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.

Washington State Auditor indicted amid allegations of falsifying tax returns, possessing stolen property

A U.S. Grand Jury in Seattle has returned a ten count indictment against TROY X. KELLEY, 50, of Tacoma for his scheme to keep stolen money and hide it from both the IRS and those due a refund related to their purchase of a home or refinance of a home mortgage, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  KELLEY currently serves as the elected Washington State Auditor.  The majority of the criminal conduct detailed in the indictment spans years prior to KELLEY’s election to statewide office.  However, some of the criminal conduct detailed in the indictment occurred following his election.  KELLEY is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Tacoma at 2:30 today.

 

“Mr. Kelley spun a web of lies in an effort to avoid paying his taxes and keep more than a million dollars that he knew did not belong to him, but instead should have been returned to thousands of homeowners across this state,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “I commend the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation for their diligent work to piece together the voluminous records that form the basis for the charges in this case.”

 

According to the indictment, between 2003 and 2008, KELLEY operated a business that was paid by real estate title companies to track documents related to real estate sales and refinancings.  KELLEY had agreements with those companies for the fees he could charge in connection with the document-tracking work.  While the title companies withheld $100-$150 on each loan to pay the fee, the bulk of the money was to be returned to the borrower with KELLEY’s company being paid $15- $20 per transaction.  However, the indictment alleges, in most cases, KELLEY kept the entire amount withheld on each loan resulting in more than $2 million in stolen money.  This conduct is the basis for count one of the indictment:  Possession and concealment of stolen property.  When the amount withheld by title companies became the subject of civil litigation, the indictment alleges KELLEY obstructed the litigation, repeatedly lying in a declaration and in depositions while under oath.  For this conduct KELLEY is charged with four counts of false declarations and one count of attempted obstruction of a civil lawsuit.  Further, the indictment alleges KELLEY failed to pay federal taxes and obstructed the IRS in its efforts to collect taxes from him.  He is charged with corrupt interference with Internal Revenue laws and two counts of filing false income tax returns.  Finally, KELLEY is charged with making false statements to Internal Revenue Service agents who questioned him about his scheme in April 2013.

 

“Today’s action demonstrates our collective efforts to enforce the law,” stated Special Agent in Charge Teri Alexander of IRS Criminal Investigation.  “IRS CI is committed to unraveling the complex financial transactions individuals might use to attempt to conceal their taxable income.  To build faith in our tax system, honest taxpayers must be confident that everyone is paying their fair share.”

“The public deserves integrity and honesty from elected officials,” said Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya, Jr., of the FBI’s Seattle Division.  “For that reason, identifying and investigating public corruption is a top priority for the FBI.”

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

Possession and concealment of stolen property is punishable by up to ten years in prison.  Attempted obstruction of civil litigation is punishable by up to twenty years in prison.  False declarations and false statements are punishable by up to five years in prison.  The remaining charges are punishable by up to three years in prison.

 

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and the FBI.

 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Arlen Storm, Kathryn Frierson and Andrew Friedman.

Sidewalk project temporarily reduces parking at Elma Safety Rest Area

A sidewalk repair project at the Elma Safety Rest Area on State Route 8 will lead to temporary parking changes. From Monday, April 20 through Thursday, April 23, all vehicles will use the semi-truck parking area.

During the maintenance project, the men’s restroom will be closed and portable toilets will be available. The women’s restroom will remain open. The work is occurring in advance of the busy summer travel season.

The Washington State Department of Transportation operates numerous Safety Rest Areas across the state to give travelers a place to rest before continuing on their journey.

Drivers can learn of traffic impacts by visiting WSDOT’s travel alerts and construction update webpages.

Hyperlinks within the news release:

  • WSDOT Safety Rest Areas

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/safety/restareas

  • Washington State Travel Alerts

http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts/

Wildfire season in Washington State begins today

Wildfire season officially begins April 15, as specified by state law, and already the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has had more than 60 forest fires reported this year on lands protected by the agency.

“This year, we have ominous predictions for a hot, dry summer,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “While we work hard to prepare for what could be a challenging season, there are some things property owners can and should do to prepare.”

Property owners can reduce fire risk to their homes and lands by keeping dead vegetation off roofs and away from buildings. The Firewise program explains how to use these techniques and offers incentives to communities who follow Firewise principles.

Prediction for this summer’s weather is available from the National Weather Service. The risk of wildfires can change rapidly during the spring when warmer, dryer weather increases. Among other things, that means people working in the woods or clearing land need to have fire prevention equipment on hand.

