The Morning Press: County fee increase, oil terminal, salmon

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Here are some of the week's top stories and news you may have missed:

County weighs fee hikes to pay settlement

photoDon Benton, director of Clark County Environmental Services

(/The Columbian)

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Don Benton, director of Clark County Environmental Services, plans to raise fees to pay off a costly settlement the county owes for violating the Clean Water Act.

The proposals range from annual surcharges above the $33 a year homeowners currently pay in clean water fees, to special fees for the owners of private roads. One option would even assess a six-figure "litter fee" to The Columbian.

None of the options are considered "recommendations," Benton said at a Wednesday work session. "It's our duty to present as many options as possible."

County commissioners will ultimately make a decision on which proposals to investigate further.

The proposals, Benton said, were created by 14 managers within environmental services as a way of generating more money for the clean water program.

The terms of the county's settlement calls for it to pay $3 million over a six-year period to the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board. It followed a federal court ruling in June that said the county had violated the law for three years and would be liable for damages.

The county's six-year payment cycle will begin in June 2015.

Read the full story here.

Majority of Vancouver City Council against oil plan

photoVancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman, left, shown at a previous city council meeting, announced Monday that he would like to explore allowing "safe and sane" fireworks year-round, while keeping aerial and loud fireworks limited to the Fourth of July.

(/The Columbian)

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A majority of the Vancouver City Council now publicly opposes plans to build the Northwest's largest oil-handling facility at the Port of Vancouver.

Councilor Jack Burkman made his opposition known at the end of Monday's council meeting. Councilors Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Bart Hansen and Larry Smith all confirmed to The Columbian on Wednesday that they too oppose the $110 million project proposed by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies.

While the city council doesn't have direct control over the project -- Tesoro-Savage signed the lease with the Port of Vancouver's Board of Commissioners, and the facility will have to be approved by Gov. Jay Inslee -- having a majority of the seven-member council in opposition means the city can actively fight it.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilors Alishia Topper and Bill Turlay have said it's premature to take a position.

Todd Coleman, the Port of Vancouver's executive director, said Wednesday the council's majority opposition to the proposed oil-by-rail transfer terminal "surprises me a little bit," because he thought the city was prepared to learn all of the facts that will come out during the review process overseen by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC. "I think it's premature," he said of the council's stance.

Read the full story here.

Sifton residents clean up homeless camp, remain watchful

photoPhoto courtesy of the Clark County Sheriff's Office The Sifton Neighborhood Association cleared the remains of a homeless camp at Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard near Northeast 124th Avenue.

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Homelessness leaves a trail across Clark County. These piles of moldy sleeping bags, flattened tents, broken coolers, picked-over garbage and dirty syringes bear witness to how the people who lived there scrounged to survive.

The Sifton Neighborhood Association cleaned up one such camp last month, while the remains of another continue to litter the banks of Tenney Creek in Hazel Dell.

Who knows how many more are spread around the county. The camps manage to be both out in the open and invisible at the same time. Neighborhoods worry they pose a threat to safety.

About 1,820 people were homeless in Clark County when the Council for the Homeless did its one-day count in 2013, the most recent numbers available. Most were staying in shelters or with family and friends. But 190 were categorized as "unsheltered." They must find a place to rest their heads each night. Sometimes that means pitching a tent in a vacant lot, amid shrubs or behind fences.

The Clark County Sheriff's Office has noticed more such camps since the recession, said Sgt. Shane Gardner.

"After Alycia Nipp was murdered, it became a great concern for the community," Gardner said. "Before that, the community was willing to tolerate it. Now any time a transient camp pops up in Hazel Dell, we have to move into high speed."

Read the full story here.

New tortilla chips made in Vancouver will compete with Oregon product

photoJosefina brand tortilla chips are displayed Monday at a store in Vancouver. A new tortilla chip product, Josefina is being sold as a competitor to Juanita's tortilla chips, made by a Hood River company. Although Josefina is not identified as a Frito-Lay product, it has the Frito-Lay address on Fruit Valley Road on its label.

(/The Columbian)

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The tortilla chips recently added to local grocery shelves would seem well-suited for those who prefer to buy local.

The product is "La Cocina De Josefina Mexican Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips," and the sign in some stores says they're made in Vancouver.

A closer look at the package reveals a business address of 4808 N.W. Fruit Valley Road. That's the address of the manufacturing plant for Frito-Lay, a snack food industry giant whose products dominate the chips section of most grocery stores.

It turns out that Frito-Lay has launched the Josefina tortilla chips in Oregon, Washington and Idaho to test market acceptance of the thicker tortilla chips commonly offered in Mexican restaurants.

Across the Columbia in Hood River, Ore., Juanita's Fine Foods president Luis Dominguez can't help but feel that Frito-Lay is doing its test in the Northwest because of the remarkable popularity of his company's restaurant-style tortilla chips.

He expects his loyal customers to stay with him, but he's worried that some will be confused by the similar brands and packaging, as well as the pitch to buy local.

"They copied our label to confuse the consumer and to knock us down," Dominguez said. "They're the giants. Don't get me wrong. They scare me."

Read the full story here.

More salmon, but similar seasons likely

photoAnglers at Buoy 10 at the Columbia River mouth likely will fill their chinook guideline before Labor Day, which is Sept. 1 this year.

(/The Columbian)

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Huge runs of fall chinook and coho salmon are forecast to enter the Columbia River in 2014, but it appears sport-fishing seasons will be similar to a year ago.

State, federal and tribal biologists predict a return of 1.6 million fall chinook destined for the Columbia beginning in August, which would be the highest return since record keeping began in 1938 with completion of Bonneville Dam

Another 964,000 coho will be swimming off shore, with about 700,000 anticipated to enter the Columbia after ocean sport and commercial seasons.

Despite the wealth of salmon, a forecasted return of 110,000 fall chinook headed for hatcheries on lower Columbia River tributaries is the weak stock upon which harvest rates are determined.

Those hatchery fish are surrogates for wild-spawning tule fall chinook, which are similar but harder to forecast.

Officials from the Washington and Oregon departments of Fish and Wildlife met Monday in Vancouver with leaders from Columbia River sport and commercial fishing interests.

The underlying message: There’s still lots to be determined, but fisheries akin to 2013 — perhaps with some tweaks — are likely this August, September and October.

Read the full story here.