On a split vote, The Dalles City Council has voted to send a municipal gas tax hike proposal to voters in November. The vote was 3-2, with Dan Spatz, Carolyn Wood, and Bill Dick voting yes, and Linda Miller and Tim McGlothlin saying no. The proposed gas tax hike from the current three cents per gallon to six cents would be used to pay for street construction and maintenance. City staff has estimated the gas tax increase would bring in about $450,000 per year. Miller and McGlothlin indicated they wanted to hold the line or find off-setting budget cuts from other areas, including urban renewal. The Council will receive a ballot measure at its July 28 meeting to formally approve.
Significant progress has been made by crews mopping up the 652-acre White River Fire 12 miles west of Tygh Valley, increasing the number of acres inside the fire line that are fully extinguished. The increase in acreage is due to more accurate information and not to further spread of the fire. The fire is 65 percent contained. Day shift crews were working to hold the recently completed fire lines on the east and west sides of the White River Canyon and run hose lays deeper into the canyon. Mop-up also continues on the high ground on the north and south sides of canyon.
Two fires in the Mitchell and Spray area have combined to burn nearly 3,000 acres. The John Day-Watermen Complex includes the Baily Butte and Toney Butte Fires. The Baily Butte Fire, reported burning in timber, is located approximately 10 miles west of Mitchell, and is estimated at 800 to 1,000 acres in size. The Toney Butte Fire was reported Tuesday burning in grass, brush, juniper, sage and timber about six miles southwest of Spray, and is estimated at over 2,000 acres. Stage 2 evacuations were issued Monday night in the west branch road area near Mitchell. The Crystal Springs Campground on the Ochoco National Forest was also evacuated Monday night. The 385-acre Service Creek Fire, located approximately 11 miles west of Spray was ruled fully contained today.
Hood River County has closed on a piece of property near West Cascade Avenue to develop workforce housing. County Administrator David Meriwether says the two acres are located near the Hood River Crossing apartment complex, but added that’s not necessarily the kind of development they would do. Meriwether says they wanted to acquire the property while they had the opportunity, and County Commission Chair Ron Rivers noted a major goal of the Commission is to provide more workforce housing.
The Port of The Dalles has hired Lee Weinstein to develop marketing materials that can be given to business looking to locate in the community. Port Executive Director Andrea Klaas says one of the things they learned from a recent visit by a corporate site selector was the need to put together prospectus materials for specific businesses looking for new locations. Work on the North Chenowith Industrial Park continues, with an eye toward completion this fall.
Oregon Second District Congressman Greg Walden has introduced a bill he says will protect access to home health care services for seniors. The Hood River Republican says the “Securing Access Via Excellence for (SAVE) Medicare Home Health Act” would stop the Obama Administration’s proposed 14 percent payment cut to home health care providers. The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act repeals the Obamacare cuts in 2015-2017. Instead, savings are achieved by establishing a value-based purchasing program to better incentivize home healthcare agencies to deliver high-quality care to patients and reduce hospital readmission rates.
A handful of homes in the area of Fourth and May in Hood River were evacuated overnight Tuesday due to a natural gas leak in that area. A Hood River Fire Department official said Northwest Natural crews had found dangerously high readings of gas indicating a significant underground leak. Residents of eight to ten homes were evacuated as the crews dug a hole in the road and isolated the leak to make repairs. People were allowed to return to their homes early this morning, but Northwest Natural crews were still working in the area to continue repairs.
Crews working in the steep White River Canyon completed the two remaining segments of fire line around the 570-acre White River Fire on Monday. The fire line completely encircles the fire and mop-up is proceeding satisfactorily inside the fire line…prompting Incident Commander John Buckman to declare the fire 65 percent contained. More than 90 firefighters were assigned to night shift…looking to continue mopping up inside the north and south fire lines. Night shift crews do not work inside the White River Canyon due to safety concerns. Crews were also adding to or moving existing hose lines so the mop-up operation can proceed deeper into the fire’s interior. A firefighter working inside the canyon on the fire’s northeast side suffered a heat-related illness during the afternoon and was transported by helicopter to Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles for treatment. The firefighter responded quickly to treatment and was released. As wildfire activity picks up in central Oregon, the incident management team in charge of the White River Fire’s suppression has agreed to support the Oregon Department of Forestry unit in The Dalles with initial attack fire suppression resources should new fires break out inside the unit’s protection area. Assistance could include engines, helicopters and firefighters to keep newly reported fires from escaping initial attack.
The body of a missing rafter was found over the weekend floating in the Klickitat River between Fisher Hill Falls and the Columbia River. The Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office has positively identified the body as that of 23-year-old Christopher Dube of Kirkland, who was reported to have gone over the falls on July 5. The body was discovered along the western bank of the Klickitat River, approximately a quarter of a mile downstream from the Falls, and appeared to be lodged on a submerged rock ledge. Klickitat County Search and Rescue volunteers had to descend down a sheer rock embankment in order to gain access to the victim and successfully recovered the body from the river. The Klickitat County Coroner’s Office has requested an autopsy of Dube to be performed at the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office in Vancouver.
The Dalles Area and Mid-Columbia Habitat For Humanity affiliates have merged to become one. Columbia Gorge Habitat for Humanity will now build homes in Wasco, Hood River, and Klickitat counties. Local Habitat for Humanity officials say the merger will bring them a higher level of capability in seeking to help provide affordable housing, including the hiring of a part-time executive director. Work is underway on the 24th and 25th Habitat homes in the region, with three more home sites in The Dalles Wilson Street subdivision in the final stages of being purchased.