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.

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“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

Rollover accident on Highway 12 sends one to hospital

A rollover accident on Highway 12 east of Aberdeen early Sunday morning sent one to the hospital. The Washington State Patrol reports their 2012 Ford Focus left the road to the right and rolled, coming to rest on its wheels at milepost 2 just East of Aberdeen at 2:23 Sunday morning. A 19 year old Aberdeen woman was transported from the scene, her 23 year old male passenger from Fort Lewis was uninjured, both were wearing their seat belts.

‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ in Washington this Fourth of July Holiday

Americans love to celebrate the Fourth of July with family, friends, food and fireworks, but too often alcohol turns the party into a tragedy, making this iconic holiday one of the most deadly days of the year on the nation’s roads.

That’s why this June and July Thurston, Gray’s Harbor, Cowlitz, and Lewis Counties are stepping up police presence throughout the entire southwest Washington region as part of the “DUI Summer Kick-Off”enforcement crackdown to catch and arrest impaired drivers who put themselves and others at risk.

“Local police will be out in force throughout this Independence Day, on the lookout for motorists who have had too much alcohol to be behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Grays Harbor County’s Target Zero Manager Susan Bradbury.  “Police will have zero tolerance for drivers who drink and drive this July 4th, putting themselves and everyone else on our roads at risk of life and limb.”

While death and injury are of course the most serious of possible consequences of drunk driving, there are other negative considerations that can affect lives for many years, including loss of a driver licenses, vehicle impound, jail time, lawyer fees, court costs, insurance hikes, just to name a few.

Be safe while you’re having fun this summer.  If you’re impaired, use a taxi or call a sober friend or family member. And if you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact local police.

Timberland Bancorp ranked 16th in Seattle Times’ annual ranking of the region’s top public companies

Timberland Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq:TSBK) (“Timberland” or “the Company”) today announced that it was ranked 16(th) in the region in the Seattle Times’ annual review of Northwest public companies.

“Being recognized as a leader in the Northwest for our ongoing growth and profitability is an honor, particularly in light of the tough industry conditions over the past few years and the competitive nature of our business,” noted Michael R. Sand, CEO and President of Timberland Bancorp. “To be ranked in the top 20 companies this year, and as the fifth best financial institution in the region, not only reflects our solid earnings and strong capital position but also the talent and commitment of our staff to our customers and shareholders.”

To be considered for The Seattle Times’ “Best of the Northwest” companies must be headquartered in Washington, Oregon or Idaho, and traded on a major stock exchange during all of 2013. Additionally, company shares cannot have closed below $2 at any time during the past year. Metrics reviewed to determine company status in the list included: free cash-flow yield, return on invested capital (ROIC), asset turnover and stock-price appreciation.

About Timberland Bancorp, Inc.

Timberland Bancorp, Inc., a Washington corporation, is the holding company for Timberland Bank (“Bank”). The Bank opened for business in 1915 and serves consumers and businesses across Grays Harbor, Thurston, Pierce, King, Kitsap and Lewis counties, Washington with a full range of lending and deposit services through its 22 branches (including its main office in Hoquiam).

Wildlife Department plans to survey elk with hoof disease, euthanize those with severe symptoms

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) plans to conduct a broad-based survey this summer of elk with hoof disease in southwest Washington and will likely euthanize those with severe symptoms of the crippling ailment.

To help with the survey, state wildlife managers plan to enlist dozens of volunteers to assist them in assessing the prevalence and geographic distribution of the disease in the St. Helens and Willapa Hills elk herds.

To minimize the spread of the disease, WDFW is also proposing new regulations requiring hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site.

WDFW announced its plan two weeks after a 16-member scientific panel agreed that the disease most likely involves a type of bacterial infection that leaves elk with missing or misshapen hooves.

Members of the panel, composed of veterinarians and researchers throughout the state, agreed that the disease closely resembles contagious ovine digital dermatitis in sheep.

Dr. Kristin Mansfield, WDFW epidemiologist, said the panel’s diagnosis is consistent with the findings of the USDA National Animal Disease Center and four other independent diagnostic laboratories that have tested samples of elk hooves submitted by WDFW since last year.

