A search plane from the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday morning located the remains of a missing paddle boarder in the Columbia River. The Sheriff’s Offfice confirmed the body recovered from the river was that of 20-year-old Andres Pombo of Miami. Pombo went missing Friday afternoon. Witnesses indicated Pombo was last seen near the area of the river known as Swell City. His remains were recovered just down river from that point he was last seen, near mid-channel. Pombo was in the Hood River area for a paddle board race. He did not have a personal flotation device or tether on at the time of the incident. The Sheriff’s Office reminds Columbia River users that the current is stronger than most people believe and strong winds increase the danger to recreationalists, and urges everyone on the river to use a flotation device as required by law and other available safety equipment when using the river for recreation.
The hotter than normal conditions in the Gorge have accelerated the pear harvest in the Hood River Valley by about two to three weeks. Lower valley growers are already picking winter pears, and Bartlett harvest finished up in the Upper Valley last week and the winter varieties about ready to be picked. Upper Valley orchardist Ron Rivers says in spite of the hard freeze in early winter and the heat of this summer, the fruit isn’t doing too badly, even though the size of the summer pear crop in the Northwest was down. If the larger winter pear crop follows the same pattern, then the overall crop will be smaller than usual. Rivers did say that pests have been a constant problem this summer because of the warmer than normal temperatures. He added most orchardists were able to get through the drought conditions this summer with enough water to maintain their crops.
The Dalles City Council will hold a worksession on Monday to discuss the wastewater treatment plant upgrade project. Phase 1A of the project, which involved a number of required upgrades to meet new federal regulations, is being wrapped up. But two more phases remain, and Mayor Steve Lawrence says the Council wants to review what aspects of those actually need to be done. City staff will give Councilors summaries of four different alternative concepts at the worksession. It will begin at 1 p.m. Monday in City Hall.
Burnout operations on the Cougar Creek Fire are continuing, progressing north to create solid containment lines on the northeastern flanks of the fire. In spite of very active fire behavior and short range spotting, there was minimal spread of the fire on Tuesday, which has burned 37,900 acres and is listed as 15 percent contained overall. Continued dry and unstable conditions with a slight chance of thunderstorms late Wednesday afternoon and evening are expected. Ground crews will be on the lookout for snags and wind shifts as the front moves in during the afternoon. Significant smoke in the vicinity of the fire and in adjacent areas is expected as burnout operations continue through the week. Burnouts and bucket drops along the southwestern flank of the fire above Trout Lake were continuing Wednesday.
Hood River City Councilors approved raising water, sewer, and stormwater rates and systems development charges. The rate increase average about six-point-six percent, and will result in a jump of around six dollars on the typical residential bill, and represent the first increases in about five years. Systems development charges on new development had not been increased since 2009, and will go up by 33 percent for sewer and 48 percent for water. City Manager Steve Wheeler says those increases are a function of dealing with growth. In other business, the Council approved ordinances accepting the buildable lands inventory, housing analysis, and population study discussed at a lengthy special session last week.
A delegation has returned from a visit to The Dalles’ Sister City, Miyoshi, Japan. The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence made the trip, and said he was very glad he did so, noting the graciousness of the people of Miyoshi. Lawrence says the two communities are very similar, each with a dam and a large river. One of the things he most noted was the value placed on education by the community. He added a new school he visited on the trip had been built in part from donated trees that were milled to help construct the building. He says the most important thing about the Sister City relationship are the cultural exchanges done by the students of both communities, with delegations going every year. A group of Miyoshi students is coming to The Dalles in October.
Containment of the Cougar Creek fire along its southern flank north of Glenwood has been achieved and there is now minimal fire activity in that area. Klickitat County Emergency Management this morning rescinded the level 1 evacuation advisory that was in place for residents of Glenwood north of Ladiges Road. The fire has burned 35,000 acres and is listed as 15 percent contained overall. In spite of very active fire behavior and short range spotting in a number of areas, there was minimal spread of the fire Monday. Crews worked into the early morning hours to control spot fires and made good progress with implementing the plan to increase containment around the upper east flank. An extensive effort is still needed to secure the head of the fire as it moves northward, and fire managers say burnout operations are progressing well and will continue for the rest of the week. Residents should expect to see significant smoke in the vicinity and in adjacent areas as burnout operations occur. It is possible that the fire will move into large piles of slash and may produce significant amounts of smoke as it does. A community meeting is scheduled for this evening at 6:00 p.m. in the Glenwood School gymnasium. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest has closed the Mount Adams Wilderness Area, including the portion of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through the Wilderness Area, until October 30 or until rescinded.
Fire behavior increased on the north and northwest flanks of the Cougar Creek Fire on Sunday. As forecasted, increased temperatures and low humidity contributed to fire spread as spot fires progressed into critically receptive fuels. The fire north of Glenwood has burned 34,953 acres, with containment downgraded to 15 percent over the weekend. Crews continue to strengthen and secure containment lines along the south and east portions of the fire. An increased amount of smoke from the fire is expected today, as burnout operations will be conducted on the north end of the fire to attempt to slow progression to the north and northwest. Inaccessible terrain, heavy dead and down fuels and indirect containment lines continue to pose a problem to firefighting personnel. A community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in the Glenwood School gymnasium.
The County Line 2 Fire on the Warm Springs Reservation is now 67 percent contained, having burned 65,078 acres. Strong winds in the fire area have subsided, with no major increase in the fire size due to effective operations ahead of and during the wind event. Minimal growth is expected on the north edge of the fire. Infrared shows heat remaining in the canyons. Additional growth is expected on the west flank in one canyon and the smaller drainages that surround it. Northwest winds could make containment difficult, as it pushes the fire towards the containment line being built ahead of the fire. A review of damages and losses of residences and out- buildings/structures has shown this fire burned two occupied homes and one vacant home, one occupied home was damaged beyond repair, and four abandoned homes and one vacant house were lightly damaged. There were a total of twenty-three out-building structures burned.
The Hood River City Council will consider an overall six-point-six percent increase in water, sewer, and stormwater rates at their Monday evening meeting. City Manager Steve Wheeler says it has been about five years since those rates have been increased. Mayor Paul Blackburn pointed out that Councilors had intentionally held off increasing the rates over the last few years with tougher economic times. The combined increase of water, sewer, and stormwater bills for the average resident will go up by about six dollars a month. If approved, the increase would be effective on October 1. Systems Development Charges for new construction will see a much bigger increases of 33 to 50 percent under the proposal.