Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo introduced a bipartisan bill today to overhaul federal wildfire policy to boost funding for fire prevention and treat the largest wildfires as natural disasters. Federal agencies currently base wildland fire suppression budgets on the average costs of the past 10 years, which has tended to be inadequate to pay firefighting costs, and the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department have been forced to take money from other programs to make up the difference. The bill would fund those catastrophic fires as natural disasters by making any fire suppression spending above 70 percent of the 10-year average eligible to be funded under a separate disaster account. Washington Senator Maria Cantwell…the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a co-sponsor of the bill.
Hood River’s Waterfront has been a busy place the last few years with the construction of a number of new buildings, and it’s about to get even busier. Port of Hood River Executive Director Michael McElwee says projects for a path along the Nichols Basin West Edge, the launch at the Hook, and the Pedestrian Bridge Trail are all out to bid or about to start. He says combine that with other projects like the move of Sheppard’s to the Waterfront, the removal of the Expo Center building and construction of a facility for Turtle Island Foods at that site, and the Natio hotel and office building at the end of the Nicols Basin, it will be a busy spring and summer with perhaps the most construction since fill created the Waterfront. And the Port also has planning for how to develop Lot 1 adjacent to the Nichols Basin on its to-do list.
Columbia Gorge Community College and Google are soliciting entries for their annual Wind Challenge coming up in May at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center. The event is open to teams of three to five students in middle and high school divisions, who will build wind turbines. CGCC’s Loren Mason-Gere says the goal is to have 40 teams take part in the May 2 event, and they have about half of the spots filled. He adds no advance preparation is necessary to take part in the Wind Challenge. Information is available on-line at windchallenge.org.
There will be a meeting next week in The Dalles to discuss forming a food co-op. That’s a democratically owned and operated grocery store. Port of The Dalles Marketing Director Kathy Ursprung says the idea came about partly as a potential avenue to enhance downtown The Dalles, which does not have a grocery store. She says a food co-op would give local agricultural producers more options to market their products. She adds a downtown food co-op could provide more jobs in the core area of The Dalles. An organizing meeting to gauge interest in a food co-op is set for January 29 at the Wahtonka Community School cafeteria. To RSVP call Ursprung at 541-370-5191.
About 15 people testified during Tuesday evening’s Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s public hearing on Amerities West’s draft air quality permit renewal. Many of the comments centered on complaints about the odor that can emanate from the railroad tie treatment plant on the east side of The Dalles. DEQ Public Affairs Specialist Greg Svelund says a decision on issuance of the permit will probably take place in the next couple of months. People can provide written comments through next Friday, January 30 by faxing them to DEQ at 541-388-8283, or e-mailing them to email@example.com.
The Port of Hood River and Port of Cascade Locks commissions held a joint meeting Tuesday night. The two panels get together periodically to discuss items of mutual concern. Port of Hood River Executive Director Michael McElwee says much of talk surrounded the two bridges the agencies own and working together on regional advocacy issues. Both Ports are involved in the One Gorge regional advocacy group that has been formed in recent months, and will be looking to do more in conjunction with the Ports of Klickitat and The Dalles.
An ad-hoc committee is trying to determine if White Salmon can develop walking and bicycle paths in the community. Mayor David Poucher says the group has been meeting since September, and will hold a public meeting next week to gather public input. Poucher says there are some opportunities to develop some trails, with the state holding a “good amount” of right-of-ways along existing roads. The meeting is set for next Wednesday (January 28) at 5:30 p.m. in the Pioneer Center.
Hood River Valley 52, Stevenson 24: The Eagles limited the Bulldogs to two field goals and seven points in the first half, then blew the game open by scoring 21 points in the third quarter. Kassidy Davidson led a balanced HRV offense with 11 points.
Columbia 47, Castle Rock 28: Michaela Enyart’s 14 points topped the Bruins in the victory. CHS jumped out to a 26-8 lead in the first half and were never threatened after that.
Lyle-Wishram 58, Trout Lake 33: MaeLynn Luke scored 25 points and Lacy Carse 23 to lead the Cougar. Bayyine Ozkan paced the Mustangs with 15.
Riverside 30, Sherman 25
Mabton 53, Goldendale 26
Columbia 56, Castle Rock 52 (overtime): The Bruins tied the game with two seconds remaining in regulation, and won the game in the extra session. Ryan Lockman led Columbia with 21 points, while Brock Johnson scored the same amount for the Rockets.
King’s Way Christian 71, Stevenson 68: A Bulldog comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit fell just short. Kieran Walker led King’s Way with 37 points. Austin Brennan scored 29 for Stevenson.
Lyle-Wishram 64, Trout Lake 43: Gabe Montoya and Cody Carse scored 18 points each for the Cougars in their win. Trout Lake’s James Baker had 16.
Sherman 56, Riverside 30
Mabotn 59, Goldendale 51
Hood River Valley 39, St. Helens 27
Oregon’s unemployment rate for December was six-point-seven percent, representing a six-year low. Oregon Employment Department Economist Nick Belecicks says the rate was accompanied by strong job gains in the final quarter of 2014. The department statistics indicate December hiring was unusually widespread in the various sectors of the economy. The jobless rate remained at about seven percent for months as people rejoined the labor force as the state gained jobs, but in December the labor force grew only slightly.
Veteran Washington 14th District State Representative Norm Johnson thinks a balanced budget that increases funding for education without hurting other important programs can be achieved. The Republican legislator says the state is estimated to have nearly three billion dollars in additional revenue this biennium, and he agrees with Senate budget writer Andy Hill’s desire to look at what the state already has before turning to new taxes. Johnson adds if there are cuts, they need to occur across the board rather than being concentrated in one area.