What’s news in the Northwest today:
Shoshone County officials have declared a state of emergency to help the community recovery from floods the caused costly losses. They say the waters are receding from swollen rivers and creeks, but the damage may be felt much longer. The Shoshone Emergency Manager estimates flood damage throughout the county to be around $255,000. Now the county is seeking assistance from the state to help foot the bill. Moon Gulch Road is just one of several roads damaged from the rushing water. Debris blocked a culvert and eventually the road gave way and collapsed into Moon Creek.
Idaho woman pleads guilty to embezzlement
SANDPOINT — A former employee of the University of Idaho’s extension office has pleaded guilty to grand theft for embezzling at least $35,000. The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that 43-year-old Kristan Clar Peacock of Laclede entered her plea Tuesday in 1st District Court. Sentencing is scheduled for March 21. Both sides have agreed to recommend a suspended prison term, up to six months in the Bonner County Jail and just over $35,000 in restitution. Defense attorney Bryce Powell released a statement saying Peacock’s son suffers from a severe neurological disorder and her effort to find a correct diagnosis and treatment left her with more than $260,000 in medical bills. He says she is sorry and intends to make restitution with the help of her extended family. Court records say Peacock took the money between 2004 and 2009.
Micron unveils plans for new research building
BOISE — Officials with Micron Technologies Inc. say they intend to break ground this year on a new 50,000-square-foot research facility at the company’s main campus in Boise. Spokesman Dan Francisco said this week that at least half of the new building would be devoted to research and development of 300 millimeter wafer microchips. The other half will be vacant in the short term. Construction is expected to be finished next year. The chip maker has been growing in the last 18 months and reporting profits after several years of financial losses that forced a company that was once the state’s largest single employer to shut down plants and shed thousands of jobs. Francisco says the new facility is needed to help the company stay competitive in the ever-changing chip industry.
Neglected livestock rescued from Idaho ranch
BOISE — The Idaho Humane Society and other agencies are rescuing dozens of neglected horses and other livestock from a ranch in southwestern Idaho. The Idaho Department of Agriculture received a report of animal cruelty in early January and determined the animals at the ranch near New Plymouth were not receiving proper food and water and should be seized. The Idaho Humane Society and Payette County sheriff’s department began rescuing the animals Tuesday. Animals taken include 27 horses, 15 sheep, 13 llamas, nine pigs, some goats, two cows and a dog. IHS director of operations Pat Vance says a horse, two goats and a cow were euthanized by a state veterinarian. Officials say other animals had died. Officials did not release the name of the property owner.
Idaho aims to boost college degrees despite cuts
BOISE — The state Board of Education wants to double the number of Idaho adults between ages 25 and 34 who have a college degree or professional credential over the next nine years. Board president Richard Westerberg announced the lofty goal to lawmakers today while also reporting that Idaho’s higher education system was offering less courses because of budget cuts. Westerberg says about 31 percent of Idaho residents between the ages of 25 and 34 now have a college degree or credential from a professional technical school. The board wants to increase that number to 60 percent by the year 2020. Westerberg says expanding college course offerings online is one way for Idaho to achieve this and other goals, despite a 22 percent drop in state funding for higher education in the past three years.
Rocket test explosion under investigation
BUTTE, Mont. — Scientists believe a structural failure in the combustion chamber of a test rocket is to blame for an explosion that destroyed the rocket motor and the steel building southwest of Butte where the test was being held. Officials say the full investigation could take up to two months. The explosion happened Tuesday afternoon during the test of a 24-inch diameter rocket powered by liquid oxygen and paraffin. The test was being run by Space Propulsion Group, a Stanford University-affiliated company. No one was injured. SPG is testing the technology in an effort to find a safe, reliable and less expensive way to launch rockets, satellites and commercial spacecraft. SPG President Arif Karabeyoglu says structural failures happen during rocket testing, and can help produce a better product.
Accused Kennewick firefighter attempts suicide
PASCO, Wash. — A Kennewick firefighter accused of sexually assaulting a young girl tried to hang himself Tuesday night in the Franklin County jail. The Tri-City Herald reports 34-year-old Ryan Gladstone is listed in critical condition at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland. Jail Capt. Rick Long said an inmate attempted suicide in the jail, but referred questions to Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller, who confirmed that the inmate is Gladstone. He was charged Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court with first-degree child molestation. Court documents say the girl said Gladstone had her watch pornography earlier this month and touched her inappropriately. The girl told her mother.
