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Happy New Year! The Stories That Made Top Headlines In 2013

(Editor’s Note: In this edition of The Enterprise, we take a look back at the first six months of 2013 and the stories that made news.)

JANUARY

The White Salmon River, from below the old bridge below the former Condit Dam powerhouse to the Northwestern Lake Road bridge, opened to steelhead fishing on Jan. 5 as a selective-gear fishery. A spoke-sman for the Washington Depart-ment of Fish and Wildlife regional office in Vancouver said the White Salmon River had returning, harvestable hatchery steelhead, both winter and summer run, available for sport harvest along a three-mile stretch of the lower White Salmon that had historically been a popular fishing area.

Vernazza, Italy. Koh Phangan, Thailand. Constantia, South Africa. Waiheke, New Zealand. The White Salmon River, United States of America. What do all of these places have in common? They were all on The New York Times’ “The 46 Places to Go in 2013,” a list published on Jan. 11 that noted the must-see travel destinations in countries all over the world. The White Salmon River came in at No. 13 on the list. Bonnie Tsui, a freelance writer who lives in San Francisco, wrote the entry about the White Salmon River, which she billed in her brief article as “a whitewater paddler’s dream come true,” due to the completion of the Condit Hydroelectric Project demolition in the fall of 2012. The White Salmon River was one of seven United States destinations listed by The Times.

Insitu, Inc., announced Jan. 18 that not only was it staying put in the Columbia River Gorge, it planned to break ground in the spring on a 120-square-foot concrete tilt-up building on Bingen Point to house the company’s production and administrative departments. The announcement came more than three years after Insitu stated its intention to stay in the Gorge by calling for ideas for a business campus that would encompass most of Insitu’s operations. Klickitat County Port District No. 1 officials and Insitu representatives completed negotiations in December 2012 and agreed on a 50-year ground lease that covers two lots and 8.06 acres of the Bingen Point Binding Site Plan, facing the Columbia River, and includes up to three 10-year extensions.

Advocates for finding out if western Klickitat County communities want and can afford to build and sustain an open-air aquatic center announced plans for a March fundraiser to raise money for a study that would answer those questions. The goal of fundraising event organizers was to raise at least $11,000 to pay for a feasibility study that’s not site-specific and that would be conducted under the auspices of a local non-profit organization, Northside Community Education and Recrea-tion. The non-profit agreed to ad-minister the funds and hire a consultant to perform the study that eventually would be submitted to the Mt. Adams Park and Recreation District for further discussion and possible action.

A federal agency determined that a controversial gas pipeline project on the White Salmon River proposed by Williams Northwest met the letter of the law, despite claims to the contrary from the Yakama Nation. The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) re-examined the gas pipeline replacement project and conducted an on-site visit after Yakama Nation officials claimed the natural gas company had violated federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act by exceeding project boundaries and damaging a Yakama archaeological site near the riverbank. The project entailed removing a section of gas pipeline from beneath the White Salmon River and placing it on girders on the east riverbank. The pipeline became exposed following the demolition of PacifiCorp’s Condit Dam. FERC found that Williams Northwest was operating within an easement conveyed by PacifiCorp and per an archaeological report prepared for the project.

FEBRUARY

The Klickitat County Assessor’s Office and the Board of Equalization faced the largest number of appeals they had seen in at least 15 years, thanks largely to what County Assessor Darlene Johnson said were changes mandated bythe state Department of Revenue. As of Feb. 5, the Board of Equalization – a county agency tasked with hearing property tax appeals – had received 660 appeals from taxpayers disputing the values at which their properties had been assessed. According to appeal statistics on the Department of Revenue Web site dating back to 1998, the county’s total of 660 appeals was its highest in any of those years. Moreover, 3 percent of the county’s values were appealed, which was also the highest the figure had been in 15 years.

