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Washington State News Archive

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"Hanford budget gets big boost"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The cleanup of radioactive materials at the Hanford site got a welcome funding boost in the proposed budget for the new fiscal year. Although earlier versions of the budget had funding cuts, the final version increased funding to nearly $2.1 billion. Much of the credit goes to (and was taken by) Representative Doc Hastings and Senator Patty Murray. Perhaps some of the money came from terminating the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository project. One hopes the money will go to solving some of the problems that were identified in a new Government Accountability Office report on Hanford. - 10/01/2009

"Bellevue plan calls for 80 miles of bike lanes"--Seattle Times
The Bellevue City Council passed a bicycle and pedestrian friendly plan this year that calls for 80 miles of bike lanes, 90 miles of sidewalks, and 20 miles of trail improvements. The council indicated that interest in walkable and rideable communities sparked the plan. The council had also planned for more bike lanes in 1993 but backed out when citizens showed concern over the costs involved. The most recent estimates show that there are only about 300 people in Bellevue who currently bike to work, but most stakeholders agree that the low number can be attributed to the difficulty of biking around a car-centric area. The city council has not yet decided how they are going to pay for the plan. - 10/02/2009

"Data buoys in Strait to provide real-time marine data"--Peninsula Daily News
The U.S. navy is funding a project to deploy buoys in the Puget Sound that will track real-time environmental data in the Sound, and may also serve as dirty-bomb sensors to marine traffic in the area. The Navy has hired a Port Townsend firmed called Intellicheck Mobilisa to make the buoys, and the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab works with the company to outfit the buoys with data sensors, which track such environmental factors as dissolved oxygen, algae, and salinity. UW and Intellicheck have both received federal funds for the project that will last them another 18 months, and are hopeful that the Navy will continue to have interest in the project. The UW Applied Physics Lab uses the environmental information from the buoys to monitor conditions and track the effects of climate change in the Puget Sound. - 10/05/2009

"Small community water systems can be big expense for state"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Group B water systems provide drinking water for two to 14 households. They're overseen by the Department of Health's Office of Drinking Water (OWD). Their operation is regulated by WAC Chapter 296-291 and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Everything's fine if the water is system is well run, people pay their dues, and the well doesn't run dry. When things go wrong, the state often has to step in and fix them--at the cost of $18 million since 2003. A report done for the Legislature by the OWD in July recommended that the growth of Group B water systems be slowed down and the systems be financially stronger. - 10/04/2009

"Qualified workers lacking; PNNL among those struggling to fill open jobs"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The state's unemployment rate is over 9% and the national unemployment rate is nearing 10%, but there are still jobs going unfilled. The Employment Security Department's list of occupations that are in demand and in decline shows that there are occupations with good employment opportunities. (The Occupational Outlook Handbook gives you this information on the national level.) The catch is that these occupations require training--a person probably can't go straight from a factory job to a health care profession. Often it will take at least a year of training before a person can qualify for a job in a new field. Some jobs, such as at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory which has 148 job openings, are so specialized that training could take years. - 10/06/2009

"New ferry may get S'Klallam chief's name"--Seattle Times
The new Port Townsend to Keystone (Whidbey Island) ferry that is currently being built may get the name “Chetzemoka,” which was submitted for consideration by Port Townsend officials. The state Department of Transportation said it is cheaper to paint the name on the boat now, rather than waiting until after the boat has been built. Chetzemoka was a chief of the S’Klallam tribe, and was known as a peacemaker between Native American tribes and white settlers. Port Townsend’s oldest city park is named after him. The Transportation Commission will have a meeting later this month to decide on the name. An earlier ferry running in Port Townsend from 1938-1947 had previously been named Chetzemoka. - 10/07/2009

"Renewable energy could be future of county manufacturing"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The old industrial base of Vancouver and Clark County--logging, aluminum, wood and paper products--is either gone or much smaller these days. The path to a manufacturing future for Clark County might start with federal Stimulus money for green manufacturing in the field of renewable energy and energy conservation. The Port of Vancouver is major transit point for wind turbines. Production of LED bulbs is boosted by efforts such as the military using them to replace incandescent bulbs. A plant in Vancouver is building a trial wave energy buoy. Wave energy seems like a natural fit for the Northwest coast, but practical aspects including ecological impacts need to be studied. - 10/07/2009

