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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 task force says colleges, not Legislature, should set tuition"--Seattle Times
The Higher Education Funding Task Force, made up primarily of business leaders and formed by Gov. Gregoire eight months ago, has released a report recommending that the state’s four-year colleges and universities should have the power to raise tuition significantly if the Legislature will not provide money to help them grow increase the number of graduates. The tuition setting power would be part of a complicated formula allowing tuition rise or fall depending on the level of state higher education funding, with a maximum tuition rate based on tuition charged at comparable universities across the country. The impact on lower- and middle-income families would be lessened by the creation of a private financial-aid endowment, the first of its kind created by a state to cover financial aid at all two- and four-year public higher education institutions. - 01/03/2011

"Woodland council weighs use of E-Verify"--Vancouver Columbian
The City of Woodland’s finance committee has proposed a resolution requiring the use of E-Verity, a federal database operated by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security that allows employers to check the citizenship status of workers, for contracts worth $1,000 or more. Other cities and Clark County have already adopted policies regarding the use of E-Verify for contracts, although the state does not participate in E-Verify and the Association of Washington Cities has not issued a policy statement recommending its use. The resolution was proposed during a city council meeting late last month and the finance committee is now working to address city staff concerns before bring the resolution back to the council next month. The city currently uses E-Verify to check the status of new city employees, but does not use it for contractors. - 01/05/2011

"Audit finds DOE could improve emergency preparedness"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
According to an audit released Wednesday by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Inspector General, the department could be better prepared for emergencies at four sites with nuclear materials, Hanford, Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM), Argonne National Laboratory (IL), and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (IL). Despite finding that Hanford was better prepared in key planning areas than the three other sites that were visited, the audit revealed concerns about repeated problems with communications during emergency drills at Hanford. It was noted that during multiple exercises emergency personnel had to resort to using alternative communication equipment, and while officials shared information with contractors about what improvements were needed after drills, only about a quarter of the “lessons learned” between 2004 and 2010 were entered into a national system to be shared with other DOE sites. The audit concluded that sharing information about how a problem occurred and how it was resolved could help other sites avoid similar issues. - 01/06/2011

"Document sheds light on casino approval"--Vancouver Columbian
The Record of Decision issued by Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Larry Echo Hawk describes the steps the BIA went through in evaluating the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s recently approved request to establish a reservation and casino-hotel complex in Clark County, while also shedding light on how the agency considered the wide-ranging concerns raised by those opposing the proposal. Claims included environmental and infrastructure concerns, as well as concerns about potential loss of revenue for existing casinos and cardrooms. Each comment received by the BIA was addressed in the record. - 01/07/2011

"Shoreline plan worries port"--Olympian
The Port of Olympia has voiced concerns over a proposed 30-foot setback requirement for all waterfront property that is part of the Planning Commission’s update to the City of Olympia’s shoreline management plan. Unclear language and requirements for the port are also raising concerns. Port officials are recommending that the city adopt, as other cities have, a “port maritime and industrial” designation that would exempt the port from the 30-foot setback proposal, that the comprehensive plant be adopted before the shoreline plan, and that an economic-impact study be produced before the planning commission makes its recommendations to the city. The Planning Commission has held public hearings on the updated plan and final public testimony will be heard at a meeting tonight. Written comment will be accepted until midnight and the commission expects to deliberate over all the comments received for the next few months before making a recommendation to the City Council sometime in the spring or summer. - 01/10/2011

"New rules enacted for Washington nurses"--Moses Lake Columbia Basin Herald
A new law went into effect January 1st that requires all registered and licensed practical nurses in WA to complete 531 hours of active practice, 45 hours of continuing nursing education, and a self-assessment and reflection of individual professional practice every three years. The law is intended to improve patient safety and nurses who do not comply may eventually have their certification placed on inactive status. Nurses are responsible for keeping a log of their training in case they are audited by the WA Dept. of Health Nursing Quality Assurance Commission. Much of the training can happen on the Internet and Columbia Basin Hospital has started using a computer program called “Health Stream” to provide online classes for its nurses. - 01/11/2011

"Coast Guard report: Poorly maintained hull led to Alaska Ranger sinking"--Seattle Times
A report released on Wednesday by the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation contends that the 2008 sinking of the Seattle-based Alaska Ranger that claimed the lives of 5 of the 47 crew members “likely resulted from the failure of an aging hull that hadn’t been properly maintained.” The report criticitzes safety reviews of the vessel and a large portion of it details problems with a safety program that was meant to improve the safety of fishing vessels that catch and process fish off Alaska. Ultimately, it is recommended that the safety program be suspended after investigators found that it lacked effective enforcement. Despite the recommendation, the Coast Guard says the safety program has been improved since the sinking of the Alaska Ranger and under legislation passed last year, the program will be expanded to help improve the safety of aging fleets elsewhere. - 01/12/2011

"Washington state determines that 50 schools are low achieving"--Seattle Times
Fifty schools are on this year’s list of persistently low-achieving schools in the state, with twenty-seven appearing on the list for the first time. Three years of reading and math scores, and, for high schools, graduation rates, are considered when state officials compile the list, which is limited to schools with a significant number of students living in poverty. Inclusion on the list makes schools eligible for three-year federal grants of $50,000 to $2 million per year. Last year, nearly all of the 47 schools on the list applied for the grants, but only 18 received them due to limited funds. This year, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction expects to receive about $7.3 million, which will fund grants for only 9 of the 50 schools. Four schools will be guaranteed grants - those that weren’t on the list last year or didn’t apply for grants and were judged to be the most in need. Second in line are schools applying for the second year in a row, and schools new to the list will most likely not receive grants. - 01/13/2011

