When the Oregon Transportation Commission met in Hood River last week, Port of Hood River Executive Director Michael McElwee spoke to them about the need for replacement of the Port’s Interstate Bridge. McElwee says he wanted to deliver a clear message, telling the panel the bridge is “old, seismically deficient, functionally obsolete, and needs to be replaced.” He added the Oregon Department of Transportation needs to engage more positively and actively in efforts underway to replace the bridge. McElwee also told the group he was not happy with communication with ODOT during the closure of Interstate 84 that resulted from the June 3 oil train derailment in Mosier, saying they didn’t hear from ODOT to ask for the Port to open up the toll bridge until 30 minutes after local law enforcement asked for it, and received no communication on the freeway being reopened.
As summer starts, The Dalles is seeing a change in its schedule of activities for the season with no Fort Dalles Rodeo this year. The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Farquharson says even though the rodeo will be missed, there will still be plenty of attractions in the coming weeks, starting with Fort Dalles Fourth during Independence Day weekend. Farquharson says she hopes the rodeo can return in 2017, adding she knows the impact the event can have for local businesses.
Two people were taken to hospitals after a two-car accident on Highway 197 about a half-mile east of Dallesport on Sunday evening. According to the Washington State Patrol, a van driven by 36-year-old Kate Alvarez of The Dalles was northbound on Highway 197 at about 7:25 p.m. Sunday when the van crossed the center dividing line. A southbound car driven by 51-year-old Ladana Wright of Lyle attempted to avoid the van by driving into the southbound ditch, but the two vehicles collided head-on in the ditch. The WSP says Alvarez was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland and Wright to Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles for treatment of injuries. The WSP report indicates the cause of the accident remains under investigation.
The North Wasco County School District 21 board approved a budget for 2016-17 on Thursday night. Superintendent Candy Armstrong says the fiscal plan essentially maintains the status quo from this year. She notes the 2017-18 budget may prove to be more challenging, depending on what happens in the upcoming session of the Oregon Legislature. Armstrong said the only change made prior to the budget going to the board was to shift some money set aside for college credit tuition to have part of it go to the Wahtonka Community School rather than all of it to The Dalles High School.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is asking federal authorities to suspend unit oil trains from going through the Gorge and the state until more is known about the cause of the derailment in Mosier two weeks ago. Officials made public a letter from ODOT Rail and Public Transit Division Administrator Hal Gard to Federal Rail Administration Regional Administrator Mark Daniels asking for the moratorium during a Hood River meeting on Thursday. The letter expresses concern with lag bolts, a type of fastener used on curved sections of track to attach the rail to the rail tie, and requests that oil train traffic not resume until a means of detecting defects with those bolts is developed. Union Pacific has indicated a failure of the bolts cause the June 3 derailment.
Columbia Cascade Housing is accepting applications from Skamania and Klickitat counties for the Washington Home Rehabilitation Program. The program will provide no interest, deferred payment loans up to $20,000 for low to moderate income homeowners to make needed health and safety repairs to their homes using local contractors through a grant with Community Block Grant funds. The loan, with a lien placed against the property, is paid back when the house is sold, the title changes hands, when the house ceases to be the owner’s primary home, or 30 years from date of the loan. David Peters of the Mid-Columbia Housing Resource Center encourages anyone who thinks they might be eligible to apply. For an application or more information, contact Peters at 541-296-3397 or 1-800-800-3397.
Klickitat PUD has a couple of planned power outages this weekend. One will start at 11 p.m. Friday and run until 3 a.m. Saturday, and will affect all customers in the town of Wishram, Wishram Heights, and on Highway 14 between milepost 87 and 100, including the Avery area. It will also affect part of Maryhill from the Biggs Bridge to 71 Maryhill Highway, including the State Park area. The other will take place Saturday morning from 3:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., and affects all customers in the town of Klickitat and parts of western Goldendale. Klickitat PUD will be performing maintenance on the power lines that serve those locations.
By a 5-2 vote, the Hood River County Planning Commission voted to uphold an appeal by the Hood River Valley Residents Committee and deny an application for a 50 room hotel on a portion of the old Dee Mill site. Landowner Jason Taylor of Apollo Land Holdings was seeking a commercial land use permit for the hotel along the south side of Lost Lake Road southwest of its intersection with Dee Highway as part of project that includes an amphitheater. The amphitheater was not a part of this application. County Planner Eric Walker said the planning commission found when the County originally adopted its comprehensive plan in 1984 it had to make exceptions for existing uses in forest and farm lands like the area where the old Dee Mill was located, but while an exception was granted for the industrial use it wouldn’t extend to commercial uses. Planning Director John Roberts expects it will take a couple of weeks for the planning commission order to be finalized, and then a 15-day window to appeal to the Hood River County Commission will begin.
Wasco County Commissioners and The Dalles City Council approved a list of eleven projects to split $250,000 from the initial payment from Google as part of the enterprise zone agreement for its data center that is just beginning construction. County Commissioner Rod Runyon says they were targeting projects that could be done quickly. The largest award was $50,000 to the Mid-Columbia Senior Center for installation of an elevator between the facility’s main floor and basement. Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation, Wasco County 4-H and Extension, Fort Dalles Museum, the cities of Dufur and Mosier, The Dalles Main Street, Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation, and The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce all received funds.
The Columbia Gorge Community College Board of Education has filled a vacancy on the panel. Long-time The Dalles resident Carmelo Gamez was appointed to fill position one, which represents Wasco County. The seat became vacant when M.D. Van Valkenburgh stepped aside from the post. Gamez will fill the seat for the remainder of the term, ending June 30, 2017. That position will be on the special district elections ballot next spring.