Klickitat Public Utility District Commissioners gave conditional approval to proceeding with engineering and environmental work for the permitting of the John Day Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project. PUD General Manager Jim Smith says cost of the work would be over one-point-eight million dollars, and the PUD is looking for partners to assist with those costs, and they could stop work toward the permit at any time if they can’t find funding. He added the Commissioners are willing to move forward with budgeted funds, but they won’t pay the full cost by themselves. A funding request to Klickitat County Commissioners for $500,000 for the project is in process. In addition, the PUD plans to advance discussion with the Washington Department of Ecology on site clean-up, with Smith adding the PUD board is not willing to enter into a situation where ratepayers would be liable for cleanup of the former aluminum shelter site adjacent to John Day Dam. The pumped storage project is estimated to cost over two billion dollars, and Smith emphasized someone else would build it, not the PUD.
The Hood River City Council has passed a resolution supporting a bill in the Oregon Legislature to remove the prohibition on local governments requiring inclusionary zoning. Inclusionary zoning allows local governments to require proposed residential subdivisions to set aside a percentage of the development for low or moderate income housing. Hood River City Manager Steve Wheeler said removal of the prohibition could help with increasing affordable housing supply, but he points out most developments in Hood River are of a small size that would make it difficult to effectively use inclusionary zoning. Wheeler noted Oregon is one of only two states in the nation that prohibits inclusionary zoning.
Washington 14th District State Representative Norm Johnson has authored a bill to require financial impacts to the state budget be included with all voter initatives on the ballot. There is a similar bill in the Senate, which require a statement from the state’s Office of Financial Management. Johnson’s bill adds a requirement for a pro and con statement, and he says that would provide transparency. Impetus for the bills comes from last year’s passage of an initiative to decrease class sizes. Johnson says the latest estimates indicate it would cost the state seven billion dollars to implement it.
The Hood River City Council on Monday night approved a resolution supporting legislation to implement a price on carbon dioxide emissions for the state. In the resolution, Councilors ask the Oregon Legislature to carefully impose a price on carbon in the form of a fee, tax, or cap to discourage consumption of fossil fuels and encourage development of alternatives. It also calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to allow states the option to voluntarily use market based economy wide carbon pricing as an alternative compliance mechanism for the federal Clean Power Plan, rules for which are expected to be finalized by mid-2015. Councilors passed the resolution by a 5-1 vote, with Laurent Picard opposing.
The Dalles City Council did not take action on a resolution to revise residential annexation policies at their meeting on Monday night, with municipal staff planning to bring back a revised document that would remove a section involving requiring consents to annexation. The resolution as prepared for Monday’s meeting contained a clause requiring consents to annexation from residential property owners as they develop property or require connection to City utilities outside the City limits, and require a waiver of a one-year waiting period. Councilors indicated they wanted the clause completely removed, with Russ Brown saying he was concerned about situations like septic system failures on one property triggering a series of annexations. The revised resolution will come to the Council in two weeks. In other business, the Council gave the go ahead for The Dalles-Wasco County Library to add a second library clerk position devoted to youth services. Library director Jeff Wavrunek said the position fits within their budget and is sustainable.
The City of Hood River is looking for more people to be a part of its budget committee. City Manager Steve Wheeler says they can accept four more applicants to be a part of the panel, which starts meeting in late April. Wheeler says there are no particular qualifications needed to be on the budget committee, just a willingness to serve. The budget committee will meet Wednesdays beginning April 22. To apply for Hood River’s budget panel, call City Recorder Jennifer Gray at 541-386-1488.
Full Sail Brewing employees have approved the sale of the company to Oregon Craft Brewers Co., an investment group put together by San Francisco private equity firm Encore Consumer Capital. The potential sale had been announced two weeks ago by Full Sail CEO Irene Firmat and executive brewmaster Jamie Emmerson. The company has had an employee ownership program since 1999, which had employees holding 58 percent ownership of the company, leaving them the deciding vote on a potential sale. Firmat says she and Emmerson have committed to stay with the company for at least a year. She added one of the reasons this offer was attractive was Encore’s commitment to continuing Full Sail’s culture, noting the company does not already own a brewery and Full Sail will be able to stay independent, and will need the expertise of all of Full Sail’s employees. In an e-mail, Scott Sellers of Encore Consumer Capital said Full Sail will continue to be the operating company, doing business as usual with its customers with no change to the company name. Sellers added Full Sail’s Session brand in particular is very well positioned for future growth, with the new investment group believing growth in craft beers will be driven by sessionable beers that appeal to a broader consumer taste profile, and the Session brand will continue to be a leader in that trend.
Hood River County is in the midst of its budget process for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year. County Administrator David Meriwether says the budget is currently being worked on at the staff level, with a public process to start in the next month. He notes the County’s budget is being helped by an improvement in its timber fund thanks to increasing sale prices. Meriwether expects the final budget to be similar to what it is this fiscal year. The County must have its 15-16 budget in place by the end of June.
The Dalles Community Outreach Team is back after spending a portion of last week in Washington, D.C. Port of The Dalles Executive Director Andrea Klaas says one of the policy issues the group discussed with federal officials involved flowage easements given to the federal government when the Columbia River dams were built. She says a portion of the North Chenoweth property being developed for light industrial use is somewhat encumbered by a flowage easement, even though its elevation is higher than the top of Bonneville Dam. Klaas noted two weeks ago she received a map from the Portland District office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detailing where the easement is, with an invitation to meet with them to discuss administrative solutions.
A bill authored by 14th District Representative Gina McCabe to increase employment of Washington’s military veterans passed the state House unanimously. The Goldendale Republican says her bill pairs up the state Veterans’ Department and Employment Security with local businesses to increase employment for veterans. The “One Business, One Veteran” campaign asks each business to hire at least one veteran. McCabe adds the unemployment rate for veterans between the ages of 18 and 25 is about 21 percent.