The FBI’s Portland field office says testing by hazardous materials crews has shown no toxic substance on any of the suspicious letters received by Oregon sheriffs on Monday. The FBI’s Beth Ann Steele says there are approximately twenty such known letters that were delivered on Monday, and no evnidence of a visible powder has been found in any of them. Suspicious mail received by sheriff’s offices in Wasco and Hood River counties on Monday led to closures of those offices. Both Wasco County Sheriff Rick Eiseland and Hood River County Sheriff Matt English says the letters they received were forwarded to the Oregon State Police and the FBI. No health issues were reported at either location.
The Hood River Valley Residents Committee has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland seeking to force the U.S. Forest Service to quicken the pace of action on a land swap in the Mount Hood National Forest approved by Congress that was to have been finished five years ago. In exchange for 120 acres of developable national forest land near Government Camp, Mt. Hood Meadows agreed to abort plans for a resort on Cooper Spur and turn its 770-acre land holdings over to the Forest Service. HRVRC Executive Director Heather Staten says they have been patient, but they are seeking a judicial order to move the process along. The 2009 legislation gave the Forest Service 16 months to complete the trade, but numerous delays have held it up, most recently over some environmental protections. A Mount Hood National Forest spokesperson told The Oregonian that legal processes have kept progress slow.
The Dalles City Council and the Wasco County Commission have announced they will hold a joint public hearing next Monday (August 3) to receive testimony on a proposed enterprise zone agreement for a potential development by Google in the new Columbia Gorge Industrial Center. Google last week finalized a deal with the Port of The Dalles for a site near Taylor Lakes. Under terms of the proposed tax abatement agreement, Google would pay an initial fee to the City and County, and then an annual payment for a period of 15 years. In this agreement the fees would be higher than in the previous deals and would be based on building volume. The agreement proposes an initial fee of 16 cents per cubic feet of building space, with a minimum payment of $1,450,000, and an annual payment of over 11 cents per cubic foot with a minimum of $1,000,000. Google’s payments in 2014 on their two current enterprise zone agreements totaled over one million dollars, over $500,000 more than what was paid by the County’s top property taxpayer, Union Pacific Railroad. State law requires Google to provide a minimum of 10 full-time jobs at the site at 150 percent of the County’s average wage to qualify for the tax abatement. A Google spokesperson said the company was not ready to make an announcement about expansion, but is excited about exploring the possibility of expanding its operations. The hearing is set for next Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the Wasco County Courthouse Circuit Courtroom.
The Wasco County Courthouse was evacuated for a time Monday afternoon after the Sheriff’s Office received a suspicious letter similar to one received in other Oregon counties. Wasco County Sheriff Rick Eiseland said they had received word from Grant and Harney counties about identical letters that had contained a white powder, and reportedly a worker in Grant County became sick after it was opened. Eiseland said the letter in Wasco County was unopened, so it was double wrapped and left in the Sheriff’s Office as the Courthouse was cleared, adding the Sheriff’s Office has been wiped down and staff was to be checked by health officials. A hazmat team has been called in to deal with the letter. The Courthouse was reopened after a sweep of the building, but the Sheriff’s Office remained closed. Eiseland indicated about a dozen other Oregon counties have received similar letters, including Hood River and Sherman counties. Hood River County Sheriff Matt English confirmed receiving such a letter, saying he believed it had been opened but no illness or issues were reported, and the Sheriff’s Office was closed as a precaution. Eiseland and English said both the Oregon State Police and FBI are investigating.
The Hood River Valley Residents Committee has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland seeking to force the U.S. Forest Service to quicken the pace of action on a land swap in the Mount Hood National Forest approved by Congress that was to have been finished five years ago. The land swap was negotiated by the Residents Committee, Mt. Hood Meadows, and others to protect the forestland, and The Oregonian reports they are seeking judicial action to force the Forest Service to complete the deal. In exchange for 120 acres of developable national forest land near Government Camp on the mountain’s southwestern slope, Mt. Hood Meadows agreed to abort plans for a resort on Cooper Spur and turn its 770-acre land holdings over to the Forest Service. The 2009 legislation gave the Forest Service 16 months to complete the trade, but numerous delays have held it up, most recently over some environmental protections. A Mount Hood National Forest spokesperson says legal processes have kept progress slow.
The Oak Canyon Fire southeast of Dufur is now 90 percent contained. It has burned 930 acres since it ignited Friday evening, and is burning in light grasses, brush and some juniper on private lands. Fire line has nearly been completed around the fire area and crews will continue to work into the evening and tomorrow securing those lines. Two 20-person crews are working the fire in addition to five rappellers, six engines, four helicopters and two Single Engine Air Tankers. Aerial resources supported the crews on the ground in addition to helping to keep the fire out of the Deschutes River basin. The fire is human caused, but an exact cause has not yet been released.
The Hood River City Council will be talking about developing a list of water and sewer capital projects. City Manager Steve Wheeler says they will be looking at five-year short-term and 20-year long-term projects. Wheeler notes while the City just completed the major water line project last year, there are a number of smaller items that need to be addressed within an older system, including replacing lead joints on older pipes. Another item on the water list is maintaining the structural integrity of the municipal reservoir. For the sewer system, a capacity analysis and replacement of undersized pipe are on the list.
The Klickitat County Commission is closing in on having a public hearing to discuss allowing ATV’s to be used on some rural roads. Commissioner Rex Johnston says they have been examining the possibility for some time, noting a number of different agencies have been involved in developing a potential ordinance, including public works, the Sheriff’s office, and the prosecuting attorney’s office. The ATV use would primarily be on roads with a 35 mile per hour speed limit or less. Johnston is unsure when hearings will take place, adding the plan is to hold one on both sides of the county.
The left lanes of eastbound and westbound Interstate 84 will be closed in the western part of the Gorge over the next three weeks as the Oregon Department Of Transportation begins a project to replace median barriers. Closure of the westbound and eastbound left lanes on an 18 mile stretch of I-84 between Cascade Locks and Hood River is scheduled to begin this morning. The lanes will re-open by 6 p.m. Thursday. The schedule will repeat Monday through Thursday over the next two weeks, with at least one lane open at all times. Similar closures will be needed after Labor Day to finish the project, which is scheduled for completion by November. The work is being carried out in advance of the 2016 paving project on I-84 from Cascade Locks to Hood River.
A fire is burning in grass and brush on Bureau of Land Management land nine miles southeast of Dufur. The Oak Canyon Fire has burned 930 acres in light fuels on mostly private land, with no containment reported, and is believed to have been human-caused. The fire is active with wind driven runs. 31 people are fighting the fire, with four helicopters and six engines, as firefighters work to keep the blaze out of the Deschutes River basin. There are some high use campgrounds and day use areas threatened by the fire. Meanwhile, the 488 Fire in the Zigzag Ranger District of the Mount Hood National Forest remains at 11 acres. Line has been constructed around that fire, but it is not yet considered contained. An illegal campfire is believed to have started that fire, but no cause has been determined yet.