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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.

"Steelhead recovery plan: $200 million, 15 years"--Yakima Herald Republic
A run of about 16,600 adult steelhead trout are needed to remove the steelhead from the threatened species list, but currently the run is only about one-tenth that size in the Yakima River Basin. Local governments and the Yakama Nation have created a steelhead recovery plan that will be sent to the NOAA fisheries agency, which will include the plan in a broader plan for the entire Middle Columbia. The plan calls for improving habitat, eliminating barriers, and improving passage for the steelhead. - 04/01/2008

"Gregoire signs measure toughening restrictions on toxins in toys"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Gov. Gregoire signed the nation’s toughest bill on toy toxins into law yesterday. She also said she is going to form an advisory group to look at the bill and make sure the rules are not unnecessarily stringent. Opponents are concerned that the bill will hurt small toy companies and manufacturers. The new law requires that toys contain less than .009 percent of lead, .004 percent cadmium, and .10 percent phthalates. Gregoire vetoed two sections of the bill. Twenty-five other states have introduced their own bills regarding toxins in toys and products for children. Congress has also passed legislation to ban lead in toys as part of an effort to reauthorize the Consumer Product Safety Commission. - 04/01/2008

"Washington tourism plan to be team effort"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Thanks to legislation that has doubled Washington’s tourism budget, the Washington Tourism Commission is launching a campaign focusing on the “urban naturalist.” It will highlight eastern Washington’s wineries, as well as other culinary and outdoor experiences the state has to offer. The commission plans on making the campaign more inclusive of all the state’s regions and tourism industry branches, rather than focusing on the Seattle and Puget Sound areas for which Washington is best known. The tourism commission has recently released an analysis of last year’s marketing campaign. Economic impact reports show that tourists bring in about $14.8 billion in sales for the state. Money earned from the state convention center brought about $4 million to the commission last year. - 04/03/2008

"Agents bust meth ring with roots in Mexico"--Seattle Times
A drug-smuggling ring known as the Barragan Drug Trafficking Organization has finally been shut down. The Drug Enforcement Administration says the ring operated in the South Puget Sound, and it smuggled as much as 200 pounds of methamphetamine a month between Mexico, California, Montana, and Washington. Forty-three people involved in the drug ring were arrested this week, many of whom operated in Pierce, Thurston, and Grays Harbor counties. DEA officials say the street price of meth may rise in the short-term in these areas now that the Barragan ring’s drugs will be off the market. Ninety pounds of methamphetamine, 50 firearms, and $255,000 were seized in the arrests. The Barragan ring was the largest drug-trafficking ring in South Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. Methamphetamine use remains a dangerous and costly problem in Washington state. - 04/04/2008

"Boy's death exposes child welfare flaws"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The sad thing about foster care is that you usually only hear about it when things go terribly wrong. The case of two year old Devon Miller, a member of the Yakama Nation, is a case in point. He was placed in foster care with his great uncle who killed him. The Children's Administration of the Department of Social and Health Services didn't communicate well with the Yakama Nation and information about his uncle's criminal record was neither fully shared nor fully understood. The Children's Administration has revised its policy manualand is working closer with the Yakima Nation and Indian social workers. In the case of Indian children needing foster care, every effort is made to place them with their tribe. This process is mandated by the Indian Child Welfare Act. The purpose of this law is to help Indian children maintain their tribal identity. - 04/04/2008

"Hanford Advisory Board calls for more cleanup money"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has submitted its funding request for cleaning up radioactive waste at Hanford in the 2010 Federal budget. The Hanford Advisory Board thinks this request is inadequate. So does the the Washington State Department of Ecology. The Hanford Advisory Board see the 2010 budget request as part of trend of underfunding this project. The Department of Ecology and the Hanford Advisory Board are concnerned that the DOE's lower than expected budget request will further delay cleanup that is already behind schedule. - 04/07/2008

"Mission: End standoff over UW branch campus"--Everett Herald
Gov. Gregoire signed legislation last week geared towards ending the stalemate over the placement of Snohomish County’s University of Washington branch campus. The legislation directs the Higher Education Coordinating Board to bring together dissenting factions in order to make a location recommendation to the legislature by December 2008. Interested parties are split between two sites: a rural piece of undeveloped land at Smokey Point, or a more urban site near the Everett Transit Center. Proponents of each site, including key area legislators, have become entrenched in the fight for the campus. The HEC is hoping to release a decision-making game plan within two to three weeks in order to make the December cut-off. - 04/08/2008

