Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is hailing today’s Supreme Court decision upholding nationwide tax subsidies in the Affordable Health Care Act. Opponents contended a clause in the law demonstrated subsidies were to be available only to people in states that set up their own health care exchanges. Wyden, a Democrat, says the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision affirmed Congress intended tax credits for all who qualified. Republican House Speaker John Boehner says they will keep trying to repeal the law and replace it with what he calls “patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families.”
The Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District held its first community meeting on what the public would like to see in a potential sportsfield and park development. The district is negotiating to purchase eight acres zoned for light industrial use in the Guignard Drive area.. This parcel is much smaller than the 30 acres that were available in the proposed Barrett Park that did not receive county approval…but District Director Lori Stirn notes this is flatter ground. Stirn says the early estimate puts the cost of development at $2,000,000, and the district does have $494,000 of grant money from the Barrett project available. System development charges could also be used to pay for the project, but Stirn says they would have to build the project in phases and would be looking for community help. Stirn says they are currently negotiating to require the land and develop a conditional use permit application.
There are still opportunities for high school graduates in the Mid-Columbia to take part in the Gorge Scholars program at Columbia Gorge Community College this fall. The program waives tuition for eligible high school students for up to two years, and is open to anyone who graduated from a high school within the CGCC service area who earned a grade point average of 3.30 or better. CGCC academic advisor Mike Taphouse says applications are being taken for this fall. For application information go to the college website, cgcc.edu.
The North Central Public Health District board approved a budget Tuesday that moves ahead with laying off two staff members in the wake of not receiving the full amount of funding it requested from Wasco County. District Director Teri Thalofer said the two individuals received layoff notices and their last day of work will be July 7. In addition, the district will cut back its walk-in clinic hours from five days a week to one. Thalofer says that will happen sometime after July 1. Wasco County Commissioners approved in their 2015-16 budget an allocation of $314,000 to the district, under the $396,000 the district said it needs to maintain current services. County Commission Chair Scott Hege told district officials last week that panel could consider increasing their contribution once a study of district operations requested by the County is finished later this year.
Hood River County Commissioners have approved a drought declaration. Commissioners heard from irrigation district officials and water experts during a special meeting at the Rockford Fire Hall, all testifying to the extreme drought conditions already underway and expected this summer. Commission Chair Ron Rivers says the declaration will now go to Governor Kate Brown for her approval, as she has already done for nearly 20 counties in the eastern and central portions of the state. A declaration by Brown would open up relief options for area farm operators. John Buckley of East Fork Irrigation District, which unlike the county’s other major irrigation districts does not have a reservoir for water storage, said they have asked their users to cut back on water use by 25 percent. Some Cascade Locks officials had asked the County to exempt their city from the declaration, but County officials decided against that, noting the state will only issue drought declarations for entire counties. Wasco County recently received a federal drought declaration, which will apply to Hood River County as a contiguous county.
Irrigators in Wasco County are dealing with their worst water year in memory. Josh Thompson of the Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District says it’s the worst water year he has seen in fifteen years on the job, adding many of the agricultural producers he works with are saying its the worst they have seen. Thompson says irrigation districts in the southern portion of the county have cut distribution by 25 percent, and still may run out of water in their reservoirs a month to a month and a half earlier than they would in a normal year. Thompson says the depth of the problem depends on where the irrigator is, and it is usually worse the further south you go. The forecast of triple-digit temperatures in the next week will exacerbate the problem. Thompson says the hotter it gets, the more water crops will use, and that means farmers have to replenish the soil more often.
The City of Hood River is receiving a low-interest loan of just over $2.7 million from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to extend the outfall pipe for the municipal wastewater treatment plant further out into the Columbia River. City Manager Steve Wheeler says DEQ had advised the City the current outfall site for treated sewage was not appropriate. The new outfall pipe will run along the Hook and then out into the river into a better “mixing zone.’ Wheeler says they have to time water work to take place during the allowable time period between November and March. The interest rate on the DEQ loan is one-point-four percent.
Hood River City Councilors and Planning Commissioners now have a housing needs analysis compiled by an advisory committee in hand, so the focus falls on what kind of action is taken on it. The subject of developing more workforce housing in Hood River in the face of continually rising home prices has been bandied about for years. The analysis included a number of different housing strategies, including increasing the efficiency of the use of land in Hood River’s urban growth boundary through policy changes, regulating and managing secondary and short-term rental housing, and encouraging development of market-rate and government-subsidized affordable housing through policy actions. The planning commission will hold a public hearing on the findings of the report on July 6. The report is available on-line at the City’s website.
The Dalles City Council received a report on water and sewer rates on Monday evening. The report, based on recently compiled data from the League of Oregon Cities, showed water rates in The Dalles are higher than average and wastewater rates are lower. Mayor Steve Lawrence says he wasn’t sure how to completely evaluate how to use the information as presented, noting he was looking for any possible way to reduce the rate burden on residents. Lawrence pointed out water rates in The Dalles remained unchanged between 1994 and 2006 with no capital improvements taking place, so the City is in catch-up mode. In other business, Councilors approved an agreement with Wasco County to take over responsibility for roads in annexed areas the City had not accepted into its street system. The two agencies will chip seal the roads, then the City will accept them. The County approved the agreement last week.
A Hermiston man died after being involved in an accident while driving the wrong way on Interstate 84 in Gilliam County. According to the Oregon State Police, Tyler Brown was driving an SUV eastbound in the westbound lanes of I-84 near milepost 114 at about 11:15 p.m. Monday when he struck a semi-truck head on. Both vehicles came to rest in the travel lanes and caught fire. The driver of the truck, 61-year-old Michael McCright of Redmond, managed to escape the fire as both vehicles became fully engulfed. McCright was not injured, while Brown was declared deceased on scene. The truck was loaded with recently harvested salmon, which took hours for fire crews to fully extinguish. Both directions of I-84 were closed for almost four hours until one lane in each direction could be opened. Crews were still on the scene Tuesday morning cleaning the highway. Sherman County Fire, Rufus Rural Fire Department and the Oregon Department of Transportation assisted OSP officers.