Mansfield said treponeme bacteria have been linked to an increase of hoof disease in sheep and cattle in many parts of the world, but have never before been documented in elk or other wildlife.

Nate Pamplin, director of WDFW’s Wildlife Program, said the diagnosis limits the department’s management options, because there is no vaccine for the disease and no proven options for treating it in the field.

“At this point, we don’t know whether we can contain this disease,” Pamplin said, “but we do know that assessing its impacts and putting severely crippled animals out of their misery is the right thing to do.”

Since 2008, WDFW has received increasing reports of elk with misshapen hooves in Cowlitz, Pacific, Lewis, Clark, Wahkiakum and Grays Harbor counties, all within the range of the two elk herds.

Scientists believe the animals pick up and transmit the disease through wet soil, characteristic of the lowlands of southwest Washington.

“There is no evidence that the bacteria are harmful to humans, and tests have shown that the disease does not affect the animals’ meat or organs,” Mansfield said. “But treating infected animals has posed a real challenge for the livestock industry for nearly 30 years.”

Some livestock producers bathe the hooves of infected sheep and cattle in an antibiotic solution, but many become re-infected and are ultimately sent to market, Mansfield said.

“In any case, daily footbaths are not a realistic solution when you’re dealing with thousands of free-roaming elk,” she said.

The primary focus of WDFW’s work this summer will be to assess the geographic spread of the disease and the proportion of the herd that is affected, Pamplin said. The department will enlist the help of volunteers to run survey routes and report their observations.

Information gathered from the survey will be compared against sightings of diseased elk reported by the public since 2010 using WDFW’s online reporting system, he said. Reports can be filed at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/hoof_disease/reporting/ .

Next winter, WDFW will capture and fit elk with radio-collars to determine how the disease is affecting area elk populations, survival rates and calving. Wildlife managers will likely remove elk showing severe symptoms of hoof disease to end their suffering, Pamplin said.

In a separate measure, the department has proposed new regulations requiring hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to hear public comments and take action on that proposal in August.

Pamplin noted that hoof disease is one of a number of illnesses without a cure affecting wildlife throughout the nation. Chronic wasting disease, epizootic hemorrhagic disease and tuberculosis all take their toll on elk and deer each year in other states.

“Bacterial hoof disease in elk presents a huge challenge for all of us,” Pamplin said. “We will continue to work with scientists, hunters and local communities to assess its toll on area elk herds and determine our course of action.”

Local food banks thank legislators for supporting emergency food providers

Volunteers and staff of food banks in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties will gather at Coastal Harvest in Hoquiam on Friday, June 20, at an event that is co-hosted by Northwest Harvest, Food Lifeline, and the Washington Food Coalition to thank Rep. Brian Blake and Sen. Brian Hatfield for their leadership in securing additional state funds for food banks statewide. Rep. Blake and Sen. Hatfield, who both represent Washington’s 19th Legislative District, co-sponsored an increase in funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) in the 2014 budget. EFAP helps food banks buy food to distribute to hungry families and pay the bills to keep their lights on and their doors open. The Washington State Legislature added a one-time appropriation of $800,000.

“In Washington, one out of every five people relies on their local food bank,” said Shelley Rotondo, CEO of Northwest Harvest, and yet this is the first time the Legislature has increased EFAP since 2008. Northwest Harvest, which distributes food to food banks and meal programs statewide, provided more than 419,000 meals during FY 2013 in the 19th Legislative District alone. “We thank Rep. Blake, Sen. Hatfield, and our Legislature for recognizing that increased support for food banks is an important investment in our communities and in families in need.”

Despite the ongoing economic recovery, food banks not only serve more clients than they did before the recession, but clients are also visiting food banks more frequently. The increased need is due to a number of factors, including cuts to the food stamp program and the lack of jobs that pay enough to meet a household’s basic needs.

