Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Riverkeeper makes the “Case For Optimism”

Our friend Bart Mihailovich, The Spokane Riverkeeper, sat down with journalist extraordinaire Tim Connor  to talk about how the election left him hopeful about the future of environmental protection and to discuss the battle over massive coal exports in Washington.

From the Center For JusticeIn a November 28th conversation with Tim Connor, Spokane Riverkeeper Bart Mihailovich explains why he’s hopeful in the wake of a sharply contested election. Among the other topics covered in this 18 minute interview is the resilience and continuing importance of the Federal Clear Water Act, how the nation’s eyes are on Washington and Spokane in the national and international battle over the use of coal as an energy source and export material, and how twitter and a radio producer’s interest in the Spokane Riverkeeper’s work on a toxic water pollutant landed Bart on a nationally syndicated radio show earlier this month.

Listen to their podcast HERE

No docks on the rocks

Remember the "No Docks At The Rocks" protest last summer? Here's an update from Tim Connor and the Spokane RiverkeeperIn a major victory today for opponents of the Coyote Rock developers’ plan to site 30 recreational docks on a scenic stretch of the Spokane River, a state court of appeals panel has ruled that permits for the first two docks at the site were illegally granted by the City of Spokane Valley.

The three-judge panel’s unanimous decision stems from a challenge that Washington’s Department of Ecology brought two years ago when it intervened in a challenge originally brought by the Spokane Riverkeeper, the Spokane Falls Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and The Lands Council. At the time, Ecology contested the validity of exemptions that the City of Spokane Valley issued under the state’s Shoreline Management Act. It also sharply criticized the overall plan because the “cumulative effects of locating 30 individual docks on this reach of the river will result in complete degradation of the shoreline” in violation of the state law.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

After the jump, take a look at a video produced about the proposal at Coyote Rocks. I suspect the red band trout will be partying about the decision.

Condon transition team member resigns

The portion of the Mayor-elect David Condon’s transition team devoted to public safety has decided to keep its discussions confidential.

Tim Connor, communicaitons director for the Center for Justice, announced in an email to Condon this week taht he resigned from the committee as a result of the decision to keep deliberations secret.

Tim Connor’s “The French Connection”

Tim Connor's recent post  "The French Connection" is a compelling piece of political intrigue, alledging Al French used the Spokane County Assessor's office against Bonnie Mager in the nasty race for County Commissioner's last fall.

If you recall, Mager said French broke the state's electioneering law by sponsoring email distributions that contained falses statements about property tax delinquency on grazing land that she and her husband own adjacent to their home near Cheney. The County Assessor's office provided these records to French without delay - and didn't they didn't exist before he filed his request.

In 2005, when Mager was campaigning against made a public records request about the hiring of Stephen Harris, the third son of then-County Commissioner Phil Harris to have been given a job by Spokane County during Harris's terms on the board.  She wanted to know if the decision to  hire the commissioner's son had been made before the job was even advertised. The county didn't offer the records.

But what’s more important is the contrast between how her request was treated with how French’s request was treated. Mager had to wait more than a month to receive a copy of the record. French got it right away, within a few hours after he requested it. Indeed, it appears the document would not even have been created had he not asked for it.

Yacht Rock, part deux

It’s not often we get to say this but there’s good news concerning the Blackwell Island controversy: As part of the Marine Yacht Club expansion, which involves dredging the lake bottom, a revised plan will move contaminated sediments from a floodplain where Lake Coeur d’Alene flows into the Spokane River to a landfull.

According to the Center For Justice, “Under an earlier proposal, the Marine Yacht Club, LLC, would have left 15,000 cubic meters of highly contaminated sediments on the island. With the new change, however, the sediments will be hauled to an off-site disposal area. Blackwell Island is situated right where Lake Coeur d’Alene empties into the Spokane River, in an area that also provides recharge to the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie aquifer.”


Friday Quote

“When I talk to other environmental activists who’ve been in fights like this, they often tell me they never know when to celebrate their victories, because victories are reversible, and you don’t want to get complacent. I don’t even remember what I did in 1988 when I heard about Under Secretary of Energy Joseph Salgado’s decision to keep the reactor closed permanently. I probably lifted a pint of Hales Ale at the Onion but, if so, I’m sure I did it warily.

