Second suspect in break-in of Governor’s office appears in court

By Jeremy Pawloski, The Olympian

A judge found probable cause Wednesday to support an accusation that a 28-year-old Seattle woman was one of two women who burglarized Gov. Jay Inslee’s private office in the Legislative Building in Olympia on June 15.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor said there is probable cause to support accusations that Rachel Kamiya committed second-degree burglary, third-degree theft and third-degree possession of stolen property. However, Tabor allowed Kamiya to be released on her personal recognizance, meaning she was released from custody at the Thurston County Jail without having to post bail.

Kamiya, who has no prior criminal record, was arrested Tuesday afternoon at a coffee shop in Capitol Hill in Seattle where she works.

On Monday night, a Washington State Patrol segreant arrested the other suspect, Emily Huntzicker, 22. The sergeant arrested Huntzicker when he pulled her vehicle over for speeding on Interstate 5 in Chehalis. During the stop, the sergeant noticed a ceremonial WSP campaign hat lying on the floor of Huntzicker’s vehicle that was similar to a WSP hat reported stolen during the burglary of Inslee’s office.

Huntzicker gave a full confession, and helped State Patrol detectives find Kamiya, court papers state. As of Tuesday afternoon, Huntzicker, who is from Beaverton, Oregon, had been released from the Thurston County Jail after posting $2,000 bail.

WSP spokesman Bob Calkins said Tuesday that neither of the suspects realized they had burglarized the governor’s office.

Items reported stolen during the burglary included the WSP hat, a Native American blanket from the Squaxin Island Tribe, a bottle of wine, a Native American mask and a framed photo of Inslee and retired basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

According to court papers, Kamiya also stole a framed photo of Inslee and former President Bill Clinton. Kamiya recognized Clinton, but “could not recognize the second male in the photograph (Governor Inslee),” court papers state.

Huntzicker has told detectives that she and her friend had been drinking alcohol and were walking on the Capitol Campus about 7 p.m., when they came to an open window on the second floor of the Legislative Building, court papers state. Calkins has said that the suspects had to have boosted one or the other up onto the ledge in order to enter Inslee’s second-floor office.

WSP has clear surveillance footage of the women rummaging around Inslee’s office for about 10 minutes, taking items, court papers state. Calkins has said high-value items were passed up in favor of the seemingly random items that were stolen.

When a trooper visited Kamiya Tuesday at the Capitol Hill coffee shop where she works, Kamiya said “she had intended on returning the items back to the Capitol building and turning herself in to law enforcement,” court papers state.

Both suspects are tentatively scheduled for arraignments in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia on July 8.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/06/25/3199633/second-suspect-in-break-in-of.html#storylink=cpy

Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee Issues Directive On Oil Train Safety

Source: The Columbian

Gov. Jay Inslee directed the state Thursday to tackle mounting public safety concerns and develop a spill response plan as oil train traffic continues to increase, particularly in Southwest Washington.

He announced the directive at a meeting of The Columbian’s editorial board in Vancouver.

“The Pacific Northwest is experiencing rapid changes in how crude oil is moving through rail corridors and over Washington waters, creating new safety and environmental concerns,” the directive reads.

The governor asked the Department of Ecology to work with other state agencies, the Federal Railroad Administration and tribal governments to “identify data and information gaps that hinder improvements in public safety and spill prevention and response.”

Specifically, the governor’s directive asks agencies to: – Characterize risk of accidents along rail lines. – Review state and federal laws and rules with respect to rail safety and identify regulatory gaps. – Assess the relative risk of Bakken crude with respect to other forms of crude oil. – Identify data and information gaps that hinder improvements in public safety and spill prevention and response. – Begin development of spill response plans for impacted counties. – Identify potential actions that can be coordinated with neighboring states and British Columbia. – Identify, prioritize, and estimate costs for state actions that will improve public safety and spill prevention and response.

He set an Oct. 1 deadline for agencies to respond.

He also said he’ll reach out to other states to develop coordinated oil transportation safety and spill response plans, and pledged to ask the 2015-17 Legislature for money for oil train safety.

The directive comes as the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is reviewing an application by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. to build an oil shipping terminal at the Port of Vancouver. Bakken crude would arrive at Vancouver by train and leave by ship or barge on the Columbia River.

As governor, Inslee will have the final say on the Tesoro-Savage permit. “We will make the right decision at the right time,” he said, without tipping his hand.

The first-term Democrat is in Vancouver all day today. He presented awards to Washington State Department of Transportation employees, and is scheduled to visit a local technology firm, Smith-Root, that is expanding. This evening he will give the commencement address at the Washington School for the Deaf’s graduation ceremony.

Vancouver City Council Votes 5-2 To Oppose Northwest’s Largest Oil Terminal

Hundreds turned out for a Vancouver City Council hearing on a resolution opposing the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal, proposed for the Port of Vancouver. | credit: Cassandra Profita

Hundreds turned out for a Vancouver City Council hearing on a resolution opposing the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal, proposed for the Port of Vancouver. | credit: Cassandra Profita

By Cassandra Profita, OPB

Monday night had turned to Tuesday morning by the time the Vancouver City Council voted to pass a non-binding resolution opposing what would be the Northwest’s largest oil-by-rail shipping facility.

The vote was 5-2 with Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilor Bill Turlay dissenting. It followed six hours of testimony from residents, most of them opposed to the Port of Vancouver’s planned facility that would transfer North Dakota crude oil from trains to ships bound for West Coast refineries.