Klickitat County Commissioners were less than thrilled to learn that funds from a settlement designed to mitigate impacts of from Bonneville Power Administration’s Big Eddy-Knight Transmission Project – the majority of which will run through the center of the county – might not end up being spent in the county. Commissioners sent a letter to BPA on Feb. 26 after learning that conservation group Friends of the Columbia Gorge, which was a party to the nearly $1.8 million settlement, had proposed to use the money only on projects the county deemed to be outside the impact area of the transmission line project. While the county did not have any legal entitlement to the mitigation money, Commis-sioner David Sauter said it was unfair that mitigation wasn’t being done in the county most affected by the construction.

MARCH

The Bingen City Council began looking for someone to fill a council vacancy after it was discovered that recent council appointee Stephanie Porter was not registered to vote in the city of Bingen. Mayor Betty Barnes informed the council during its March 5 meeting that Porter was not eligible to serve at the time she was appointed but had since become registered to vote in Bingen. The appointment of Porter on Feb. 5 (to replace Clinton Bryan, who resigned in January) made the Bingen council an all-woman decision-making body. The City Council rescinded Porter’s appointment and moved unanimously to open up the position for new filings.

Discussions about constructing an alternate access road to the Port of Klickitat’s Bingen Point property took a small step forward when state lawmakers for this area requested of the House Transportation Committee that “an appropriation be put in the House of Representatives’ Transportation Budget that would complete an engineering study for the proposed overpass at the Port of Klickitat.” State Reps. Norm Johnson and Charles Ross of the 14th Legislative District sent the letter to the chairman of the House Transportation Committee and and a similar one to 14th District Sen. Curtis King, co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. Interest in an overpass project leading to Bingen Point has risen in tandem with the proliferation of businesses on the point over the past 10-15 years. Currently, Maple Street in Bingen is the only road leading into the port property from State Route 14, but traffic is hampered by an active at-grade BNSF railroad crossing. With dozens of trains traveling through Bingen every day, the city, the port, and businesses that are sandwiched between the Columbia River and the rail line are advocating for an alternate access point to the port.

Legislation that would have regulated the purchase and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by public agencies in The Evergreen State died at the Legislature’s March 13 cutoff for moving bills from their chamber of origin. Rep. David Taylor, a Moxee Republican who used to represent Klickitat and Skamania counties in the House of Representatives, introduced House Bill 1771, which, had it been enacted, would have established a legal framework for public agency acquisition and use of UAVs, also known as drones. The measure cleared the Democratic-controlled House Public Safety Committee on an 8-1 vote but failed to receive a floor vote by the full House before the deadline for considering bills was reached. The Boeing Company and the Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs opposed the legislation. The Seattle Times reported on March 15 that legislators in 32 states had sponsored drone regulations, but none of those bills had become law.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources and Public Utility District No. 1 of Klickitat County found themselves embroiled in litigation over the state’s claim that the PUD owes the DNR more than $1.6 million in fire suppression and investigation costs stemming from two fires that started Aug. 26, 2010, along Old Highway 8, near Lyle. The state Attorney General’s Natural Resources Division filed the CNR complaint to recover costs against the PUD on June 28, 2012, in Superior Court. The PUD’s attorney replied with a denial of all DNR claims. The state began the cost-recovery process related to the Old Highway 8 Fire on Sept. 29, 2011, with a “demand letter” to the PUD requesting payment of $1,607,553.29 within 30days of the letter’s day. The letter alleged the PUD was negligent and responsible for the fires because one stem of a double-topped Ponderosa pine tree outside the PUD’s right-of-way broke and fell across the PUD power line that parallels Old Highway 8 during a high-wind day. The fire occurred as a result of electrical arcing due to line-to-ground contact.

