What’s news in the Northwest today:
HELENA, Mont. – The chairman of the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho says an investigation is under way into allegations that tribal members wasted game during a recent bison hunt in Montana. Chairman McCoy Oatman declined to speak more about the case this week. He says it’s been the only incident in what has otherwise been a successful hunt this year. The tribe hunts bison that leave Yellowstone National Park in the winter for lower elevations in the nearby Gallatin National Forest. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim confirms one bison was killed and left behind in what wildlife officials consider a waste of game. Aasheim says the state turned over the case to the Nez Perce tribe and the tribe will determine if any penalties are warranted.
4 large hotel projects stalled in central Idaho
KETCHUM, Idaho — Four hotel and residential projects valued at $2 billion in the central Idaho resort area of Ketchum and Sun Valley that have all been approved by local officials remain stalled due to the difficult economy. Developer Jack Bariteau wants to build a four-story, 73-room hotel called Hotel Ketchum but says he can’t find any banks or private investors willing to put up money. He tells the Idaho Mountain Express that a problematic forecast for the hospitality business has caused investors to shy away. Sun Valley Co. wants to build a base village on 138 acres at Bald Mountain’s main skier entrance of River Run, adding a hotel, restaurant and shops. The plan includes family residents and three parking garages.
Public comment being taken on ski area expansion
MISSOULA, Mont. — The Lolo National Forest is accepting public comment on a planned expansion of the Montana Snowbowl ski area just north of Missoula. Snowbowl wants to expand onto 1,088 acres of forest land west of the current resort to build a new lodge and add new terrain for intermediate and advanced skiers. The project would involve removing trees on 167 acres to accommodate the new runs, four new lifts and a new snowmaking reservoir. The project would nearly double the acreage of the ski hill and increase its capacity from 1,500 to 3,066 skiers per day. The Missoulian reports the comment period for the draft environmental impact statement is 45 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which is expected on March 11.
Oregon Coast Aquarium otter recovers from surgery
PORTLAND, Ore. — The operation was a success and the patient is doing well. The Oregon Coast Aquarium says a northern sea otter, named Aialik, that had surgery six weeks ago has regained weight and is doing better than officials had hoped. The Oregonian reports veterinarians performed groundbreaking surgery because of a bladder infection that threatened the otter’s life. The Newport aquarium is still investigating whether the infection may have been caused by a parasite from clams. Aialik came to the aquarium 12 years ago as an orphan rescued in Alaska.
Legal loss brings bankruptcy talk in Boise County
BOISE — Boise County officials are seeking bankruptcy protection in the wake of losing a federal lawsuit and getting hit with a $4 million judgment in the case. An attorney hired by the county filed papers in federal court Tuesday seeking Chapter 9 bankruptcy status. County leaders say it’s the only way to continue delivering services and at the same time appeal the legal setback in the courts. In December, a federal jury sided with a developer seeking to build a 72-bed treatment center and school for teens with mental illness and substance abuse issues. The jury concluded the county violated the federal Fair Housing Act by creating a series of unreasonable expectations for the developer. The county appealed and officials are meeting with the developer to reach a settlement.
Washington questions use of steam technology at Hanford
OLYMPIA — Washington officials are questioning a proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy to use steam reforming to treat radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation. Some 53 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks is to be divided into high-level and low-activity waste streams. Roughly 90 percent of the tank waste by volume is low-activity waste that is to be treated and buried at Hanford. The Energy Department has planned to glassify the waste through bulk vitrification. Now the agency wants to examine the potential for steam reforming technology that uses super-heated steam and charcoal to combine clay and waste. The agency says steam reforming could be less expensive and could allow treatment of tank waste sooner, but state officials say they are skeptical of the technology.
Pasco teen admits to assault on officer
PASCO, Wash. – A 16-year-old Pasco boy will go to prison after admitting Tuesday that he pointed a gun at a police officer while being sought in an earlier gang shooting. Alejandro “Alex” Leon pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court to one count of first-degree assault with a firearm. He was running from Pasco Officer Michelle Goenen on June 8 when he dropped a .357 Magnum revolver. He bent down, picked it up and pointed it at the uniformed officer, but left without firing at Goenen. Leon also is known by the street moniker “The Kid.” He was wanted in a June 6 shooting incident.