"State license plates to add 7th character"--Seattle Times
The Department of Licensing announced that they will start issuing license plates with seven characters as soon as DOL offices run out of the six-character plates. The new plates will be configured as one digit, one letter, two digits, then three more letters. That type of configuration allows for a large number of plates to be issued (350 million), won’t duplicate plates in existence, and is the type requested by law enforcement agencies. Since the new plates are being issued as the old plates run out, the availability of new plates will be different for each office. The background will remain the same on all plates. See the DOL website for information on replacing old plates. - 10/08/2009

"Richland man denies bilking state out of $24,000"--Pasco/Kenneiwck/Richland Tri-City Herald
Folks, don't try this at home or at work--especially not at work. A Richland resident is going to court over charges that defrauded the Department of Labor and Industries (LNI). He claimed he hurt his back while working in Walla Walla and got over $24,000 in workers compensation payments during a 7 month period in 2008. One of the conditions of getting the payments was that he not work while collecting them. During that time he was working in a similar job in the Tri-Cities. He was regularly lifting heavy boxes while working there. Imagine his surprise when he saw his old boss at the office . Imagine his old boss' surprise since employers pay into the fund that covers workers compensation. He was reported and LNI investigated. Now he's facing felony theft charges. He not the only person who's tried something like this--in 2008 LNI referred 25 cases of workers compensation fraud to prosecutors. - 10/08/2009

"NASA probes hit moon twice"--Seattle Times
According to NASA scientists, the LCROSS mission to smash two probes into the moon in search of polar ice was a success. NASA says they received a lot of good data from the probes, which hit the moon and launched a six-mile long plume of lunar dust. Unfortunately, photos taken by one of the probes are fuzzy and unspectaclular, but NASA is happy with the data they’ve received and is confident that the information from the probes will add to our knowledge of the moon. - 10/09/2009

"Tacoma Police target prostitutes"--Tacoma News Tribune
Using $50,000 of a federal grant, the Tacoma police department is going to step up patrols in the South End neighborhood in order to crack down on prostitution in the area. The grant money will go towards paying overtime for police officers. The local communities along Pacific Ave., Portland Ave., and South Tacoma Way have reported an uptick in prostitution activity along those streets. So far, 28 women have been arrested. The city of Tacoma is also sponsoring an initiative called Safe and Clean, which provides signs for businesses that discourage prostitution. Tacoma is also hoping to get a state law passed which will allow police departments to impound vehicles of prostitute customers. - 10/12/2009

"Rural hospitals seek Rx for survival"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Many people are attracted to rural and small town living for the quality of life there. They're probably not thinking about rural health care. They may not realize that are far fewer doctors there and the hospitals are often small, underfunded, and some distance from larger medical centers. Take Pomeroy, county seat of Garfield County, for example. It has one family practitioner and a small hospital/nursing home to serve a county with a population of around 2,400. The Department of Health has a Rural Health Program to support communities like Pomeroy. On the federal level, the Department of Health and Human Services has an Office of Rural Health Policy. - 10/11/2009

"Callers inundate health district’s phone lines: Vaccination appointments offered to limited populations"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The massive publicity about the H1N1 (swine flu) virus is working. People flooded the Spokane Regional Health District for appointments to get the nasal vaccination. The supply of doses is limited so the Health Authority could only offer vaccination to 2,000 members of at-risk groups. A similar amount of vaccine will be distributed at clinics this fall, and a smaller amount is being set aside for day care facilities. The heavy demand for the vaccine shows that not everybody believes the urban myths surrounding it. Fear of the H1N1 virus has also created more demand for the generic seasonal flu vaccinations. - 10/13/2009

"Cantwell, panel say yes to health bill"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell was one of 13 democrats on the Senate Finance Committee to support a proposed health care reform bill put forward by the committee. Cantwell contributed to the bill, adding an amendment that would make it easier for states to create basic health plans such as the one in Washington state. Cantwell says the bill is also good for Washington because it distributes Medicare money in a way that is more beneficial to this state. But she thinks that the bill needs to go further and add a public option, which would be an insurance plan sold by the federal government. The Finance Committee bill will need to be combined with the Health Committee bill and then be brought to a vote on the floor of the senate. - 10/14/2009