It was after 1 am when City Councilor Bart Hansen made a motion to pass the resolution, which expresses deep concern about rail safety, oil spills and explosions and urges Washington Gov. Jay Inslee not to approve the Tesoro Savage oil terminal.

The council debated whether or not to take the vote in the wee hours of the morning. Turlay said he wasn’t ready to take action. Leavitt said he wanted to make some changes to resolution before voting.

“I’ve been told nothing good happens after midnight,” Leavitt joked in pushing to delay the vote. “I know there are ways to improve the resolution. I hope we can get to a unanimous vote. Certainly, I’m not supportive of it as it is now.”

But other councilors pushed ahead. Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said two-thirds of the testimony and comments she’s heard are from people opposed to the project.

“When I look at all the different e-mails that have come back, the voice says that for this community, this doesn’t work for us.”

Big Crowd Dwindles

By the time the board voted a crowd that had started out in the hundreds had dwindled to a few dozen.

More than 170 people signed up to testify at the hearing. At 11 p.m., more than four hours after the hearing began, the council voted to extend the meeting even later to take additional testimony. By 1 am, the council had heard from 101 people.

Even before the resolution was formally taken up, a majority of the city council had voiced opposition to the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal.

The hearing addressed two resolutions on the terminal, but most residents came to talk about the one that opposes the project as a whole. That resolution asks the Port of Vancouver to cancel its lease with Tesoro-Savage and urges state agencies and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee not to approve the project. It also supports new laws and regulations to improve crude oil transportation safety.

The council unanimously approved a resolution that calls for the city to play a bigger role in the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council review process.The council is in the midst of completing an environmental review of the project and is tasked with making a recommendation to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say. That resolution supports the city’s intervening in that process by presenting evidence to the state council, making arguments and appealing a decision to approve the oil terminal.

Most who testified Monday night voiced support for both resolutions and opposition to the oil terminal, although there were many who spoke on behalf of project backers Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies.

Emotional Testimony

The resolutions drew some emotional testimony from both sides.

Don Orange, owner of Hoesly Eco-Automotive of Vancouver, told the council that he’s angry about the prospect of “thousands of pounds of filth” coming into his neighborhood and hurting his business.

“You can call this a terminal. To me, it’s a toilet,” he said. “It’s coming in here on a freight train and we’re flushing it off into ships. This small businessman thinks it stinks.”

On the other side, Port Commissioner Jerry Oliver expressed sadness that the council would consider opposing the project he thinks will benefit the country as a whole by distributing more domestically produced oil to U.S. refineries.

“It makes me sad, not so much that you’re turning your back on the Port of Vancouver, but that you have so little faith in our ability as a community to make this happen,” Oliver said.

Safety And Business Concerns Raised

The Tesoro Savage oil terminal would transport up to 380,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The oil would come from North Dakota’s Bakken fields by trains, be transferred to vessels on the Columbia River and then shipped to West Coast refineries. It’s the largest oil terminal project among the several proposed in the Northwest.

While project supporters noted that the city council doesn’t have the authority to stop the project, opponents of the project said it’s important that the city council let the governor know where it stands.

“It’s difficult to imagine the governor supporting this project if the city of Vancouver opposes it,” said Clark County resident Don Steinke after presenting the council with a box of 2,000 signatures in support of the resolutions.

Vancouver resident Carol Rose says she’s worried about safety in her community if the proposed project is built.

“It’s a tremendous amount of oil, and it’s a danger,” she says. “I’ve lived here for 40 years. I don’t want to have to move because of this.”

Many project opponents voiced concern about the risk of oil train derailments and explosions like the one that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last year.

Project supporters defended the safety record of Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies. Earlier this year, Tesoro committed to using newer rail cars that meet higher safety standards.

Many who testified in support of the project were employees of Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies. They told the council that they appreciate the jobs and economic development the oil terminal would bring to the area and vouched for the companies’ track records in treating their employees well.

Jared Larrabee, general manager for Tesoro, said the resolution opposing the project is premature because the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council hasn’t completed its environmental review.

“The resolution is making a predetermination without having all of the facts, in our view,” he said. “The resolution contains several inaccuracies and assertions that haven’t been validated by the forthcoming Environmental Impact Statement.”

He and other Tesoro representatives supported the resolution that would support the city intervening in the state’s environmental review process. But they urged the council to delay its vote opposing the project or to reconsider it altogether.

Todd Coleman, director of Port of Vancouver, criticized the city’s resolution and said it would damage the port’s ability to do business.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he told the board. “You can’t have a thriving port and all the things that come with that success and then attempt to choose between cargo. A vote for this resolution is a vote against this community’s ability to attract private sector business.”

Inslee weighs big increase in cancer risk for fish eaters

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at the State of the State address in January. Flickr/Jay Inslee.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at the State of the State address in January. Flickr/Jay Inslee.

 

By Robert McClure, InvestigateWest; Source: The Herald

OLYMPIA — How much risk of cancer from eating fish is too much? Gov. Jay Inslee has privately advanced a proposal that would likely pass legal muster but which worries Indian tribes and environmentalists. It would allow a tenfold increase in allowable cancer risk under the law.

It’s either that, the governor has told a panel of his advisers, or the state will have to consider regulatory breaks for polluters that the state has not traditionally granted in the past.

