What’s news in the Northwest today:
RICHLAND — The Department of Energy has authorized its environmental cleanup contractors at Hanford to lay off up to 1,100 more workers in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. That’s in addition to up to 1,985 layoffs already announced this year, the majority of which will take effect Sept. 29. Hanford started the year with about 12,000 employees, meaning the potential layoffs announced this year would cut jobs by about a quarter. That does not include the jobs at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where about 50 jobs are expected to be trimmed from its staff of about 4,470 in Richland. The most recent projected layoffs are to prepare for the new fiscal year federal budget, which is expected to reduce Hanford’s annual budget. The number of layoffs required will not be known until Congress passes a Hanford budget.
West Nile virus found in Yakima County mosquito
OLYMPIA — The state Health Department says the West Nile virus was found in a mosquito collected Tuesday in Yakima County — the first sign of the disease this year in Washington. No human cases have been identified this year, but there were two last year, and 38 people in the state were sickened in 2009 by the virus, which is carried by birds and mosquitoes. Most people bitten by a mosquito with the virus won’t become ill, but some people with weak immune systems risk serious illness. The department recommends wearing bug repellant and long pants and long sleeves when outdoors.
Boeing’s 747-8 cargo jet gets FAA approval
SEATTLE — After a year and a half of flight tests, Boeing’s largest airplane ever, the 747-8 jumbo, received the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval to enter service as a cargo jet, Boeing announced today. The 747-8 freighter also received certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency. Cargolux of Luxembourg is expected to take the first delivery next month. The plane will enter service two years later than originally planned when the program was launched in fall 2005, mostly because of a late design decision and a cascade of resultant aerodynamic issues. In 2008 and 2009, Boeing recorded a total $2 billion in accounting charges because of cost overruns on the 747-8. So far, Boeing has orders for 78 of these jumbo freighter jets. The 467-seat passenger version of the 747-8, which has 36 orders, is on a separate development track.
Feds tell BNSF to pay worker
KENNEWICK — BNSF Railway Co. has been ordered to pay more than $300,000 to an employee by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The BNSF employee from Washington filed a complaint, claiming that she was suspended without pay for 30 days after she notified the company of a work-related injury, said an agency news release. The administration investigated and found cause to believe that the railroad company retaliated against the worker, violating the Federal Railroad Safety Act’s whistle-blower protection provisions. The employee, whose name and hometown were not released, reported the injury and was taken to an emergency room. Although BNSF managers went to the hospital and received a report on the injury, the railroad later accused her of not giving them enough information about the injury. The $300,000 represents back wages, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and punitive damages.
Plane in fatal crash under contract with state agency
HELENA — A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks official says a single-engine plane that crashed and killed two people in eastern Montana was conducting a prairie-dog survey for the agency. The Piper PA-18 Super Cub with two people on board took off from Miles City Thursday morning and crashed near Forsyth, bursting into flames after impact. Authorities have not released the names of the victims. Messages left for Rosebud County Sheriff Randy Allies were not immediately returned today. The plane is registered to Miles City resident Chad Cyrus, who owns Big Sky Wildlife Consultants. FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim said Thursday’s flight was part of a prairie-dog survey that Big Sky Wildlife was conducting for the agency under contract.
Fish and Wildlife worker found dead in Wind River
VANCOUVER, Wash. – A man working for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was found dead Thursday afternoon in the upper Wind River near Beaver Campground, several miles north of Carson along Wind River Road. He had been conducting a fish count. Mark Snepp, 47, of White Salmon, was found face-down in about two feet of slow-moving water, wearing a flotation vest, scuba mask and snorkel, said Undersheriff Dave Cox with the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office. There was no evidence of trauma on the body, and Cox said officials wonder whether he suffered a sudden medical problem. Snepp and his partner had been counting fish, likely salmon, just downstream from a salmon hatchery.
Tulalip Tribes opening $19 million cultural center
TULALIP, Wash. — The Tulalip Tribes plans to open a $19 million cultural center on Saturday on the reservation near Marysville. The Seattle Times reports the Hibulb Cultural Center takes its name from the Indian stronghold at the mouth of the Snohomish River — “place of a thousand fires.” The Tulalip Tribes are descendants of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other tribes that signed the Treaty of Point Elliott. The Tulalips have about 4,000 members, and about 2,400 live on the reservation.
Bullets fly both ways after burial of two boys killed in fire
MALAGA, Wash. – Bullets were flying in two directions Wednesday night as a drive-by shooter fired at mourners and perhaps three mourners fired back, but missed and hit two nearby houses. “It’s a miracle nobody got shot,” said Sgt. Jerry Moore of the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office. Two bullets from return fire lodged in the porch of a house where people were gathered after the burial of two boys who died in a duplex fire Aug. 4. One bullet from the drive-by shooter lodged in a detached garage on that property. Moore said most males who were present were gang members, and witnesses were not willing to cooperate with law enforcement. Authorities believe the drive-by shooting was related to the fire on Aug. 4 that killed the boys as they slept in a duplex in Wenatchee. It was arson, according to Wenatchee Police, and was gang-related. The county coroner ruled that the boys died from smoke inhalation in their beds. Their father was badly burned in the fire.
Richland officers cleared in fatal shootout
RICHLAND — The Benton County prosecutor has cleared four Richland police officers who killed a man in a shootout. Prosecutor Andy Miller said Thursday the officers were justified in firing on 27-year-old James Dean Schultz on June 5 after he fired two shots at them from a stolen car. Schultz was wanted at the time on arrest warrants accusing him of burglary and theft. An autopsy showed he had used methamphetamine.
Olympia school bus helper sentenced for molesting
OLYMPIA — A school bus helper who pleaded guilty to molesting two 6-year-old girls last December apologized to the families in court Thursday in Olympia as he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The Olympian reports 32-year-old Gary Shafer of Port Orchard will have his case periodically reviewed by the state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board. If it determines he is not eligible for release, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Former Boise mayor, wife face $44,000 Idaho tax lien
BOISE — Idaho levied a tax lien against former Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles, saying he and his wife, Julie, owe $44,691.31 in unpaid individual income taxes. Coles was Boise’s mayor from 1993 to 2003, leaving amid allegations of illegal travel. Coles acknowledged filing a false reimbursement for tickets to a Broadway show in New York City in 2002, when he and his former chief of staff, Gary Lyman, allegedly used taxpayer money inappropriately to pay for airfare, lodging, meals and car rental. He was convicted in 2003 of felony counts of misusing public funds and spent six months in jail. His record was cleared of the felony in 2007 in a deal with the courts that required him to complete all the terms of his probation.