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NW today: Coastal towers will be tsunami safe havens

What’s news in the Northwest today:

ABERDEEN, Wash. — Twenty-nine towers, parking structures and elevated berms may be built on the Washington coast as emergency sites where people could ride out a tsunami. The “vertical elevation” sites would be able to withstand a 30-foot wave and would be available to residents and tourists with a 30-minute warning. The Daily World reports Project Safe Haven is a joint effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state Emergency Management Division. The University of Washington is helping run community meetings to decide where the towers would be placed. Twenty locations are planned at Ocean Shores and nine in the Westport area.

Former Evergreen professor fined nearly $120,000

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Executive Ethics Board today will announce its largest-ever penalty – a $119,578 fine against Jorge Gilbert, a former instructor at The Evergreen State College who did not account for at least $50,000 in student fees that he collected for a study-abroad program in Chile. The ethics board’s order fines Gilbert for multiple violations of the Ethics in Public Service Act. The $119,578 fine includes $9,900 that must be paid in restitution to the college. The ethics board’s investigation began in July 2009, after a referral from the state auditor. The referral alleged that Gilbert, while at Evergreen, “may have misappropriated public funds, entered into contracts on behalf of the college with a company owned by his family members, received financial gain from his position as a state employee and used state resources to benefit himself and his family members,” according to a news release from the Washington attorney general. The release says Gilbert may have used a family business to book travel for the students’ trips to Chile. Gilbert retired from his faculty position in November 2009 as part of a settlement with the college. As part of the settlement, Gilbert repaid Evergreen $23,579 that the college paid to 13 students who were reimbursed for some of their expenses for a 2008 trip to Chile.

Pasco murder trial begins in ‘onion fields’ case

PASCO, Wash. — A murder trial has begun in Pasco in the shooting death of a man described as an “onion kingpin” who arranged jobs each summer in the fields. Franklin County prosecutors say 31-year-old Ramon Garcia-Morales killed Alfredo Garcia and wounded his wife in December 2008 in Pasco because Garcia-Morales blamed him for his financial hardships. In opening arguments Thursday the defense lawyer said the shots were fired in self-defense after an argument over lack of work in the onion fields turned violent. The Tri-City Herald reports both men came from the same village in Mexico and were related through marriage.

Governor gives Washington Legislature ‘A’ for special session

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Gov. Chris Gregoire gives the Washington Legislature an ‘A’ grade for its work in the recent special session. She told a meeting of business leaders at WSU Vancouver on Thursday that lawmakers took votes they never expected to take to solve a $5 billion budget problem. She said reforms in unemployment insurance premiums and workers compensation are already benefiting businesses. The Columbian reports Gregoire said that in five years “people will be saying this was a historic legislative session.”

Snohomish deputies cleared in stun gun death

EVERETT, Wash. — No charges will be filed against two Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies who used a stun gun three times on a man who then stopped breathing and died. County Prosecutor Mark Roe says the deputies used lawful force when they attempted to arrest 25-year-old Adam Colliers of Sultan last September on a street in Gold Bar. The Daily Herald reports Colliers was incoherent and talking about the devil. He resisted efforts to place him in handcuffs. Tests later showed he had been using methamphetamine.

Man gets 15 years in county’s largest ID-theft case

OLYMPIA – A judge sentenced an Olympia-area man to 15 years in prison Thursday in connection with what law enforcement has called Thurston County’s largest identity-theft case. Anthony Vaughn, 31, earlier had pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree identity theft and 82 counts of second-degree identity theft. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Thompson had asked Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy to impose an exceptional sentence that would put Vaughn in prison for 15 years, and she granted his request. Detectives with the Sheriff’s Office took more than 40 boxes of evidence from Vaughn’s Johnson Point Road home in January, seizing stolen driver’s licenses, credit cards, credit card swipers and Social Security cards.

Snowmobilers hit Yellowstone winter plan

JACKSON, Wyo. — Snowmobile operators and advocates say the latest proposed winter use plan in Yellowstone National Park would be cumbersome for business and expensive for visitors. The National Park Service took comments about its proposal at a meeting Thursday in Jackson. The plan would vary the number of snowmobiles between 110 and 330 daily, and the number of snow coaches between 30 and 80 daily, over the course of Yellowstone’s winter season. Park Service officials said the changing numbers would provide a mixture of visitor experiences and quiet. Snowmobile operators said the plan lacks the consistency needed to run a successful business. The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that environmental group representatives at the meeting did not make verbal comments. The Park Service is accepting comments through July 18.

Oregon lawmakers ban big rig idling in some areas

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Legislature has approved a law prohibiting commercial trucks from idling in front of schools and other areas. The Oregonian reports a bill approved by the House in April was approved by the Senate this week, sending it to Gov. John Kitzhaber, who asked for the legislation on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality. Long-haul truckers often keep engines running on big rigs during stops, especially in cold weather, but it can be bad for air quality. Supporters of the bill back a single statewide standard so drivers don’t have to worry about different rules in different places. And they say it can save about 19 million gallons of fuel a year.

Cool, wet spring delays some Washington crops

YAKIMA, Wash. — A cool wet spring has put many Yakima Valley crops behind schedule. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports some farmers are just getting into fields to plant corn or other crops that normally would be in the ground by now. The asparagus harvest is winding up, but the size of the crop was reduced by the weather. The president of the Washington State Fruit Commission, B.J. Thurlby, says the cherry harvest will be delayed and there may not be many available to retailers for the Fourth of July. But, he says, the cherry harvest this year is likely to extend well into August.

More Longview Fibre wood waste burning OK’d

LONGVIEW, Wash. — The state Ecology Department has approved an expansion of the wood waste burning power plant at the Longview Fibre mill in Longview. The Daily News reports that the company believes efficiency upgrades will provide electricity that could power 2,400 homes. Longview Fibre says shutting down aging boilers and modifying a furnace will likely reduce air pollution. However, the project’s lead opponent — Seattle-based No Biomass Burn — says pollution will be worse so it will appeal the permit to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Moose poacher loses hunting privileges for 15 years

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — The state wildlife agency says a 22-year-old Chouteau man has lost his hunting privileges for 15 years for poaching a moose along the Rocky Mountain Front in November 2009. Eli Baker was sentenced on May 19 after acknowledging that he was intoxicated when he shot and left a bull moose with antlers 30 inches wide along Teton River Road on the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say Teton County Justice of the Peace Pete Howard suspended a 2-year jail sentence and a $6,140 fine on the condition that Baker complete 250 hours of community service. Howard ordered Baker to pay $1,000 in restitution and take a hunter education course.

Richland man pleads innocent to sex with underage girls

KENNEWICK – A Richland man pleaded innocent Wednesday to allegations that he paid money to have sex with two underage girls after answering an internet ad. Chad Andrew Crithfield, 40, originally was expected to plead guilty and resolve the new case. But a week after his lawyer made that statement, Crithfield showed up in Benton County Superior Court with a new attorney and plans to take the case to trial. Crithfield has an Aug. 8 trial date on three counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, a gross misdemeanor. Prosecutors claim he responded to an ad on and made arrangements to meet the young women at a Kennewick hotel. Two of the girls were underage while a third was older than 18, court documents said.

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