For example: giving factories, municipal sewage treatment plants and others who dump pollution into waterways 20 years or perhaps even more to come into compliance with new toxic-waste limits.

Caught in crossfire between Indian tribes and business interests, Inslee stepped into the controversy last spring after his predecessor, Chris Gregoire, short-circuited plans by the state Ecology Department to make water pollution rules more protective of people who eat a lot of fish. Gregoire’s move came a day after the former governor met with a senior Boeing Co. executive who strongly objected to tighter restrictions on toxic pollution, as InvestigateWest was the first to report.

Inslee’s first step was to organize a panel of advisers, including business and tribal officials. It was in front of that group in February that the governor laid out the choices as he saw them, according to several people who attended the meeting.

Now Inslee is on the verge of handing down orders to the state Ecology Department on how to proceed. It’s a decision fraught with political tension because Inslee has allies in the tribes and in business.

“The governor came into this issue, inherited it, hearing both that this is going to kill business and hearing this is necessary to protect Washington citizens who are heavy fish consumers,” said Ted Sturdevant, who first pushed the tighter limits as director of Ecology and is now Inslee’s chief adviser on the issue. “He’s been looking for a path that does both — that protects people who eat a lot of fish and that doesn’t kill the economy.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly told Washington that the state must fix its system for regulating water pollution under the federal Clean Water Act.

What needs fixing is the fish consumption rate: an official state estimate of how much fish people eat and a key part of Washington’s formula for deciding how much pollution is allowed. The more fish people consume, the more exposure they face to water-borne pollutants, and the less pollution can be discharged into waterways under the Clean Water Act.

The fish-consumption estimate Washington uses is based on a national study conducted in 1973 and 1974 in which people filled out three-day food diaries. According to that study, and in the current state calculations, Washingtonians eat less than half a pound of fish per month, about one serving. In reality, many eat more in a single meal. Starting in the 1990s, more-rigorous studies of Northwest Indian tribes found fish consumption rates of 30 pounds per month or more among the highest consumers in the Suquamish Tribe, for example, where even the average consumer eats 14 pounds a month. Other groups, such as sport fishers and immigrant communities, are also known to eat fish in excess of the state estimate.

Critics of Washington’s one-meal-per-month figure point to Oregon, which in 2011 adjusted its rate to 11 pounds per month, or roughly one fish meal per day, making it the strictest standard in the nation. That move was designed to protect 90 percent of people eating fish in the state to a one-in-1-million standard of increased lifetime risk of cancer.

Following Oregon’s lead, Sturdevant as director of Ecology in 2011 began a process to correct Washington’s fish-consumption estimate. Vigorous protests from business and influential members of the state Legislature failed to stop the rulemaking process by spring 2012. But when Boeing took its complaint all the way to the governor, Gregoire told Ecology to go back to the drawing board.

Tribes protested. After his election, Inslee personally stepped into the controversy, tapping a panel of prominent business, tribal and municipal officials to try to reach agreement on a path forward.

Ten months later, that hasn’t happened. And in the interim, environmentalists filed suit in federal court seeking to compel the federal EPA to force action by the state or take over the whole process

Businesses and local governments rightly point out that wastewater technology is not currently available to meet the strict water-quality standards that would result if Washington adopts a fish consumption rate as high as Oregon’s.

To environmentalists and Indian tribes, that’s not the point. They rightly point out that the Clean Water Act has often required industry and others under its regulation to set a standard to protect public health and rely on that standard to drive technological innovation. That way, at least eventually, even heavy fish consumers are protected, they argue.

At a meeting at the governor’s office in early February, according to several of those who attended, the governor laid out two options, both of which lessen the potential burden on polluters:

Boost the estimate of how much fish Washingtonians are eating, but alter another pivotal part of the formula used to set pollution limits: the additional cancer risk from eating fish that is considered acceptable. Traditionally, Ecology has set that at one additional cancer case for every 1 million people exposed to a given pollutant. That number could be set at one in 100,000 instead, Inslee suggested, and remain within legal bounds. EPA allows states to set the risk at either level, so long as even highly exposed groups such as Indian tribes face risks no greater than one additional cancer case from eating fish per 10,000 people.

Keep the traditional limit of one-in-1-million increased cancer risk, but take steps to help pollution dischargers. This could include giving them variances from the rules; allowing them years or even decades to reduce pollution; or other alternatives. Similar polluter-friendly steps were taken in Oregon but traditionally have not been used in Washington. This second option, Inslee adviser Sturdevant told InvestigateWest, would have to be paired with “creative solutions” that would further protect fish eaters, although such solutions have not yet been outlined.

The EPA’s Seattle-based Region 10 oversees the Ecology Department’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran refused to grant an interview to discuss EPA’s position or provide another spokesman for the agency.

But recently the agency repeated its position in a letter to the Washington Ecology Department, saying an “important part of a final rule is choosing a cancer risk level that provides risk protection for all Washington citizens, including those who eat higher amounts of fish.” If the state doesn’t come up with a rule by the end of the year, EPA plans to step in and do the job itself, the letter said. The suit the environmental groups filed in federal court seeks to force such action by EPA.

Meanwhile, a coalition of business interests, local governments and a labor organization endorsed increasing the allowable cancer risk. Expecting a one-in-1-million increased cancer risk is “unacceptable,” the group wrote in a letter to Inslee.

“We anticipate that this risk level, coupled with a high fish consumption rate, will result in largely unattainable ultra-low numeric criteria, unmeasureable incremental health benefits, and predictable economic turmoil,” the group said.