“Will state re-establish names board?”--Seattle Crosscut
When Washington abolished its Board on Geographic Names last year, it became the only state in the U.S. with no formal control over the names on its own maps. Lost was a group who worked to resolve name conflicts, update names, ensure consistency on maps, name the un-named, and eliminate duplication, thus helping to ensure that emergency responders were all working from the same maps. The board was also the official contact with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names on naming and map issues, a role that is now vacant. In an effort to fill the void left by the board, Rep. John McCoy, D-Marysville, has introduced House Bill 1084, which would expand the state’s Board of Natural Resources and give them the duties previously assigned to the Board on Geographic Names. The Board of Natural Resources currently oversees timber management of state lands, including approving timber and mining sales and land swaps, along with other duties, and its members include the head of the Dept. of Natural Resources, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and forestry experts. Under Rep. McCoy’s bill, the head of the Dept. of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the State Librarian would also be included on issues pertaining to naming stewardship. - 01/13/2011

"SR 18 fix cost state $42.5M extra"--Tacoma News Tribune
According to a state audit of a 2004-2007 road widening project on State Route 18 near Maple Valley, design mistakes, payroll mix-ups, and environmental violations resulted in $42.5 million in cost overruns on a project that was originally bid at $55.9 million. The audit came about after a whistleblower report voiced concerns about Dept. of Transportation mismanagement during the project. Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond has said that the department completed its own investigation of the project in 2004 and put policy changes in place at that time. She sees no need to institute changes in response to the audit. - 01/19/2011

"Yakima County given grant to aid homeless"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., announced on Wednesday that Yakima County has been awarded a $138,762 federal grant to continue providing housing assistance to the homeless. The grant funds six different housing programs and about 65 units of housing for the homeless in Yakima County. In addition, funding to help recipients develop basic life skills to be more self-sufficient, plus help for those with alcohol and drug addictions, is provided through a local match requirement. Sixty-seven other programs in the state also received money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to support existing programs that provide permanent and transitional housing, as well as other services, to the homeless. - 01/19/2011

"Corps releases report on pollution at dam"--Vancouver Columbian
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting public comment on its recently released investigation of contamination at an old landfill on the upriver tip of Bradford Island that had been leaching pollution into the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam, with the goal of formulating a long-term cleanup plan. Household garbage, petroleum products, paint solvents, insulators, mercury vapor lamps, and sealed buckets of grease are among the materials that were dumped in the landfill between 1942 and 1982. In 1999 workers found electrical capacitors filled with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)-laden oil poking out of the river and subsequent fish tissue testing revealed extremely high levels of pollution. Additional items were removed from the river in 2000 and 2002, and in 2007 divers vacuumed PCB-laden soil from an area of river bottom. The investigation concludes that “the remaining contaminants on land and in the water exceed risk-screening levels” and it proposes that a feasibility study be done to identify remedial actions that would reduce contamination in the water. - 01/21/2011

"Whatcom County CPR study may help save lives across nation"--Bellingham Herald
From 2005-2009, Whatcom County Emergency Medical Services was one of seven sites that were part of a National Institutes of Health-funded trial to test the benefits of using two devices, the ResQPump and the ResQPod, during CPR. According to results that were recently published in the international medical journal, The Lancet, “patients who received CPR in conjunction with the two devices are 53 percent more likely to be discharged from the hospital with strong brain function.” The devices used in the trial are still awaiting Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval, but a device similar to the ResQPod has already been approved and it is being used in Whatcom County. - 01/23/2011

"Roundabouts mentioned in Port Townsend transportation plan looking forward 15 years"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
The Port Townsend City Council unanimously approved a new 15-year Functional Transportation Plan (FTP) at its meeting on Monday. The plan “projects traffic maintenance and improvement needs based upon models developed from actual traffic counts and patterns into the year 2026” and it is meant to guide future transportation strategies. The FTP is the first one compiled by the city, and it is separate from the Six-Year Transportation Improvement plan that is required by the state. A public hearing and final vote on the plan is scheduled for February 7th. - 01/26/2011

"Inquiry panel finds financial crisis was avoidable"--Seattle Times
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which was formed by Congress in 2009 to investigate the causes of the financial crisis, released its final report today. According to the report, the crisis occurred because “government officials and Wall Street executives ignored warning signs and failed to manage risks.” It also concludes that the crisis could have been avoided. The six Democrats on the panels supported the conclusions, while the four Republicans dissented. - 01/27/2011

"Whatcom County Water District 13 gets clean audit from state"--Bellingham Herald
A recently released audit report for 2008 and 2009 found that Whatcom County Water District 13’s internal controls “were adequate to safeguard public assets and that the district complied with state laws and its own policies in the areas studied.” The audit looked at areas including petty cash, water-sewer revenue, public records request, receipting, and insurance. The district provides service for about 370 customers in the Maple Falls area. - 01/27/2011

"Study suggests changes for refuge"--Long Beach Chinook Observer
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has released a draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental impact statement (CCP/EIS) that is focused on improvements to the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. The draft provides “reasonable, scientifically grounded guidance for improving the refuge’s forest, wetland, coastal dunes, estuaries, and open water habitats for the long-term conservation of migratory birds and native plants and animals.” Three alternatives are outlined in the draft and public comment will be accepted through March 7th. The final CCP/EIS is scheduled to be available in the spring of 2011 and it will guide refuge management for 15 years. - 01/25/2011


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