“The increase in EFAP support will help food banks provide some relief to hungry families, but it is by no means a replacement for the millions of meals being missed due to cuts in food stamps,” Rotondo added. “Increasing EFAP is an example of the strong partnership between government programs and private charitable giving that is needed to end hunger in Washington state.”

Last year, food banks and meal programs in the 19th Legislative District served more than 236,000 individuals, approximately 34 percent of whom were infants and children. Coastal Harvest, based in Hoquiam, partners with Northwest Harvest and other emergency food distributors, delivering food to more than 50 food banks, senior centers, tribal centers, and feeding programs in Grays Harbor, Pacific, Lewis, Thurston, Jefferson, and Wahkiakum Counties.

WHO: Representative Brian Blake and Senator Brian Hatfield visiting Coastal Harvest.
WHAT: Thank You Event at Coastal Harvest, recognizing Rep. Blake and Sen. Hatfield for championing budget request for increased state funds for emergency food providers.

WHEN: June 20, 2014, 10:30-11:30 a.m.
WHERE: 520 Tyler Street, Hoquiam, WA 98550

Pacific County Sheriff’s Deputy placed on leave following criminal charges

South Bend, WA. – A Pacific County Sheriff’s deputy remains on administrative leave after eleven criminal charges were filed today against the deputy, including one count of first degree extortion, four counts of bribery, five counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of reckless driving. Johnson is also a former Cosmopolis police officer.

The deputy, identified as Vance O. Johnson age 44, is a 5 year veteran of the office. Deputy Johnson had been on administrative leave while an internal investigation that led to the criminal investigation related to these charges was conducted. The investigation was conducted by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at the request of Sheriff Scott Johnson to ensure that it was conducted in a fair and impartial manner.

The investigation was started after information and witness statements were received on April 21st of this year relating to an incident that Deputy Johnson was involved in that occurred originally while he was off duty, and later events that occurred while he was on duty.

Sheriff Scott Johnson said, “Today is a very sad day for the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office, it’s news none of us ever wish to hear, however nothing is more important than maintaining public trust and confidence in our employees, all of whom I hold to the highest moral and ethical standards”.

Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Meyer is prosecuting this case in Pacific County Superior Court due to a conflict regarding one of the witnesses in this case working for the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office.  Sheriff Johnson & Deputy Johnson are not related.

Grays Harbor Community Foundation Announces Scholarships

The Grays Harbor Community Foundation announced the selection of the 2014 Scholarship winners earlier this month.  This year the Community Foundation received 387 applications and awarded 334 scholarships and renewals totaling over $535,000.

All scholarship winners, their families, school principals, counselors, and donors are invited to an Awards Breakfast at the Simpson Plaza in Hoquiam, Wednesday, May 28th at 8:00 a.m.  A continental breakfast will be served and the scholarship recipients, donors, and Board members are encouraged to meet each other. The students will receive certificates of award during a brief ceremony.

Cassie Lentz, Program Officer, says:  “This year was full of exciting milestones for our Scholarship Program. The percentage of students who successfully renewed their Scholarship awards was the highest it has ever been.  We also were excited to be able to offer seven new Scholarships in 2014: the Ardine Lewis Memorial Scholarship, the American Veteran’s Home Association Scholarship, Dr. John F. and Ella Mae Daly Memorial Scholarship, Edd and Annie Hodges Memorial Scholarship, Lou Messmer Scholarship, North River CommunityScholarships, andthe Scott Weatherwax University of Puget Sound Memorial Scholarship.  Our community has been extremely generous and it is because of them that our Scholarship program has continued to address the need of funding a quality education for those in our community.”

Rich Vroman, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee said, “We are proud of the growth our donors have allowed us to experience, this year that growth was exponential. We continue to receive new support from donors in all interest areas and are proud that our Scholarships cover a wide range of college, university and vocational technical support for students pursuing all types of careers.”

The Grays Harbor Community Foundation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit with a mission:  “To improve the quality of life in the communities throughout Grays Harbor County.”  This is accomplished by many projects and processes, and by working through or supporting other non-profit organizations.