One signer was Maud Daudon, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, who served on Inslee’s panel of advisers and attended the meetings where the governor discussed the issue. She told InvestigateWest even the one-in-100,000 cancer rate would lead to significantly tightened water-pollution standards.

By adopting that goal, she said, “you can get industry to invest in ways that will move the needle for human health.”

Business and local governments argue, too, that they are unfairly targeted by the Clean Water Act. Pollution from factories and sewage plants has already been ratcheted down substantially since the landmark legislation was adopted in 1972. Nowadays, quite a bit of pollution flowing into Washington waterways comes not from a sewage plant or factory, but rather from the foul mix that flows off streets, parking lots and other hard surfaces during rainstorms, carrying the detritus of our modern world, including three pollutants that have proved particularly difficult to clean up: PCBs, arsenic and mercury.

Tribal interests, nevertheless, are growing impatient with the Ecology Department’s drawn-out process.

“It’s really concerning to me,” said Jim Peters of the Squaxin Island Tribe. “It seems like they have no problem having heavy fish consumers have a higher risk of getting cancer than other people.

“It’s just not something we can accept. Tribal members and my family do eat a lot of fish. It’s part of our lives and part of our culture and a staple of our diets. And we’d probably eat more fish if there were more around.”

Although Inslee has not yet said publicly how he will resolve the dispute, those involved in the discussions say it seems likely that he will find a way to allow polluters leeway on PCBs, mercury and arsenic. What form that might take remains unclear.

Kelly Susewind, a key adviser to Ecology Director Maia Bellon, argues that one case per 100,000 people “is very, very close to zero” cases, although he acknowledges that one in 1 million “is even closer” to zero.

He said the agency should be given credit for not simply focusing on protecting the average person.

“We’re saying let’s set a number that’s right for high consumers,” Susewind said.

One thing to consider is that the measure of increased cancer risk is based on 70 years of exposure to a given pollutant. Also keep in mind that Washington’s population is about 6.9 million people. So if the allowable cancer rate were to be set at one in 100,000 people instead of one in 1 million people, the difference would be roughly 62 extra cases of cancer over 70 years — if the assumptions are right. It could be more or it could be fewer.

One of Inslee’s advisers is Seattle attorney Rod Brown.

“What’s your social judgment about how much risk is acceptable for a carcinogen?” Brown asks. “It sounds like math, but it’s also a social judgment.”

InvestigateWest is a Seattle-based non-profit journalism organization focused on the environment, public health and government accountability in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Gov. Jay Inslee hires coal lobbyist to direct his policy office

Washington State Governor-elect Jay Inslee hugs outreach director Unjin Lee, the first hire made by his campaign, during a celebration on Friday, November 9, 2012 at the Inslee campaign headquarters in Seattle. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)

Washington State Governor-elect Jay Inslee hugs outreach director Unjin Lee, the first hire made by his campaign, during a celebration on Friday, November 9, 2012 at the Inslee campaign headquarters in Seattle. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)

 

By Joel Connelly, Seattle PI

Gov. Jay Inslee has hired a coal lobbyist to direct his policy office, an eyebrow-raising selection for a governor who has insisted on sweeping scrutiny of coal export terminals proposed at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham, and along the Columbia River at Longview.

The new appointee is Matt Steuerwalt, who has been through the revolving door in recent years. He was a top energy/climate adviser to then-Gov. Chris Gregoire, then went to work for the Seattle-based Strategies 360 group.

At Strategies 360, he represented TransAlta, the Canadian-based owner of the Centralia Coal plant and the state’s only coal plant and its largest greenhouse gas emitter.

The state, under Gregoire, and TransAlta reached a landmark agreement for a phased, decade-long phaseout of coal at the power plant. Steuerwalt also lobbied for a coal port proposal.

“In recent years, Steuerwalt has acted as a lead lobbyist for coal-fired power in Washington, as well as for a now-defunct coal port proposal,” said Eric de Place, research director with the Sightline Institute.

De Place has delighted in giving footprints to Northwest public relations firms which have touted their “green” credentials and commitment to renewable energy, while lobbying on behalf of Big Coal, the railroad industry and “astroturf” front groups.

“Given that Steuerwalt has recently been a paid lobbyist in support of coal in Washington, the move raises questions about whether he will use his influence in the Inslee administration to advance an agenda more favorable to the coal industry,” said de Place.

He won’t, said Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith.

“The choice of a policy director will have no impact on the state’s role in reviewing coal export projects,” she added. ”The governor has a longstanding and well-known position on coal pollution and climate change, and has directed the Department of Ecology to conduct a rigorous review of current coal projects to the full extent allowed under state law.”

Inslee has touted his green credentials and been rewarded for same.

He coauthored a book, “Apollo’s Fire,” which calls for a U.S. commitment to develop new energy technologies that would rival, in intensity, the drive in the 1960′s to put Americans on the Moon. He will preach to the choir next month as keynote speaker at Climate Solutions’ annual breakfast.

In turn, two years ago, the national League of Conservation Voters made Inslee the first gubernatorial candidate it had endorsed in 42 years. The conservation community, state and national, spent an estimated $750,000 to get him elected.

Strategies 360 has close ties to Democrats, but not always of the same mindset as Inslee.

It has hosted fundraisers for Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who supports coal development and export from the Big Sky State. It has represented Puget Sound Energy, which gets electricity from a Montana coal plant, in fighting back movements to create a public utility district in Island and Skagit counties.

