A new management team is at the helm of the Cougar Creek Fire northwest of Glenwood. A team from Southern California took command on Monday, relieving a Washington team. The fire remains listed as 60 percent contained, and has burned 54,000 acres. Though the south end of the fire received a wetting rain over the weekend, the rain did not penetrate the canopy in the northern portion of the fire. Those areas continue to dry out as the effects of the rain dissipate over the next few days. As vegetation continues to dry out smoke will become more visible and fire activity may pick up. Hand crews continue to build direct containment line along the north and northwest section of the fire while continuing to improve contingency lines along Potato Hill Road.
Wasco County Sheriff’s Officers arrested a man after he barricaded himself inside a residence on Cherry Heights Road on Saturday evening. According to Chief Deputy Lane Magill, 57-year-old John Dale Heebink exited the house and was taken into custody after several hours, during which time The Dalles City Police Special Emergency Response Team tried to make contact with Heebink utilizing a loud speaker and deployed tear gas into the residence. Residents living at the home on 5973 Cherry Heights Road were safely removed from the property at the beginning of the incident. Officers obtained a search warrant to enter the house. Heebink has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and menacing, and is lodged at NORCOR.
Mediation will take place to attempt to figure out how to move forward with a land trade between the U.S. Forest Service and Mount Hood Meadows. The Hood River Valley Residents Committee earlier this summer filed suit in federal court to try to move along the trade. Congress in 2009 gave the Forest Service 16 months to complete the trade of 770 acres of land near Cooper Spur owned by Mount Hood Meadows for 120 acres of developable national forest land near Government Camp, but numerous delays have held it up, most recently over some environmental protections. Hood River Valley Residents Committee Executive Director Heather Staten says the mediation will focus on a conservation easement over wetlands on the Government Camp parcels. A requirement for a conservation easement was included in the Act at the request of environmental groups, including the Residents Committee, but Staten says the Forest Service has proposed restrictions far in excess of what was contemplated by the conservation groups, which in turn may drive down the value of the parcel in Government Camp. Mt. Hood Meadows has balked at the terms of the proposed easement. The mediation is set to take place in the next 30 days.
Court Street in The Dalles from 3rd to 4th and from 5th to 10th Street will be closed on Monday to profile off the old surface. Repaving is planned for September 1. During that time no access or on-street parking will be allowed. Detours will be posted on Union Street to the west and Kelly Avenue to 8th Street on the east side. Work is estimated to be done between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. both days. Also on Monday, The Dalles Public Works will be smoke testing a section of the City’s sanitary sewer system. Work will begin at 7:30 a.m. in the area of Jefferson Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets. The purpose is to identify connections between the storm and sanitary sewer systems, and to detect leaks. A non-toxic “smoke” material will be injected into the pipeline in question and may be visible coming out of building vents, manhole covers, or breaks in the pipe during the testing.
The crack sealing project on streets around The Dalles will continue next week. Starting Monday work will take place on West 8th, West 9th, West 11th and West 14th, East 9th and East 16th, Webber, Union, Court, Washington, Oregon and Quinton Streets. Much of the work will be in residential areas, and residents in those locations area asked to remove all vehicles from the street between seven in the morning and five in the afternoon to allow the workers access to the entire street width. Flaggers will be in place, and motorists are asked to be alert for traffic control changes. Those with questions can call Pavement Protectors at 541-480-0168.
The annual Hood to Coast Relay race will take place Friday and Saturday, and that means 17,000 runners and walkers expected to travel along several Oregon highways. The route will take race participants from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to Seaside. Travelers need to watch for runners and walkers, as well as approximately 3,000 support vehicles involved in the event, which begins Friday morning. The second leg of the relay will take runners through a construction site on Highway 26 west of Government Camp where ODOT is cutting back the steep slopes along the highway to reduce rockfall. Along nearly a two-mile stretch runners will run outside of a concrete barrier with a slightly narrower shoulder. The contractor will not work on the day runners are heading down the mountain. Drivers on Highway 26 are asked to use extra caution and be alert in this area. State and city police agencies along the relay route will have a visible patrol enforcement presence.
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.