"County jobless rate dips in September: Despite decrease, labor picture was basically unchanged"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Clark County and Walla County show how unevenly unemployment is spread throughout the state. While Clark County's unemployment rate in September was at 11.9%--an improvement over the previous month--the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin was able to report that "Jobless rate falls in WW" to 5.6%. Clark County is a built-up county that was hurt when the housing market went bust and the Portland-Vancouver area economy slowed down; Walla Walla County is a primarily agricultural county whose economy didn't rely so much on construction jobs. Washington state's unemployment rate as a whole was 9.3% in September and that was less than the national average of 9.8%. The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council believes that the recession has bottomed out, but recovery will be slow. It foresees that the state unemployment rate will reach 9.8% early next year and then gradually recover. - 10/14/2009

"HUD cuts off funding to Richland Housing Authority"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The federal government giveth and the federal government taketh away, especially when almost $500,000 can't be accounted for. The Richland Housing Authority got grant money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer Section 8 rent vouchers to low income households. Audits by HUD and the Washington State Auditors Office showed the Housing Authority failed to account for funds and had conflict of interest issues. A recent audit criticized the lack of reliable financial information. HUD has cut off its funding to the Richland Housing Authority. As a result, the Richland Housing Authority is attempting to transfer its Section 8 responsiblities to the Housing Authority of Pasco and Franklin County or the Kennewick Housing Authority. - 10/15/2009

"Federal court lifts order blocking release of I-71 petitions"--SeattlePI.com
A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge today reversed a lower court’s injunction blocking the release of Referendum 71 petition signatures. Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna hailed the move as a victory for the state’s public records laws. Both Reed and McKenna view the signing of referenda and initiative petitions as citizen participation in the legislative process. They say that all legislative processes must be transparent according to state law. Referendum 71 asks voters to accept or reject Senate Bill 5688, which has been called the “everything but marriage” act. The act gives most of the same rights of married couples to domestic partners. - 10/15/2009

"State liquor board experimenting with seasonal gift stores in area malls"--Seattle Times
The state liquor control board, which currently operates or contracts with all liquor stores in Washington, is planning on opening a few seasonal stores in the greater Seattle area and Bellingham. The board is opening the stores in Pacific Place, Alderwood mall, The Commons at Federal Way and Bellis Fair Mall. The gift stores will supposedly be more attractive than their typical liquor stores, and will feature holiday gift packages and the types of liquor that people typically buy around the holidays. The board says that if sales are strong, more seasonal stores may open up throughout the state in future years. The board says they are using the new stores to generate additional revenue for the cash-strapped state budget. - 10/16/2009

"Feds help start electric car era around Puget Sound"--Tacoma News Tribune
Thanks to a $100 million grant funded by the federal Department of Energy, the Puget Sound area will be home to 1,000 electric cars in the coming year. Washington residents will be able to buy Nissan’s electric car, LEAF, for about the price of a new Toyota Prius, and 2,000 charging stations will be installed in homes and businesses along the I-5 corridor. The influx of electric cars and charging stations is part of a study to determine the infrastructure needs of a larger electric-car market. The study will also take a close look at the habits of electric-car drivers. The cars can go about 100 miles on one charge. Advocates are hoping to implement an electric-car corridor from Eugene to Vancouver, B.C., with public charging stations along the way. - 10/19/2009

"Funds flow to Nile Valley: $2 million allotted for property purchase and road construction"--Yakima Herald Republic
Washington state and the federal government have come up with $2 million for emergency work after a landslide buried a quarter mile of Highway 410 and blocked the Naches River (see photo gallery here). The area is prone to landslides, but this is the first one of this size in modern times. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) needs to build a temporary road first for local residents, and then an interim road before it can think about building a new, rerouted section of Highway 410. WSDOT is getting $1 million from the Federal Highway Administration to help cover costs. Long term costs include buying property right of ways so the new section of 410 can be farther from the river and the unstable hillside. The Governor released $1 million from the state's Public Works Trust Fund to cover expenses. The $2 million is the down payment on repairing the damage caused by the landslide. - 10/20/2009