Steuerwalt gave $250 to support then-U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee in 2009, and $950 to Inslee in 2011-12 as he transitioned and quit Congress to run for governor.

Steuerwalt begins his new job on May 1.

Spokane County seeks second federal study of Airway Heights casino

By Mike Prager, Tom Sowa, The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Tribe proposed casino resortSpokane County commissioners are asking the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to take a new look at possible negative impacts of a proposed Spokane tribal casino on Fairchild Air Force Base.In a recent letter to the BIA, commissioners said information has surfaced indicating that an “accident potential zone” could be extended into the area where the tribe is proposing its casino-resort.The commissioners’ letter says new information provided to the county under the Freedom of Information Act supports their request for another look at the project. They want a new study to include “outstanding questions regarding the safety of the Spokane Tribe’s proposed casino-resort project in Airway Heights,” the letter said.County commissioners have hired the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP with experts in Washington, D.C., to prepare their challenge to the casino project, as well as former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, of Spokane.

Commissioner Al French said he didn’t have the cost of hiring those outside consultants immediately available, but confirmed it is a substantial amount.

“This is something we are very concerned about as a board,” French said, pointing out that Fairchild contributes $1.3 billion to the region’s economy each year.

Spokane Tribe officials say the casino – part of its Spokane Tribe Economic Project – would create jobs and benefits for tribal members and attract more businesses to Airway Heights, where the proposed project would be built.

The tribe also commissioned a detailed study, prepared by Madison Government Affairs, which claimed the casino would have no adverse effects on the air base.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs said Tuesday that the agency received the commissioners’ letter and added it to the official record being reviewed.

A year ago, county commissioners submitted more than 50 pages of comments against the casino proposal, arguing it could endanger the future of Fairchild, the area’s largest employer.

The BIA allowed comments for and against the proposal to be submitted through May 1, 2013.

Since then, the tribe’s application has been reviewed by the Office of Indian Gaming in Washington, D.C. The department has not said when it might issue a ruling on the application. If approved by Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the Interior Department, the casino would also require approval by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Commissioners say new reviews of Fairchild flight paths suggest the proposed casino would be inside an accident potential zone that wasn’t identified in the initial environmental impact statement.

Fairchild has established accident potential zones at the end of the base runway that extend in a straight line from the runway through portions of Airway Heights, south of U.S. Highway 2. The tribe’s environmental impact statement relied on the existing crash zones, which the commissioners now argue are inadequate.

Those accident zones were based on a 2007 study, which did not account for prevalent training patterns to the north of Fairchild, the commissioners’ letter said.

Charts of flight patterns show that pilots using visual flight rules often make sharp turns over the proposed casino site during takeoffs and landings. The racetrack-shaped pattern on the north side of the main runway goes directly over the casino site.

“The casino project is located right under that racetrack,” French said.

The amount of overhead air traffic qualifies the casino area for protection as an accident potential zone, commissioners argued in the 63-page letter.

County officials said they recently discovered a 2011 Department of Defense instruction that says, “Where multiple flight tracks exist and significant numbers of aircraft operations are on multiple flight tracks, modifications may be made to create (accident potential zones) that conform to the multiple flight tracks.”

The letter also states that comments from the Air Force obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act show the flight-pattern conflicts are more extensive than indicated in the final environmental impact statement.

Civilian encroachment is one factor considered by the Air Force in its periodic reviews of air bases for potential closure.

The commissioners have taken steps in recent years to address encroachment by leading a multiagency rewrite of zoning laws to provide buffers for Fairchild. Last fall, they asked voters to raise their property taxes to buy manufactured home parks in the existing crash zones, but the measure was rejected. However, a state grant is being used to buy the former Solar World housing, which has been cleared of occupants.

Tulalip marks first Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day with potluck celebration

 

Veterans from all military branches supported each other during the first Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans celebration, organized by Tulalip veteran marine Andy James. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Veterans from all military branches supported each other during the first Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans celebration, organized by Tulalip veteran marine Andy James.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

by Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – U.S. Vietnam veterans have been home for more than 40 years, but due to anti-war sentiment with the American public, returning soldiers quietly rejoined their communities without receiving a national welcome home.

In 2011, the U.S. Senate, decided to change this. The Senate unanimously passed a resolution to provide Vietnam veterans a chance to be properly welcomed home by designating March 30, Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. The designated day marks the final withdrawal of all combat and combat-support troops from Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

Welcome-Home-Vietnam-Vets-Celebration

Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Although veteran organizations across the nation have been celebrating the day since its passing, only three states, California, Oregon, and Washington, have recognized the day officially, including flying the POW/MIA flag in addition to the U.S. flag and state flags on all government buildings.

Last year Governor Jay Inslee deemed March 30 for Washington State after Rep. Norm Jackson (Yakima) (R) introduced 2013 House Bill 1319 on January 23, 2013.  The bill passed 97 to 0 in the House and again passed 48 to 0 in the Senate and was signed by Gov. Inslee on March 29, 2013.

This year, Tulalip hosted their first annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans celebration in honor of their fellow veterans. Attendees included tribal and non-tribal veterans who gathered at the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club to mark the official homecoming.

