Wells dry up as reservoir is drained

By Kathie Durbin December 4, 2011 6 a.m.

Some cabin owners near Northwestern Lake, the former reservoir on the White Salmon River, have seen their wells run dry since the breaching of Condit Dam in late October.

Herrera Beutler fights regulations

By Kathie Durbin December 3, 2011 6 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler took a tall stack of federal paperwork to the House floor Thursday as a prop to illustrate what she described as a burdensome regulatory climate that is hampering small-business growth.

Democrats chide Herrera Beutler over debt panel

By Kathie Durbin December 1, 2011 6 a.m.

It’s only December, but the 2012 election season is under way.

Special session starts Monday

By Kathie Durbin November 27, 2011 6 a.m.

Has the time come for Washington voters to consider new revenue to plug the state’s persistent, ongoing budget gap?

Wylie tells town hall she backs new revenue

By Kathie Durbin November 23, 2011 6 a.m.

The crowd was small but those who did show up on a rainy evening had plenty to say.

Local Republicans assail call for tax hike

By Kathie Durbin November 22, 2011 6 a.m.

This is no time to raise taxes, local Republican lawmakers said Monday, reacting predictably to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to ask voters for a temporary half-cent increase in the state sales tax.

Gorge scenic area gets new manager

By Kathie Durbin November 20, 2011 6 a.m.

Lynn Burditt, a veteran Forest Service manager who has a master’s degree in conflict management, has been named area manager of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. She will begin her duties in the Hood River, Ore., office in early January. Burditt succeeds National Scenic Area Manager Dan Harkenrider, who recently retired.

Wind farm effort’s end blamed on agency

By Kathie Durbin November 18, 2011 6 a.m.

Investors in a proposed wind farm in coastal Pacific County say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is largely to blame for their decision last week to terminate the $4 million project after four years of planning and studies.

Latest forecast adds $122 million to state deficit

By Kathie Durbin November 17, 2011 7:49 p.m.

The state's chief economist says that the state has taken in $12 million less than expected since September, and that revenues are projected to drop by $122 million over the next two years.

Wind project in Pacific County killed

By Kathie Durbin November 17, 2011 6 a.m.

Four public utility districts in Southwest Washington have pulled the plug on a proposal to build Washington’s first coastal wind farm in the heart of the state’s most valuable nesting habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet.

Christian group urges panel to help poor, needy

By Kathie Durbin November 17, 2011 6 a.m.

A half-dozen concerned citizens huddled in the rain Wednesday on the porch of Marshall House, the Vancouver office of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, to show support for federal spending on behalf of the poor and vulnerable worldwide.

Herrera Beutler signs onto anti-insider trading bill

By Kathie Durbin November 15, 2011 6:08 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said Tuesday she’ll sign on as a co-sponsor to a bill to ban insider trading by members of Congress — two days after efforts to pass a similar bill by her predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, were featured on CBS TV’s “60 Minutes.”

Gorge air quality focus of lawsuit

By Kathie Durbin November 15, 2011 6 a.m.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge has appealed the Columbia River Gorge Commission’s decision to approve an air quality strategy that the advocacy group says fails to “protect and enhance” air quality as required by federal and interstate laws. “The Columbia Gorge is a national scenic treasure that is suffering from significant levels of air pollution,” said Michael Lang, the Friends’ conservation director. “Unfortunately, state air quality agencies and the Gorge commission have adopted a do-nothing strategy that fails to include any mandatory measures specifically targeted to reduce air pollution affecting the Gorge and its communities. This is wrong, it’s illegal and we are asking the court to send the Gorge commission and state agencies back to the drawing board to develop a strategy with some teeth in it.”

Haugen to challenge Herrera Beutler in 2012

By Kathie Durbin November 15, 2011 6 a.m.

Jon T. Haugen, a former Navy pilot who ran for state Senate in 2008, will challenge U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, in her 2012 campaign for a second term in Congress.

UPDATE: Occupy Vancouver makes appeal to city

By Andrea Damewood and Kathie Durbin November 14, 2011 9:34 p.m.

Occupy Vancouver organizers plan thanked the Vancouver City Council Monday evening for its responsiveness to its questions about the possibility of withdrawing some city money from the Bank of America and depositing it in a community bank.

I-1183’s passage clouds cities’ fate with state budget

By Kathie Durbin November 15, 2011 6 a.m.

The future is murky when it comes to predicting how the city of Vancouver will fare in the upcoming legislative budget-cutting session. That was the message Mark Brown, the city’s Olympia lobbyist, delivered to council members Monday evening as state and local officials scrambled to figure out how last week’s passage of the state liquor sales privatization measure will affect cities’ bottom lines.

Occupy Vancouver plans to take Wall Street protest to city hall

By Kathie Durbin November 14, 2011 2:02 p.m.

