calculations are misleading, and that Washington’s tax burden is closer to the bottom or middle range in the rankings. - 07/29/2009

"Possible mercury storage at Hanford concerns state"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The trouble with finding storage areas for hazardous wastes is that the wastes are hazardous--nobody wants it in their backyards or to be downwind or downstream of it. Take mercury for example. The Department of Energy (DOE) is discovering that nobody wants to be as mad as a hatter. DOE is trying to find a storage site for at least 8,500 tons of mercury from private and government sources. The 8,500 tons is at the low end of the range of estimates for the amount of mercury that will need to be stored--and it's already well above a 2007 estimate that had 7,500 tons at the low end of the range. The Department of Ecology made clear at a hearing in Richland its lack of enthusiasm for Hanford being on the list of possible storage sites. The representative from Ecology agreed with local speakers that the emphasis on Hanford should be cleaning up the wastes that are already there. - 07/29/2009

"Fairchild AFB considering moving to Moses Lake"--Moses Lake Columbia Basin Herald
Nothing lasts forever, not even a runway that's had heavily loaded aerial tankers taking off and landing for years. The Air Force is seeking funding to replace the runway at Fairchild Air Force Base. If the Air Force gets the funding, then it will have to decide where to temporarily base the aerial tanks that fly out of Fairchild. One possible site--wholeheartedly supported by the local Chamber of Commerce--is Moses Lake. The Grant County International Airport, once Larson Air Force Base, is relatively close to Fairchild and boasts a 13,500 foot long runway that's good enough for a space shuttle landing. The tankers transfer to Moses Lake could last most of a year and bring air crews and support staff to the area. This influx of military personnel would pump money into the local economy. - 07/29/2009

"State could soon release ill prisoners"--The Olympian
A new state law will expand a current program that allows chronically or terminally ill prisoners to be released from prison before their sentence has been completed. The expansion came about as a way to save the state more money – possibly as much as $800,000. By releasing seriously ill prisoners, the Department of Corrections hopes to save in costs of prescriptions and transportation to doctor appointments. Prisoners are only eligible for early release if their illness is expensive to treat and is incapacitating enough to make it very difficult for them to commit further crimes. Some lawmakers argue that these prisoners will likely end up receiving state assistance through DSHS programs, thus cancelling out any savings. - 07/31/2009

"Woman takes health care saga to Congress: Even with insurance, Vancouver resident swamped by medical bills"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Victoria Dain, a professional health benefits counselor from Vancouver, discovered the hard and painfully expensive way that it's a mistake to buy your health insurance based on your good health--it doesn't leave a lot of coverage for health emergencies. She's using her medical bills as incentive to lobby for health care reform on behalf of AARP in Washington, DC. She will be one of a swarm of lobbyists working on this issue. The President is also taking a personal interest in the health care issue. Right now the action is focused on Congressional Committees such as the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. - 07/31/2009

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