Already, above average temperatures and low snowpack have created dry grassland and forests. On March 13, Governor Inslee declared a drought in three Washington regions – the Olympic Peninsula, east slopes of the Central Cascades and Walla Walla.

Last year, more than 315,000 acres of DNR-protected lands were consumed by about 900 wildfires, in the state’s worst ever fire season.  Even though Washington experienced more lightning strikes than normal, 75 percent of the fires were human-caused.

Starting April 22, DNR will offer a series of wildfire preparedness meetings across eastern Washington aimed at helping residents in fire-prone areas of the state prepare for wildfire season.

The agency is also current requesting additional resources from the legislature to increase wildland firefighters and equipment, and to improve the health and fire resistance of Washington forests.

Washington’s summer fire rules

Washington’s “summer fire rules” are in effect April 15 through October 15. These rules apply to the 13 million acres of private and state forestlands protected from wildfire by DNR.

These regulations affect loggers, firewood cutters, land clearers, road builders, heavy equipment operators, off-road motorcyclists, and others. During fire season, people using motorized equipment in the woods must have approved spark arresters and follow fire safety precautions. In addition, those working in the woods must have fire prevention and extinguishing equipment in good working order at the job site and workers trained in proper use.

The rules are intended to prevent forest fires and to extinguish small fires before they spread. Those same rules restrict cigarette smoking in forested areas on roads, gravels pits, or other clearings. They also prohibit lighting fireworks on forestland.

Stay connected during wildfire season
Daily fire risk ratings available by phone and Internet

Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL) may change daily and classify varying levels of potential fire hazard in different parts of the state. People who work in the woods must observe the IFPL. More information is available from the following sources:

precaution levels, a map of current shutdown zones, and a copy of DNR’s Industrial Fire Precaution Level Bulletin.

  • DNR’s toll-free business line at 1-800-527-3305 plays a message identifying daily

industrial fire precaution levels, which are listed by geographical region. The hearing

impaired can phone Telephone Device for the Deaf at 1-800-833-6388.

  • Email DNR at RPD@dnr.wa.gov. Ask questions or request a copy of DNR’s Industrial

Fire Precaution Level Bulletin or additional information on safe outdoor burning of forest debris and safe recreational campfire tips.

DNR’s wildfire mission

Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department, with over 1,100 employees trained and available to be dispatched to fires as needed. During fire season, this includes over 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 400 seasonal employees hired for firefighting duties. Additionally, Department of Corrections’ adult offenders and Department of Social and Health Services-Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration juvenile offenders support firefighting efforts through DNR’s Correctional Camps Program. DNR also participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.

 

Truck drifts off roadway, throws debris into oncoming U.S. 101 traffic North of Shelton

The South bound lane of U.S. Route 101 North of Shelton was blocked for about 8 hours this afternoon as the Washington State Patrol investigated, and cleaned up, a 3 vehicle accident. No injuries were reported. Just before 1 Tuesday afternoon a 1998 Kenworth Tractor with dump bed trailer, driven by a 62 year old Vancouver man, was Southbound on 101 when it drifted onto the soft shoulder, rolled onto its side, and spilled debris into the road. The wreck also threw debris into the path of an oncoming car, a 2012 Jeep Liberty driven by an 80 year old Olympia man, and at a parked 2010 Dodge Pickup nearby. The State Patrol trooper listed the dump truck as totaled, the Jeep and pickup both sustained some damage.

 

Daytime closures over US 101 Chehalis River Bridge in Aberdeen modified

Drivers will be pleased to hear that previously announced short-duration daytime closures scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, April 15-16 on US 101 across the Chehalis River Bridge have been modified. No maintenance closures will occur on Wednesday, April 15. On Thursday, April 16, Washington State Department of Transportation bridge maintenance crews will close the exit to State Street and the right northbound lane of US 101 across the Chehalis River Bridge from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

These changes are in lieu of multiple daytime closures scheduled to occur each day through Thursday. Bridge crews were able to reduce the number of closures due to faster-than-projected progress on deep-cleaning the bridge’s areas that house moving mechanisms and gears that control openings for marine traffic.

Real-time traffic information is available on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s travel alerts web pages or by calling 5-1-1.

Changes Made to Earthquake and Tsunami Planning since the 2011 disaster in Japan

Last month, the anniversaries of the March 27th 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami, (M 9.2, which impacted Grays Harbor County), and the March 27th 2011 Japanese “Tohoku” Earthquake and Tsunami, (M9.0), passed without much fanfare.  I contacted John Schelling, the Earthquake/Tsunami/Volcano Programs Manager at Washington Emergency Management Division to ask the question, “Have any changes been made to U.S. and/or Washington State planning since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami?” His response is below.

