The Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District is asking residential customers in the County’s irrigation districts to cut back their water use by 25 percent this summer to help orchardists and make this year’s limited supply of water last longer. The district’s Anne Saxby says that kind of reduction of water use can go a long way towards helping everyone get through the drought conditions, noting how and when you water lawns and landscaping can help make less water go further. Avoid watering in the middle part of the day, when temperatures are their hottest. Saxby points out that it only takes an inch of water a week to sufficiently water a grass lawn, the equivalent of a filling a tuna can. She adds grass will go dormant in the summer and come back healthy in the fall. Also, a good layer of mulch on landscaping will help retain moisture.
There are spaces available in a forest collaborative in Wasco County beginning to work on getting a clearing project done in the Rocky Burn area near Wamic. That area was badly burned in the 1970’s, and County Commissioner Steve Kramer says it needs to be cleaned up to protect the Sportsmen’s Park area from fire. Kramer says stakeholders are working to formally put together the collaborative so they can apply for about 50-to-60 thousand dollars in state funds to put together the project. He adds they still need representatives from the forest industry, environmental groups, community wildfire protection, watershed protection, recreation and tourism, private landowners, tribal members, and local, state, and federal agencies. To take part, call the Wasco County Commission office at 541-506-2520.
Hood River City officials believe the municipal water supply should be fine for this summer, but it’s still not a bad idea to conserve. City Manager Steve Wheeler says their readings at their water source to this point are down a bit from normal. Hood River’s water source is a spring on the side of Mt. Hood about 20 miles from the city. In other business, City Councilors approved the municipal budget for the upcoming fiscal year with no significant changes from what was put together by the budget committee.
The Dalles City Council approved a municipal budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Mayor Steve Lawrence says he is comfortable with the spending plan, noting he feels like the Council changed priorities to meet what citizens want. Councilors did decide to not give cost of living increases to exempt employees, but also decided to leave health insurance benefits intact rather than following a recommendation to reduce them. Lawrence says they are going to embark on a study of the best route to take on compensation and insurance issues in the future.
Motorists traveling Interstate 84 near The Dalles should be aware of “rolling slowdowns” that may affect their drive. As part of a contract with the Bonneville Power Administration, Western Construction crews are using helicopter airlifts to haul transmission lines from the Washington side of the Columbia River to the Oregon side at the Celilo substation adjacent to Highway 97 in The Dalles. The rolling slowdowns, near the Celilo railroad bridge, are orchestrated to keep the highway clear while helicopter operations take place overhead. These operations will continue on an intermittent basis, daily except on Fridays, from about 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. into the month of July. Operations on Sundays will be from about 7 a.m. until about 3 p.m. Motorists are advised to drive with caution in the area and be aware of traffic control operations.
Skamania County residents will no longer be allowed to set small debris fires starting Thursday. The ban includes residents who have already received self-issued permits for burning this year. The county says those permits will be “null and void” as of Thursday. Fire officials across the state are bracing for a difficult wildfire season as Washington enters the summer in drought conditions. Public agencies across the region are announcing burn bans to reduce the risk of human-caused fires. Permits for small debris fires will be available in Skamania County after October, weather permitting.
North Wasco County School District 21 schools will release students early at noon today due to the extreme heat. There will be no afternoon kindergarten at Dry Hollow Elementary School.
The initial choice of the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections board to become the jail’s new administrator has withdrawn. Last week, NORCOR officials said they had offered the job to Michael Cantrell, an experienced juvenile justice system program director from Nebraska, and made that public. But Hood River County Commissioner and NORCOR board member Ron Rivers said on the Mid-Columbia Today Show on Monday that Cantrell has informed jail administrator Jim Weed he was withdrawing after asking for more money than the board could offer. Rivers says Weed is now negotiating with another of the three finalists who were interviewed last week.
The Port of The Dalles will be putting the new Columbia Gorge Industrial Center on the former North Chenoweth property into the state’s Certified Industrial Site program. Port Executive Director Andrea Klaas says the state will send a third party verification team to the site to look at all the possible issues that could be a barrier to development and decided if its ready to be certified as ready to build on. Klaas says the intent is to have the park completely finished by July 31.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s June water supply outlook report for Oregon contained no surprises coming off a record-low winter snowpack that will lead to significantly low stream flows this summer. The report shows record low snowpacks for the Hood, Sandy, and Lower Deschutes basins, peaking at its lowest level and earliest date since records began over 30 years ago. Summer streamflow forecasts for the basins range from 48-to-57 percent of average for June through September. Forecasted streamflow volumes fall in the lowest tenth of observed streamflows since 1981. Water managers are being told to expect significant shortages this summer.