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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.

"State test scores released" -- The Olympian
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn released results from the first year of the grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE). Across Washington, fifth-grade scores showed some of the biggest losses, with drops in every content area including nearly 11 percentage points in science. Both eighth-graders and high school students registered gains in science. Across the state high school sophomores scores were down in reading, math and writing. State officials are unsure why the results varied widely. State testing changed dramatically last year. The state abandoned the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), which had been in place since 1997. State tests also are used to gauge how well students are faring under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The federal law measures what it calls adequate yearly progress (AYP). Preliminary results from 2010 show that 968 Washington schools did not meet AYP. That’s a decrease of 317 schools from 2009. - 09/01/2010

"Battle brews over state's deadline for overseas ballots " -- Tacoma News Tribune
Washington State obtained an exemption last week from a new federal requirement to send military and overseas ballots 45 days before the Nov. 2 election. The Defense Department granted Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington the waivers and denied waivers to Wisconsin, Hawaii, Alaska and Colorado. The Washington State Republican Party says the waiver will disenfranchise the votes of men and women serving in the military. Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office, which applied for the waiver, says Washington’s unusual election calendar allows nearly all ballots to return from even far-flung locations in time to be counted. In the past two elections, 99 percent of overseas ballots sent back were counted. Because of Washington's late Aug. 17 primary, officials say they can’t be sure they’ll meet the Sept. 18 deadline set up by Congress in the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. Many Washington counties will meet the dealine but some large counties could still miss the federal deadline. Election officials wanted to be safe so they applied for the waiver. - 09/02/2010

"Snohomish PUD tidal project gets $10 million federal grant" -- Everett Herald
The Snohomish County Public Utility District will receive $10 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for its pilot tidal energy project in Admiralty Inlet. The PUD will match the grant with $10.1 million of its own. The PUD grant will cover two large tidal turbines which the PUD hopes to have running by 2012. The two turbines are expected to generate enough kilowatts to power nearly 700 homes. The PUD also is looking at Deception Pass, at the north end of Whidbey Island, as a candidate for tidal power, The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center and the PUD have been jointly researching conditions in the inlet. - 09/10/2010

"Pack animal outfitters get recommendation for 10-year permits" -- Wenatchee World
The Pack and Saddle Stock Outfitter-Guide Special Use Permit Issuance does not affect pack and saddle guides operating on other parts of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Since the early 1990's outfitters have been getting one year permits because the National Forest Service needed a thorough environmental analysis of the area. The National Forest Service proposal allows a total of 4,620 service days, with 2,700 of them in the two wilderness areas. Each outfitter is allocated a certain number of days in specific parts of the forest, based on that outfitter’s highest use in the past five years, which will be re-evaluated every five years. A service day equates to one client spending one day with a guide. Some outfitters are not pleased with the proposal including the options allowing for growth. - 09/10/2010

"Ag folks hope Gregoire-led trip boosts trade with China, Vietnam" -- Yakima Herald
2005 trade delegation by Gregoire helped open the China market for Washington grown cherries. Washington State Department of Agriculture statistics show 30 percent of the state's agriculture is exported. About one in three of the state's apples are exported. Shipments go to 26 countries, with most going to Canada, Mexico and Taiwan. Mainland China and Hong Kong are important growing markets, but China's strict trade controls do not include many of the varieties of apples popular with consumers. The Washington State Fruit Commission would like to explore expanding cherry exports to Vietnam. - 09/11/2010

"It won’t be just water under the I-5 bridge " -- Vancouver Columbian
The bistate Columbia River Crossing project is finalizing plans for the $3.6 billion I-5 bridge replacement and transit project. Vancouver officials are considering the options for the part of downtown Vancouver that will be under the bridge’s shadow. The City is interested in hiring a design team to sketch a set of conceptual drawings for a portion of the area beneath the bridge. At an estimated cost of $50,000, split among the city, the Port of Vancouver and the Fort Vancouver National Trust, city officials expect the concept to be finished by the first of November. The new bridge will be much higher, to allow tall boats to pass without having to block I-5 for bridge lifts, entering the city at the height of an eight-story building, then continuing over the top of the BNSF Railway berm before it lands at ground level nearly a third of a mile north of the Columbia river. Concerns for the new space include public safety and redevelopment issues from open space next to the central business district. - 09/13/2010

"Map offers guide to county’s trails" -- Vancouver Columbian
The Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation, along with more than a dozen partners, has created a map of walking trails in Clark County. The Department is part of the Intertwine Alliance, local agencies and groups who have come together to create the Bi-State Regional Trails System Plan, so the map includes two walking routes into Oregon, via the sidewalk on the Interstate 5 Bridge and the pedestrian/bicycling lane on Interstate 205’s Glenn Jackson Bridge. All seven municipalities in the county participated in the map. State partners included Washington State University Vancouver, Washington State Parks and the Yacolt Burn State Forest. Federal partners include the National Park Service, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Printing of the maps was funded by Clark County real estate excise taxes and a donation from the Kaiser Permanente health system. - 09/14/2010

