What’s news in the Northwest today:
GREAT FALLS — Two Great Falls brothers have pleaded guilty to their roles in distributing methamphetamine and taking stolen vehicles to Spokane as part of a drug trafficking operation. The U.S. attorney’s office says 47-year-old Daniel Wakeford and 48-year-old Michael Wakeford pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday in Great Falls to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and interstate transportation of stolen vehicles. Sentencing is set for May 7. Prosecutors said police were investigating a group engaged in bringing meth from Spokane in April 2010. By that summer, officers also learned the group was transporting stolen vehicles from Great Falls to Spokane as part of the trafficking operation. The Wakefords were charged with stealing four motorcycles in August 2010 as well as bringing drugs back to Great Falls.
Flags at half-staff Tuesday for Marine killed in Afghanistan
BELLINGHAM — Gov. Chris Gregoire has directed that flags at Washington state buildings be lowered to half-staff Tuesday in memory of a Marine captain from Ferndale who was killed in Afghanistan. Daniel B. Bartle was one of six Marines killed in the Jan. 19 helicopter crash. The Marines were based in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. The Bellingham Herald reports a public memorial for Bartle will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday in the Ferndale High School auditorium. A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Church of the Assumption in Bellingham.
Officials hope air cannon will drive away birds
VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Oregon Department of Transportation has installed its latest weapon in the war against starlings that have been flocking to the Interstate 5 Columbia River bridge and fouling it with their droppings. Workers installed a propane-powered air cannon on Thursday on a catwalk 239 feet above the water. Beginning Monday, the cannon will be fired at random times over the next month to scare off the starlings. Officials hope the birds don’t get as accustomed to the blasts as they have to traffic and jet noise. The Columbian reported that the air cannon produces 95-decibel noise. Traffic on the bridge is about 90 decibels and a jet overhead, about 100.
Feds deny blame for killer Olympic park goat
PORT ANGELES, Wash. — The U.S. attorney’s office says Olympic National Park was not to blame for the death of a hiker who was gored by a mountain goat. The office in Seattle filed its response this month to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in November in federal court in Tacoma by the family of Bob Boardman. The 63-year-old Port Angeles man was attacked in October 2010 on a popular trail. The lawsuit follows a $10 million claim, saying the park was negligent for not removing the goat after it followed and harassed other hikers. The federal response denies that any park employees did anything negligent that caused or contributed to the death. The Peninsula Daily News reports a trial date has not yet been set for the wrongful death case.
Numerous trees near Capitol to be removed
OLYMPIA — The recent snow and ice storm in western Washington damaged numerous trees at the Capitol and surrounding areas, including some historic ones that are more than 100 years old. More than 20 trees are set to be removed, including a nearly 120-year-old beech tree in Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia. Other notable trees to be removed include four Yoshino cherry trees that were part of a grove planted in 1976 for the bicentennial celebration and three black locust trees that are of undetermined age. The state capital saw more than a foot of snow fall last week, followed by an ice storm. The Department of Enterprise Services, which manages the Capitol buildings and grounds, is still assessing the damage and warned that the number of trees marked for removal could increase.
Anti-coal train campaign launched in Bellingham
BELLINGHAM — About 200 people turned out in Bellingham Thursday to launch their “Coal-Free Bellingham” campaign. Organizers say they’ll begin collecting signatures on a petition for an ordinance they hope will give the city authority to block coal trains that would go to a proposed export terminal at Cherry Point. Chamber of Commerce President Ken Oplinger told The Bellingham Herald it’s an attempt to derail the environmental review for the project that already faces a two-year process for local, state and federal permits.
City council says no leash law in Longview
LONGVIEW, Wash. — Longview remains one of the cities in Washington without a leash law. The city council voted down a proposed ordinance Thursday night after hearing from residents who said it could have prevented responsible owners from playing catch with their dogs. The Daily News reports the city has only two animal control workers who would not be able to consistently enforce a leash law.
Montana’s Stillwater mine hit with 27 citations
BILLINGS — A Montana precious metals mine received 27 citations in recent safety inspections triggered by the death of a worker. The Mine Safety and Health Administration says 11 of the citations issued to Stillwater Mining Co. were for significant violations of mine safety regulations. Forty-two-year-old Dale Madson was killed at Stillwater’s platinum and palladium mine near Nye in October. Madson crashed while driving a piece of equipment 1,200 feet underground. Subsequent problems found by inspectors range from spilled fuel that could pose a fire hazard and loose rocks that could fall on miners, to a secondary escape route that was padlocked shut. MSHA increased inspections at mines with a poor compliance history after a 2010 explosion killed 29 men in West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine.
Robbery attempt ends with fist to face
VANCOUVER, Wash. — A robbery attempt earned an man nothing but a punch in the face after he allegedly tried to steal a cell phone from a truck driver early Thursday in Northeast Hazel Dell. The truck driver was filling up his rig when he noticed a man getting into his truck cab and leaving with his cell phone. The truck driver confronted the suspect, who then pulled a plastic gun on the driver, said Sgt. Fred Neiman, a sheriff’s office spokesman. The driver grabbed the fake gun, threw it into the street and punched the suspected thief in the face. The suspect then ran away, but stopped to recover his plastic gun. Police, including a canine unit, responded but were unable to find the suspect.