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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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James Hagengruber

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News >  Idaho

Groups keep roadless area fight in court

Environmental groups vow to continue fighting a 4,000-foot road planned for a roadless area in northeast Washington, despite a recent defeat in federal court. U.S. District Judge Edward F. Shea denied the groups' request Friday to halt the project. Opponents of the road filed a new appeal Tuesday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
News >  Idaho

Myrtle Creek will test new Healthy Forests law

BONNERS FERRY, Idaho – The nation's newest, most powerful forest management tool will be used soon on a narrow valley not far from the Canadian border. A wildfire burned about 13 percent of the Myrtle Creek valley nearly a year ago. U.S. Forest Service officials announced Monday they hope to protect the surviving forest from catastrophic wildfires by using sweeping new provisions in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act.
News >  Spokane

Menagerie of glass artists sell wares at festival

Clouds and a cool wind might not be ideal conditions for sipping merlot and browsing artists' booths during the annual Glass on the Grass art festival, but glass artist Joel Nelson wasn't complaining Sunday. During last year's weekend festival, a dust devil tore through Nelson's booth. "It broke everything," he said.

News >  Idaho

Another big splash

SANDPOINT – No money was being raised. And the effort isn't meant to highlight some important cause. Swimming from end to end of Sandpoint's Long Bridge is done for essentially the same reason chickens cross roads.
News >  Spokane

Man retraces explorers’ botanical trail

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark did more than explore the West, fight grizzlies and intimidate the locals. Their presidential marching orders also included collecting plants from the plains and forests of the West. Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most plant-loving president of all time, was not disappointed. The 239 specimens gathered by the Corps of Discovery represented infinite possibilities for food, perfume, shade and beauty.
News >  Idaho

Sewage overflows into river

Equipment failure at the Coeur d'Alene wastewater treatment plant sent 130,000 gallons of raw sewage flowing into the Spokane River between 7 p.m. Friday and 2 a.m. Saturday, said Sid Fredrickson, the city's wastewater superintendent. Not only did the pump fail, but so did two separate alarm systems, Fredrickson said.
News >  Idaho

Weather likely to give fire crews a break

A big chill is expected to bring a big break for wildland firefighters. But those battling a massive central Washington blaze may first have to cope with winds of 40 mph that are predicted to accompany the weather front tonight. They worked Friday to expand fire lines in Chelan County, where the occupants of more than 300 homes remained under a mandatory evacuation order.
News >  Idaho

City readies tour of cemetery celebs

Coeur d'Alene Parks Department officials were surprised to learn that famous U.S. Forest Service Ranger Ed Pulaski was buried in the city's Forest Cemetery on Government Way. They are now hoping to learn about other notable figures in the cemetery's 17,000-some graves. Last year, the city began compiling information to include in a proposed walking tour of the cemetery, said Doug Eastwood, the department's director. Much of the research was conducted by Mark Puddy, an intern from the University of Idaho. Puddy's work, combined with the fresh knowledge of Pulaski, has added momentum to the project.
News >  Idaho

Pulaski Project finds remains of namesake

A minor mystery of North Idaho history was cleared up recently when the grave of firefighting folk hero Ed Pulaski was traced to a cemetery plot in Coeur d'Alene. Pulaski was an early-day ranger for the U.S. Forest Service and is famous for helping to save dozens of firefighters near Wallace during a massive wildfire 94 summers ago today. He also invented a firefighting tool that bears his name and remains popular.
News >  Idaho

Lake CdA state’s top fishing spot

Lake Coeur d'Alene lures scores of beachgoers, party barge passengers and tourists seeking a soothing watery view. But the best action seems to be below the waves.
News >  Spokane

Setting up survival camps

A sleeping bag isn't always as comfortable and dry as a homeless shelter bunk, but Jim Green got along pretty well living in a tent on the banks of the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River. During Green's stint along the river a few summers back, he found occasional work as a logger and didn't have to spend a dime on rent.
News >  Idaho

Mann Gulch fire a mystery still

For a long time, Robert Sallee never talked about the afternoon when 13 of his firefighting colleagues burned to death on a steep Montana hillside. His children were aware that something terrible had happened long ago, but that's about all they knew. Although the 1949 tragedy became the equivalent of Pearl Harbor for the U.S. Forest Service's elite smokejumpers, Sallee had no desire to look back. He didn't begin to share his tale until more than 40 years later, after a famous author's book had revived the story.
News >  Idaho

