Morning Press: Oil terminal; city raises; remembering the fallen and the missing



Port of Vancouver Commission President Jerry Oliver instructs participants before the start of public comments during the reopening of the discussion and vote on a proposed oil terminal lease Oct. 22 in Vancouver. At left is commission Vice President Brian Wolfe.

Jerry Keen, at right, leads a salute to the flag as members and supporters of the nonprofit Community Military Appreciation committee gather to dedicate a stone at a POW/MIA memorial at the Armed Forces Reserve Center.

Four horses are lead around the crowd during the Riderless Horse Ceremony at the 17th Annual Nez Perce Chief Redheart Memorial Ceremony at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on Saturday.

As a breed of rabbit prized for its meat, Harvey defied the odds, living its full natural life as a vagabond in Vancouver's Northwest neighborhood.

Have you planted peas and lettuce yet? Looks like you won’t have to water them this week. Check out the local weather forecast here.

Here are some of the weekend’s top stories and news you may have missed:

Auditor won’t probe port meeting that’s subject of lawsuit

The Washington State Auditor’s Office says it won’t investigate a complaint filed by a Vancouver resident about the Port of Vancouver’s closed-door discussion of a lease to build the Northwest’s largest oil transfer terminal.

The reason: The port is embroiled in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups over the port commission’s use of an executive session during a July 22 public hearing to discuss terms of a lease with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies.

Thomas Shapley, a spokesman for the Auditor’s Office, said the agency doesn’t want to interfere with the litigation, preferring instead to let the issue be resolved in court. “It doesn’t make any sense for us to get involved,” he said.

Port Commissioners Nancy Baker, Jerry Oliver and Brian Wolfe took their first unanimous vote to approve the lease during a July 23 public hearing. As a corrective move and in response to alleged violations of state public meetings law, commissioners held a second public hearing on Oct. 22. Again, they voted unanimously to approve the lease, which involves 42 acres and is worth at least $45 million to the port over an initial 10 years.

In early August, about two months before the second lease vote, the port implemented a reference guide aimed at ensuring the proper use of executive sessions. It includes a description of the limited purposes for which the port may use executive sessions and how they are to be incorporated into public hearings.

The port has said it strived to involve the public in the oil terminal decision, inviting public testimony in various ways over a 10-week period that included five public workshops and public votes by commissioners. Vancouver resident Michael Piper, who opposes the Tesoro-Savage plan to build an oil-by-rail facility to handle as much as 380,000 barrels of crude per day, filed the complaint about the port’s executive session Aug. 8.

For the complete story, click here.

Vancouver wants assurances on oil terminal safety

The city of Vancouver is seeking an independent assessment of the region’s readiness for possible oil spills, explosions or other accidents that may result from the Northwest’s largest proposed oil-by-train terminal.

“We don’t have experience with this kind of crude or volume,” Deputy Fire Chief Dan Olson said.

“The biggest threat in hazmat is in transportation — when it’s moving,” said Battalion Chief Stephen Eldred, who oversees Vancouver Fire’s hazardous materials team.

The team has 21 members spread across shifts, so just a few are on duty at any given time. The team responds not only to spills here, but also in Skamania, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties. Likewise, hazmat teams in the Portland area would assist Vancouver Fire with incidents here.

Tesoro and Savage have agreed to pay for an analysis to identify deficiencies in the capabilities of emergency responders along the Columbia River from the eastern boundary of Skamania County through the mouth of the Columbia River.

“The intent is to determine any gaps prior to the terminal being built and to rectify them before operations commence,” Jennifer Minx, a spokeswoman for Tesoro Corp., said in an email to The Columbian.

The parties are still working out the details. The city wants to be in charge of hiring the independent contractor for the study, with Tesoro-Savage providing reimbursement.

“We’re treading carefully and transparently to make sure Vancouver citizens’ needs are met,” Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli said.

For the complete story, click here.

Vancouver explains raises its attorneys received in 2013

In 12 months, Vancouver Assistant City Attorney John Farra’s salary increased by 47 percent.

The reasons his annual salary soared from $61,812 to $91,164 included a cost-of-living increase, merit raise and expanded duties, but the biggest factor was a salary adjustment.

The jump followed what Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes said was the first city compensation and job classification review in a dozen years, which led to salary range adjustments for many nonunion jobs.

Joining Farra in receiving among the biggest adjustments were five other assistant city attorneys, whose salaries — including the one-time adjustments, cost-of-living increases and merit raises — increased between 22 and 42 percent from January 2013 to January 2014, according to city records provided to The Columbian in response to a public disclosure request.

