The Port of The Dalles will hold a public dedication celebration Friday afternoon for the new Columbia Gorge Industrial Center. Along with the usual ribbon-cutting and dedication speeches for the 60-acre North Chenoweth site, they will be holding quad-copter races. The Port’s Kathy Ursprung says the races are to help illustrate efforts to market the park to businesses in the unmanned aerial vehicle industry. There will also be a mass kite-flying event, and there will be giveaways of kites and gliders to kids while supplies last. The event will run from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. The Center is located off Interstate 84 Exit 82 on River Trail Way.
Police have interviewed a 34-year-old Eugene man in regard to letters various government offices in Oregon received on Monday that had some concerned they may be contaminated with hazardous materials. Oregon State Police Public Information Officer Bill Fugate said Lance T. Storm was forthcoming and eager to discuss the letters he mailed, telling investigators the communications were not intended to cause alarm and denying the inclusion of harmful substances. Preliminary testing by hazardous material teams could not detect any harmful substances. Fugate says Storm was not perceived by officers to be a threat to the community, and was released. Reports are being forwarded to district attorney offices around Oregon for consideration of charges. Wasco and Hood River County Sheriff’s offices were among those that received the letters.
The Hood River County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing in September on updates to the County’s exclusive farm use and forest zones. County Planner John Roberts says the state began a project a couple of years ago to provide technical support to help counties bring codes for their resource zones up to modern standards. Roberts says Hood River County’s exclusive farm use code had become antiquated in its ability to use it. Roberts pointed out one example is provisions for some agri-tourism uses, which has been allowed by state statute since 2011. He adds the first decision is whether to allow those opportunities, and then how impacts can be mitigated. The Planning Commission has been holding worksessions on the updates for a number of months, and a public hearing is set for September 9 at 6 p.m. in the Hood River County Administration Building.
The Dalles City Council is looking to develop a policy to deal with funding requests from outside parties. Councilors asked staff to develop a proposal to set standards for procedures to request City funds, be it non-profit entities or businesses. Mayor Steve Lawrence says he wants to create some order to the fiscal requests. He would like the requests to go through the budget process rather than coming before the Council on an ad-hoc basis throughout the year. Staff will present a proposed policy to the Council in the near future.
There will be overnight closures late this week on Highway 14 west of White Salmon. Washington Department of Transportation crews will close both directions of Highway 14 between mileposts 57 and 61 from 8 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday, and again from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday. The department will pay tolls on the Bridge of the Gods and the Hood River Interstate Bridge for drivers that use Interstate 84 during the Highway 14 closure. During the overnight closure, crews will grind and repave the roadway inside of five highway tunnels. It’s part of an on-going project to repave 40 miles of Highway 14 from Washougal to Bingen.
Handline was completed and mop-up is 80 percent complete on the 488 Fire in the Old Maid Flats area of the Mount Hood National Forest. Rain over the weekend helped firefighting crews control the 11 acre fire. Fire management resources will remain in the area for the next two to three days to complete mop-up and secure the fire area. The exact cause of the fire is still undetermined but it has been identified as human caused. It started in a popular dispersed use area. Firefighters reopened Forest Service Road 1825 and the McNeil Campground on Tuesday. As temperatures rise this week and into the weekend forest visitors are cautioned to be careful with any flame source and are reminded that open fires are prohibited on the Mt. Hood National Forest, except in metal fire rings in approved designated campgrounds. Hot car parts, cigarette butts, and hot equipment could all ignite dry grasses in these conditions whether on public or private lands.
Fort Vancouver Regional Library District has introduced no-fee return postage and reusable fabric mailing bags for rural patrons using the library’s Books by Mail program. For many years the district has mailed books out at no cost to FVRL patrons who live ten or more miles from a library who live ten or more miles away from a library or are physically unable to get to a library. Residents can apply for the service by filling out and submitting a form available at www.fvrl.org, or by calling or stopping in at any FVRL library, including White Salmon, Goldendale, North Bonneville and Stevenson libraries. FVRL also added a library-return box at the Lyle Mercantile earlier this year, to go along with those in Alderdale at the Mercer Farms office, and in Klickitat at Canyon Market. The district has also announced it will hold a “meet and greet” for its finalists to fill its executive director’s position on August 10 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Stevenson Community Library.
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.