"Feds, tribes strike deal on dams, fish"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Federal government came to an agreement with Indian tribes that bought its dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers another 10 years of operation. The Bonneville Power Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation will pay $900 million for salmon and water restoration projects to the Yakama Nation, the Colville Confederated Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The money is earmarked for specific projects. The tribes will drop current lawsuits over the decline of salmon runs and not start any more lawsuits over the issue for 10 years. In a related story, "Funding for hatchery included in $900 million fish agreement", in today's Wenatchee World, the head of the Colville Confederated Tribes' Natural Resources Department said he was pleased that for once salmon restoration was being directed to the Upper Columbia. - 04/08/2008

"Patients score state hospitals"--Seattle Times - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Washington State Hospital Association has released a report of patients’ hospital rankings. The association has been collecting patient evaluations from October 2006 to June 2007, and has presented the data on a website which allows users to sort by criteria such as cleanliness and courtesy of staff. Pullman Regional Hospital garnered the highest score in the state with 82 percent overall patient satisfaction, while Auburn Regional Medical Center came in with the lowest score. The University of Washington Medical Center had the highest score in King County. One of WSHA’s top policy priorities in 2008 is to improve the public image of hospitals. - 04/09/2008

"Clinton, Obama support LNG states-rights bill"--Longview Daily News
A bill has been introduced into the Senate that would give states control over permitting liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. Currently the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is in charge of approving LNG terminals. A proposal to build an LNG terminal at Bradwood on the Columbia River has made this a regional issue. - 04/09/2008

"Bush halts troop withdrawals, reduces length of combat tours"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Although withdrawals of U.S. troops from Iraq will end in July, President Bush is hoping that reducing tours of duty from 15 months to 12 months will help ease the strain on the army. According to Bush, the addition of 30,000 troops to Iraq last year aided in stabilizing the region. Though those troops will likely be brought home soon, the U.S. will retain a large force in Iraq indefinitely. The decisions about withdrawals and combat tours came after two days of Congressional testimony from General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, an ambassador to Baghdad. Bush is asking Congress for an additional $108 billion to continue the U.S. presence in the Middle East. - 04/10/2008

"More flight cancellations expected"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Sometimes cutting corners leads to a lot more work and inconvenience for everybody concerned. The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) let Southwest Airlines go easy on aircraft inspections. When word got out, Southwest Airlines had to ground many of its planes for overdue inspections and found itself in front the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on April 3. The findings "raised legitimate concerns about the effectiveness of FAA’s overall approach to safety oversight..." The upshot has been a frantic round of other airlines canceling hundreds of flights as they ground planes for inspections. To put it mildly, this has thrown air travel into disarray. (The next Air Travel Consumer Report issued by the Department of Transportation should make for interesting reading.) Now the Senate is holding its own hearing on aviation safety and holding up the hearing to confirm the next head of the FAA. - 04/10/2008

"'Major disaster' for bees may jeopardize Washington state’s crops"--Seattle Times
Western Washington’s bees have been hit by a mysterious disease called Colony Collapse Disorder, which could mean bad news for crops. The disease has killed 80 percent of the bees in one bee keeper’s western Washington colonies, and many other bee keepers have experienced similar devastation. Eight of the state’s ten most valuable crops depend on bee pollination. That’s $1.8 billion in crops that are currently in jeopardy. The Colony Collapse Disorder was first reported in 2006, and while the exact cause is unknown, one theory is that it is a pathogen that attacks the digestive system in bees, eventually leading to starvation. Statewide bee losses are estimated at between 35 to 50 percent by the Washington State Beekeepers Association. Researchers do not currently know enough about the disease to combat it. - 04/11/2008

"No right to starve in prison, court says: Force-feeding incarcerated Spokane man was proper action, justices rule"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Department of Corrections can prevent inmates from committing suidicde. Charles McNabb was angry with his wife so he set her house on fire. His 16 year old stepdaughter was badly burned and nearly died. After he was jailed he felt so guilty that he tried to starve himself to death. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison where he continued his regimen of starvation. The authorities at the prison at Monroe started forcefeeding him to keep him from dying. He sued for the right to starve himself to death. The case reached the Washington State Supreme Court. The Court--with one dissent--ruled the authorities could prevent McNabb from starving to death. The majority decision was split along 2 lines of reasoning: doing so would be disruptive and create ethical issues for staff, and he has no right to starve himself because it doesn't fit the criteria set in the Natural Death Act. - 04/11/2008

"Action on oil probe is sought"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is urging the Federal Trade Commission to act on a provision she inserted into a national energy bill. The provision allows Congress to investigate the price of oil to see whether price manipulation has taken place within the oil industry. Oil company executives and industry analysts have not been able to explain the huge leap in the price per barrel of crude oil, given the static supply and demand. Cantwell was also behind a 2005 bill that called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to investigate price manipulation in the electricity and energy industries. Those investigations have collected $460 million in fines so far. - 04/14/2008