Increases for attorneys were the most dramatic among the city departments where salary ranges were adjusted. The raises were long overdue, said City Attorney Ted Gathe. Most employees’ increases were in the low single digits.

The salary adjustments, which took effect July 1, were made at the direction of Holmes.

He said the city lacked a comprehensive system that allowed for effective management and ensured employees doing like work across departments were compensated equally.

Holmes didn’t receive a salary increase last year.

For the complete story, click here.

POW/MIA memorial begins to rise

Dozens of veterans showed up Friday morning to celebrate the laying of the first stone at Vancouver’s new memorial to prisoners of war and military personnel who went missing in action.

The memorial will sit on the front lawn of the Armed Forces Reserve Center at 15005 N.E. 65th St. in east Vancouver. Work crews poured the concrete foundation of the flagpole plaza last year, but they’re just getting started on crafting the focal point of their new tribute.

Over the next several months, crews will construct a two-sided rock column made from local basalt on one side of the walkway. It will stand nearly 8 feet tall, and in the center, they will place a plaque with the POW/MIA symbol on that first stone they laid Friday morning.

The stone is about 24 inches by 20 inches by 18 inches, said the memorial’s architect, Kelly Punteney, a longtime landscape design specialist known for his work on Southwest Washington parks and trails.

“This is the first stone of many,” Punteney said after two burly men carefully lifted it off a wheeled cart. “Very simple, very clean, beautiful stone. I’m really excited to get it in here and see the character that these stones will have.”

For the complete story, click here.

Victims of an 1877 war are not forgotten

More than 130 years ago, the young son of Little Bear died while in captivity at Fort Vancouver.

On a rainy Saturday, members of the Nez Perce tribe, many with small children of their own, gathered at the Fort Vancouver National Site to remember what happened to Chief Redheart’s band during the Nez Perce War.

Lindsay Groskopf, 33, an enrolled member of the Nez Perce and a Vancouver resident, braved the elements with her toddler, to participate in the 17th annual Chief Redheart memorial ceremony. Groskopf said her father taught her a lot about her culture and heritage and she hopes to do the same for her small child. The memorial service is meant to serve as a reminder of the events, but also, as one elder at the service said, to heal.

“These events bring awareness,” Groskopf said. “What happened at Fort Vancouver wasn’t in the history books when I went to school.”

During the Nez Perce War of 1877, members of Chief Redheart’s band, who were not involved in the fighting and were planning on heading home, were captured and held prisoner at Fort Vancouver from 1877 to 1878. While in prison, the unnamed 2-year-old boy died.

Vancouver Mayor Pro Tem Larry Smith read from a proclamation during the ceremony, “Whereas the Nez Perce show their esteem for their ancestors and preserve and honor their cultural heritage with traditional memorial ceremonies at locations of significance in their history; and whereas it is very important for the young tribal members to learn from and honor their ancestors … .”

The ceremony marks the day when Chief Redheart and his people were released from captivity. There was ceremonial singing, a ritual known as the riderless horse (empty saddle) ceremony, and sacred pipe ceremony.

For the complete story, click here.

Also unforgotten: ‘Harvey the magic bunny’

Harvey, who was known for nibbling on geraniums, eluding coyotes and bringing joy to the Northwest neighborhood, died Friday.

He was about 10 years old.

“I called him ‘Harvey the magic bunny,’ ” said Lynne Lincoln, 72, who buried Harvey in her front yard.

Harvey, who had many nicknames, from Peter Rabbit to Hop Hop, was believed to have been abandoned a decade earlier on a busy road not far from the neighborhood.

He quickly became a fixture in the area, an ambassador of sorts. And although he belonged to no one, everyone took care of him.

Malina Nelson, 5, assured The Columbian he was not the Easter Bunny.

Malina, who fed Harvey carrots, knew the bunny long enough to confirm “he doesn’t hide eggs.”

Harvey was outgoing, and not afraid of relying on the generosity of others, residents said.

At Barb and Larry’s house, he frequently snacked on apples. Down the road, he would dine on a plate full of dried papaya and bananas. And he had a hard time resisting Rudy’s roses and June’s geraniums.

But he gave back, too.

“He was never skittish; he would let you pet him,” said June Agrimson, 82.

Harvey would often go on long sojourns, without anyone knowing for sure where he was. Only six months before his death, after he was missing for an unusually long spell, he was found at the Humane Society. That visit was noteworthy, because it was discovered Harvey was actually a girl.

For the complete story, click here.