Wildfire conditions reach extreme levels

Wildfire conditions are extreme in much of the region's fields and forests, but a lack of lightning and careless behavior have kept things mostly quiet during fire season's dawn. Don't expect the luck to hold, firefighters say.
News >  Idaho

Cyclists head for the hills

One of the country's biggest, toughest mountain bike races comes to Sandpoint this weekend. More than 1,400 fat-tire racers, including five Olympians and dozens of steel-thighed professionals, are expected to compete in the 2004 NORBA National Mountain Bike Race Series at Schweitzer Mountain Resort beginning Friday.
News >  Idaho

Lookout Pass work under way

LOOKOUT PASS, Idaho – New bike trails are bringing an infusion of summertime visitors to North Idaho's Silver Valley, but snowy ski slopes remain the king of the region's growing tourism economy. Last week, the Lookout Pass Ski Area began a $600,000 project to more than double the size of its lodge, according to Phil Edholm, president of the resort. The expansion comes a year after the small ski area on the Montana-Idaho border doubled the acreage of its ski runs and saw a 105 percent increase in the number of skiers.
News >  Spokane

Region eats smoke from B.C. fires

Massive wildfires in British Columbia have created unhealthy breathing conditions in the Spokane area for the elderly and young children. The air is slightly clearer over North Idaho, but winds will continue to import thick smoke and haze from the burning forests, according to weather forecasts.
News >  Idaho

On the map and getting bigger

Developers, speculators and travel magazine editors are always searching for the next undiscovered Western Eden: a pine-scented place with affordable real estate, dramatic views and fast ski slopes just beyond a Norman Rockwell downtown. They seem to have stumbled across something in Sandpoint, and they're letting the whole world know.
News >  Idaho

Defoliation project dumped

The Idaho Lands Department has canceled a proposed chemical defoliation project for a Rose Lake area clearcut after an outcry by local residents. The agency wanted to clear the 328-acre logged area before replanting it with seedlings, said Ron Litz, assistant director for forestry and fire. The chemical use was scheduled to begin Monday but was canceled Friday because of the opposition. The clearcut is on the backside of Initial Peak, about five miles south of Cataldo.
News >  Idaho

N. Idaho gets public radio bureau

Coeur d'Alene already has big city offerings from sushi to open heart surgery, but the once-sleepy North Idaho town recently added another mark of urbanity: its very own public radio correspondent. The region has been something of a neglected stepchild for public radio, with budget constraints keeping Spokane Public Radio's editorial focus largely within city limits and geography blocking the signal from Idaho's dominant public radio station based in Boise.
News >  Idaho

Storm sends mud, debris into water lines

A powerful storm recently sent torrents of mud, ash and vegetation into the creek that supplies water to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, but crews have been able to clear the sludge and the water system is again working, said Mayor Darrell Kerby. The steep slopes of the Myrtle Creek Valley went up in smoke nearly a year ago after a human-caused wildfire. Even as the embers were cooling, the U.S. Forest Service began an ambitious effort to protect the watershed from erosion that often follows a forest fire. The valley is about eight miles west of town and drains out of the Selkirk Mountains.
News >  Spokane

Energy surplus predicted to last

Power from the wind and increased conservation will add stability to Northwest energy prices, according to a report presented Wednesday at a monthly meeting of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in Spokane. Because of a sluggish economy and the lack of production from aluminum smelters, the four-state region continues to experience a significant surplus in power – enough to supply three cities the size of Seattle – but a boost in conservation will offer insurance against dry years and the type of price spikes experienced in 2001, according to Tom Eckman, conservation resources manager for the agency.
News >  Idaho

Trailer park residents evicted

In two months, Dawn Arrington will make the final payment on her 44-year-old mobile home. A month later, it will be worthless. Arrington and about 15 other tenants at the Coeur d'Alene Mobile Home Park recently learned they are being evicted. The trailer park has been sold, they were told. Arrington's home, like some of the others in the park, has seen better days. Moving companies refuse to haul it to a new lot.
News >  Idaho

Forest plan would reverse roadless rule

BOISE – The Bush administration wants to give states more control over the management of roadless national forest land in a plan that raised both alarms and accolades Monday. The proposal, announced Monday, would lift a Clinton-era ban on road-building in nearly a third of the nation's 191 million acres of national forest land. It would affect 9.3 million acres of roadless area in Idaho and 2 million acres in Washington.
News >  Spokane