"Northwest, Delta to join forces"--Seattle Times
Northwest and Delta airlines formally announced their merger, which will likely result in the world’s biggest airline. The new company will retain the Delta name and will be based in Atlanta, with a total worth of $17.8 billion. After both airlines emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, neither was able to build their company’s value in the face of higher fuel costs and decreasing demand. The combined airline will need to win antitrust approval for the deal to go through, but since Northwest’s and Delta’s flights don’t often overlap, analysts don’t see that as a problem. Currently, the two airlines fly about 12 percent of SeaTac’s passengers. While Delta has reached a collective bargaining agreement with its pilots, Northwest’s pilots and the unions that represent other Northwest employees have yet to reach agreements with the new airline. - 04/15/2008

"State buying rights to land on Konnowac Pass"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Working on the premise that it's easier to protect a species if you also protect its range, the Washington Department of Fish and Games's Landpowner Incentive Program (LIP) is buying development rights on 1,229 acres near Konnocwac Pass. (Konnowac Pass is located in the Rattlesnake Hills along the Yakima Valley.) LIP protects native plant and animal species by working with private landowners to restore habitat or buying the development rights to the land. In this case, the threatened species is the sage grouse. At the same time, the landowner can continue to use the land for grazing livestock. The development rights will cost $1.1 million. Part of the money will come from private sources. - 04/15/2008

"Seattle homeless camp policy under fire"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Homeless advocates are criticizing Seattle’s newly released policy on clearing homeless encampments. The new rules apply to unauthorized homeless camps of more than three people, and require officials to give three days’ notice of intent to sweep the camp, provide the dislocated people with access to social services, and allow the homeless to retrieve seized property. However, opponents to the policies feel they contain some loopholes that could lead to unfairness. For example, not all of the policies apply to camps that have been swept repeatedly. The city has contracted with a shelter to provide 20 extra beds for those who have been dislocated by the sweeps. The Human Services department has said they may or may not develop policies for dealing with individual homeless people. So far, the city has cleared six homeless camps. - 04/16/2008

"Rising food costs squeeze consumers, agencies"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Food prices have fallen victim to inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has issued the Consumer Price Index statistics for March, and the numbers are ugly. Grocery store food prices rose at an annual rate of 5.9%. This steep increase is pressuring the food budgets of families and individuals. Food banks and other organizations that serve low-income populations see more demands on their services as their own food costs rise. - 04/16/2008

"Cities secure brewery water but price becomes sticking point"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater have been given the green light to acquire water rights from the new owner of the Olympia brewery. They have offered $4.5 million to use the water on the property, but Well B Ng, the LLC that now owns the property, isn’t sure about the price. The cities sued to secure the water rights, but the brewery owner wants to negotiate a better deal, including the option of leasing water rights to the cities if he decides to sell the land to other people. The current offer of $4.5 million will be deposited into an account as a placeholder until a final number is agreed upon, but the cities won’t see the water until the state changes the use from industrial to municipal. Well B Ng was one of the entities that loaned money to the now-defunct All American Bottled Water Corp., which formerly owned the brewery. - 04/17/2008

"Why you’re paying more at the grocery store"--Seattle Times
Food prices rose by four percent this year, and may rise even more in 2008, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Food inflation hasn’t increased this much since the early 1990s. Economists point to a number of factors to explain the fluctuation, including higher gas prices, growing global demand for wheat, and droughts in Russia and Australia that have crippled their wheat production. Americans typically spend less of their income on food that people in other countries, using just 7.2 percent of their income to buy food in the last decade. However, as our economy continues to globalize, there is a chance that food prices will continue to rise. - 04/21/2008

"New approach to sex ed: Abstinence plus"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Sex education is an area where morality, health, and family values collide. The federal government has favored an abstinence approach, best described as "Safe sex is no sex". However, a study commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services questioned the effectiveness of abstinence education (the full report can be found here). The Government Accountability Office also reviewed studies on abstinence education's effectiveness--or lack thereof. Such findings led to the Washington state legislature to pass the Healthy Youth Act that requires public school to offer sex education by September of this year that will be "medically and scientifically accurate, age appropriate..." while focusing on abstinence, birth control, and disease prevention. Data on sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in Washington show a high rate of infection among people between the ages of 15 and 24. - 04/20/2008

"New Tacoma Narrows Bridge gets $500 million insurance coverage"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The state Department of Transportation has taken out the insurance policy against the bridge in order to cover damage from earthquakes, tsunamis, and terrorist attacks. A total of ten different insurance companies are sharing the policy, because no single insurance company would be able to cover the entire $500 million. The cost for the policy, which will be $2.7 million this year, will be taken out of tolls drivers pay to cross the bridge. The insurance policy will also cover about $60 million in lost tolls should the bridge suffer enough damage that it would have to be closed for a long period of time. The tolls normally go towards paying off the construction loans taken out to build it. The old Tacoma Narrows Bridge does not have insurance coverage; the state does not usually take out insurance policies against bridges or highways. - 04/22/2008

