The City of Hood River is progressing on some of its biggest capital improvement projects during this summer construction season. City Manager Steve Wheeler gave an update to the City Council at their Monday evening meeting. Wheeler says the Rand Road water system work has been done with road repair work to be finished later this month, and the sewer line between Second Street and Sherman is also finished. He noted 12th Street is now closed from State to May as water and sewer improvements continue. Wheeler added odor control work at the municipal wastewater treatment plant should wrap up by the end of the year.
Wasco County Commissioners have been discussing planning for the long-term future of the County Courthouse in recent weeks. Commissioner Scott Hege says they have looked at potential purchases of properties in the vicinity of the courthouse on Washington Street in The Dalles. The County already owns four pieces of property in the area that are used for offices and parking. Hege adds this is a discussion dealing with needs 20 to 50 years down the road. Hege notes there is still the space that used to house the County Jail in the courthouse, but past explorations of the cost of renovation have found a substantial expense.
Hood River County Forester Doug Thiesies says last week’s Neal Creek Fire that burned on County forestland did not burn a substantial amount of harvestable timber. Thiesies says the County was fairly fortunate the fire did not cause more damage. He estimated about 100,000 board feet of timber was probably lost, but added it was not the County’s most productive land. The County’s annual timber harvest is about nine-and-a-half million board feet. Thiesies noted a quick response from Oregon Department of Forestry crews and other fire agencies helped prevent a larger amount of damage. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but is believed to be human caused. It was declared 100 percent contained over the weekend.
Two farms in the region will be honored as Century Farms in a ceremony at the Oregon State Fair later this month. Omeg Family Orchards in Wasco County and the Alley Ranch in Sherman County will receive the designation. Omeg Family Orchards was founded in 1905 by August & Edna Renken, and is currently owned by grandson Mel Omeg. Early crops included cattle, hay, apricots, cherries, peaches, & watermelon, and as the region became more oriented to apple, pear, & cherry production, the farm followed suit and went from raising a variety of crops and animals to a large-scale fruit production, with sweet cherries the main crop today. Alley Ranch was founded in Sherman County in 1915 by T.W. Alley, and the early crops were wheat, oats, barley, cattle and horses. Over the years, the farm has continued to grow wheat and barley utilizing conservation practices to keep the land in optimal condition. Dwight and Charmayn Alley now farm the land with many family members helping out throughout the seasons.
The Port of The Dalles is looking at how its properties might fit into the value-added agriculture sector. Port Executive Director Andrea Klaas says most of the leads they receive from the state in that area have been for very large projects this region’s land supply cannot provide. But she says it has sparked the idea of some kind of food hub that can emphasize the technology now used in the food industry. Another area of exploration is a tie-in between agriculture and the growing unmanned aerial vehicle industry.
Two people were injured in a one-car accident early Monday morning on Highway 141 about two miles north of Husum. According to the Washington State Patrol, the car was southbound near milepost nine when it swerved to miss a deer and went off the roadway, striking an embankment of a driveway, then continuing before coming to rest in the southbound ditch. The driver, a 24-year-old man from Vancouver, and the passenger, a 23-year-old man from White Salmon, were taken to Skyline Hospital for treatment of injuries. The accident occurred Monday at about 3:50 a.m.
There will be intermittent closures of both lanes of the Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge Wednesday through Friday. The closures will take place between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Port crews and bridge engineers will be conducting live testing of the bridge’s lift span. Each closure is expected to last up to 20 minutes. For more information, call the Port of Hood River at (541) 386-1645.
Drivers who travel Washington State Route 141 in Trout Lake should plan for an around-the-clock closure of the Bonnie Creek culvert beginning Monday morning. Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews are closing both directions of SR 141 between Little Mountain Road and Church Street to replace an aging and failing culvert and to repave the roadway. During the closures, drivers will follow a signed detour on either side of the culvert, using Jennings Road and Wood Road. The closure will be in place until the work is complete in early September.
Work continues on the Neal Creek Fire 4 or 5 miles up Neal Creek Road. According to Public Information Officer Christy Shaw, crews worked overnight digging a handline around the fire. They were also able to drag hose completely around the line. Four fresh crews of 20 persons were brought in this morning to replace crews that worked through the night. A couple more engines were also brought in. There are two helicopters available, but they are not being used at this time, crews on the ground are able to handle things.
The fire was reported around 4pm yesterday. Two heavy tankers were used yesterday as long as they could, knocking down the head of the fire. There are a few structures in the general area, but none are threatened. New mapping shows the size of the burn at 15.5 acres as of 2:30 Friday afternoon. The fire is now 50% contained. The next few days crews will work to mop-up 100% of the fire. The cause of the fire is being investigated but authorities suspect the fire was human caused.
A forest fire erupted yesterday afternoon about 4 to 5 miles up Neal Creek Road and 4-5 miles from Highway 35. The Oregon Department of Forestry reports that resources on the scene yesterday included 10 fire engines from ODF, BLM and the Forest Service and additional engines from local fire departments. Also on the scene is a bulldozer, 2 single engine air tankers, 1 helicopter and 3 heavy air tankers. More resources headed to the area last night and today. Crews worked through the night to try to stop the spread of the fire by digging handline around the fire. Today they will be strengthening the lines. ODF estimates the Neal Creek Fire has burned about 15 acres. The cause of the fire is under investigation.