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NW Today: Mother in school shooting makes plea deal

What’s news in the Northwest today:

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — The mother of the 9-year-old boy who brought a gun that discharged and wounded a classmate at a Washington state elementary school has pleaded guilty to weapons charges under a plea deal with prosecutors.

KOMO reports that Jamie Chaffin pleaded guilty today to two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, with each count bringing a potential sentence of 14 months in jail.

Authorities had said Chaffin and her boyfriend caused the shooting through the negligence of leaving the handgun where the boy could pick it up at their house. He put it in his backpack, and it went off Feb. 22, critically wounding Amina Kocer-Bowman.

Kocer-Bowman’s parents issued a statement saying the plea deal is a slap on the wrist.

Maclean among inductees to Cowboy Hall of Fame

CORVALLIS, Mont. — Author Norman Maclean is one of four people in this year’s class of inductees to the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.

The hall of fame, which last month announced that its future home will be in Big Timber, honors men and women who make a notable contribution to the history and culture of the state.

Maclean is Montana’s best-known writer and the author of “A River Runs Through It” and “Young Men and Fire.” He died in 1990.

The three other inductees include Pete Sacks of Corvallis, Irvin Wortman of Stevensville and Archie Lynn Joscelyn of Missoula.

Of the four, only the 87-year-old Sacks is alive.

He tells the Ravalli Republic that he’s still pretty good at roping, but not nearly as good as he used to be.

Oregon primary for attorney general attracting attention

SALEM — Oregon’s election battlefield becomes much clearer today as voters narrow the field in a number of races for state and local office.

Candidates for races at all levels were preparing for one last push to rally supporters and persuade any undecided voters.

The primary will divvy up convention delegates between Republican presidential contenders, and it will determine each party’s slate of candidates as Republicans and Democrats try to grab control of the tied state House. Candidates for open seats on the state appellate courts will be thinned out, and voters around the state will weigh in on races for mayor and city council.

But the Democratic primary for attorney general has grabbed most of the attention as two candidates have sparred over their experience, Oregon roots and the state’s medical marijuana law.

Deliberations begin in Powell voyeurism case

TACOMA — A jury has begun considering the voyeurism case against the father-in-law of a missing Utah mom.

A prosecutor said during closing arguments today that Steve Powell took photos from his bedroom window of young neighbor girls as they bathed and used the toilet.

A defense attorney used his closing statement to say there were too many uncertainties to convict. He questioned whether it was Powell who captured the images, noting others lived in the home.

Steve Powell is the father-in-law of Susan Powell, a Utah mother who disappeared in 2009. Authorities say her husband, Josh, killed himself and the couple’s two young children in a house fire earlier this year. References to those cases were limited, however.

Some judges, staffers opt out of closed Idaho primary

BOISE — Randy Smith and Mike Wetherell used to parry political ideas when they chaired the Idaho Republican and Democratic parties in the early 1990s.

Now they’re both judges — Smith in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Wetherell in Idaho’s 4th District Court — and they’re both breaking a lifetime habit of voting.

Smith and Wetherell told The Idaho Statesman they made the decision not to vote in today’s primary because of a new law that makes party affiliation public record. Previously, the decision of whether to vote Democratic or Republican in the primary was private.

Now many judges and staffers in the Idaho Legislative Services Office are abstaining from voting, fearing that they’ll be seen as partisan and lose credibility in their nonpartisan careers.

Cleanup from derailment to begin at Whitefish Lake

WHITEFISH, Mont. — The bottom of Whitefish Lake is to be dredged next week to remove contamination from two tanker cars that derailed in 1989.

The Missoulian reports that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway contractors will remove approximately 400 cubic yards of petroleum-contaminated sediment with Environmental Protection Agency oversight.

The Whitefish Lake Institute reinvestigated the site of the freight train derailment in 2009 after a resident reported seeing an oily sheen along the shoreline.

Tests revealed petroleum hydrocarbons present. Institute executive director Mike Koopal says the spill penetrated much deeper into the soil than originally believed.

Between 20,000 and 25,000 gallons of diesel poured into the lake after two full diesel tankers slid down an embankment on an unpopulated section a mile and a half north of Whitefish State Park.

Tsunami may have sent floats to Dungeness Spit

PORT ANGELES, Wash. — More than two dozen floats — many with Asian writing and logos — were found May 5 on Dungeness Spit during the first beach cleanup of the season.

The floats are apparently part of the debris from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami washing into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Fish and Wildlife oversees the spit that juts into the strait north of Sequim (skwim), in northwest Washington.

Refuge Officer Dave Falzetti told the Peninsula Daily News he’s concerned about what else might show up in tsunami debris still on the way.

The next beach cleanup is scheduled for June 2 at the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge.

Portland court asked to halt the hazing of sea lions

PORTLAND — A federal judge in Portland is being asked today to stop fisheries officials from hazing sea lions that feed on Columbia River salmon below the Bonneville Dam.

The Humane Society of the United States wants Judge Michael Simon to shut down the program immediately while a lawsuit against killing sea lions proceeds.

The Oregonian reports one issue in dispute is the number of endangered or threatened salmon killed by sea lions compared to those taken by fishing, mainly by tribes.

Montana kicks off meetings to gauge bison tolerance

MISSOULA — Dozens of people turned out in Missoula as Montana wildlife officials began a statewide tour to gauge public opinion on the reintroduction of wild bison to public lands.

The Missoulian reports that ranchers and landowners sported anti-bison buttons while wildlife advocates and hunters spoke in favor of adding another wild animal to the landscape.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks bison specialist Arnie Dood says no bison plan exists now. Monday’s scoping meeting was the first in a series to gather informal comments about what the plan should consider.

By fall 2013, a draft environmental impact statement should be available for official public review and comment. A final decision to either approve the reintroduction or shelve the idea entirely could arrive around the end of 2014.

3 Idaho researchers awarded $2.5M in grants

IDAHO FALLS — Three University of Idaho researchers have been awarded more than $2.5 million in nuclear research grants by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Post-Register reports that the grants to the researchers at the school’s Center for Advanced Energy Studies are the most to any college in the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program.

Supathorn Phongikaroon received an $820,000 grant to lead a project to analyze real-time concentrations of used nuclear fuels within high-temperature liquids.

Akira Tokuhiro was awarded $877,000 to partner to work on a hybrid energy conversion system using renewable energy sources for the next generation of nuclear power plants.

Tokuhiro will be working on that project with Vivek Utgikar, who also received $870,000 to help in the development of new nuclear reactor systems, according to CAES.

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