"Murray says VA official should resign: Mental health director accused of suicide cover-up"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Senator Patty Murray has demanded the resignation of Dr. Ira Katz, the Deputy Chief Patient Care Services Officer for Mental Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Katz tried to gloss over the number of suicide attempts among veterans. The VA had said there were 790 suicide attempts among veterans under treatment during 2007, but the actual number was closer to 12,000. The VA does have an active suicide prevention program. The question is how much more can be done. Congress recently enacted Public Law 110-110 that directs the VA to create a comprehensive suicide prevention program. Murray has joined other Senators in introducing S. 2899, a bill that would require annual reports from VA on the suicide rate among veterans (the text is not yet available). - 04/23/2008

"Data show more detail on earthquake risk in Western Washington"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
New seismic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey show that not only does Western Washington have two major faults, but there are about 100 smaller faults throughout Oregon and Washington. Two new faults have been revealed, one of which is about 25 miles from Bellingham, while the other fault is east of Port Angeles along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One of the most dangerous faults is along South Whidbey Island, and it runs through the highly populous Puget Sound region. There have been four earthquakes along the fault in the last 16,000 years, and it is capable of producing a quake of up to 7.5 magnitude. The subduction zone in the Pacific Ocean that runs from California to Vancouver Island is another worrying fault zone. The last large earthquake along that fault was in 1700, which produced a huge tsunami. Scientists think the fault is capable of producing an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude. - 04/23/2008

"Solar changes don’t explain global warming, scientists say"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A research physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has published a paper in which she disputes the claims made by Don Easterbrook, a retired geologist, which purport that global warming is not caused by greenhouse gases. Easterbrook gave a lecture at Western Washington University in which he hypothesized that changes in the earth’s temperature were caused by solar fluctuations. Judith Lean argues that satellite data shows that the sun, volcanic dust, and El Nino can only account for about 6 percent of the global warming changes. She says that human effects on the environment are indisputably pushing the global temperature higher, on average, despite year-to-year fluctuations. Easterbrook maintains that the earth’s temperature will start to cool, not rise, because he does not believe human-produced greenhouse gases are affecting the environment. - 04/24/2008

"Snoqualmies banish eight, disenroll 60"--Seattle Times
Eight members of the Snoqualmie tribe’s leadership have been banished by other tribal leaders, who claim the eight individuals have been involved in an illegal shadow government. Banishment is a punishment among Native American tribes that is generally reserved for capital crimes such as murder, and results in the banished individuals losing all claims and rights as Indians. Sixty other members of the tribe are being erased from tribal membership rolls, though they will continue to receive payments from the U.S. government. The punishments are part of a long-going dispute arising from the construction of a casino, which will open in November. The eight banished members claim they are the duly elected and thus rightful leaders of the Snoqualmie tribe. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is asking the tribe to solve the problems without intervention. - 04/28/2008

"$2 million budget gap threatens sports teams"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Olympia School District has announced that it will need cut $2 million from its budget for the 2008-2009 school year, and has furnished a list of over 60 options on the chopping block. One of the biggest and most expensive budget items is transportation, so the district may do away with busing for those students living within a mile of their schools, or possibly even eliminate busing altogether. Other budget items on the list for possible cuts include middle school sports and high school C teams. Although the district’s tax levy was passed in February, officials say the extra revenue will not be enough to cover the shortfall. They cite rising salaries and benefits for public employees, which have outpaced state funding, as the biggest expense facing public school districts. The Olympia School District invites public input on the budget cuts. - 04/29/2008

"Shipper pays $7.25 million for dumping waste oil at sea"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
National Navigation Co. has paid the fine for violating pollution laws in Oregon, Washington, and Louisiana. The Egyptian shipping company was charged with 15 felony counts, to which it readily pleaded guilty. Apparently the company’s ships were dumping their waste at sea, although their logs indicated that the sludge had been incinerated. A routine Coast Guard examination found the evidence of illegal dumping. The EPA estimates that illegal dumping by small shipping companies around the world may cause more environmental damage than big spills by larger companies. The $7.25 million fine was the largest pollution fine ever assessed in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the money from the fine will go towards the Governor's Fund for the Environment in Oregon. - 04/29/2008

"Captured sea lion dies during health exam"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A recent court decison allowed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to capture California sea lions that were preying on salmon at Bonneville Dam. One of the first sea lions captured died while being examined at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma. The sea lion died while under anesthetic during a health examination. This sea lion might not have been in the best physical condition. Male sea lions normally weigh up to 1,000 pounds. This sea lion weighed 1,454 pounds. Apparently he'd been eating well at Bonneville Dam. - 04/30/2008


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