In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Hockinson teachers share high-flying lesson; destructive pests raise a stink

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Cheers: Two Hockinson Middle School teachers are bringing the cosmos a little closer to their classrooms. Kim Abegglen and Anna-Melissa Lyons were selected to fly aboard a specially equipped 747SP as part of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy program, getting a unique look at Jupiter, black holes, nebulas, and other celestial objects from a 2.5-meter-long infrared telescope mounted in the plane.

Prior to embarking upon their trip, which consisted of a pair of overnight excursions aboard the flying observatory, Lyons articulated the importance of such an opportunity. “The thing that we hear a lot is: ‘When am I ever going to use this, Mrs. Lyons? Why do I need to know this?’ ” Taking part in the program will help the teachers make astronomy and the wonders of science more relatable for their students. So will the mere fact they were selected from among many applicants, as Lyons said she never expected to receive the opportunity: “Don’t close those doors. Don’t say, ‘I’m not good at it and I’m never going to do that.’ ” Valuable lessons for all.

Jeers: Their name might imply something innocuous — if somewhat malodorous — but brown marmorated stink bugs are not to be trifled with. The bugs, which feast on fruit, wreaked havoc on the region last year and are threatening to do even greater damage this year as their infiltration increases. That is not good news for a state that is the nation’s largest producer of apples.

“I think this is going to get worse and worse and worse for all the farmers in the region,” said Peter Shearer, a professor of entomology at Oregon State University. “We’re in the outbreak phase, so it’s just going to grow.”

Cheers: There’s no telling whether anything will come of it, but kudos are in order to local legislators for trying to jump-start discussions for a replacement Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River. Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, have invited lawmakers from Washington and Oregon to take part in the bipartisan Bistate Bridge Coalition, or BBC.

Legislators in both states ended up having the final say in the demise of the Columbia River Crossing project, and they will need to be on board for any eventual alternative plan. The guess is that lawmakers will develop an enhanced understanding of just how difficult it is to strike an agreement between the federal government, two states, and numerous local stakeholders — and along the way perhaps devise a successful proposal.

Jeers: In the continuing saga of what is quickly becoming the tunnel to nowhere, the contractor digging a highway tunnel under Seattle is asking for $190 million in extra pay. That would be for the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel, which has been at a standstill for months because “Big Bertha,” the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine, is broken.

Such requests are to be expected in a project valued at nearly $1.5 billion, and yet the move underscores a fact of life in Washington: Legislative Republicans are right on the money when they call for vast reforms in the Washington Department of Transportation and the manner in which this state conducts huge construction projects.

Cool: OK, this isn’t quite cheer-worthy, but it’s interesting and it’s unique to this region — and that makes it cool. Mount St. Helens is starting to show a little life, as geologists announced this week that magma has slowly been re-pressurizing since the mountain’s last eruptive phase ended in 2008. We hope that a catastrophic eruption like the 1980 explosion never happens again, but a little activity on America’s favorite volcano is always interesting.