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, personal watercraft are legal again on Lake Roosevelt

LAKE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL RECREATION AREA – Some compare them to mosquitoes hooked up to an amplifier. Others say personal watercraft emit the sound of pure, wet summertime fun. Two weeks ago, after the National Park Service lifted a ban against their use, personal watercraft could again be heard bouncing across the waves at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area 50 miles west of Spokane. The machines are no more harmful to the lake than motorboats, according to the 10-page decision issued by the recreation area's superintendent. Further court battles are expected, and the issue of personal watercraft use is far from being put to rest among those who love the 130-mile-long lake. This was evident on a recent afternoon at Two Rivers Marina, near Fort Spokane. Two boat owners having a conversation on the marina's wooden boardwalk were asked their opinion of personal watercraft. "I hate them. They're noisy," said Robert Wiley, a retiree from Wenatchee. "If they're operated responsibly, they're just fine. The problem is most are irresponsible. Two-thirds of the people running them are drunk. They're usually out here jumping the log booms or racing through my wake." Al Bishop said he often tows a WaveRunner behind his small houseboat. During the 20-month ban, personal watercraft were permitted only on the half of the lake managed by the Spokane and Colville Indian tribes. "If you own them, you love them. If you don't, you hate them," said Bishop, who admitted to being a Jet Ski hater before he tried one and was immediately hooked by the thrill. "Lifting the ban was the best thing they've ever done." The National Park Service banned Jet Skis, WaveRunners, Sea-Doos and all other personal watercraft at most national parks and recreation areas in 2000. Two years later, the National Park Service extended the ban to all parks and recreation areas as part of a court settlement with the Bluewater Network, a San Francisco-based environmental group. The settlement required the agency to conduct an environmental analysis in each park where personal watercraft use will be permitted. When the ban was lifted on June 25, Lake Roosevelt became the sixth national recreation area or seashore to reopen its waters to personal watercraft. Other areas include Lake Mead and Glen Canyon in the desert Southwest, and Assateague Island National Seashore off the coast of Virginia. The National Park Service is expected to issue decisions soon on personal watercraft use in 10 other recreation areas or seashores it manages. To date, none of the studies has upheld a ban on personal watercraft, said Sean Smith, a Spokane native and the public lands director for Bluewater Network. "It's looking more and more like it's predetermined," Smith said. "They're only going through the motions." Smith and members of other environmental groups say further evidence of this can be seen in the Bush administration's fight to continue allowing snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. "There's plenty of other places to ride these machines," Smith said. "We don't think it's too much to ask that our national parks be protected." Smith contends the agency ignored hundreds of written comments in making its Lake Roosevelt decision. Members of Bluewater Network sent in 1,300 letters, Smith said. According to the National Park Service record of decision, only 702 comments were recorded. National Park Service officials could not explain the discrepancy. "What happened to the rest?" Smith said. Personal Watercraft Industry Association spokesman Jeff Ludwig said the ban was discriminatory. He said personal watercraft are no noisier or dirtier than motorboats, which are permitted at Lake Roosevelt. "We were confident that science would once again rule over bias and confirm than PWC have no unique impact that justifies singling them out for discriminatory bans," Ludwig said, in a prepared statement. More than half of personal watercraft sold today use four-stroke engines that do not require the mixing of gas and oil, according to the Personal Watercraft Industry Association. The newer generation machines are 75 percent cleaner and 70 percent quieter than those sold before 1998. The bans, Ludwig said, are the result of "frivolous accusations made by an extreme anti-access group." The National Park Service decision largely agreed that personal watercraft are no more harmful than other motorboats. The decision expanded no-wake zones and banned personal watercraft use in the Kettle River area, but it allowed the machines to return to the rest of the vast lake. Chief Ranger Dan Mason said the ban didn't make much sense. Personal watercraft are allowed on the tribally managed half of the lake and the machines are often quieter than many of the large speedboats on the lake. "We get equal complaints about what they call cigarette boats, which create a lot of noise," Mason said. "This is a recreation area. As long as (personal watercraft) are not impacting the resource, then I support the lifting of the ban." About 50,000 boats a year are launched into the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, according to a National Park Service survey conducted three summers ago. Less than 5 percent of the boats are personal watercraft. The National Park Service will monitor the use of personal watercraft on the lake, Mason said. The agency also has the ability to issue tickets if federal noise laws are violated – 82 decibels at a distance of 82 feet violates the law. Rangers do not carry sound meters, however. Personal watercraft may be cleaner and quieter, but they continue to draw the ire of many water users. Dave Crettol, boating education coordinator for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, said the response is largely because of the behavior of those on the watercraft, not the sound of the motor. "They're kind of a water version of ‘Top Gun,' " Crettol said of the riders. "There's still that relationship of that young man just offshore doing things he probably shouldn't be and the size of the bathing suit on shore that he's trying to get the attention of." About 80,000 personal watercraft were sold last year, down from peak sales of 200,000 a decade ago, according to industry statistics. Sales might be slumping, but the machines remain popular for families that want a less-expensive and easier-to-maintain alternative to a motorboat, said Crettol, who owns a personal watercraft capable of carrying three passengers plus camping gear. Education is the only long-term hope for improving the behavior and safety of personal watercraft users, Crettol said. Nationwide, 34 states have boater safety education requirements. Idaho and Washington have no statewide requirements. "You can have a great deal of fun on them and not bother anybody else," he said.
News >  Idaho

