West Nile virus activity unprecedented in Washington during 2009 season

Residents of six Washington counties were confirmed with West Nile virus infection. Benton County had nine cases, Grant had one, Klickitat had two, Spokane had two, Whatcom had one, and Yakima had 21. All but two of these people were exposed in Eastern Washington — and they may have been exposed out of state. The Whatcom County resident was exposed while camping in Eastern Washington. Some samples are still being tested.

Of the 36 people, 28 had severe disease — including encephalitis, meningitis, and/or paralysis. Eight of them had mild illness with a fever and headache. A resident of Benton County and one from Yakima County were identified through blood donor screening as having the virus, but they aren’t counted for national reporting because they didn’t have symptoms. Blood banks in the country routinely screen donations for West Nile virus. If the virus is detected, infected blood is removed from supply, and health officials are notified.

The 2009 season ended with the return of colder fall weather. During that season 71 horses, one dog, 22 birds, and 341 mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile virus. Through this testing the virus was detected in 14 counties, with Grays Harbor, Franklin, Mason, and Walla Walla counties having their first-ever West Nile detections since monitoring began in 2001.

Washington had the nation’s highest number of horses infected with West Nile virus. Nearly half of all horses infected either died from the illness or were euthanized. This season’s environmental monitoring shows the virus is firmly established in Eastern Washington and continues to spread in Western Washington.

State and local public health agencies, mosquito control districts, other state agencies, and volunteers participate in West Nile virus environmental monitoring. The state Department of Health also began using an online dead bird reporting system to help local health partners track dead bird sightings in their communities. More than 400 dead birds were reported across the state using this new online tool.

West Nile virus is a bird disease that’s spread by infected mosquitoes. The best way to reduce the chance of infection is to avoid mosquito bites. Even though cold weather has reduced the risk of mosquito bites, the state health department encourages residents to take preventive actions that are helpful in the off-season. Dump water that collects around your home and make sure gutters are cleaned and free of debris.

More information on West Nile virus in Washington (www.doh.wa.gov/wnv) is on the state Department of Health Web site.

Seventeen Firefighters Prepare to Graduate from Fire Training Academy

The following fire departments and districts are represented in the upcoming graduating class:

 
Eastside Fire & Rescue                                   (3)
Fire Training Academy                                   (2)
King County Fire District #45                        (5)
Kittitas Valley Fire & Rescue                        (1)
Snohomish County Fire District #26          (1)
Woodinville Fire & Life Safety                     (2)
Yakima County Fire District #5                    (1)
Mason County Fire District #2                     (2)

 

 
For more information on the Fire Training Academy, contact the Office of the State Fire Marshal at (360) 596-3900.

Fall brings seasonal closures, reduced services to many of DNR’s recreation areas

From this page, you can link to major recreation areas, counties, or DNR regions—not only for the status of an area, but also for contact information such as staff name, number, or email address.

Some areas may have locked gates and fewer or no amenities, such as toilets. However, the public can still access areas beyond locked gates by foot. DNR asks the public to pack out what they pack in.

 

Seasonal closures or reduced services will take place in the following counties:

 

Clark and Skamania counties — Yacolt Burn State Forest

Dougan Creek Campground will close for the season November 1.

Jones Creek ORV trail system and all trails in Yacolt are closed to ORV/motorized use from December 1 through March 31.

 

Cowlitz County — Merrill Lake

Closes November 15. Reopens around April 15, depending on snow.

 

Grant County — Beverly Sand Dunes

Closes for the season November 15 and re-opens March 15, 2010.

Grays Harbor and Thurston counties — Capitol Forest

The following will close for the season from December 1 – May 1:

Margaret McKenny,  Middle Waddell Off-road Vehicle (ORV), Mima Falls, Sherman Valley, North Creek, Fall Creek, and Porter Creek campgrounds. Middle Waddell ORV, Rock Candy, and Fall Creek trailheads.

King County — Tiger Mountain

Tiger Summit Trailhead closes October 15. DNR is considering leaving the multi-use, non-motorized trails open until November 1, depending on weather and trail conditions. Be sure to check the website for closure information.

Kitsap County — Green Mountain State Forest 

Green Mountain Campground gate (GM-1) generally closes from October 16 – May 31. Area is open year-round for walk-in access.

 

Mason County — Tahuya State Forest

Camp Spillman and Kammenga Campground closes October 15. (These campgrounds will be closed indefinitely due to budget cuts.)

 

Snohomish County — Morningstar Natural Resources Conservation Area

Starting this month, DNR staff will be removing amenities such as toilets due to budget cuts. Road access will change as well. Please be sure to check the Northwest Region recreation web page for details.

Yakima County — Ahtanum State Forest

Effective November 15, Snow Cabin and Ahtanum Meadows campgrounds will be closed indefinitely due to budget cuts.

Westport to Receive Ecology Funds to Prevent Flood Damage

The cities and counties will use the money for various purposes such as acquiring flood-prone properties, install water-tight access lids to prevent stormwater infiltration into local sewer systems, and remove levees to improve flood protection and restore natural stream functions.