Yakima man critically injured in carjacking
YAKIMA, Wash. — A man was critically injured in a carjacking in Yakima. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the 46-year-old man was unconscious when he was found early Wednesday in the street near his home. Police Chief Greg Copeland says he is hospitalized and unable to speak to investigators. The man’s car was found abandoned Wednesday on Highway 12. A 27-year-old possible suspect in the carjacking was arrested in another stolen vehicle that was found later Wednesday by a Yakima County sheriff’s deputy near Tieton.
Man pleads no contest in baby shaking case
HAMILTON, Mont. — A 22-year-old Corvallis man has pleaded no contest to assaulting his 9-week-old son, possibly causing permanent injuries. Christopher R. Lewis entered his plea Wednesday before District Judge Jeffrey Langton. A felony charge of assault on a minor was dropped. Langton scheduled sentencing for March 9. Prosecutors say the mother of the 9-week-old took her son to a Corvallis clinic on Jan. 13 because the infant was vomiting. The baby was taken to a Missoula hospital where a scan found bleeding in the infant’s brain. A doctor documented bleeding in the eyes consistent with shaken baby syndrome. At the time, physicians said the infant might be developmentally delayed because of the injuries and that his eyes could be permanent damaged. Lewis was on probation on a drug conviction at the time of his arrest.
Speeding car crashes into ambulance in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. — A woman driving a speeding SUV was killed when it crashed into an ambulance that was treating a man at a MAX light rail station in northeast Portland. The Oregonian reports a paramedic fell out of the ambulance, suffering scrapes and bruises, and the ambulance driver also suffered minor injuries in the crash about 2:20 a.m. today. A police sergeant who witnessed the crash said the SUV appeared to be going up to 80 miles per hour when it hit the ambulance.
Feds won’t appeal sea lion ruling
VANCOUVER – Sea lions feasting on salmon at Bonneville Dam will stay out of the cross hairs at least until March and potentially permanently, federal fisheries officials announced Wednesday. The National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it won’t appeal a November ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel ruled that officials must explain how it’s OK to kill a natural predator while allowing human fishermen to inadvertently kill an equal or greater proportion of wild fish. The ruling, which overturned a lower-court decision, effectively blocked a waiver to the Marine Mammal Protection Act issued by the fisheries service in early 2008. Federal officials had considered appealing the 9th Circuit’s decision, which was issued Nov. 23.
Transformer blast at power plant in Chehalis
CHEHALIS, Wash. — A blast and fire at a natural-gas fired power plant in Chehalis was caused by a transformer explosion. PacifiCorp spokeswoman Jan Mitchell in Portland says the damage is limited to a large transformer on the edge of the property. The fire did not involve the plant itself or natural gas. She says no one was injured. The plant about 90 miles south of Seattle was not operating at the time of the explosion at 4:15 a.m. today. KITI reported that flames were visible from nearby Interstate 5 as firefighters from four departments responded. The 520-megawatt plant opened in 2003 and was bought by PacifiCorp in 2008. It’s capable of generating enough electricity for 390,000 homes.
Oregon orders Sherwood barber, 80, back to class
SHERWOOD, Ore. — Sherwood barber Dale Smith has been cutting hair for 50 years, but now the Oregon Health Licensing Agency says he has to go back to school because his license expired in 2006. Smith told KATU he renewed his license over the years, but received warning it was expiring. The agency says it wants to make sure barbers are up to speed on safety requirements. It says it treats everyone equally. Friends of Smith say he should be given an exception because of the cost of classes and lost business. Smith is well known in Sherwood where he sits outside his shop in the summer and socializes when he’s not cutting hair.
New animal rules pending for TriMet transit agency
PORTLAND — Starting in March, TriMet riders with animals will have to put them in carriers, unless they are approved as service animals. Oregon’s largest transit agency says it’s following the Americans with Disabilities Act in narrowing the definition of service animals. In most cases they would be limited to dogs. The Oregonian reports it also could include trained miniature horses, although they are rare. Officials say the new rules will prevent people from bringing cats, monkeys, snakes or even chickens on board buses and MAX light rail trains by claiming they are service animals for the disabled.
Forest Service eyes road restrictions
LEWISTON – All eight national forests in Idaho are reviewing their road systems and looking for sections that might pose safety hazards to underage drivers. The agency will attempt to mitigate dangers identified in the review, but if no other mitigation tools are available, it could close some roads to off-road vehicles. In 2009, the Idaho Legislature exempted drivers younger than the age of 16 from needing a state-issued driver’s license to operate off-highway vehicles on any road not part of the state highway system, which includes most national forest roads. In response, the agency is taking a look at its mixed-use roads that see heavy use by passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as off-highway vehicles such as motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. Forest Service officials are worried underage drivers could pose safety threats to themselves and other road users where mixed use is common.