APRIL

Klickitat County joined Skamania and Lewis counties in litigation against a federal proposal to expand critical habitat for threatened northern spotted owls on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. In addition to the lawsuit, the counties planned to seek a court injunction to delay the proposed habitat expansion while the issue was being litigated. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule would impact 4.8 million acres in Washington – and double existing spotted owl habitat overall – and would expand existing critical habitat designations currently limited to federal lands to state and private lands. The counties planned to argue that expansion of habitat – areas where no logging would be permitted due to spotted owl conservation measures – will not fundamentally alter the situation on the ground: the northern spotted owl population is declining, in spite of the federal and state set-asides to boost its recovery.

The Bingen City Council became an all-female body once again on April 2 after councilors voted 3-1 to appoint Maple Street resident Isolde Schroder to a vacant seat. The appointment brought to an end a process that began on Jan. 2 with the resignation of Clinton Bryan from Position No. 2. Schroder was selected to serve over Lori Stephenson and Stephanie Porter, who had both previously applied for the open position when it was first advertised in January.

Klickitat County prosecutors re-filed the state’s charges against a Snowden-area horse breeder on April 3 after the parties failed to achieve a settlement agreement in State v. Skakel. Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kate Mathews said the state filed the same charges as in the previous case against Nancy J. Skakel, 62, of 687 Snowden Rd. – one felony count of animal cruelty in the first degree and 19 counts of transporting or confining animals in an unsafe manner – plus an additional single count of animal cruelty in the second degree, a gross misdemeanor. The state initially charged Skakel in March 2012 after an investigation by the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office in Febraury 2012 found evidence on Skakel’s property supporting the animal cruelty and unsafe transportation or confinement of animals charges. Skakel, a breeded of Shagya Arabian horses, pled not guilty to the charges during an April 2, 2012 court appearance.

A runner from White Salmon and a runner from Trout Lake who participated in the April 15 Boston Marathon were unharmed after two explosive devices detonated near the race’s finish line in downtown Boston, Mass, at around 2:50 p.m. EST, left three dead and approximately 1050 injured. Kim Brislawn of White Salmon and Betsy Scott of Trout Lake crossed the finish line just five minutes apart from each other and less than 20 minutes before the explosions. The first bomb detonated at four hours, nine minutes into the 26.2-mile race and the second blast followed about 15 seconds later, just 550 feet west of the first blast’s location. Scott finished her fifth Boston Marathon about 18 minutes before the bombs exploded, while Brislawn, running just her second-ever marathon, crossed the finish line 13 minutes ahead of the explosions. Brislawn estimated she was about three blocks away from the finish on Boylston Street when she heard the first explosion.

Local non-profit Northside Education and Recreation entered into a contract with TSE Consulting – an international consulting firm based in Indianapolis that specializes in sport and serves clients large and small – to conduct a feasibility study on whether western Klickitat County communities can build and operate an aquatic center. The study was to be prepared for the Mt. Adams Park and Recreation District. Northside had agreed earlier in the year to serve as administrator of the contract and the more than $11,000 in local donations that were raised to pay for the study.

After several months of deliberation, public meetings, and public hearings, the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners voted on April 23 to form an Emergency Medical Services District that will provide ambulance services for the majority of Klickitat County. The district was devised to cover all areas of the county except those areas that fall within the boundaries of Fire Protection District No. 2 (Bickleton) and No. 10 (Alderdale). An ordinance creating the EMS District was scheduled for County Board action on May 7. The EMS District Board also planned to hold a special meeting on May 7 to draft a levy proposal to submit to the County Auditor for a special election in August.

MAY

Klickitat County Fire Protection District No. 3’s board of commissioners appointed a 12-member community task force to look at the services the district is currently providing and to make recommendations for improvements, if any are needed. The Fire Board commissioned the task force, comprising residents from the district’s three main service areas, on May 13. The Fire Board stated it hoped to gain a “vision” for Fire District No. 3, as well as some concrete recommendations for moving the district forward. The task force, working with a consultant, was expected to meet five to six times, starting May 20, “to provide independent analysis, research, and recommendation to the board through a series of informative consultations to determine and recommend: 1) a desired level of emergency preparedness and services for the community; and 2) the level at which these services should be provided.”

