SEATTLE – The state Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to phase out gillnet fishing on the main stem of the Columbia River, relegating the primary commercial fishing tool to tributaries and bays.
Under the new policy adopted Saturday, the use of gillnets will be phased out by 2017 in nontribal fisheries on the Columbia Basin below Bonneville Dam. The policy also includes commitments to increase the number of stocked fish in areas off the main Columbia River channel to offset reductions to commercial fishing opportunities.
Oregon adopted similar rules in December.
Recreational fishers say gillnets are harmful to the recovery of endangered salmon. But commercial fishers say it’ll be impossible for them to earn a living by fishing only in the limited areas where they’ll be allowed to use gillnets.
Passenger trains running again
SEATTLE – A Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman said the passenger train line between Seattle and Everett has reopened.
Gus Melonas said engineers got the go-ahead Saturday in what they hope is a long-term clearing of the lines.
Pounding rain, mudslides and debris over the last few weeks has closed the line to Amtrak and Sound Transit trains. Melonas said that since Dec. 17, the line had been open only two days for passenger trains.
Melonas said crews are using the dry spell to continue working on short-term remedies, such as ditching and cutting trees that are leaning. He said BNSF is considering enhancing drainage along the line near Everett later on.
Nearly 80 slides have occurred along the line since the rains started, and about 40 reached the track.
Rainier’s Camp Muir to get upgrades
SEATTLE – The National Parks Service has approved long-awaited upgrades to Mount Rainier’s Camp Muir – one of the main stops for the thousands of people who climb the mountain.
Pacific West Region director Chris Lehnertz determined that upgrading the high camp would have no impact on the park, giving the green light to replace the camp’s nonhistoric structures.
Mount Rainier National Park superintendent Randy King said the project will cost about $700,000 and take three to five years to complete, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.
Camp Muir is the highest backcountry camp, located at an elevation of 10,080 feet.
County trades land for petroglyph site
CALDWELL, Idaho – Canyon County officials said Friday they have acquired a 34-acre site containing a petroglyph panel called Map Rock and that it will become the county’s newest park.
The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
County officials said they obtained the site through a land trade with Farm Development Corp.
The National Register of Historic Places doesn’t list a cultural affiliation with the site, but does list a range of dates for the site that go back about 7,000 years.
County officials say they look forward to working with Idaho’s Native American tribes and state officials to protect the historic site.
Man not guilty in boating death
IDAHO FALLS – An eastern Idaho jury has found not guilty a man charged with negligence and gross negligence while operating a boat after the 14-year-old girl he was pulling on a tube behind his boat died when the tube collided with another boat.
The Bonneville County jury deliberated about two hours Friday night before finding Blaine Petersen, of Ammon, not guilty, the Post Register reported.
Petersen wept earlier as he told the jury he would gladly trade places with Whitnie Harris, of Idaho Falls, who died in the boating accident on July 5, 2011.
Jefferson County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Ziel told jurors Petersen was a good man but he was driving a boat at high speeds and turning a corner with poor visibility, putting life in danger.
Billionaire brothers buy another ranch
GRANGEVILLE, Idaho – Two Texas billionaire brothers are now the second-largest landowners in Idaho County after buying another ranch, officials said.
The Lewiston Tribune reported that 60-year-old Farris Wilks and 56-year-old Dan Wilks in December bought the 17,947-acre Delos Robbins Ranch to add to the similar-size Hitchcock Ranch they bought in the same area in January 2011. Prices weren’t disclosed.
Idaho County Assessor James Zehner said the 36,000 acres the brothers own in the county ranks them second behind the 38,000 acres owned by Western Pacific.
The brothers also own about 177,000 acres of ranch land in Montana they’ve bought in the last two years.
The brothers started in masonry but eventually founded a hydraulic fracturing company called Frac Tech they sold in 2011 for more than $3 billion.
BACKCOUNTRY -- Here's the source of most of the area's smoke woes -- the fires in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Here's a shot I made today as I hiked south ...