"U.S. Supreme Court shields Referendum 71 signatures"--Everett Herald
The U.S. Supreme Court decided on an 8-1 vote to block the release of Referendum 71 signatures until the high court decides whether or not to hear the case. Last week a federal appeals court judge reversed an earlier decision, and upheld arguments made by the Washington Secretary of State and Attorney General that said the signatures must be released to conform to state public disclosure laws. However, Justice Anthony Kennedy stayed the release of signatures until further notice, and yesterday eight other Supreme Court justices agreed with him in a majority vote. People against releasing the signatures argue that political petition signatures constitute protected freedom of speech, and feel that releasing the signatures would violate first amendment rights. - 10/21/2009

"Larch Corrections Center closure suggested: Report gives options to reduce number of prison beds"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Larch Corrections Center Could be closed as cost-savings measure. It was among the facilities named in a report commissioned by the Legislature as part of the 2009-2011 budget. The stated purpose of the report was to make recommendations for reducing the number of people in Washington state institutions. Larch houses nearly 480 minimum security inmates who are about to reenter the community. It's probably no conincidence that Larch is getting a new superintendent whose background includes experience in community corrections. - 10/21/2009

"Commerce Department rebuts Bellingham protest over NOAA site"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Commerce Department’s response to the Ports of Bellingham and Seattle defended NOAA’s choice to relocate their Pacific Marine Operations Center to Newport, Oregon. The response noted that both ports’ leases were too high, which NOAA officials said they had clearly communicated to Bellingham and Seattle before the bid was awarded to Newport. Bellingham officials say they didn’t realize that having higher leases would disqualify them. NOAA further stated that Newport’s bid offered the highest technical standards for the lowest price. The Government Accountability Office is set to release their findings on the issue in December. - 10/22/2009

"Why Charleston could land 787 line"--Seattle Times
Boeing is currently deciding which city will host its second 787 Dreamliner assembly plant: Charleston, South Carolina, or Everett. Unfortunately for Washington state, Charleston offers some business perks Washington can’t, the foremost of which is a non-unionized workforce. While a unionized mechanic in Everett earns $26 an hour on average, a non-unionized worker in Charleston earns $14 an hour. That difference in labor cost, in addition to an inability for the workers to strike, means a lot of possible savings. However, awarding the plant to Charleston would likely strain ties in Washington and some predict massive strikes would ensue here. South Carolina also offers state-funded training to workers and grants for construction. Washington offers perks to the aerospace industry as well, but they may not be enough to sway Boeing. - 10/23/2009

"Agencies told to outline duties: In advance of state cuts, departments must indicate which tasks are required"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The Office of Financial Managment (OFM) is gathering information from state agencies for the 2010 Supplemental Budget, and things look lean from the agencies' point of view. The budgets for state agencies are based on Priorities of Government. Since revenue forecasts for state the are continuing to fall, a September memorandum and an October memorandum from OFM instruct state agencies to show which of their activities are required by the Washington State Constitution, federal law, the federal Recovery Act, or to protect public safety and prevent major losses of state property. The message to agencies is clear: any activity that doesn't meet those criteria could lose funding and perhaps be abolished. - 10/23/2009

"Gregoire announces viaduct monitoring system"--SeattlePI.com
The governor has unveiled a new warning system for Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct that will be in place while the deep bore tunnel to replace the viaduct is being built. The system will monitor seismic activity, and gates will close off the viaduct and provide detour signs at the first sign of strong tremors. The tunnel is not expected to be ready for use until 2015, but the viaduct is widely regarded as seismically unsound. The monitoring system will cost between $5 and $10 million, but will be paid for with federal funds. This weekend Gov. Gregoire and Seattle mayor Greg Nickels signed an agreement on the replacement tunnel option in a ceremony meant to close the door on any further objections to the controversial tunnel. - 10/24/2009