Tulalip veteran Andy Jones, pictured in cedar hat, served during the Vietnam Conflict with the Marines, organized the celebration. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Tulalip veteran Andy James, pictured in cedar hat, served during the Vietnam Conflict with the Marines, organized the celebration.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Tulalip veteran and tribal member Andy James, who served with the Marines during the Vietnam conflict, organized the event.

“I am extremely thankful and grateful for my elders, particularly the ones who put on uniforms in defense of this country before I did. We have one here today that did,” said James, referring to Tulalip tribal member and Korean War veteran Ray Moses (Te-at-mus).

“I wanted to do something to mark this day, so I organized a potluck,” continued James. “I am thankful for every veteran, and we realize it was all for the cause.  We did what we had to to defend our country, and I am glad to celebrate this day and welcome home my fellow veterans.”

 

Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-9135402; bmontreuil@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

 

Traditional Southern Grass dancer Jeff Brown danced for visiting veterans during the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Traditional Southern Grass dancer Jeff Brown danced for visiting veterans during the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

 

 

 

 

Washington mudslide yields more bodies, but not all may be found

 

By Jonathan Kaminsky, Reuters

DARRINGTON, Washington (Reuters) – Search teams picked through mud-caked debris for a fifth day on Wednesday looking for scores of people still missing in a deadly Washington state landslide, as officials reported finding more bodies while acknowledging that some victims’ remains may never be recovered.

The known death toll stood at 24, with as many as 176 people still unaccounted for near the rural town of Oso, where a rain-soaked hillside collapsed on Saturday and cascaded over a river and a road, engulfing dozens of homes on the opposite bank.

The latest tally did not include an unspecified number of bodies that state police spokesman Bob Calkins said had been found on Wednesday. He declined to give further details.

Earlier in the day, local emergency management officials sought to fend off criticism of property development that was permitted just across the river from the caved-in slope after previous landslides in the area.

As hope faded that any survivors might be plucked from the muck and debris that blanketed an area covering about one square mile (2.6 square km), residents of the stricken community and nearby towns braced for an expected rise in the casualty count.

“My son’s best friend is out there, missing,” said John Pugh, 47, a National Guardsman who lives in the neighboring village of Darrington. “My daughter’s maid of honor’s parents are missing. It’s raw. And it will be for a long time.”

Asked whether he expected the death toll to rise significantly, Governor Jay Inslee told CNN: “Yes, I don’t think anyone can reach any other conclusion.

“It’s been very sad that we have not been able to find anyone living now for probably 36 or 48 hours,” he said. “The most discouraging thing is we were hopeful that we would find folks who might be protected by a car or a structure, but the force of this landslide just defies imagination.”

About 200 search personnel, many wearing rain gear and hard hats, painstakingly combed through the disaster zone under cloudy skies on Wednesday, taking advantage of a break from Tuesday’s rain showers to hasten their search for more victims.

Snohomish County Battalion Fire Chief Steve Mason, directing part of the operation, said teams were making slow but steady progress in locating additional remains.

“There are finds going on continually. They are finding people now,” he told reporters visiting the search site. “People are under logs, mixed in. It’s a slow process.”

But Jan McClelland, a volunteer firefighter from Darrington who was among the first to arrive at the scene and has spent long days digging through the muck since then, conceded it was possible some bodies may end up forever entombed at the site.

“I’m fearful we won’t find everyone,” she said. “That’s the reality of it.”

NO HUMAN HEAT SOURCES DETECTED

Bill Quistorf, the chief pilot for the county sheriff’s office, recounted that helicopter crews conducting low-altitude scans of the disaster zone with infrared equipment found no human heat sources in the hours after the slide.

“We located one dog in the bushes, and that was it,” he said, also acknowledging that some remains may never be recovered.

At the same time, authorities sought to whittle down their list of unaccounted-for individuals, with missing-persons detectives from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office working to resolve likely redundancies on a roster of people whose fate remained unknown.

County officials also started to address criticism for allowing new home construction on parts of the disaster site after a 2006 landslide in the same vicinity, which followed numerous reports detailing the risks of slides dating back to the 1950s.

A 1999 study by geologist Daniel Miller for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had warned of the potential for a “large catastrophic failure” in the area, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

“There’s definitely a blame-game going on,” Miller told Reuters. “I’ve always thought it’s inappropriate to allow development in flood plains, in areas at risk of landslides, in part because of the danger to human life and also in part because when something happens, even if no one is hurt, public agencies end up coming in to make repairs,” he said.

The county’s emergency management director, John Pennington, told reporters local authorities had spent millions of dollars on work to reduce landslide risks in the area after the 2006 event.

He suggested that while officials and residents were aware of vulnerability to unstable hill slopes, Saturday’s tragedy came out of the blue.

“We really did a great job of mitigating the potential for smaller slides to come in and impact the community,” Pennington said. “So from 2006 to this point, the community did feel safe; they fully understood the risks.”

But he also said: “People knew that this is a landslide-prone area. Sometimes big events just happen. Sometimes large events that nobody sees happen. And this event happened, and I want to find out why. I don’t have those answers right now.”

Search and rescue operations tapered off overnight but ramped up to full strength again at first light on Wednesday. Searchers used dogs to pinpoint possible locations of victims, as well as electronic equipment such as listening devices and cameras capable of probing voids in the debris.

“We’re not backing off. We’re still going at this with all eight cylinders to get everyone out there who is unaccounted for,” local fire chief Travis Hots said.

The presumed tally of dead rose on Tuesday night from 14 to 24 when county officials reported that search crews laboring in a steady drizzle had recovered two more bodies from the disaster zone and located the remains of eight additional victims.