"Property values in Clark County fall 13.7% " -- Vancouver Columbian
Clark County's assessed values of existing properties (not counting new construction) dropped 13.7 percent according to the Washington Department of Revenue's (DOR) recently released report, Property Tax Statistics, 2010. Statewide, new construction and voter-approved levies actually combined to drive property tax revenue up. Approximately $52 million can be attributed to new construction that added to the tax rolls, while $99.2 million stemmed from voter-approved levies. On average statewide, a residential property tax bill dropped by $26. The report also measured how close county assessors come at hitting the goal of assessing property values at 100 percent of market value. Adams County hit the goal 99.8 percent of the time: Chelan County had the worst score, getting it right 75 percent of the time. More than half of the property taxes (54 percent) go to schools. Counties receive 16.5 percent, cities receive 13.5 percent and “junior” taxing districts such as fire districts, ports and libraries share the rest of the revenue. - 09/16/2010

"State delays setting workers' comp rates" -- The Olympian
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) will delay its September calculation and announcement of workers' compensation rates for 2011 until after the Nov. 2 election. If Initiative 1082 passes in November, there would be changes, including a change in rate calculations from an hours-worked basis to one based on every $100 of payroll. However, business interests backing the initiative including the National Federation of Independent Business feel the delay is meant to avoid discussing rate increases. A recent report by the Americans for Insurance Reform, a consumer coalition, says Washington’s workers’ comp system is one of the best deals for business of any in the nation, but critics were skeptical of the report. The debate over workers’ compensation rates has raged off and on for several years in the Washington Legislature without resolution. - 09/16/2010

"Major study shows major impact of water on Valley" -- Yakima Herald-Republic
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released an 11 year, $7 million study that concludes wells, whether for agriculture, cities, or rural homeowners, are having an effect on senior irrigation water rights and those of the Yakama Nation. A final report, due out by early next year, will include a model that state and federal agencies can use to make decisions about new uses. The study results will be used by the Washington State Department of Ecology to determine whether new proposed uses of groundwater could be limited because the use would interfere with existing surface water rights from rivers and streams. The study is a result of a 1999 agreement involving the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Yakamas and Ecology. The trio agreed to finance the study to resolve a lawsuit the Yakamas filed over the issuance of new agriculture well permits in the Black Rock Valley, east of Moxee. Ecology placed a moratorium on all new wells, excluding exempt wells, while the study was conducted. The final results of the study will depend on many factors. - 09/21/2010

"Liquor sales ballot measures worry local governments " -- Tacoma News Tribune
Both Initiative 1105 and Initiative 1100 would end the distribution of liquor profits to state and local governments, which they receive from permit and license revenue and sales at state-owned liquor stores. The measures differ in how much liquor tax revenue cities would still receive. Initiative 1100 preserves the liquor excise tax; Initiative 1105 eliminates it in favor of a new tax. The Washington Office of Financial Management (OFM) has done fiscal impact notes for I-1100 and for I-1105. Pierce County, for example, estimated the financial loss in the coming years. If Initiative 1100 passes the county is projected in 2011 to lose between $744,149 and $797,398, depending on whether the liquor markup is 25 percent or 45 percent. If Initiative 1105 prevails, it is calculated to lose more than $1.6 million. Supporters of the initiatives see selling liquor as not an essential government service. - 09/22/2010

"Snohomish approves creation of tax area for roads" -- Everett Herald
The Snohomish City Council approved the creation of a transportation benefit district. The council said any new taxes proposed by the district will be put to a public vote. Washington State law allows the transportation benefit district to collect up to $20 in car tab fees without a public vote. The district may also consider increasing property tax, increase sales tax and/or increasing car tabs up to $100. There is some opposition to uniformly increasing car tabs because heavy vehicles that cause more damage to roads, are not taxed in proportion to their use. Money from the district will help pay for maintenance of the city's 41 miles of roads. - 09/23/2010

"Fish in Southern Hood Canal Get More Room to Breathe" -- Kitsap Sun
Tuesday, biologists for the Washington Deptartment of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) found hundreds of dead fish and thousands of dead prawns in the southern Hood Canal. Wednesday far fewer dead animals were found because oxygen levels in the Hood Canal waters were down to 30 feet deep and were above a safe 5 parts per million. The rapid recovery was the result of seiching of the waters, according to a University of Washington oceanographer. The more oxygenated surface waters blown to the north by winds started returning to some degree when the winds ceased. Last winter saltier, oxegenated water from the Pacific Ocean was late and weak, so it did little rejuvenation of the water in southern Hood Canal. Low-oxygen conditions are ultimately tied to the amount of nitrogen coming in from natural and human sources, including alder trees, septic systems and stormwater, which contains fertilizers and animal waste. The Hood Canal Coordinating Council is developing a further plan of action to address the issue. - 09/23/2010

