The Forest Service says a pair of Columbia River Gorge trails closed since Monday have reopened as crews battle a nearby wildfire. The Dog Mountain and Augspurger trails had been closed since Monday due to the nearby Dog Falls fire, burning above state Highway 14 about 50 miles east of Vancouver. Officials announced the trails’ reopening early today. The Forest Service says 3.5-acre fire is now 70 percent contained. Difficult terrain and high winds have made fighting the fire located west of Dog Creek a challenge.
The City of The Dalles will not take part in a road district in Wasco County. City Councilors decided instead to instruct municipal staff to bring back a resolution to put a gas tax increase on the November ballot. Councilors and Mayor Steve Lawrence all expressed concern that property tax compression from a road district would have a negative impact on other governmental entities, in particular Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue District. County Commissioner Steve Kramer says the county will proceed with its road district plans, awaiting answers from other municipalities and acknowledging without The Dalles the tax rate would be higher. Motions to opt in to the road district at the full rate and at a phased in rate were both defeated, and then the motion to have the gas tax resolution prepared was passed unanimously.
The Dalles City Council, acting in its role as the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency, received an update from Michael Leash of Rapoza Development on the Granada block development project in which Leash admitted the clock is ticking to get equity partners on board. Leash told Councilors there are investors at the local level who have become interested in the hotel and conference center project in the last two months, and talks continue with a real estate investment bank in Bellevue. He added that Venture Hospitality of Portland will sign a letter of intent to handle food and beverage for the facility, but Portland hotelier John Lee is “on the sidelines,” even though Leash also said Lee is not completely out and he remains in contact. Mayor Steve Lawrence expressed skepticism that Rapoza can meet all of its requirements by a December 31 deadline established by Urban Renewal last year, saying he was looking for reality checks. Leash responded by saying he was getting a reality check everyday.
Hood River County Commissioners will be considering whether or not to add a codes enforcement officer. The officer is a part of the 2014-15 budget, and Commission Chair Ron Rivers says it is in response to citizen feedback. Currently the County relies on citizen complaints to deal with code violations. County Administrator David Meriwether says the codes officer would initially be dealing with land use ordinances, and ultimately move into other areas. Commissioners will consider the position at their meeting this coming Monday.
The Lions Clubs of Hood River County will be conducting a food drive at all of the markets in the County on Saturday…accepting both food and cash donations for FISH Food Bank. Lions Club member Chuck Bugge says at this time of year FISH can have shortages while the need for food assistance remains, noting there are more people in the community at this time of year. The Lions will be at the markets on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will also be accepting donations of used eyeglasses and hearing aids.
Fire season is officially underway in The Dalles Unit of the Oregon Department of Forestry. It began Monday morning on all lands protected by State Forestry in Hood River and Wasco counties. That means all industrial operations on forest land are required to have fire tools, water supply, and fire extinguishers on site, and a new law enacted this year bans the use of exploding targets, tracer ammunition, and sky lanterns on State Forestry protected lands. A burn ban begins July 1. Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue has placed a partial burn restriction in place, with all outdoor burning prohibited until further notice, with the use of burn barrels outside of The Dalles city limits allowed until conditions warrant a full ban. Crews were dealing with two fires near Washington Highway 14 on Monday, one a brush fire eight miles east of Bingen that disrupted traffic for a time, and another burned about two-and-a-half acres near Dog Creek about five miles west of Bingen.
Economic development officials in The Dalles recently hosted a man who selects sites for companies to locate. Don Shelldoll was given a tour of the area and gave feedback on the community’s strength and weaknesses in attracting businesses. Port of The Dalles Executive Director Andrea Klaas says they received some positive feedback. One of the big issues to deal with is the high cost of land in the Gorge compared to other regions of the country. Klaas says the visit has already resulted in one potential lead.
A hotshot crew and two helicopters are working on trying to extinguish a fire burning in steep terrain above Highway 14 about five miles west of Bingen. The Dog Falls Fire is on the west side of Dog Creek, and is believed to have burned about two-and-a-half acres. Fire public information officer Bernie Pineda says the hot shot crew from Entiat is trying to determine the safest way to deal with the fire, while helicopters have been doing bucket work. Pineda says there are no structures in danger, and the fire has not been growing. The fire is burning on Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area land. The Dog Mountain and Augspurger trails are temporarily closed due to the fire.
The Oregon State Police is asking for the public’s help to identify the driver and vehicle involved in Saturday morning’s non-injury hit and run crash along the westbound lanes of Interstate 84 east of Mosier. The accident occurred around 11:30 a.m. Saturday when a maroon colored four-door passenger car described as a possible early 1990’s Mazda or Honda with tinted windows was westbound at 75 – 80 mph on Interstate 84 near milepost 72 just west of Memaloose Rest Area. The car made an abrupt lane change from the left lane to right lane into the side of a silver 2007 Toyota Tacoma pickup. The maroon car stopped about a quarter mile behind the pickup. Its driver, described as a young male, tall and slender, got out of the car to assess damage. When a large blue pickup with several males wearing bright green shirts pulled up next to the car the driver then fled in the vehicle, which should have significant right passenger side damage. The OSP is seeking information to help identify the driver and vehicle, including contact with the occupants of the pickup that reportedly temporarily stopped next to the suspect vehicle. Anyone with information is asked to call OSP Northern Command Center dispatch at 800-452-7888.
The Association of Oregon Counties is holding its spring conference in Hood River today and Tuesday, and dealing with public safety costs will be a big part of the discussion among county leaders. The struggles of counties in southwestern Oregon with reduced harvests on federal forestlands dramatically dropping revenues are the most notable examples of the struggle to provide for the financial needs of public safety. But Hood River County Commission Chair Ron Rivers says public safety has become a large percentage of every county’s budget. Rivers has been discussing putting a public safety district of some kind on the ballot in Hood River County next year.