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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.

"That’s a wrap for state’s film incentives"--Vancouver Columbian
Washington has ended its incentive program for the film industry. Up until July 1, the state offered the film industry a 30% rebate on the money they spent in the state in an effort to lure the industry here. According to Washington Filmworks, the organization in charge of the incentive program, $5.4 million worth of incentives committed in 2010 helped bring 23 projects to the state and generated around $18 million in spending. Even with the incentive program in place, though, Washington was often losing out to Oregon and Vancouver, B.C., both of which offer better incentive programs, and lawmakers felt that the incentive program money could be better spent elsewhere. - 07/05/2011

"State board awards $1.3 million to Whatcom County projects"--Bellingham Herald
The state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board has awarded $1.3 million to local, state, and federal agencies to fund 6 projects in Whatcom County. Proposed projects include replacing and renovating boat launches, replacing worn out trap and skeet machines, funding a volunteer coordinator position in the Mount Baker Ranger District for the Mountain Stewards Program, improving access to Lake Samish, and maintaining trails and campgrounds. - 07/05/2011

"Deal with Mexico ends tariff that cost state apple growers $44M a year"--Yakima Herald-Republic
have signed an agreement that ends tariffs placed on the fruit industry in 2009 and 2010. Half of 20% percent tariffs on apples, cherries, pears, and apricots will be removed by Friday, with the rest falling off by fall. Mexico imposed that tariffs as part of a long-standing dispute over cross-border commercial truck traffic and it is estimated that Washington apple growers have lost nearly $44 million per year since 2010, while the pear, cherry, and apricot industries have lost a total of $30 million since 2009. - 07/06/2011

"Tunnels, tolls and traffic: The environmental statement is out"--Seattle Times
The state Dept. of Transportation has released the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for its proposed deep-bored Highway 99 tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Included in the FEIS are sections on tolling and traffic, as well as a rebuttal to a proposal by Mayor Mike McGinn and a consulting firm to change travel patterns in the city to dramatically reduce driving. The release of the FEIS brings the state closer to getting a final “record of decision” from the federal government, which will allow groundbreaking on the project. - 07/07/2011

"Unions were big spenders in past legislative session"--Olympia Olympian
Data compiled by the WA Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) shows that during the nearly five months the Legislature was in session, over $23 million was spent by and for lobbyists. The top three individual spenders were labor unions, with the Washington Federation of State Employees spending $626, 481, the Service Employees International Union Healthcare spending $402, 676, and the Washington Education Association spending $382,609. All three fought heavily for the rights of public-sector works. Despite the state of the economy, the five month spending total is higher than totals during the same period in previous years. - 07/11/2011

"State ethics board finds WWU employee likely violated law"--Bellingham Herald
The State Executive Ethics Board has determined that there is “reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the Ethics in Public Service Act has been or is being committed” in the case of Douglas Nord, former director of the Center of International Studies at Western Washington University (WWU). The focus of the investigation was on Nord’s travel activities as director and his actions were also the subject of a WWU internal audit released in 2009 and a state “whistleblower” audit released in 2010. In 2005, Nord’s travel practices were the focus of an audit by his former employer, Wright State University, and in that case he reimbursed the university $13,000. In the present case, Nord has the chance to respond to the Ethics Board’s allegations and the case can be settled informally with a fine and agreement about the allegations. If Nord opts not to agree to the allegations, the assistant attorney general may choose to prosecute the case in front of the Ethics Board. If that happens, the board will determine the type of violations and the fine amount. The board’s decision could then be appealed through the court system. - 07/11/2011

"Mountain goat census via helicopter set for Olympic National Park"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
An aerial count of mountain goats in Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest is scheduled to begin on Monday and last for up to 10 days. The count, or census, is funded by a $40,000 grant from the National Park Service and it will be conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey. A goat population of 259 to 320 was estimated during the last count in 2004 and the new survey is essential for managing a goat population that has been aggressive in recent months. The park recently released strict guidelines for human-goat interactions and a revised version of its 2011 Goat Action Management Plan. - 07/13/2011

"New study pinpoints dioxins in Port Angeles from old pulp mill"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
A study released by the WA Dept. of Ecology concludes that the former Rayonier pulp mill, which operated for 68 years before closing in 1997, contributed significantly to dioxin levels in Port Angeles. Traces of dioxin were found in 81 of 85 samples collected in 2008 and Ecology determined that without dioxin from the mill only 12 samples would have been contaminated. While levels are above the threshold where cleanup is necessary, they are not high enough to spur immediate action, and a late 2013 deadline has been set for development of a cleanup plan for the mill site and a portion of Port Angeles Harbor. The study is the second and last phase of Ecology’s “Rayonier Mill Off-Property Soil Dioxin Study” and public comment will be accepted through August 30th. - 07/14/2011