Eight people were injured but survived the slide, including a 22-week-old baby rescued with his mother and listed in critical condition but improving. The mother and three other survivors also remained hospitalized.

The slide already ranks as one of the worst in the United States. In 1969, 150 people were killed in landslides and floods in Virginia, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

(Additional reporting by Bill Rigby in Seattle, Bryan Cohen in Arlington, Washington, and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cythia Johnston, Dan Grebler and Gunna Dickson)

Gov. Inslee, Red Cross, Arlington community respond to Oso landslide

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, left, and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee address the news media at the Arlington Police Station on March 23 about the Oso landslide on March 22.— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, left, and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee address the news media at the Arlington Police Station on March 23 about the Oso landslide on March 22.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

Kirk Boxleitner, Arlington Times

ARLINGTON — Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee joined fellow elected officials from the federal to the local levels at the Arlington Police Station on Sunday, March 23, to address the landslide in Oso on Saturday, March 22, that’s since blocked both State Route 530 and the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, even as the surrounding community continues to respond in its own ways.

“We always plan for things that we hope will never happen,” said Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, before he introduced not only Inslee, but also U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Susan DelBene. “This is an example of how we have planned, and why it is so wonderful that we have such a great, functioning government in not only Washington state, but also Snohomish County.”

“Olympia is the state capitol of Washington, but today, Oso is the heart of the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “It is a small community of only 200-plus people, but there are six and a half million Washingtonians who, at this moment, are embracing them with our arms and our prayers.”

Inslee called upon his fellow Washington residents to extend aid to a community that had previously managed to remain self-sufficient in relative isolation. Although he was pleased to confirm that at least seven people had been rescued from the site to date, he was nonetheless struck by the scope of the landslide’s impact while flying over the area only an hour before.

“The devastation is just unrelenting and awesome,” Inslee said of the landslide, whose confirmed death toll stands at four so far. “There really is no stick standing in the path of the slide, and it is a reminder that we live in powerful forces of nature, but there is another powerful force of nature, and that is empathy, and compassion, and helping these families who are both grieving and now awaiting words of their loved ones.”

Inslee twice declined to offer any predictions as to when State Route 530 might reopen, but repeatedly pledged that the currently ongoing search and rescue efforts would continue.

“All possible assets that could be beneficial, anywhere, have been brought to bear in this, both from the air and on the ground,” said Inslee, who noted that those assets include both helicopters and hovercraft.

Although the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management lifted its evacuation order, Inslee asked those downstream of the landslide on the Stillaguamish River to retain “a heightened state of awareness,” advice that was later echoed by Chad Buechler, an American Red Cross volunteer at Post Middle School, which housed 27 overnight occupants from the evening of March 22 through the morning of March 23.

Murray echoed Inslee’s sympathies for both the victims of the landslide and their surviving loved ones, before she commended the first responders to this disaster for their efforts.

“The response to this has been incredible,” Murray said. “People are putting their own lives at risk in the search and rescue efforts. Every single person in these communities — local, state, federal — has been working really hard to make sure that they could do everything they can in this incident.”

Murray pledged that needed federal resources will be made available, and was joined by DelBene in praising Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert for her role in supporting those impacted by the landslide.

“She told me this morning that the donations have been incredible,” Murray said of Tolbert. “She said, ‘Please, if you want to help, give donations to the Red Cross directly.’ Monetary donations are what they can really use at this point.”

DelBene extended her thanks not only to Tolbert and the first responders, but also to Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin, whose town she noted has been further isolated by the closure of State Route 530.

In the wake of Washington state declaring a State of Emergency on the evening on March 22, Inslee and other state officials have been in talks with FEMA, and have pushed for a federal declaration of the same, primarily for financial reasons.

“The good news is, we have all of the available assets we really could use right now,” Inslee said. “There is really no missing piece in this rescue effort that we could use that we don’t have. Every single helicopter, every single hovercraft, every single person, every communication system […] we have a full retinue of rescue efforts underway right now. It’s not dependent on the federal financial aspect of this.”

Inslee nonetheless expects those federal dollars to become important down the line, especially given the anticipated expenses of reconstructing the extensively damaged State Route 530.

“Mother Nature holds the cards here, on the ability of ground personnel to enter the slide area,” Inslee said, when asked about the limits imposed on search and rescue personnel by what he described as “essentially a slurry.” “Some of them went in, literally got caught up to their armpits and had to be dragged out by ropes themselves, so they have taken risks already. It’s just the physical impossibility of supporting the human weight in a slurry that is the problem right now.”

At the same time, Inslee reassured the families and friends of the 18 people who remain unaccounted for, “Every human possibility is being explored here, to rescue and find their loved ones.”

Up the hill from the Arlington Police Station, Buechler estimated that as many as a couple of hundred visitors had filtered through Post Middle School on March 22, to utilize the on-site crew of mass care personnel, mental health professionals and nurses, as Red Cross volunteers have kept in constant contact with local fire and emergency medical services personnel.

“Some of them just wanted to get information, and that’s okay,” Buechler said. “We want people to know that this is a place that they can go for support if they’ve been affected by the landslide, whether they’ve been displaced by it, or they need to talk to someone about it, or they just need someone to share some info.”

