The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $10.5 million dollar contract to a Vancouver company to increase navigation lock reliability and safety at The Dalles Lock and Dam. Northbank Civil and Marine will fabricate and install a new upstream navigation lock gate and new top hinges and anchor points on the downstream gate. The contract also contains options for control systems upgrades and additional work on the downstream gate. The project will reduce the risk of gate failure at the lock, which annually supports transit of nine million tons of cargo worth three billion dollars, including about 40 percent of the nation’s wheat. The upstream gate and control systems are original equipment from when the dam was built in 1957. A 14-week closure of those locks is scheduled to start December 12.
The Columbia Gorge Health Council will be making more than one million dollars in one-time investments in health promotion and local healthcare services in Hood River and Wasco Counties in the first half of this year. The Columbia Gorge Coordinated Care Organization earned 100-percent return on the Oregon Health Authority’s 2013 and 2014 performance metrics, which led to the health council receiving the money to benefit local healthcare providers and patients. About sixty percent of the funds will be directed towards mental health providers who serve the region’s Oregon Health Plan members and towards primary care clinics to advance Oregon’s Patient-Centered Primary Care Home strategy. The Hood River County Health Department and North Central Public Health District will each receive a one-time payment of $90,000, and funds will be invested in management of chronic pain and opiate prescribing and an integrated approach to tobacco use prevention and cessation for all ages.
Oregon 26th District State Senator Chuck Thomsen says he’s worried about all of the policy issues that are trying to be addressed during what is supposed to be a short five-week session of the Legislature. The Hood River Republican notes the time to study and get public input of many of the proposals, ranging from the minimum wage to clean energy standards, just isn’t available like there is during the longer odd-year sessions. Thomsen noted Senate President Peter Courtney told him during a meeting before the session his main reason to want to get a minimum wage compromise addressed now is because polling showed a minimum wage increase going to the November ballot is likely to pass.
North Central Public Health District director Teri Thalhofer has been appointed by Governor Kate Brown to the Oregon Public Health Advisory Board. Thalhofer will represent ten counties on the board, including Sherman County. The board serves as an advisor on policy matters to the Oregon Health Authority, reviews statewide public health issues, and participates in public health policy development.
Hood River County Commission Chair Ron Rivers says he has filed to run for re-election. Rivers will be seeking a sixth term in the position. Rivers says he enjoys serving as Commission Chair, and wants to continue to work for the community. Rivers wants to help finish work on land use regulation updates that has been on-going the last few years, and find ways to diversify County revenues to help provide services, particularly from the region’s growing tourism industry.
Movement toward building a new swimming pool in White Salmon in the parking lot across from Whitson Elementary School moved forward as City Councilors indicated they were on board with making changes to the streets to create a safe approach during school hours. Mayor David Poucher says the White Salmon-Bingen Police Department had already identified some of those changes, and while Councilors did not formally vote they did indicate their agreement. The committee working on replacement of the current pool will now take the concept to the White Salmon Valley School District board. Poucher says developing the financial piece to build the new pool to replace their aging facility is progressing.
The annual Go Red for Women’s Heart Health events in The Dalles will take place on Saturday. This year’s Heart Expo has moved to the Kiwanis Pocket Park on Klindt Drive, and will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Linda Stahl of the Planetree Health Resource Center says they will once again have a number of exhibits at the expo, noting heart disease is the number one killer of women in this country. The Heart Truth 3K/5K/10K walk/run will also take place Saturday on the Riverfront Trail, with on-site registration at the pocket park at 9:30 a.m.and starting at 10 a.m. Proceeds from the run will benefit the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation Cardiac Rehab Assistance Fund.
Washington 14th District Representative Gina McCabe is hoping her bill to get a backlog of six-thousand untested rape kits in the state examined will be allowed to move forward. The bill recently received a committee hearing, and it requires the state to get the tests processed, even if it is done through a private-public funding mechanism. McCabe notes the bill also contains a provision for rural hospitals to have access to nurses who have expertise in dealing with sexual assault cases.
Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo took to the Senate floor Tuesday night to renew their call for a permanent fix to wildfire funding and put a stop to raiding fire prevention and other Forest Service accounts to fight the fires. Wyden and Crapo introduced an amendment to the energy bill currently on the Senate floor to end fire borrowing for good, stop erosion of the Forest Service budget and ramp up fire prevention projects. Wyden said other Forest Service efforts are hampered without finding another source of wildfire funding. A spending bill passed in December increased fire funding for one year, but Wyden and Crapo say it leaves agencies vulnerable to fire transfers, does not solve the problem long term, and does little to hold down-long term firefighting costs.
A law authored by Washington 14th District Representative Gina McCabe that would require schools provide age-appropriate sex abuse prevention education received a hearing before a House committee this week. Erin’s Law has already been approved in 26 states. McCabe believes it could change the lives of children across Washington. McCabe is asking for task force on Erin’s Law. Questions about funding the law may already have been answered, as Congress included a provision in a key education bill that will allow states to use federal grant funding for Erin’s Law programs.