"Interior head backs B Reactor as national historical park"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The secretary of the Interior has recommended to Congress that the B Reactor at Hanford, along with facilities at Los Alamos, NM and Oak Ridge, TN, be designated a national historical park commemorating the top-secret effort to create an atomic bomb during World War II known as the Manhattan Project. According to the environmental assessment report released by the National Park Service this week, the Dept. of Energy will continue managing and operating B Reactor and the NPS will provide museum-quality interpretation and education. Washington’s congressional delegation supports the idea of making B Reactor part of the NPS, but the final decision rests with Congress and the president. - 07/14/2011

"State will soon have eyes on I-5 blind spot"--Everett Herald
A five-mile blind spot in the state’s traffic monitoring system will be eliminated by the end of the year thanks to the installation of traffic counting loops and cameras between Everett and Marysville. The fiber-optic lines for the new cameras will also allow 12 additional cameras that were installed during previous projects to come online. The road loops send data to the color-coded traffic congestion maps on the state’s web page and the cameras allow the public and Dept. of Transportation staff to see what is happening on the roads. - 07/18/2011

"Seattle passes rules for medical-marijuana providers"--Seattle Times
A new ordinance passed by the Seattle City Council on Monday requires medical marijuana providers to get a city business license and comply with city land-use, fire-safety, and other rules. The new regulations are the result of meetings between city officials and the medical marijuana community where discussions took place about what is allowed under state medical marijuana laws, which are changing July 22nd. Gov. Gregoire vetoed provisions that would have legalized and regulated dispensaries and grow farms, but patient growing collectives or co-ops are allowed. Seattle’s storefront dispensaries are expected to shift business models and names to become collective garden co-ops. - 07/18/2011

"Auditor: state paid University of Washington for health services that were never delivered"--Seattle Times
A state audit of the WA Dept. of Social and Health Services (DSHS) found that the agency paid $24,070 to the University of Washington’s (UW) School of Public Health for health services that were never provided to the resident of the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center for sexually violent offenders. It was determined that there was a lack of oversight at the Special Commitment Center and DSHS has been told that they need to work with the UW to determine what portion of the money paid should be recovered. The audit, which was the result of a whistleblower complaint filed in November 2009, focused on DSHS because the contract in question was a DSHS contract, but state Auditor Brian Sonntag has said that contract monitoring may be something that needs to be examined at the UW as well. - 07/19/2011

"NCW may get bilingual ballots"--Wenatchee World
According to an announcement by the Secretary of State’s office yesterday, “there is a good chance” that nine new counties in the state – Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, and Walla Walla - could be subject to a “bilingual requirement” for election-related materials that is triggered by demographics. There is a provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1975 that requires voting jurisdictions to go bilingual if their populations include at least 10,000 people, or over 5% of the population, who are voting-age citizens and members of a single-language minority group with limited ability to speak English. 2010 Census numbers that will provide the necessary demographic data are due out in August or September. Most counties will opt not to print separate materials in another language and will instead create publications that contain both languages. - 07/22/2011

"Amtrak ridership back on track, breaking records"--Bellingham Herald
Amtrak set new ridership records during 8 different months in the past year, despite a series of mudslides and other problems earlier this year. In June alone, Amtrak Cascades, which runs between Eugene, OR and Vancouver, B.C., saw a 10% increase in riders compared to last June. The WA Dept. of Transportation is planning to invest $781 million of federal high-speed rail funding to improve rail service and provide additional round trips, primarily on the stretch of the Amtrak Cascades route between Seattle and Portland. - 07/25/2011

"Local baker helps whip up new law"--Vancouver Columbian
The efforts of a Hazel Dell woman helped change and pass a bill to allow small-scale bakers to sell homemade goods. When Felicia Hill first heard about the bill introduced in the Legislature by state Senator Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, the sales limit was set at $5,000, too low of an amount for many businesses that are still too small to afford a commercial kitchen. Felicia testified about the issue and the amount was increased to $15,000. Under the new law, which, according to the Dept. of Agriculture, may not be fully reviewed and implemented for four to six months, home-based cooks must obtain a food handler permit, comply with county zoning laws, and have their kitchens inspected by the Dept. of Agriculture. In addition, food must be labeled with an ingredients lists, weight, and a disclosure that the item was baked in a home kitchen that does not met the same standards as a commercial kitchen. Baked goods, jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butters made in home kitchens can be sold under the new law. - 07/27/2011

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