 

"The recent catastrophic floods we experienced in 2007 and earlier this year highlight how critical it is to get these funds out to our local communities," said Gordon White, who oversees Ecology’s statewide shoreline and environmental assistance activities.

Ecology is giving awards for the following local projects:

 

  • Yakima County – $220,000 to remove the Boise-Cascade levee and acquire the DelaPaz property which has suffered repeated flood damage.
  • Lewis County – $200,000 to elevate homes in the Chehalis River floodplain.
  • Skagit County – $200,000 to help pay for a flood-protection study for the Skagit basin.
  • Sultan (Snohomish County) – $150,000 to acquire and demolish homes and structures that have suffered repetitive flood damage.
  • Wilkeson (Pierce County) – $150,000 to restore and stabilize stream banks along Wilson Creek.
  • Westport (Grays Harbor County) – $125,000 for a system-wide flood damage prevention project.
  • Ellensburg (Kittitas County) – $80,000 to modify the Reecer Creek levee.
  • Pullman (Whitman County) – $75,000 to improve the channel for Missouri Flat Creek.
  • Connell (Franklin County) – $50,000 to clear sediment out of the Esquatzel-Coulee channel.
  • Orting (Pierce County) – $50,000 to prevent backflows from the outfalls draining to the Puyallup River.
  • Colville (Stevens County) – $25,000 to construct a stormwater retention facility at McDonald Park.
  • East Wenatchee (Douglas County) – $25,000 for a culvert enhancement project located at Canyon A and Eastmont Avenue.

In all, 38 communities submitted applications for 41 projects worth $18 million. Ecology, however, only had $1.35 million for state assistance.

Illegal fishing, dry weather conditions threaten fish across the state

"These people may not know it, but the two fish they caught represent 10 percent of the wild chinook that have returned so far to the Dungeness, which has also suffered from low flows this summer," said WDFW Sergeant Phillip Henry. "Taking one of these fish is like shooting a bald eagle." 

Henry said fines for the offenses could add up for the poachers. Fishing in closed waters carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail. The maximum penalty for snagging alone is $5,000 and/or a year in jail. Snagging is an attempt to take fish with a hook and line in such a way that the fish does not voluntarily take the bait in its mouth. In addition, the two may face federal charges for taking protected fish.

WDFW is also stepping up enforcement patrols on other rivers in the state during the summer’s peak season, Henry said. On a recent patrol of the Skokomish River in Mason County, WDFW enforcement officers issued more than 50 citations for a variety of violations, including snagging, over-limits and fishing without a license. 

"Poaching is an annual issue, but with most of Washington experiencing the hottest and driest summer in years, low water levels are making fish more vulnerable to snagging and other illegal activities," Henry said. "We appreciate that most anglers follow the rules and hope others will act responsibly as well."
Henry asks that anyone who witnesses poaching violations to call WDFW’s confidential toll-free Poaching Hotline at (877) 933-9847.

The same weather conditions are causing additional problems for fish in other parts of the state. Low flows and elevated water temperatures forced the early closure of salmon fishing on Lake Wenatchee, where returning sockeye were experiencing high mortality rates. 

At the Fallert Creek Hatchery on the Kalama River, where surface water temperatures were elevated during the state’s recent heat wave, about 135,000 summer and winter steelhead – 96 percent of the facility’s steelhead – died after being infected by a parasite that grows rapidly in warm water. Elsewhere, about 200,000 coho salmon – 12 percent of the coho at the Washougal Hatchery – died from a bacterial infection after water temperatures reached 80 degrees at the facility.

Rock dams built by campers to create swimming areas in streams, also pose real problems for salmon and other migrating fish at this time of year, said Perry Harvester, a WDFW fish biologist.

Each year, WDFW staff dismantles dozens of these so-called "recreational dams," which can block passage to salmon, steelhead and bulltrout moving upstream to spawn, Harvester said.  In Yakima County, where Harvester is based, the problem is especially acute near campgrounds on Rattlesnake and Crow creeks, and the Teanaway River, American River, and the Little Naches River.

"It may seem like innocent fun, but building these makeshift dams can put entire runs of protected fish at risk especially during late summer when many fish begin their spawning runs," he said.  "It may be one reason why we’ve seen declining redd (egg-nest) counts for ESA-listed bull trout in some of these streams in recent years.

Harvester noted that building an unauthorized dam of any sort across a river or stream is a violation of the state hydraulics law, which is a gross misdemeanor.

Spike in Traffic Fatalities Concerns WSP

The six collisions occurred in all parts of the state; three in Yakima County, one in Thurston County, Lincoln County, and Snohomish County. Three of the collisions were one vehicle collisions, one involved 4 vehicles, and two involved 2 vehicles.

The weather was not a factor as the roadways were bare and dry.  Two of the collisions occurred at night the rest were between 12 noon and 8:30 pm.

The weather forecast for this weekend is for mild temperatures with a possibility of rain.  Because we have had no rain recently, when it does come some roadways may be slick.  Watch your speed and following distances. Give yourself enough room to maneuver if an emergency arises.

When you get behind the wheel or grab onto the handlebars of your motorcycle you are the one making the decisions. The WSP is asking you to make wise choices because wrong decisions could result in collisions which could cost your life or the life of an innocent party.

Please drive safely.