October 26, 2010 in Region

NW today: Feds want to expand Columbia irrigation

Compiled from wire reports

What’s news in the Northwest today:

YAKIMA, Wash. — The government has released proposals for expanding one of the nation’s largest federal irrigation projects. Congress authorized Eastern Washington’s Columbia Basin Project in 1943 to irrigate more than 1 million arid acres. Only about 671,000 acres have been developed, and the state issued groundwater permits to undeveloped areas as a temporary measure to provide water. However, groundwater levels have been declining in that area around Odessa, about 60 miles west of Spokane. The federal Bureau of Reclamation and Washington state Department of Ecology pledged to study ways to replace their water supply. The environmental impact statement released Tuesday looks at alternatives to drawing down Banks Lake and Lake Roosevelt and drawing water from a new reservoir called Rocky Coulee.

Washington department saves with cheaper envelopes

OLYMPIA — The Washington Employment Security Department says it will save more than $115,000 a year by changing the envelopes used to mail out unemployment checks. For years the department has used gold-colored envelopes to distinguish them from other mailings. The department said Tuesday it’s going to standard white envelopes at a savings of 2 cents per mailing.

Governor welcomes Seattle electric vehicle dealership

SEATTLE — Gov. Chris Gregoire welcomes a new all-electric vehicle dealership to Seattle. The governor’s office says the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the Nissan Leaf dealership celebrates 35 new jobs and the arrival of an affordable electric car. Washington state is getting $1.3 million in federal stimulus money to build electric car charging stations along Interstate 5 to support the Leaf and Chevy Volt. The first stations are to be installed north of Everett and south of Centralia by the end of the year.

Feds comply with court order on wolves

BILLINGS, Mont. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is publishing an official rule putting gray wolves back on the endangered species list in the Northern Rockies. Today’s announcement follows an Aug. 5 federal court order that forced the cancellation of wolf hunts planned in the region this fall. That order from U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy reversed the government’s 2009 decision to lift protections for wolves in Idaho, Montana and parts of Oregon, Utah and Washington. The Fish and Wildlife rule formalizes Molloy’s order administratively.

Washington compiles list of chemicals toxic to children

SEATTLE — Washington state officials want manufacturers of children’s products to report when they use certain toxic chemicals. They have come up with a list of 59 chemicals that would trigger reporting to the state. The list includes cadmium, formaldehyde, benzene and bisphenol A. The new rules proposed Monday by the Department of Ecology would apply to manufacturers of toys, car seats, cosmetics, jewelry and other children’s products. Under those rules, the makers must report how much of those chemicals are in their products and how they’re being used.

Oregon Historical Society faces grim future

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon is in danger of losing its history. The 111-year-old Oregon Historical Society is asking Multnomah County taxpayers to approve a five-year levy to help it stay open past next year. Although it serves the entire state, the society is asking Multnomah County residents to pay for the levy because the society’s library and museum facility is in downtown Portland and most people who use it live in the Portland area. The Oregonian reports the society could be heading for a phased shutdown if it doesn’t get the money for operating costs — even with $20 million in assets.

Party patrols arrest 120 in Bellingham

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Police have made 120 arrests over the past three weeks in party patrols in Bellingham. The Bellingham Herald reports Western Washington University police and Whatcom County deputies assisted in the crackdown on loud and disorderly parties. Most of the arrests were for a minor possessing alcohol or disorderly conduct.

Prisoners helping police at McCleary search

MCCLEARY, Wash. — Prisoners are helping police in the search for a missing girl in McCleary.

The FBI says inmates from the Cedar Creek Corrections Center are removing dense vegetation this week so investigators can search the ground. Superintendent Douglas Cole says inmates are genuinely interested in helping solve the case. Lindsey Baum was 10 years old when she went missing June 26, 2009, while walking home from a friend’s house. Inmates also helped clear brush last summer. They earn .75 cent an hour for the work.

Jobless rate high in 6 Oregon rural counties

PORTLAND, Ore. — Six counties in rural Oregon are suffering from unemployment rates over 15 percent. In central Oregon, the jobless rate in Crook County last month was 19 percent while the Bend area jumped from 14.6 percent in August to 15.5 percent in September. The Oregonian reported that other rural areas of the state were not faring well, either. In southern Oregon, Jackson County’s unemployment rate jumped to 13.5 percent for September, exceeding the Medford area’s seasonally adjusted levels throughout the current recession. By comparison, unemployment during the Depression peaked at 21.3 percent nationally in 1934.

Washington DOT paying $8 million in bike crash settlement

SEATTLE — The Washington Transportation Department has agreed to pay $8 million to settle a lawsuit with a bike rider who crashed when his tire caught in a Seattle bridge grate. Mickey Gendler was paralyzed from the neck down in the crash in October 2007 on the Montlake Bridge. Gendler’s lawsuit claimed a gap between steel panels was more than a half-inch wide — wide enough to catch a bike tire. In the settlement in Thurston County Superior Court, the seattlepi.com reports Tuesday that neither side admitted fault. The Transportation Department has since filled the gap with epoxy to prevent more accidents.

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