While Buechler urged folks to stay safe, by monitoring the situation through the news on their radios or smart-phones, measures have been taken to keep people safe, including the closure of the Twin Rivers and Haller parks. Just up the road from Haller Park, the Food Pavilion at 146 E. Haller Ave. in Arlington became a collection site for food, water and hygiene supplies starting on March 23.

“I heard what was going on, so I had to do something,” said Kara Brown, who’s friends with Arlington Food Pavilion Store Manager Loly Ramirez.

Brown and her husband Mike were joined by Ramirez and her daughter Erica, who kicked off their donation drive at 10 a.m. on March 23, and had already filled half their trailer and collected an estimated $800 in cash by 1 p.m. that same day.

“We had cars lined up at the hospital last night, wanting to drop off donations for those in need,” said Jennifer Egger, community relations coordinator for Cascade Valley Hospital, as she stopped by the Food Pavilion on March 23. “Now, we’re just directing them all here.”

“This has been greatly upsetting to us, not in the least because many of these people are our customers,” Ramirez said. “We don’t even know yet whether some of our customers might be among the missing, so we really appreciate the support and generosity that this community is showing for its own. It’s amazing to see so many people pulling together in times like these.”

Egger expressed a similar measure of pride in Cascade Valley Hospital’s response to this situation, citing its capable handling of the six patients who came to them as the result of exhaustive emergency training by hospital staff.

“One of those patients is still in-house with us,” Egger said. “It’s been so sad for everyone.”

The Arlington Food Pavilion will continue to collect cash and supplies throughout the week, during normal store hours, for those affected by the landslide.

Search operations by air resumed at first light on March 23, with two helicopters from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office surveying and mapping the site.

According to Shari Ireton, director of communications for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, ground rescue operations remain extremely hazardous due to the debris field, which has been described by rescuers as possessing a “quicksand-like consistency.” Crews are attempting to reach the affected area from both the west side in Oso and the east side in Darrington.

Ireton declined to estimate the total number of people displaced by the landslide, but she predicted that the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management would reinstate its evacuation order during the evening of March 23.

Those who wish to help are being asked to donate to the Red Cross by texting “90999.” Those with questions about reunions with family members who may be missing, as well as about evacuation or shelter information, should call 425-388-5088.

State Route 530 remains closed from the Oso Fire Department, located at 21824 SR 530, on the west side of the landslide, and from Little French Creek Road, located at milepost 42, on the east side of the landslide.

Yakamas to regain full authority on tribal land

 

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed a proclamation that returns almost all civil and criminal authority over tribal members on the reservation back to the Yakama Nation. The next required step, before this can take effect, is federal approval.

By Kate Prengaman

 

Yakima Herald-Republic

 

OLYMPIA, Wash. — In what tribal leaders call a historic development, Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed a proclamation that returns almost all civil and criminal authority over tribal members on the reservation back to the Yakama Nation.

Tribal Council Chairman Harry Smiskin said the signing is not only “historic” but the first of its kind in the country.

Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Harry Smiskin

Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Harry Smiskin

“The biggest benefit is that we have the right to determine our own destiny and our own laws,” Smiskin said earlier this week.

But the deal is not done yet. The proclamation needs federal approval, which Smiskin said will probably take another year or so working with the government on final details, including financial support for both law enforcement and civil authority over social issues like school truancy and child and family services.

The Yakama Nation is a sovereign nation that has the authority to govern itself under the treaty signed in 1855 with the federal government. The Nation already has its own police department and jail and has always had some criminal authority over tribal members.

In 1953, under Public Law 280, Congress gave states the authority to take more civil and criminal control over Indian lands. In 1963, Washington’s state government asserted jurisdiction over school attendance, domestic relations, mental illness, juvenile delinquency, adoption, public assistance, and motor vehicle operation on tribal lands.

In 2012, the Legislature created a process for tribes to apply to get that lost authority returned. The proclamation is the result of the Yakama Nation’s petition. A busload of tribal members travelled to Olympia for the ceremony.

The Yakama petition, which was filed in 2012, asked the state to retain authority over mental illness as it arises in the courts and civil commitment of sexually violent predators, but return the rest of the authority taken in 1963.

The state retains jurisdiction over criminal or civil cases that involve non-Indians, even if a tribal member is also involved.

Yakima County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey said that was the county’s main concern, and he was pleased that to see the state retained that authority.

Smiskin said he encouraged the tribe to pursue the move — known as retrocession — because he’d seen the benefits when he worked with the Colville Tribe on the issue in the 1980s.

Criminal jurisdiction was returned by the Legislature for the Colvilles and several other tribes then, but Smiskin said that he used what he learned from that process to improve the Yakamas’ move to regain authority, including civil jurisdiction.

Now that Inslee has signed the proclamation, it goes to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for review before it will take full effect.

In preparation, the Yakamas already signed memorandums of understanding with the cities and counties that overlap the reservation.

For example, if a tribal member is pulled over on the reservation for speeding by a sheriff’s deputy, the officer will transfer the driver over to a tribal officer, Bouchey said.

Yakima County Sheriff Ken Irwin called the retrocession a “work in progress” and said that he still doesn’t know the final details about how the BIA and the Yakama Nation are going to handle some issues, including major crimes, but he respects the process.

“They have some steps left,” Irwin said. “In the meantime, it’s business as usual and we are working together very well.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Health Services referred questions about the retrocession process to the governor’s office.

A governor’s office spokeswoman said the state doesn’t intend to start planning for the transition in jurisdiction until after the retrocession secures federal approval.