U.S. Coast Guard helicopter lands safely after laser incident near Port Angeles

A Coast Guard helicopter crew conducting a training flight over Clallam County Airport in Port Angeles reportedly suffered a laser strike from an unknown ground source Monday night.

The crew of the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter made a safe landing at Air Station Port Angeles after crewmembers in the back of the helicopter reported the incident.

Laser pointers can cause great danger to aircrews as a result of glare, afterimage, flash blindness or temporary loss of night vision. Coast Guard flight rules dictate that aircrewmen who suffer lasing must abort their mission for safety reasons.

Medical personnel are evaluating the condition of the affected Dolphin crewmembers.  To protect their health and safety, each member is taken off flight duty until cleared by a flight surgeon.  This hampers the Coast Guard’s ability to conduct training and respond to people in distress.

“This type of incident can be very dangerous to our safety and our ability to fly the aircraft,” said Cmdr. Mark Heupel, pilot and air operations officer at Air Station Port Angeles. “These incidents not only hinder our ability to perform the mission, they can also lead to potential medical issues with our crew. These incidents are on the rise around the country, the public needs to be aware of the danger their actions may cause to the crew of a rescue helicopter.”

According to the Coast Guard’s 2013 Aviation Safety Annual Report, there were 44 reported laser strike incidents on Coast Guard aircraft resulting in 14 temporary injury incidents to affected crewmembers. This was a 26 percent increase in strikes from the previous year.

Under 18 U.S. Code § 39A, it is a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, as it is considered interfering with the safety of a flight crew.  If an individual is caught purposefully lasing an aircraft, the maximum civil penalty that can be imposed on them is up to $11,000 per violation. Anyone witnessing this type of crime is strongly encouraged to immediately call 911 to report the incident.

Coast Guard Investigative Service agents are working with local law enforcement to investigate the incident. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to contact Coast Guard investigators at 206-220-7170.

For more information about laser safety and the effects of an aircraft laser incident, visit the Federal Aviation Administration’s Laser Safety Initiatives webpage at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/lasers/.

Washington Department of Ecology seeks comment on updated oil spill plan for Nisqually River

The number of trains carrying crude oil along Washington rivers is increasing rapidly. To keep up with this trend and other changes in how oil is transported, the Washington Department of Ecology is updating contingency response plans in case of an oil spill. The most recently updated plan outlines strategies for responding to oil spills near the Nisqually River.

The Nisqually plan, first published in 1998, covers 42 miles of the lower river from the Nisqually Delta upstream to the La Grande Dam in Thurston and Pierce counties. It focuses on protecting public health, public safety and the environment, and is available for public review and comment now through May 20, 2015.

Potential risks to the Nisqually River come from oil transported by rail, highways and pipelines. The majority of oil transported by rail into Washington and Oregon enters Washington at the border with Idaho near Spokane. The oil is transported west along the Columbia River to Vancouver, then crosses Interstate 5 and the Nisqually River on its way to refineries in Anacortes and Ferndale.

The plan considers several sensitive and cultural resources, such as the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, which is located at the mouth of the river and serves as a preserve for hundreds of species of birds and other animals.

The Nisqually River plan is one of eight geographic response plans Ecology aims to complete before June 30, using special funding the Washington Legislature dedicated to help the state prepare for oil spills.

Comments on the plan can be emailed to grps@ecy.wa.gov, or mailed to:

Washington Department of Ecology

Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (NR-GRP)

P.O. Box 47600

Olympia, WA 98504-7600

Nisqually Plan

Nisqually River

Whooping cough outbreak growing in Washington State

Whooping cough is on the rise in Washington and state health officials are urging people to get vaccinated against the disease, especially pregnant women.

So far in 2015 there have been 319 cases of whooping cough reported compared to 49 reported cases during the same time in 2014. Whooping cough (pertussis) is a serious disease that affects the respiratory system and is spread by coughing and sneezing. Rates of whooping cough are continuing to rise in several areas around the state, which is a concern to health officials.

While everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated against the disease, newborn babies who are too young to be vaccinated are at high risk for severe disease. That’s why it’s especially important that pregnant women get vaccinated during each pregnancy, toward the end of their pregnancy, to best protect their newborn.

“Women who are pregnant should be sure to talk to their health care provider, doctor, or midwife about getting their Tdap vaccine before they give birth,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, communicable disease epidemiologist for the state Department of Health “It’s also important that everyone else in the family is vaccinated to keep babies safe.”

The best way to protect yourself and your family against whooping cough is vaccination. Your health care provider can determine if you have the highest recommended level of protection. While the vaccine provides protection against whooping cough, the level of protection can decrease as time passes after vaccination. This means it’s very important that children and adults have all the recommended doses for the best protection against whooping cough.

If you are around people at high risk for whooping cough, it’s important to know that it takes about two weeks following vaccination to be fully protected. Getting vaccinated protects both the person getting the shot and other people around them at highest risk for complications, like babies and pregnant women.

Craig Dublanko CCAP, and Joan Brewster Grays Harbor Public Health Department

Craig and Joan discuss campers living on private property along the Chehalis River in Aberdeen. Craig details “where we are now” with the city and the land owner. Joan details concerns for the health of the campers, and what the health department is looking for.

Joan talks about the county money set aside to address homelessness. Craig talks about some of the programs that CCAP has available to help those in need.

Wildlife Commission lists tufted puffins as state endangered species

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted new big game hunting rules for the upcoming season and an interim policy for Willapa Bay salmon fisheries during a public meeting April 9-10 in Tumwater.