Klickitat County Commissioners, meeting on May 7 as the interim governing body of Emergency Medical Services District No. 1, passed a resolution directing the County Auditor to place an EMS property tax levy on the Aug. 6 Primary Election ballot. The levy, if approved, would provide operating revenue for the newly establish EMS District and would be collected at the rate of 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for six consecutive years, starting with taxes payable in 2014.

Two men accused of assault with a deadly weapon – but not a firearm – and the hate crime of malicious harassment pleaded not guilty to the charges on May 20 in Klickitat County Superior Court. The County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged both Stephen L. Campbell, 22, of Lyle, and 28-year-old Jared T. Duddles of Parkdale, Ore., with three felony counts of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon enhancement, and three felony counts of malicious harassment, defined by state statute as a hate crime involving “crimes or threats motivated by bigotry, prejudice, and bias.” The charges stemmed from an alleged altercation on the night of May 15 in Lyle, between Campbell and Duddles, and three Native American residents of the community.

A Clark County Superior Court judge announced May 27 that she was overturning Klickitat County’s 2012 land use plan and zoning updates for the lower White Salmon River valley. An attorney representing plaintiffs Friends of the White Salmon River and Friends of the Columbia Gorge said Klickitat County lost on at least six counts, according to an advisory letter issued by Judge Barbara D. Johnson on May 27. In her two-page advisory letter, Johnson said the court concluded the county violated the State Environmental Policy Act by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement “for this extensive rezone.” It also concluded “the county unlawfully delegated the right to individual landowners to upzone their land, and the RR-2 [Rural Residential 2-acre] overlay constitutes unlawful spot zoning.” The County Board adopted new planning policies and regulations, and zoning for the Husum and BZ Corner areas in the spring of 2012 as amendments to the County Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance. The action included the rezoning of more than 1,100 acres of land previously designated as Resource Lands.

JUNE

The White Salmon City Council on June 5 approved a water rights purchase agreement with the White Salmon Irrigation District that, when final, will provide enough water to the City of White Salmon and its customers for another 50 to 100 years for growth. The Irrigation District planned to finance the deal over a 20-year term with a 3 percent interest promissory note from the city to the district. The note would be held in escrow by a third-party financial institution until the note is paid in full.

Public Utility District No. 1 of Klickitat County got some good news on June 4 when conservation group Friends of the Columbia Gorge announced that a portion of the money the group would be receiving from a Bonneville Power Administration settlement would, pending BPA approval, go toward a pair of power line removal projects the PUD asked Friends to fund with settlement money late last year. The projects proposed by the PUD called for removal of 44 utility poles from the federally owned Catherine Creek area, and removal of 10 utility poles from the Klickitat Trail trailhead in Lyle and the Balfour Day Use Area west of Lyle, and relocation of this line to a new crossing upstream from the existing crossing.

Klickitat County PUD announced it was appealing a Superior Court ruling denying its motion to dismiss a $1.6 million fire cost recovery claim filed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The DNR claim was filed after the Old Highway 8 Fire near Lyle in August 2010. Judge Brian Altman issued an oral ruling against the PUD on June 6, but also accepted notice from the PUD that it intended to appeal his decision to a higher court. An attorney for the PUD said the utility planned to file a notice of discretionary review with Division III of the State Court of Appeals in Spokane.

White Salmon’s Babe Ruth baseball team completed an undefeated season on June 19 with a 15-0 victory over East Cascade Electric of The Dalles, at Hecomovich Field. The local team went 19-0 against The Dalles Babe Ruth League competition from The Dalles, Goldendale, Sherman County, and Dufur. Under the direction of coaches Pat Bond and Tony Guler, White Salmon shined offensively and defensively, outscoring its opponents 267-78, or by an average of 14 runs per game to 4 rpg.

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