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Senate OKs conditional raises

Tue., April 5, 2005

Boise State senators gave final legislative approval Monday to legislation to give state employees no permanent raises next year, and to give them one-time, merit-based bonuses averaging 1 percent of their pay only if this year’s state tax revenue ends up $22.3 million or more ahead of projections.

“As long as I have been here, there has been a significant disparity between the market wage and what state employees are paid,” said Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. “There’s none of it a few million dollars wouldn’t take care of, but in reality there’s only so many dollars in the budget pot.”

But all seven Senate Democrats plus Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, voted to try to amend the bill to at least match the governor’s recommendation, which was for an average 1 percent merit-based, permanent salary increase. “When it’s something really important, we find a way to get the money,” said Sen. Bert Marley, D-McCammon, noting that lawmakers managed this year to fund a multimillion-dollar water settlement. “What we’re doing here is an embarrassment.”

Sen. Dick Compton, R-Coeur d’Alene, voted against the move to amend the bill, but then joined Schroeder as the only North Idaho senators voting against passing the bill, HB 395.

The bill now goes to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Failing dam in Oregon forces tough choice

Eugene, Ore. A failing dam in the Willamette Valley has forced officials to choose the lesser of two evils: ignore potential earthquake hazards in exchange for fast-tracking repairs.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided recently to postpone a study of the Fern Ridge Dam’s vulnerability to earthquakes, so that the more immediate threat – a possible break in the dam due to internal erosion – can be fixed by the end of the year, project manager Mark Dasso said.

All staff and money earmarked for the earthquake study has been redirected to the erosion problem.

Fern Ridge is no different from the corps’ other 12 dams in the Willamette Valley: The agency can’t say how any of them would fare in an earthquake because there’s no money to complete the studies, spokesman Matt Rabe said.

Snowmobilers survive self-made avalanche

Lewiston Twelve snowmobilers tripped an avalanche near McCall that caught nine of them and trapped one under 5 feet of snow.

They all survived Saturday’s slide, but a 46-year-old Clarkston, Wash., woman was trapped for about five minutes.

She was wearing a tracing beacon, so members of her party were able to easily locate her and dig her out. According to the Idaho County Sheriff’s Department, she was unconscious when first located. She was transported by helicopter to a McCall hospital. Her name and condition were unknown.

Much of central Idaho has received up to 3 feet of snow in the past week. The underlying hardened crust of packed-down snow can create a shear plane on which fresh snow can easily slide.

Judge stops logging, restoration project

Lewiston A federal judge sided with environmental groups and has stopped the Meadow Face Stewardship Project, a logging and restoration project in the Nez Perce National Forest about 10 miles east of Grangeville.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge agreed on Thursday with the Friends of the Clearwater and three other environmental groups that U.S. Forest Service officials did not adequately analyze the cumulative effects of past and proposed logging and their impact.

It is unclear if the entire project is halted, or if restoration portion of the project can proceed.

Until the analysis is complete, the injunction stops the Yew Rock Timber Sale – born out of the Meadow Face Stewardship Project on the forest.

The Forest Service planned to use proceeds from the timber sale to offset the cost of improving the water quality. Regulus Stud Mills of St. Maries bought the timber rights for $158,247.

The 2,280 acres of land contains mostly second-growth grand fir and Douglas fir trees with an average diameter of 12 inches.

Paul Dye, founder of bird sanctuary, dies at 68

Everett Paul G. Dye, a former Boeing Co. engineer who founded a wild bird sanctuary and breeding center for endangered species, is dead at 68.

Dye, who built Northwest Wildlife Farm near Lake Stevens into a destination for waterfowl breeders and conservationists from around the world, died Wednesday, friends and relatives said.

Founded in 1971, the wildlife operation includes 32 ponds, 8 acres of grain fields, four miles of trails, a salmon stream, nesting sites installed for wood ducks, flying squirrels, bats, chickadees and flickers, and forestry improvements for grouse and other woodland species.

Dye was born in Marietta, Ohio, but grew up mostly in New Jersey, where he began raising waterfowl by age 12. He left a small flock of ducks in the care of his mother and sisters while serving in the Marine Corps in 1956-58.


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