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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.

"Whatcom County governments forced to return some stimulus money"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The city of Lynden found out the hard way that when stimulus project bids come in under the proposed budget, local governments are not allowed to keep the excess funds. Lynden will have to repay the state about $328,000 for a street-improvement project, not an easy task for a cash-strapped local government. Apparently Lynden borrowed the stimulus money on a line of credit, so paying the money back won’t just be a matter of handing it over; it will have to come out of tax revenue. Bellingham has also had to pay back some money but not as much as Lynden. Other communities are looking at Lynden’s bad luck and revising their cost estimates before they apply for stimulus funds. - 08/03/2009

"Web site gives voters online guide"--Walla Walla Union Bulletin - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Grants funded through the Help America Vote program and the Washington Secretary of State's Office have realized a video version of the voters guide. Residents of Kitsap, Grant, Pacific, Pend Oreille and Walla Walla counties can now access the video, which allows voters in these counties to view statements from local candidates. Separate guides are made for each county, so that only the candidates running for office in one specific county are shown. The videos were produced by Democracy Live Inc, which is a non-partisan technology company based in Issaquah. - 08/04/2009

"State reverses policy that made it harder to get ID reflecting gender change"--Seattle Times
After three years of discussion, the Department of Licensing decided this January to make it tougher for transgendered people to change their gender on their driver’s license. The department says they started requiring a copy of a birth certificate that reflected the change in order to provide better security against terrorism and identity theft. Now the department has announced they have dropped that requirement because it has proven too difficult for many people to obtain a modified birth certificate. The department found that they had to make exceptions to the rule because some states or countries simply weren’t cooperating with requests for amended birth certificates. It just made sense for DOL to treat everyone the same and revert back to the old policy, which requires transgendered people to provide a letter from a doctor stating that the patient has received treatment for gender reassignment. - 08/10/2009

"State, DOE reach deal on Hanford cleanup"--Tri-City Herald
Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced new terms of an agreement between Washington, Oregon and the federal government regarding clean-up of the Hanford nuclear waste site. As part of the agreement, the energy department will not be allowed to dump any more toxic waste at Hanford until the vitrification plant is operational, which isn’t projected to happen until 2022. The deadline for emptying Hanford’s leakiest tanks has been extended from 2018 to 2047, and the C Tank Farm, which was supposed to be emptied already, now has a completion deadline of 2014. Overall, all sides seem to be happy with the new deal after years of deadlock and missed deadlines under the previous administration. - 08/12/2009

"Nearly 3,000 show up for health-care forum in Everett"--Seattle Times
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen held a health care forum in Everett that attracted a huge outpouring of reform advocates and opposition. Larsen withstood heckling from many audience members as he tried to answer questions about the Democrats’ health care reform bills in Congress. Reportedly many people left early because of the noisy crowds and lack of specific information. Other Washington congress people have refused to hold town hall forums, or have cancelled those already scheduled, because of rowdy protesters. A meeting to discuss the Mt. St. Helen’s monument in Longview was cancelled due to plans by advocacy and oppositions groups to turn it into a health care reform event. - 08/13/2009

"State prisons, social facilities in crosshairs"--The Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The governor’s office has hired an independent contractor to evaluate the possibility of closing several state prisons, Green Hill or Maple Lane schools, and schools for the developmentally disabled in several counties. The state budget called for closures of some of these facilities to save the state $12 million, although the governor’s office says that figure will be flexible. A report on the amount of money the closures would save the state as well as the effects of lay-offs and displaced prisoners is due to the legislature by November 1, 2009. Law enforcement groups oppose closing any facilities, arguing that the state already has too few prisons as it is. - 08/14/2009

"Triplett: Budget woes mean 39 county parks could be locked up"
King County Executive Kurt Triplett is proposing shuttering 39 parks in order to save the county money. Closing the parks, or turning them over to local governments or other nonprofit groups, would save the county about $4.6 million a year and would eliminate 13 positions. Triplett is also proposing $15 million in cuts to human resources and animal control, and reducing other county office budgets by 10 percent. King County is looking at a budget deficit of $56 million for 2010, which is more than this year’s allocated budget for all health and human services. - 08/17/2009

