The Highway 8 Fire in the southeast corner of Klickitat County has grown to over 37 square miles, but is 50 percent contained. The fire near Roosevelt is no longer threatening any homes. When the fire started on Tuesday it led to the evacuation of the entire town, but people were allowed back in their homes on Wednesday, and then 35 more homes northeast of Roosevelt were evacuated Wednesday afternoon. Fire spokesman Ron Fryer says 275 people are battling the grass fire and hoped to have it 100 percent contained by Saturday evening. Fryer says the fire grew quickly on Wednesday because of strong west winds, but the wind is calmer today.
The White Salmon City Council has authorized proceeding going out for bids on the long-awaited renovation of City Hall. The building suffered water damage after a pipe broke two years ago during a freeze, and since then the City has been negotiating with its insurance company to be able to weave in repairs with a renovation that would allow the police department to move in. Mayor David Poucher says those are not complete, but they are close enough to feel comfortable with proceeding. They will start with taking bids on structural work. Poucher says they will have about $300,000 to work with for the project.
After another group of ballots were counted in Skamania County’s primary election, it appears the pair of candidates to advance to the general election for seat three on the Port Commission have been determined. Todd Kingston has received 155 votes and Keith Chamberlain 146, with Jim Borup trailing with 109. For Stevenson City Council seat five, Glenn Morris has 96 votes and Mark Peterson 85, while Mary Repar has 74. Both of the ballot measures before voters were passing easily. The Hospital District number one emergency medical services property tax levy renewal was being approved by three-to-one margin, and the Home Valley Water District maintenance and capital improvement fund levy with a 60 percent approval rate. Under Washington law, ballots only had to be postmarked by Tuesday, so more votes may come in over the next couple of weeks. There were no primary elections in Klickitat County.
Strong west winds this afternoon are pushing the Highway 8 Fire in the southeast corner of Klickitat County to the northeast, and has led to the mandatory evacuation of 25 homes northeast of Roosevelt. Fire Public Information Officer Ron Fryer says this is a different group of homes from the 350 in Roosevelt that were evacuated last night, and remain under notice to be able to leave quickly if conditions change. The evacuation is from Whitmore Road to Alderdale Road and from Highway 14 to Hale Road. None of the homes threatened in the area have burned, while Klickitat County Emergency Management says some outbuildings and vehicles were destroyed. Fryer says the grass fire has now burned 17,000 acres, and there is no containment. State fire assistance has been mobilized under the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan, with an order for six wildland strike teams, two dozers and one aircraft to supplement the resources already fighting the fire. Highway 14 through the area of the Highway 8 Fire in southeast Klickitat County was reopened this afternoon. The highway had been closed between Highways 97 and 221 after the massive blaze started on Tuesday.
Wasco County Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a 15-year enterprise zone tax abatement agreement for Google’s proposed new data center on 23 acres near Taylor Lakes. The Dalles City Council voted to approve the deal on Tuesday. Most those of who spoke at the Commission meeting once again cited the lack of time given the public to digest the deal, even though many were in favor the agreement. Commission Chair Scott Hege revealed he called Google representatives Tuesday evening to try to get more time before a vote had to be taken, but was not successful. In a statement before the vote Hege defended the amount of money he, County Administrative Officer Tyler Stone, The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence, and City Manager Nolan Young negotiated in the deal, which will be based on the size of building Google constructs but calls for minimums of a one-point-four million dollar initial payment and one million dollars annually for 15 years. Hege noted at the minimum level the amounts are six to ten times what similar agreements in Oregon have brought.
After nearly 90 minutes of intensive discussion, The Dalles City Council voted to approve a 15-year enterprise zone tax abatement agreement for Google’s proposed new data center on 23 acres near Taylor Lakes. The decision came after Mayor Steve Lawrence, who was part of the negotiating team, was peppered with questions from Councilors. Councilor Dan Spatz pushed for a two-week delay, saying the hurried nature of the public process may backfire on Google in the long run, but Lawrence said he feared a two-week delay could torpedo the deal and that he had heard rumors of an attempt by Prineville officials to invite Google to move there. Councilor Tanner Elliott was the lone no vote, as he wanted an assurance from Google to not seek any kind of change in state law to extend enterprise zone tax abatements. City Attorney Gene Parker said he believed trying to seek that assurance would essentially be reopening the agreement. Councilor Russ Brown had initially seconded Spatz’s motion for a two-week delay, but withdrew it when Lawrence said he will do his best to deal with various concerns including recycling and reuse of water and meeting contracted benchmarks. Spatz voted yes on the agreement, saying he did so in the interest of Council unanimity. The Wasco County Commission will deal with the agreement during its meeting Wednesday morning in the County Courthouse, with the agenda item scheduled for 11:30.
The City of White Salmon lifted its water emergency this morning. Citizens in the community had been asked to limit water use to domestic essentials since Sunday, when there was a break in the main line from Buck Creek. Mayor David Poucher says repairs have been completed, and the line has been recharged. Poucher noted their reservoir has been refilled, and thanked citizens for their water conservation efforts during the break. The Mayor said at this time it appears a gasket failed where two sections of pipe come together, but they will have it checked to be sure of what actually happened.
Insitu will be building six small tactical unmanned aircraft systems for the Navy and Marine Corps. The Bingen-based Boeing subsidiary announced it has signed a 78 million dollar deal to build the RQ-21A Blackjack systems, which would be used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The system has significantly larger payload mass, volume and power than other small unmanned aircraft currently being used by the Marines. The system includes electro-optic and mid-wave infrared sensors with a laser rangefinder and infrared marker. A portfolio of payload options has been developed to deliver immediate situational awareness for land and maritime missions.
Senator Ron Wyden said a vote to defund Planned Parenthood would have put “a big red target” on women’s health care. The Oregon Democrat spoke on the floor before a procedural vote in the Senate on legislation that would have barred all federal funds for the group failed on Monday. Wyden said such a move would have put numerous basic women’s health care services in jeopardy. Planned Parenthood has come under intense scrutiny after an anti-abortion group released a series of videos it says shows that the nonprofit group is making money off of the sale of fetal tissue, which Planned Parenthood denies. Wyden noted the organization’s leadership says very clearly that statements made by some of their staff are unacceptable.
The Dalles City Council and the Wasco County Commission heard over two hours of testimony at a joint hearing on the proposed enterprise zone agreement with Google for a new data center on over 23 acres near Taylor Lakes in the Port of The Dalles’ new Columbia Gorge Industrial Center. Opinions on the proposal were mixed, with some backing Google’s contributions to the community in the decade since the first of two current centers were built under 15-year tax abatement agreements and the annual payments in the deal would be good for The Dalles, and others contending Google should pay property taxes like other businesses. And many complained the short notice since the proposed agreement became public last week and planned Council and Commission meetings this week didn’t allow enough time to make an educated judgement. But time is something the panels may not have. Both Wasco County Commissioner Scott Hege and The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence, who were part of the negotiating group with Google over the past eight months, said the company has pushed for a resolution. And after the meeting Hege did indicate he felt The Dalles was not the only location Google has considered for the data center. The Dalles City Council will discuss the agreement today at 5:30 in City Hall, and Wasco County Commissioners will do the same during their regular meeting Wednesday morning at 11:30.