 

FROM GRAYS HARBOR COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT:

Four years has elapsed since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, I was wondering if any significant changes have been made to any U.S. planning, (or worldwide planning)?  One significant change in Washington State and Grays Harbor County, is the Ocosta School District Elementary School Project where they are building the first vertical evacuation, tsunami engineered, safe haven building in North America, but have there been any other changes?

 

THE REPLY FROM JOHN SCHELLING:

The short answer is yes, there has been a lot that has changed. Here are a few…

 

Lesson from Japan: Plan for the right hazard. Japan planned for a smaller M8.2 event…and then had a 9.

In Washington: Fortunately, our paleo tsunami and ghost forest history has shown that we have had to worry about a 9.0 as well as smaller events. However, science is not a static process and new research should give way to updated hazard assessment. We have been re-examining the tsunami hazard from Cascadia and updating the coastal hazard assessments using an earthquake that generates a greater amount of slip, which makes a bigger tsunami.

 

Lesson from Japan: Vertical evacuation can save thousands of lives…if they are high enough

In Washington: We conducted site-specific hazard assessments for current sites proposed for vertical evacuation using a larger scenario and added additional factors of safety to account for uncertainty.

 

Lesson from Japan: Don’t rely on your technical warning systems to alert people as there may be issues in getting an accurate warning out before the telecommunications infrastructure is impaired.

In Washington and the US: We continue to educate coastal populations on natural warning signs of a tsunami and recommendation evacuation when people feel the ground shake. The technological system is there as a secondary source of information, if it’s available.

 

Lesson from Japan: Global Positioning Systems, (GPS) can help identify BIG earthquakes more quickly than traditional seismometers.

In Washington and the US: There are discussions moving forward about how to integrate GPS data into the traditional seismometer-based warning network. Additionally, Washington State is home to one of the larger GPS networks, the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array (PANGA), which is run out of Central Washington University. For more information on PANGA go to: http://www.panga.cwu.edu/about/news/

 

Lesson from Japan event here in Washington: Limited English Proficiency communities may be unaware of tsunami hazard zones, tsunami warning sirens, and tsunami evacuation maps/routes given evacuations in Grays Harbor County to a local hospital

In Washington: The State Tsunami Program, in conjunction with state and local partners, including Grays Harbor County, has begun to develop a series of products and outreach materials, such as Public Service Announcements, (PSAs), in Spanish to more effectively educate local coastal populations.

Washington State Senate announces bipartisan Capital Budget proposal

The Washington State Senate on Wednesday announced a 2015-17 bipartisan Capital Budget proposal.

“It’s really been an interesting experience to be able to shape the spending that the state does to really invest in our future. And, what we did this year with the Capital Budget was shape that future to be a little more oriented towards education. Public education, especially the smaller class sizes of kindergarten through third grade, as well as higher education, as well as our skills centers. So, those are elements of the Capital Budget that really received a lot more attention this year in this year’s Senate budget.”

As the lead Democratic Capital Budget negotiator, Sen. Karen Keiser of Kent, has spent the past few months of the legislative session working with Senate Republicans on the $3.9 billion proposal announced Wednesday. While there is much to praise in the proposed Capital Budget they are far from a finished product. Keiser added that they are still working to improve funding levels for energy and the environment.

Nicole Vukonich reporting in Olympia.

Department of Natural Resources LiDAR hazard mapping receives unanimous approval from House

A catalog of detailed LiDAR maps of Washington’s geologic hazards is one step closer to reality after the state House voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a bill requested by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.

Senate Bill 5088 requires the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to expand LiDAR mapping of geologic hazards like landslides and fault lines and work with counties, cities and the public to disseminate that information. The measure is the first of three “critical first steps” identified by the Joint SR 530 Landslide Commission convened by Gov. Jay Inslee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick to study emergency response to the disaster.

“The tragedy of last year’s unprecedented natural disasters should have guided all of our focus on the vital government role of ensuring public safety,” said Commissioner Goldmark. “By creating and maintaining a centralized database of precise locations of hazards like deep-seated landslides and fault lines, we can give planners, developers and the public information they need to be protected against the next disaster.”

The bill was introduced by Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe and was unanimously passed by the Senate in February. House members voted 97-0 to approve the bill Wednesday. It now goes to Gov. Inslee’s desk for final approval.