"Obscure rule on manure stirs controversy"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The obscure rule in question is Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 246-203-130 that has a section ordering "Manure shall not be allowed to accumulate in any place where it can prejudicially affect any source of drinking water". This rule was last updated in 1990, and the Washington State Board of Health is considering revising it. Some citizen groups want the rule to stay the way it is. They see it as a tool to prevent manure from large dairy operations from polluting local water supplies with nitrates and e coli bacteria. Employees of the Board of Health and the Yakima Health District say the rule was meant for controlling manure on small farm operations, not large scale operations that are regulated by the Department of Ecology and the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The federal government is also getting involved since the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating nitrate levels in Yakima Valley wells. - 08/18/2009

"Schools ready flu-fighting tools: Districts set protocols for containing H1N1 spread as officials expect cases to rise"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
School will start soon. Students will gather to learn academic subjects, develop social skills, and swap germs. The germ that worries school staff the most is the H1N1 virus (swine flu). This strain of the flu has killed people, it continued to spread outside of the usual flu season, and a vaccine won't be ready until later in the fall--and even then the supply might be limited. Furthermore, germs that are spread at school don't stay at school--they travel home with the students and staff. Plans to limit the spread of swine flu in schools are being made on the local, state, and national levels. - 08/19/2009

"Company owners admit knowingly hiring illegal immigrants"--Seattle Times
Owners of a Bellingham engine company pleaded guilty to hiring several illegal immigrants whom they knew were using fake social security numbers and IDs. Twenty-eight employees were arrested in a raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, and all 28 were found to be working in the U.S. illegally. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano used the Bellingham case to scrutinize ICE policies and has set forth new policies requiring ICE agents to focus raids on employers rather than employees. ICE has recently informed 652 companies throughout the U.S. that they will be investigated for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. - 08/19/2009

"1977 Yakima River water rights case nears resolution"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The lawsuit Ecology v. Acquavella started 32 years ago, Now it's almost settled and has become a poster child for the complex issue of determining water rights. The case began those many years ago when James Acquavella tried to establish water rights for his property on the Yakima River during a drought year. The issue of water rights dates back to the territorial days. Article XXI of the Washington Constitution--one of its original articles--states: " The use of the waters of this state for irrigation, mining and manufacturing purposes shall be deemed a public use." Under state law, the Department of Ecology oversees the state's water resources and water rights. Ecology eventually sued 6,630 people to establish their rights to surface water in the Yakima River Basin. This process was known as the Yakima Surface Water Rights Adjudication. Now people are being given one last chance to file a claim for these water rights. So far the process has cost $30 million. And James Acquavella? He sold his property and any claim to the water 20 years ago. - 08/20/2009

"Cardholders pay for new rules"--Everett Herald
Two new federal laws for credit card companies go into effect today. The first says that credit card companies must give consumers ample warning when the terms of their account contracts are going to change, and the second rule requires companies to give account holders more time to pay their bill after they receive it in the mail. Even stricter regulations on credit card companies are due to come into effect in February. Although most of these changes are hailed as good news by consumer advocates, some argue that credit card companies will now up their fees and rates for everyone as a response to the new legislation, thus penalizing people who pay their bills promptly. - 08/20/2009

"The great indoors" [new Dept. of Fish & Wildlife laboratory]--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Some things are better done in a laboratory than in your bathtub. The Department of Fish and Wildife (WDFW) is dedicating its new wildife laboratory in Spokane today. Because the wildlife, fish, and shelfish are property of the state the WDFW uses the lab to support its wildlife science research in such areas as animal diseases. The new lab will make life easier for the reasearcher who had to take animal carcasses home and dissect them in her bathtub since there wasn't room in her old office. - 08/24/2009