When we arrived at N Reactor last Thursday morning, the power plant that used to generate 860 megawatts of electricity from the reactor’s waste heat was already gone. I asked the guide what happened to the turbine that was inside. It was right there, he said, pointing to a vast rubble field behind what was left of the reactor building. The reactor building itself was in the last stages of being eaten by backhoes and cranes, carefully eaten I should add, because the closer the demolition got to the guts of the unplugged reactor, the more intense the residual radiation field is.

It seemed that all that was missing was a large vulture to pick at the carcass of the thing. And then it dawned on me, that it really is over. Except, of course, for the cleanup.”

–Tim Connor

Journalist extraordinaire Connor, who now is the Communications Director for Center For Justice, took a tour of Hanford last week with a council for finding alternative dispute resolutions between workers and cleanup contractors at the site. In a post HERE, he recalls the nuclear weapons versus nuclear safety debate twenty years ago of which Hanford’s largest plutonium reactor was a focal point.

(Note on the photo: Taken outside a laboratory, a toy wagon is used to carry radioactive material at Hanford in 1955. Photo by Nat Farbman, from the worthwhile LIFE/Google archive. Check it out.)

RPS critics try to scuttle Ormsby nomination

A former Spokane mayor and other critics of the River Park Square project are opposing the nomination of a local lawyer to be the next U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington because of his involvement in the mall renovation some 10 years ago.

Former Mayor John Talbott and three others sent a five-page letter to President Barack Obama and key members of Congress asking that Mike Ormsby not be named to the district’s top federal law enforcement spot because of his role in helping to secure financing for the controversial project. They claim the project was rife with fraud, despite federal investigators’ determination last September that no fraud occurred in the mall’s financing.

Ormsby called the letter an “effort to demonize me as a part of this project” and said some of its statements were false or misleading.

“The letter far overstates my importance to and involvement in the project,” he said. “I very much look forward to defending my reputation, performance and ethics in the vetting process.”

A bad day at the races

Raceway supporters, there’s something in the water you should know about.

Spokane County received a notice regarding their recently purchased raceway: It will be added to the state’s “Hazardous Sites List” after the discovery of a bad chemical in the water supply. Tim Connor at the Center For Justice: “Just days before Spokane County placed the winning bid for its $4.3 million purchase of Spokane Raceway Park in Airway Heights, a contractor working for the site’s court-appointed receiver gathered water samples at the site. The results were ominous. Lab analysis found the samples contained trichloroethylene (TCE) at concentrations twice the federal drinking water standard. TCE is a solvent and a widely-known hazardous substance. (It was the major contaminant, for example, in the notorious groundwater contamination at Woburn, Massachusetts that inspired the book and movie, A Civil Action.) The lab results showed TCE levels at just over 11 micrograms per liter (µg/l.) The federal drinking water standard for TCE is 5 µg/l.”


The story gets incredibly stranger. The Center For Justice filed a public records request which discovered the lab results found TCE was disclosed to county officials days before the auction; “Spokane County Utilities” was listed as the client. County Commissioner Bonnie Mager confirmed with the Center the three county commissioners were aware of the contamination. She said it was one of the reasons she cast her vote against the purchase. “I remember thinking we would for sure pull back,” Mager told Connor. “But there was no way. There was no stopping them.”

TCE is nothing to mess with. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), said “drinking or breathing high levels of TCE may cause nervous system effects, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, and possibly death.”

Read the “Toxics at the track” by Tim Connor.

Playing With House Money

Monroe Bridge and the Spokane River *Photo credit - rejuvesite on Flickr Is it too much to ask for the county to go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to researching, educating and selecting what is believed to be the largest public works contract ever signed? We think not – and just when the wastewater treatment facility plant issue couldn’t get more layered, Spokane journalist extraordinaire Tim Connor of The Center for Justice reports that much of the phosphorous-removing technology that is being debated right now is essentially determined successful or effective by the very company who currently is on the fast track to Spokane county riches. A company, worth noting, who has a less than clean environmental record, who once employed the current County Utilities Director, and most importantly appears to have themselves utterly entangled in a 100 million dollar-plus quagmire of a conflict of interest. As it sits, Spokane County is favoring awarding the proposed wastewater treatment project to CH2M Hill, an Englewood, Colorado based, engineering, construction, and consulting firm. And favoring might be an understatement given The Spokesman-Review reported earlier this month that County Commissioner Todd Mielke said, “he’s willing to put his political future on the line for this decision to forge ahead with CH2M Hill.”