Tankers get summer jobs

A pop to the nose can sometimes sting worse than a powerful wallop to the jaw. North Idaho forestry officials hope the same principle holds true when it comes to fighting a fire from the sky. Because large air tankers have been grounded nationwide, there's no longer one stationed at the Coeur d'Alene Airport during fire season. But the Idaho Department of Lands recently secured the use of three smaller aerial tankers from the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The Air Tractor-802f planes landed in Coeur d'Alene on Tuesday night. Their Canadian pilots spent Friday afternoon flying the region to familiarize themselves with the forests they have been assigned to protect. Each plane carries 800 gallons of retardant. Combined, this is about the same as a large air tanker. The single-engine Air Tractors are capable of flying lower and slower than the large air tankers, said Bob Burke, fire and fuels program manager for the Department of Lands. That makes them more accurate and potentially more effective at stopping fires. The pilots will be stationed at the airport and the planes will be able to lift off within minutes after being called. Three helicopters also will be stationed in Coeur d'Alene during the summer. "Our intent here is to hit every fire very quickly, very hard," Burke said. "They're the best opportunity we have." Citing concerns over airworthiness, the federal government canceled contracts for 33 heavy air tankers in May. After further review, the government expects to allow eight of the planes to return to duty for the fire season, said Bernie Lionberger, aviation officer for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. "They'll go where the fires go," he said. The Air Tractors will be stationed in Coeur d'Alene for at least two months at a cost $3,400 a day a plane, plus $600 an hour during flight. The state will pick up most of the tab, but the Forest Service also will pay for their use when fires are burning on federal land. The price tag might sound steep, Burke said, but not in comparison to the cost of all the firefighters and resources needed to fight a large wildfire. Last year, taxpayers spent roughly $4.5 million fighting a 3,600-acre wildfire near Bonners Ferry. That's enough money to hire three single-engine air tankers for the next seven summers. "If we can prevent one large fire, then we've paid for our fleet," Burke said. Two other single-engine air tankers will be stationed in McCall, Idaho. Two more will be based in Grangeville. The three planes in Coeur d'Alene will cover forest fires from the Canadian border down to the Clearwater River. They also will help, when needed, on fires in Eastern Washington and Montana. Satellite bases are being set up for the planes at airports in Sandpoint, St. Maries and Shoshone County. Eric Bradley, chief pilot for the Coeur d'Alene squadron, said the Texas-built Air Tractors are ideal firefighting machines. They cruise at around 175 mph, have air-conditioned cockpits and give pilots unrivaled views of the forest below. The pilots are able to drop precise doses of fire retardant. In burning grasslands, the dump can be wide and dispersed. In thick forests, it is heavy and concentrated to penetrate the tree canopy. The planes are not meant to douse the fire, Bradley said. They're meant to slow its advance, like an aerial bulldozer line. "With early detection and quick response, we'll catch them before they become national news the next night," said Bradley, a resident of New Brunswick. Still, the muscle power of firefighters remains the best way of stopping a fire's advance, said Bud McConnaughey, with the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. "It always takes our forces on the ground to put a fire out," he said, while standing on the tarmac near the plane. "With these, you're only buying time."