The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also agreed to place tufted puffins on the state’s endangered species list and remove Steller sea lions from the state’s threatened list.

New hunting rules approved by the commission will expand hunting opportunities for virtually every big game species and gear type. New regulations will:

  • Add two more days to the modern firearm season for mule deer.
  • Shift archery elk season to start the Saturday after Labor Day to provide better opportunity for hunters in cooler weather.
  • Double the amount of spring bear permits available in northeast Washington.
  • Allow elk hunters using muzzleloaders to hunt in more game management units (GMUs).
  • Increase moose permits to 170 from 136 in the northeast part of the state, where moose populations are near an all-time high.


The commission did not adopt a proposal to restrict the use of bait when hunting for deer and elk. Instead, the commission directed WDFW to work with stakeholders to bring forward new options for consideration next year.


All of the hunting rules approved by the commission will be included in the 2015 Big Game Hunting pamphlet, which will be available later this spring on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/, in sporting goods stores, and at other license vendors throughout the state.

Tufted Puffin colony occupancyIn other business, the commission added tufted puffins to the state’s endangered species list to provide them with additional protection. Tufted puffins are native seabirds once considered common in parts of Washington. In recent decades, however, the population has significantly declined. WDFW will develop a plan outlining actions necessary for the species’ recovery in the state.

Steller sea lions, on the other hand, have rebounded in recent years, prompting the commission to remove the species from the state’s list of threatened species. The federal government has also delisted Steller sea lions. The species will remain as state protected wildlife and will still receive protection under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

After receiving a briefing from state fishery managers on a long-term salmon-management policy for Willapa Bay, the commission adopted an interim plan that will be in effect through 2015. The interim policy is designed to accelerate the recovery of natural-origin chinook salmon by reducing the incidental catch of wild fish while encouraging the harvest of hatchery chinook.


WDFW will work with stakeholders in the coming weeks to designate the 2015 salmon fishing dates in Willapa Bay, based on the new interim plan. The interim plan is posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/willapa_bay_salmon/.

The commission also took public comments on a proposal to reopen recreational fishing for flounder, sole and other flatfish – except halibut – in Quilcene Bay and the northern portion of Dabob Bay in Hood Canal. A separate public hearing was held on management of Columbia River sturgeon.

In other news, April’s meeting was attended by fishing columnist Dave Graybill and retired public health physician Kim Thorburn, who were appointed to the commission by the governor last month.

Joan Brewster – Director, Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services

The health of our community, and what the Public Health Department does to improve that. Joan also talks about Tobacco, and Marijuana use locally. This year’s numbers show a slight decrease for tobacco use. Are “E-cigarettes” off-setting those numbers?

Substance abuse and mental health issues in Grays Harbor youth.

Joan Brewster
(360) 500-4062

Despondent man talked into mental care, as Hoquiam police seize his pistol

Just before 2 A.M. Thursday morning, officers responded to a possible suicidal subject in the area of 31st Street and Sumner Avenue.
Officers had earlier attempted to locate the 31-year old Cosmopolis man at a local motel to no avail. The man had made threats to harm himself via text to family members; Family members reported finding the man on the street where they tried to detain him until the police arrived.
As Sgt. Salstrom arrived in the area, the man fled down an alley on foot. Sgt. Salstrom was able to overtake the man and start a conversation regarding his thoughts to harm himself. Sgt. Salstrom was able to convince the man to be voluntarily transported to Community Hospital to talk to a Mental Health Professional.
Family members were concerned the man had been in possession of an old derringer-style pistol he may have been carrying inside a backpack earlier in the day. He did not have the backpack at the time he was contacted by Sgt. Salstrom.
Officer Grossi checked the alley and located an abandoned backpack as described. He located items inside the backpack which appeared to belong to the despondent man, as well as a pistol with ammunition.

Hoquiam Seized Weapon
The firearm was seized as evidence as the man is a respondent in a domestic violence no-contact protection order from Cosmopolis whereby he is prohibited from possessing a firearm. The man was transported to the hospital for a mental health evaluation; the case for unlawful possession of a firearm will be forwarded to the Grays Harbor County Prosecutor’s Office for charges.

Comments sought on Ecology study addressing oil spills on the Chehalis River

A March 1 study on oil transport in Washington shows significant risks posed by the changing energy picture, and in particular by the growth of crude oil by rail.

In an effort to protect public health and the environment, the Washington Department of Ecology recently completed a draft contingency plan, outlining how responders would tackle an oil spill near the Chehalis River. The plan is available for public review and comment now through May 8, 2015.

The Chehalis River covers almost 120 miles as it winds through Thurston, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. The draft plan includes 60 strategies meant to reduce damage to sensitive natural, cultural and economic resources during an oil spill.

The plan considers risks from oil trains, an oil pipeline and tanker trucks.  The Olympic Pipeline includes a 25-mile stretch that crosses several tributaries of the Chehalis River, while oil trains travel on tracks that also cross the Chehalis’ tributaries.


“This plan covers the second-largest watershed in Washington,” said Kathy Taylor, acting program manager for Ecology’s Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response program. “With the rapid changes in oil transport, particularly with crude by rail, it’s important we have plans in place to protect our precious natural resources.”

The Chehalis River plan is one of eight geographic response plans Ecology aims to complete before June 30, using special funding the Washington Legislature dedicated to help our state prepare for oil spills.

Comments can be emailed to grps@ecy.wa.gov, or mailed to:

Washington Department of Ecology

Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (MLCC-GRP)

P.O. Box 47600

Olympia, WA 98504-7600