A Spokane man was injured in a motorcycle accident early Monday morning on Highway 97 south of Goldendale. According to the Washington State Patrol, 49-year-old Charles McWhorter was northbound on Highway 97 near the lower junction with Highway 14 at about 3:50 Monday morning when the accident occurred. The WSP report says McWhorter’s motorcycle left the roadway on a curve to the left. He then lost control and went straight, laying the bike down in a wide spot in the road. McWhorter was taken to Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles for treatment of injuries. The WSP report indicated speed was factor in the accident.
Leaders from several Washington and Oregon tribes gathered at the site of the Union Pacific oil train derailment in Mosier Thursday. Tribes expressed their concerns about the transport of fossil fuels through their lands because of the risk it poses to the environment and their treaty fishing rights. Yakama Nation chair JoDe Goudy said the derailment threatens their way of life, putting fishing rights at risk. The gathering took place on the 161st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1855 between the Yakama Nation and the United States government. Tribal leaders from Yakama Nation were also joined by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who currently serves as Chief Prosecuting Attorney for Riverkeeper and President and Senior Attorney for the Waterkeeper Alliance.
After receiving largely positive results in a survey of 300 registered voters, North Wasco County School District 21 officials now move forward in developing possible projects for a capital improvements bond measure. 62 percent of respondents said they had a positive feeling about the quality of education provided in D-21, and 55 percent were willing to pay more to repair or replace buildings. D-21 Chief Financial Officer Randy Anderson says the survey results maintains momentum for the building discussion. An education facilities symposium put on by a community task force on the subject will take place on June 18 at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Mid-Columbia Senior Center.
Oregon Second District Congressman Greg Walden addressed the House on Wednesday about Friday’s train derailment near Mosier. Walden pledged to continue working with federal, state, and local officials to learn more about what happened and what can be done to make sure it never happens again. He added progress must continue to be made on rail safety issues, and new cars ordered by Congress get put into service. Walden visited the site of the incident over the weekend to meet with community leaders and first responders.
Crews in Mosier have completed transloading all oil from derailed tank cars off-site. A total of 13 cars involved in Friday’s derailment were offloaded. The recovered oil was transferred by truck to The Dalles and is now staged for transport by rail to Tacoma, its original destination, at a date to be determined. As of Wednesday morning, crews have cleaned and decontaminated all of the derailed cars, and moved two of them from the site. The empty tanker cars are being transported by truck to Portland, a process that should continue through the end of the week. Once the rail cars have been removed, crews will begin removing contaminated soil and continue other environmental cleanup and monitoring activities. Meanwhile, various groups continue to protest oil trains coming through the Gorge. The Hood River City Council reiterated a resolution it had earlier passed in opposition. Today, clergy from the Columbia River Gorge, including Members of Gorge Ecumenical Ministries and the Mount Adams Ministerial Association, gathered to express their support for the City of Mosier’s call to stop train traffic through the site of Friday’s oil train derailment until the cause of the accident is determined. And representatives of Northwest tribes will gather in Mosier tomorrow to say the incident risks their fishing rights.
Hood River City Councilors began to look at operational regulations for short-term rentals at a special meeting Tuesday evening. Councilors reviewed a preliminary draft that will come back to them at their June 27 meeting at the earliest. The fee to register STR’s will be set by resolution rather than ordinance, but City Manager Steve Wheeler says right now a figure between $200 and $250 is being considered. These regulations would be regardless of where an STR is located, but there is still a question of how far the Council can go with these until decisions are made on the zoning issues of where STR’s are allowed. Those deliberations stalled in a split vote last month, with the Council establishing an up to six month moratorium on all new STR’s in residential zones while attempts are made to find agreement.
A bill authored by Oregon Congressmen Greg Walden and Earl Blumenauer to force the U.S. Forest Service to complete the Mt. Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange passed the House by a vote of 401-2. The bill directs the Forest Service to move forward with the underlying land exchange first approved by Congress in 2009. The 2009 law authorizes a land exchange to allow development of 120 acres of federal land in Government Camp in exchange for 770 acres of non-federal land at Cooper Spur and stated that the Forest Service should complete the exchange within 16 months. The bill passed Wednesday restates Congress’ intent that the Forest Service move quickly to complete the exchange, addresses disagreements over a conservation easement, and allows for a more transparent appraisal process. Identical legislation introduced in the Senate by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley was passed by that body in April as part of a broader energy and resources bill.
It will be a busy summer for paving on Interstate 84 through the Gorge. The Oregon Department of Transportation will be repaving on three stretches from June to September: from Mosier to The Dalles, Cascade Locks to Hood River, and the Sandy River to Multnomah Falls. ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton says the work is being planned to keep traffic disruptions to a minimum, with most work at night and closures limited to single lanes. The sections of Interstate 84 have not been paved in a decade. In September, work will begin on rockfall repair at milepost 61 west of Hood River, site of a major slide in February 2014. More information on the projects are available at i84construction.org.
Officials in The Dalles are again reminding citizens of the importance of removing puncture vine on private and public properties as well as controlling vegetation growth during the hottest part of the season to reduce fire threats to all properties. Puncture vine, commonly known as goatheads, is a noxious weed that spreads incredibly fast and produces very sharp seeds. When stepped on, they are painful to both animals and people. They are sharp enough to puncture bicycle and wheel chair tires. The City is working to get the weed under control at targeted public properties with severe puncture vine, but is asking the home and business owners in our community to be proactive in removing puncture vine before it spreads, along with managing vegetation growth to reduce fire risks.
The 100th birthday of the Historic Columbia River Highway was marked with ceremonies on Tuesday at Vista House and Multnomah Falls. Kristen Stallman of the Oregon Department of Transportation says the route showed how roadbuilding could be done with nature and scenic beauty in mind. The two-lane highway is now divided into different segments, some of which are accessible only by foot and bicycle. Only 10 miles of the highway still need to be completed for the entire 73-mile stretch to be totally reconnected. Two additional miles of the State Trail, between Lindsey and Starvation Creeks, will open this September, and three more miles between Wyeth and Lindsey Creek will open in 2018. 32 to 35 million dollars in funding still needs to be raised to finish the final five miles.