Proposal asks for lawsuit protection for referees
HELENA, Mont. — A proposal before House lawmakers says referees need better lawsuit protection when officiating athletic events in Montana. Senate Bill 4 heard in the House Judiciary Committee today would raise the bar for what is required to sue an official for injuries during a sporting event. Supporters say fear of lawsuits is driving people away from officiating and has created a serious shortage of referees. Those opposing the bill say there have been no serious lawsuits against officials in the state and the legislation is prompted by fear instead of facts. The bill has already cleared the Senate and now must pass several votes in the House before it could be sent to the governor to sign. The committee took no further action on the proposal today.
Skier missing since Tuesday afternoon at Crystal
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN, Wash. — The search has resumed for a skier missing on Crystal Mountain. Ski area spokeswoman Tiana Enger says the man, who is an advanced skier, was reported missing by some friends at around 4 p.m. Tuesday. Teams from the ski patrol searched until 11 p.m. and then resumed this morning. The man was last seen in an advanced area of the mountain. Enger says he was skiing alone, which is not recommended especially after the three feet of snow that has fallen over the past few days. She says there have been no reports of avalanches within the past few days, but the man could have been trapped in a deep pocket of snow. The man’s car remains in the ski resort parking lot.
Oregon reporter subpoenaed after records request
BEND, Ore. — The Deschutes County district attorney has issued a subpoena to a Bend Bulletin newspaper reporter after county employees released unredacted personal information from the applications of recent hires in the district attorney’s office. Reporter Hillary Borrud was issued the subpoena on Tuesday, the Bulletin reports. District Attorney Patrick Flaherty subpoenaed at least three county employees Monday to appear before a grand jury after a Feb. 22 request from the newspaper to see applications of recent hires. Some employees’ driver’s license numbers were included in the response. Flaherty says county staff of broke the law, asked for the materials back and asked the paper not to use any information in the records. Bulletin Editor-in-chief John Costa says the newspaper will go to court to defend its actions, and denounced Flaherty’s subpoenas.
Appointment reminder card includes patient information
BOISE — A postcard reminding a Boise man about a doctor’s appointment included a label that contained his date of birth and Social Security number. Bill Ditlove tells KBOI-TV he received an appointment reminder from a doctor at St. Luke’s hospital that included his phone number, date of birth, his wife’s insurance number and his Medicaid Part B number, which is his Social Security number. Hospital spokesman Ken Dey says a wrong label was printed in the office — a chart label instead of an address label. Dey says they take patient privacy very seriously, and they’re handling the mistake as a breach. He says the hospital will step up its privacy checks to make sure such a mistake is not repeated. Ditlove says he’s concerned about identity theft.
Regional high-speed rail funds have arrived
VANCOUVER, Wash. – In January of 2010, local rail advocates rejoiced at learning Washington had been awarded $590 million in federal economic stimulus funding for high-speed rail. However, the money never materialized until this week. A budget showdown 2,800 miles away on Capitol Hill may have played a role in freeing up the dollars that had been held up for more than a year. The Federal Railroad Administration wanted assurances that, by spending federal money on a privately owned railroad, the improvements would meet the Obama administration’s goal of enhancing passenger service over the long term. The Washington Department of Transportation worked month after month trying to forge an agreement between the FRA, Amtrak and the owner of the rail line running along the spine of western Washington: BNSF Railway.
Blackfeet, Glacier County seek help with snow
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Glacier County and the Blackfeet Tribe need help handling all the snow that has fallen east of Glacier National Park this winter and have declared a state of emergency. The Great Falls Tribune says the tribe and county are mostly in need of snow-removal equipment to keep roads clear and help dig out residents. Blackfeet Disaster Coordinator Robert DesRosier says this is the worst winter he’s seen in 40 years. Another 10 inches of snow fell Monday night on top of the 27 inches already on the ground. High winds have created drifts up to 16 feet high. The tribe’s emergency preparedness coordinator, Nora Kennedy, says declaring an emergency makes it possible to get plows from the state and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and gives them access to the National Guard, if needed.
Washington lawmakers talking about NASCAR track
BREMERTON, Wash. — Washington lawmakers are talking again about locating a NASCAR track in the state, but no action is expected until at least next year. The Kitsap Sun reports Sen. Brian Hatfield of Raymond introduced a bill to create a public speedway authority and set up a funding mechanism using money from tourists. It’s too late for the bill to be considered in this session, but Hatfield hopes in could pass in 2011. The International Speedway Corp. of Dayton Beach, Fla., says the Northwest remains a long-term opportunity for the sport. Attempts to locate a NASCAR track in Kitsap or Snohomish counties in 2007 failed to gain traction.