"H1N1 -- more than an ounce of prevention"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The H1N1 influenza strain (a/k/a swine flu) is upon us, and people are taking what precautions they can. Some schools have followed the advice from the Superintendent of Public Instruction to close temporarily when absenteeism gets too high. School custodians are also taking extra measures to disinfect surfaces. Local public health organizations are giving advice and announcing the availability of H1N1 vaccine. The Washington State Department of Health also has information on where to find the vaccine.Production of the vaccine is slower than anticipated because of issues with incubating it in eggs so the demand far exceeds the supply. (Since the vaccine is incubated in eggs, people who are allergic to eggs should talk to their doctor before taking the vaccine.) Although not mentioned in the story, the H1N1 flu has reached the point where President Obama has declared a national emergency. - 10/25/2009

"Study recommends demolishing FFTF, banning waste imports"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
A major planning document on the Hanford cleanup has been released in the form of a 6,000 page draft of "Tank Farm Closure & Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement". (The highlights are in the Summary which is only 150 pages long.) The topics covered include the retrieval and treament of nuclear waste from 177 underground tanks; the decommissioning of the mothballed Fast Flux Text Facility; and disposing of or storing various forms of low level nuclear waste. The preferred way of handling high level nuclear waste is to convert it into glass through the vitrification process. The Department of Ecology advised the Department of Energy in the writing of this document. - 10/27/2009

"Flood pros set strategy for Green, White rivers"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
In an attempt to keep flooding as minimal as possible this winter, the Army Corps of Engineers is planning on releasing some of the water in the reservoir behind the Howard Hanson Dam after heavy rains. Releasing the water might make the waters in the river higher, but officials say the measure is needed to keep the weak dam from failing during storms. Though a leak in the dam has temporarily been fixed, the dam is only able to hold back about one-third of the water that it used to. Meanwhile, the White River floodplain has been lowered from 10,000 feet to 8,000 feet, so the Corps will need to keep their eye on that river as well. - 10/28/2009

"Cyber-ed keeps Yakima students in school: Interest and enrollment are on the rise at Yakima Online!, a digital stand-in for regular and alternative high schools"--Yakima Herald-Republic
First there were regular schools, then there were alternative schools, and now there are online schools. A student's success can depend on which setting she or he is in. For three years, Yakima Online! is proving to be a good place for students who might not otherwise make it in the Yakima School District. Yakima Online! offers classes over the internet with regular face to face meetings with an on-site teacher. Students put in an least 25 hours a week and take major tests at a school site. This program is innovative, but not unique. The Superintendent of Public Instruction has a Digital Learning Department involved with over 14,000 secondary students who are taking online courses. A survey of studies done on online classes done by the federal Department of Education showed that "...[s]tudents who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction." - 10/28/2009

"Why Everett lost out on Boeing's second 787 line"--Everett Herald
Boeing has officially announced that their second 787 production line will be headquartered in South Carolina, rather than Washington state. According to union officials, the machinists union in Everett offered a 10-year no-strike deal to entice Boeing to keep the line here. South Carolina workers recently voted down forming a union, and workers there get paid significantly less than Everett’s union workers. But that wasn’t enough for Boeing: they also wanted to cut workers’ health care and other benefits, which the union wasn’t willing to do until 2018. Boeing’s decision to put the new line somewhere besides Washington state has many worried about the aerospace company’s future in this area. Though Boeing has plants in many other states, their Washington plants employ by far the largest number of people. Some workers are also concerned about what effect the long distance between the two production lines will have on the already-beleaguered 787 line. - 10/29/2009

"BPA transmission line meeting draws hundreds of property owners"--Longview Daily News
The bottom line is that more high voltage power transmission lines are needed to meet the demand for electricity and accommodate new energy sources such as wind farms. The Bonneville Power Administration is holding public hearings on where to route the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project that will run a 500 kilovolt transmission line from Oregon to Castle Rock. Landowners along prospective routes have been notified, and many are unhappy. This transmission line would take 150 foot wide easements through people's property an would hold transmission towers 80 to 150 feet. All trees would be cut along the easement. There are also health concerns about being living near such power lines. The final decision on the the routing of the line will have to be approved by the Washington State Energy Site Evaluation Council. The need for such power lines is great enough on the national that there has been discussion if the permitting process for power lines should be done on the federal level. - 10/30/2009


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