If you would like to learn more about the scholarship program or other programs, information is available on the Foundation website:  www.gh-cf.org, or you may contact:  Cassie Lentz at 532-1600 or by e-mail at:  info@gh-cf.org.  The address is:  Grays Harbor Community Foundation, P.O. Box 615, 705 J Street, Hoquiam, WA 98550.

Old Willapa River Bridge to rest in pieces starting this week

Drivers crossing the Willapa River on State Route 6 will soon bear witness to a piece of history, as crews begin laying the original, 85-year-old structure to rest this week. 

This week, daytime drivers can expect intermittent delays of up to 20 minutes while crews working with the Washington State Department of Transportation dismantle the old bridge from the top down. One-lane traffic has been using the new SR 6 Willapa River Bridge since April 30.

Removing the steel superstructure requires two large cranes working in tandem: One crane will hold the superstructure steady while crews cut it into manageable sections, while the second will swing the cut sections over SR 6 and onto a flatbed truck. The steel will then be hauled to a location where it can be safely dismantled. 

Once the superstructure is removed, crews will demolish the concrete-and-steel piers. Demolition is expected to be complete in late June. 

While some workers dismantle the old bridge, their colleagues continue to reconstruct SR 6. Contractor Rotschy Inc. is scheduled to finish paving the highway and open both lanes on the new bridge in mid-June. All construction is expected to be complete in July, although crews will return in October to plant additional landscaping, causing possible shoulder and lane closures. 

The new, 36-foot-wide Willapa River Bridge will better meet the needs of today’s drivers and help improve traffic flow on this key connection between Interstate 5 and coastal communities. 

The $6.3 million SR 6 Willapa River Bridge Replacement project is funded by the 2005 gas tax and other state highway-improvement funds. It’s one of five WSDOT bridge-replacement projects currently underway in Pacific and Lewis counties.

Kilmer introduces two amendments to defense bill to help veterans looking for jobs and civilian shipyard workers

On Tuesday, Representative Derek Kilmer introduced two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to help servicemembers find jobs and authorize overtime for civilian shipyard workers overseas. The amendments will be considered by the House Rules Committee for inclusion in the NDAA bill set to be debated on the floor this week in the House.

 

Rep. Kilmer’s amendment on veteran employment – cosponsored by Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – would encourage companies to hire veterans who are leaving the service, recently left, or have been unemployed or underemployed. It would create a pilot program within the Department of Defense that any business, regardless of size, could participate in. Businesses putting veterans on their payroll would see that factored into their bids for government contracts.

 

“Many veterans who have sacrificed on our behalf find a tough job market when they leave the armed forces,” said Kilmer. “I want to make sure we don’t forget our obligation to servicemembers. That’s why I’m introducing legislation that provides another reason for businesses interested in federal contracts to hire veterans and give them a chance to succeed in the civilian workforce.”

 

In 2013, the unemployment rate for veterans was 7.3 percent. Washington state’s 6th District is home to more than 25,000 active duty and reserve service members, along with more than 50,000 veterans and their families. Naval Base Kitsap, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and many other important facilities and vessels are located in the 6th District. Many residents (both civilian and servicemembers) also work at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) – Washington state’s third largest employer.

 

Rep. Kilmer’s other amendment to the NDAA would authorize overtime payments for shipyard workers who conduct nuclear maintenance on the U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in Japan. Shipyard workers at the Puget Sound Shipyard who volunteer to go overseas will lose the ability to collect overtime from the Navy this September without an extension from Congress.

 

“Civilian workers at the nation’s shipyards work tirelessly to help keep our naval edge on the seas,” Kilmer continued. “It’s time to ensure that when they go overseas to make needed carrier repairs they get paid the same as they would in the United States. It is not fair for us to ask them to leave their families for four to six months and compensate them less. I hope to see this as part of the National Defense Authorization Act we will discuss on the floor.”

 

Separately, Representative Kilmer and Representative Cole jointly introduced an amendment to the NDAA to limit the Department’s ability to furlough civilian employees funded through working capital projects when it would not save taxpayers any money.