“I’m very pleased that the House took action on this important bill. It has the potential to help save lives by mapping possible disaster areas,” said Pearson.

Home of the Washington Geological Survey, DNR is responsible for surveying and mapping Washington’s geologic hazards. The department is currently staffed with three hazards geologists and two mapping geologists. LiDAR mapping is one of the agency’s top priorities for this legislative session.

A budget appropriation must be made in order for DNR to implement the program in a meaningful way, according to Commissioner Goldmark. The program is estimated to cost $6.6 million. The operating budget proposed by the House dedicated $4,645,000. The Senate’s proposed operating budget left the program unfunded.

DNR hopes to hire additional geologists and technical experts in order to interpret new LiDAR surveys and prepare maps of hazards that will be accessible to land use planners, emergency managers and the public.

Lidar 4Lidar 3

“Unanimous passage of this legislation indicates public safety is a top priority; one I know legislators take seriously. I’m optimistic they will come through and dedicate funding for this important initiative,” Commissioner Goldmark said.

Lidar 2LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) uses lasers mounted on aircraft to scope topography by measuring reflected light. Those beams of light penetrate forest canopy, ground cover and human development to allow mappers and scientists to see the landforms below with pinpoint accuracy.

A little more than one-fourth of Washington has already been mapped with LiDAR, though much of that was done with lower-quality imaging. DNR will initially target LiDAR mapping efforts at population centers and infrastructure most at risk from landslides and other hazards.

DNR’s Natural Resource Mission on Behalf of Washingtonians

Under the elected leadership of Commissioner Goldmark, DNR manages more than 5.6 million acres of state-owned forest, range, commercial, agricultural, conservation, and aquatic lands. More than half of these lands are held in trust and produce income to support public schools and other state institutions. Lands managed by DNR also provide outdoor recreation, native fish and wildlife habitat, and clean and abundant water.

DNR purchase on Olympic Peninsula adds to wildlife habitat and working forest

At its regular monthly public meeting this week, the Board of Natural Resources authorized the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to purchase 1,720 acres of forestland north of the Quinault Indian Reservation on the western Olympic Peninsula. The $5.2 million purchase from The Nature Conservancy will be funded by the proceeds from previous sales and state-funded conservation transfers of under-productive trust lands.

 

“We’re grateful for the partnership with The Nature Conservancy in purchasing this land,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, who chairs the board. “It will benefit future trust beneficiaries and our conservation commitments on the Olympic Peninsula.”

 

The new purchase will become part of the Olympic State Experimental Forest, which DNR manages under its Habitat Conservation Plan for timber revenue to trust land beneficiaries, including the Common School Trust. About $4 million of the site’s purchase price is represented by its standing timber, the majority of which will be ready for harvest in ten to twenty years.

 

Park land for eastern King County

The board today also authorized a $3.025 million direct transfer (sale) of just over 122 acres of forestland to King County to include in its Patterson Creek Park Natural Area. The site, located between Sammamish and Issaquah, is nearly surrounded by residential development. DNR will use the sale’s proceeds to purchase forestland better suited for producing revenue for the Common School Trust.

 

Trust land transfers in Klickitat and Thurston counties

The board also approved two transactions through the legislatively funded Trust Land Transfer program:

 

  • Eight hundred and nineteen acres of forested Common School Trust property will be transferred to the Klickitat Canyon Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA). The property, which straddles the Yakima-Klickitat county line, is three miles north of Glenwood. The ecologically diverse area includes several rare plants identified as threatened and endangered. The $2.1 million provided by the Trust Land Transfer program for the parcel will support public school construction projects statewide and purchase replacement land better suited for producing natural resources revenue for the Common School Trust.
  • Five hundred and forty-seven acres of forest and wetlands near the town of Elbe in Thurston County will be transferred to Tacoma Public Utilities. The property’s limited road access and isolation from other DNR-managed trust lands make it inefficient to manage for timber harvest revenue. The $4.68 million provided by the Trust Land Transfer program for the parcel will support public school construction projects statewide and purchase replacement land better suited for producing natural resources revenue for the Common School Trust.

 

DNR… caring for your natural resources
DNR manages more than 5.6 million acres of state-owned forest, range, commercial, agricultural, conservation, and aquatic lands. More than half of these lands are held in trust and produce income to support public schools, county services, universities, prisons, and other state institutions. The Board of Natural Resources adopts broad-based policies and approves major commodity sales and all land transactions for state lands.