"State tables idea of wind farm lease in spotted owl habitat"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The spotted owl provided the leverage to stop the proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project in Skamania County. Local businesses supported the project, but the support was not universal. The project's location on Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) land overlooking the Columbia Gorge created opposition from supporters of the Columbia Gorge Nationa Scenic Area. The Yakama Nation felt the support of some tribal leaders for the project didn't represent the interests of all the Yakamas. The Department of Fish and Wildlife was worried about the possibility of raptors as well as spotted owls flying into the blades of the wind farm. The location of the project on protected spotted owl habitat made DNR back away from leasing land for the windfarm. - 08/23/2009

"Six human cases of mosquito-borne diseases suspected"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The mosquito that bites you may be giving you a disease while it takes your blood. In what's turning into an annual event, possible cases of mosquito-spread West Nile virus are being reported in Washington state. The Yakima Health District has announced 6 possible cases of West Nile virus. Lab samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to identify the disease. Until it hears back from the CDC the Yakima Health District hasn't ruled out that the victims might be suffering from other mosquito borne diseases such as St. Louis encephalitis or Western equine encephalitis. Birds and horses are often victims of these diseases. A related Herald-Republic story, "Fight the bite of the West Nile virus", describes the toll of West Nile virus takes on horses--up to a 30% mortality rate. Owners can protect horses by vaccinating them. - 08/25/2009

"Farmers upset over county law to keep livestock out of sensitive areas"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Whatcom County is stepping up enforcement of their Critical Areas Ordinance in order to keep streams and wetlands clear and bacteria-free. However, this law has some farmers upset over fines and fees required for filing a plan with the county for keeping livestock out of the critical areas. Farmers can also install fences to keep out livestock, but that is an expensive option as well. Some farmers have said they would have to sell their livestock because they can’t afford to comply with the regulations. A meeting to discuss the implications of the law will be held tonight. - 08/26/2009

"Lodge offers space for spiritual healing: VA addition recognizes Indians’ role in military"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Native Americans have given proud service in the United States military. As with any group of combat veterans,some of the wounds are to the spirit and require more than physical healing. The Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center added a Native Americans Veterans Healing Center to aid its Native American patients. The open air building includes two sweat lodges. At least 150 of the Center's patients are Native Americans. - 08/27/2009

"Referendum 71 donors’ names can’t remain secret, state rules"--Everett Herald
The Public Disclosure Commission has ruled that sponsors of Referendum 71 must reveal the names of their donors. Referendum 71 is seeking to revoke the so-called “Everything but marriage” bill passed by the legislature this session. Sponsors of the referendum asked the commission to make an exception to their usual rules that say all political campaign donor names must be released to the public, because sponsors say they have received threats of violence from their opponents. In their decision not to make an exception in this case, the commission said that the sponsors did not show compelling evidence that violence has or would ensue if names were released. Sponsors of Referendum 71 recently filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Sam Reed for what they consider to be problems with the signature-validation process, a crucial step that determines whether the referendum will go on the November ballot. - 08/28/2009

"Mussel invasion closes in on Northwest waters"--Seattle Times
Mussels are muscling in on the Pacific Northwest, and that has everyone from power companies to environmentalists worried. Zebra and quagga mussels, two highly invasive species, have already invaded lakes and rivers throughout the U.S. The mussels can clog up dams, sink buoys, and even kill fish with their razor-sharp edges. Methods used to kill the mussels elsewhere won’t work here in the northwest because of possible damage to endangered species, such as salmon, that occupy the same waters. One study found that one mussels can produce up to one million larvae per year, so keeping a lid on the species is paramount. Recreational boats coming in to the state from Nevada and Arizona are being closely watched for signs of contamination. - 08/31/2009

"Deep cuts ahead for corrections department"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Like many other government agencies, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has had to deal with budget cuts by reducing staff and cutting services. And, like many government agencies, DOC has had a steadily growing workload of prison inmates (the number of released prisoners under community supevision fluctuated). Some prisons will have to be closed. Community supervision will be cut for nonviolent and low-risk offenders. Caseloads aren't expected to go up for the remianing community supervision officers, but they will deal with a tougher crowd. The vast majority of inmates will eventually be released into the community. - 08/31/2009

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