"Report: More people illegally entering Canada than U.S." -- Bellingham Herald
More people are sneaking into Canada from the U.S. than the other way around, according to a border threat assessment report. U.S. Customs and Border Protection report covers the entire border between the U.S. and Canada. Customs is one of six agencies that comprise the Integrated Border Enforcement Team threat assessment working group. The others are the Canada Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Joint Task Force. Several factors may have contributed to the increase of apprehensions in 2008. Stronger enforcement in the U.S. along with the economic recession could cause more illegal migrants to move on to Canada. Border awareness campaigns and enhanced information sharing between law enforcement agencies also may have played a role in more apprehensions and better statistics. The report also assessed the smuggling of drugs, currency, firearms and contraband tobacco at the border. - 09/24/2010

"Calif. pipeline explosion raises concerns in Pasco" -- Tri-City Herald
Major pipelines carry natural gas and liquid petroleum products through the Tri-Cities, and a network of underground distribution pipes that serves local needs is connected to the main lines. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) does periodical inspections and says the pipelines are safe, but people should know more about pipeline safety so they know who to call if they suspect a leak. Benton County recently passed an ordinance that requires developers of properties within 150 feet of a transmission pipeline to contact pipeline owners, and it allows preliminary plat reviews by other public agencies. Whatcom County recently amended its zoning ordinance to not allow schools, hospitals or other essential public facilities within 500 feet of a transmission pipeline. Major gas pipelines in the Tri-City area include the Williams Northwest pipelin, which runs from Sumas, Wash., near the Canadian border to the San Juan Basin in western Colorado; and the Chevron pipeline, which enters Washington from Salt Lake City via Walla Walla County and extends to the Pasco Terminal. - 09/27/2010

"Despite law, medical errors likely go unreported" -- Seattle P-I
Washington is one of 27 states that require hospitals and other facilities to report serious medical errors, but not all errors errors that likely happen here are reported. Washington's medical error reporting program isn't able to enforce the reporting law because it's underfunded and lacks enforcement powers -- and because the rules laying out which incidents must be reported are not comprehensive so a hospital error may not be considered a "reportable error." The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Resources released a study in March, 2010 found underreporting of medical errors was a nation-wide concern. Critics do not agree on steps that would improve reporting of medical errors. Washington's 2006 law limits the actions the Washington Deptartment of Health can take against a hospital for medical errors. - 09/27/2010

"End of tale for artwork?" -- The Olympian
According to the Washington State Department of General Administration (GA), the 71-foot story pole, which has been on the Capitol Campus since 1940, is showing serious signs of decay. Barriers were placed the pole as a safety precaution while state officials await the results of an inspection report, which could lead to anything from restoration to removal of the pole. The last significant work on the pole took place in 1997 when it was pressure-washed, sanded, caulked and then repainted by Makahtribal carver Greg Colfax, using the original color scheme. After the inspection report is received from the Architectural Resources Group Inc the state will work with Northwest tribes to determine the fate of the pole. - 09/28/2010

"Coulee Corridor group forges ahead " -- Columbia Basin Herald
The National Scenic Byway system was created to bring people off the interstate and to get people into these smaller rural cities, to spur on their economy and businesses. The volunteer-driven Coulee Corridor Consortium promotes, protects and preserves the 150 mile stretch of roadway from Othello to Omak. The group recently installed interpretive signs at Lake Lenore Caves, located north of Soap Lake. - 09/27/2010

"Whatcom officials OK buying lot for asbestos sediment from Swift Creek area" -- Bellingham Herald
The Whatcom County Council approved a $360,000 property purchase on South Pass Road to put asbestos-laden sediment from Swift Creek. Swift Creek has been a perennial problem for county officials, because a landslide from Sumas Mountain sends natural asbestos into the waterway. Asbestos is known to cause cancer, though there is no data showing increased rates of health issues in local residents. Only partial dredging is currently allowed by the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) County officials will be asking the Washington State Legislature for funds to help construct setback levees, design and secure permits for a permanent sediment retention area along the creek and acquire easements on various properties. The county will continue to work with state and federal officials on longer-term solutions. - 09/30/2010

"Medicaid cuts in state 'devastating'" -- The Olympian
The Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) announced $112.8 million cust to the Medicaid health insurance program for low-income people. The cuts will occur in January in March. In January cuts will eliminate services including dental, vision, hearing and hospice care for thousands of Medicaid patients. In March the cuts will end subsidized health insurance coverage for about 27,000 in the Washington’s Apple Health for Kids program and end out-patient pharmacy benefits for thousands of Medicaid patients. The cuts are in response to Governor Chris Gregoire’s order for 6.3 percent across-the-board budget cuts that spare only pensions, basic education, and state debt payments. - 09/30/2010

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