Occupy Vancouver organizers plan to ask the city of Vancouver Monday evening to withdraw some of its money from the Bank of America and deposit it in a community bank.

New rainy-day rules must wait for a solid state surplus

By Kathie Durbin November 13, 2011 6 a.m.

It could be years before one of the most popular measures on Tuesday’s ballot has an effect. It could be never.

State considers Larch — again — for closure

By Kathie Durbin November 12, 2011 6 a.m.

Larch Corrections Center is on the state’s potential closure list again, less than a year after the minimum-security prison camp near Yacolt regained its full capacity of 480 inmates. The Department of Corrections is considering closing one of its three minimum-security prison camps — the others are near Forks and Olympia — to help meet its quota of budget cuts as the state confronts the need to cut up to $2 billion in spending through mid-2013.

Moeller to co-sponsor gay-marriage bill

By Kathie Durbin November 11, 2011 6 a.m.

State Rep. Jim Moeller announced Thursday he’ll join dozens of other legislators next week in introducing a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the 2012 Legislature.

Gorge commission faces a daunting transition

By Kathie Durbin November 9, 2011 6 a.m.

STEVENSON — The Columbia River Gorge Commission is facing an anxious transition.

Wylie keeps state Legislature seat

By Kathie Durbin November 9, 2011 6 a.m.

Democratic state Rep. Sharon Wylie took a substantial lead over Republican candidate Craig Riley Tuesday in her bid to win election to the 49th District seat she was appointed to in April.

Ex-police chief to be next Woodland mayor

By Kathie Durbin November 9, 2011 6 a.m.

Former Woodland police chief Grover Laseke appeared to be defeating Woodland city councilman J.J. Burke Tuesday to win the city’s mayoral race. In partial results, Laseke held a lead of 439 to 276 in the contest to succeed Mayor Chuck Blum, who did not seek re-election.

Governor delivers straight talk to Vancouver high school students

By Kathie Durbin November 7, 2011 9:36 p.m.

Budget cuts are coming, governor tells students.

Condit Dam decommissioning takes the next step

By Kathie Durbin November 6, 2011 6 a.m.

WHITE SALMON — Dale Kuykendall strolls a few hundred yards from his makeshift office to a ledge offering a jaw-dropping view of the newly unleashed White Salmon River.

Districts protest planned cuts

By Kathie Durbin November 5, 2011 6 a.m.

Nearly 100 school officials representing all 30 Southwest Washington school districts asked local lawmakers Friday to spare school levy equalization funding as they set about the grim task of slashing $2 billion from the state budget. The legislative forum, sponsored by Educational Service District 112 in Vancouver, drew nine lawmakers, including five from Clark County: state Sen. Craig Pridemore and state Reps. Jim Moeller, Tim Probst, Paul Harris and Ann Rivers.

Whipping Whipple Creek trail into shape

By Kathie Durbin November 2, 2011 6 a.m.

The four miles of trail that wind through Whipple Creek Regional Park’s 300 forested acres are popular with users of all stripes — equestrians, hikers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, search and rescue crews and cross-country runners, including from nearby Skyview High School. Not all of those uses are compatible with each other — or with the trail system itself.

Wylie holds big fundraising edge over Riley

By Kathie Durbin November 4, 2011 6 a.m.

Democratic state Rep. Sharon Wylie continues to hold a big fundraising lead over Craig Riley, her Republican opponent, as the campaign to fill a 49th Legislative District seat for the remainder of the current term moves into the homestretch. As of Thursday, Wylie had raised $139,415 and spent $102,995 in her bid to hold onto the seat to which she was appointed last spring after Democratic Rep. Jim Jacks resigned the position.

Pridemore to run for state auditor's post

By Kathie Durbin November 2, 2011 8:11 p.m.

State Sen. Craig Pridemore announced Wednesday that he will run for state auditor in the 2012 election and will begin campaigning for the post immediately, while also serving out the final year of his second four-year term.

40 percent of ballots expected by deadline

By Kathie Durbin and Eric Florip November 2, 2011 6 a.m.

Clark County voters are on track to return 40 percent of ballots mailed by the time polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday — about the same rate they reached in the 2007 and 2009 elections. As of Tuesday, county elections officials had received 41,326 ballots back out of 226,302 mailed — about 18.3 percent. That rate should more than double by Nov. 8, said elections manager Tim Likness.

Red flag raised at White Salmon River

By Kathie Durbin November 2, 2011 6 a.m.

Stay away. That’s the message PacifiCorp, local law enforcement officials and experienced river guides are delivering regarding the White Salmon River both above and below Condit Dam in the wake of the dam’s dramatic breaching last Wednesday.

Condit Dam reservoir's behavior murky after breach

By Kathie Durbin October 28, 2011 6 a.m.

One day after the breaching of Condit Dam, the former reservoir behind the dam continued to offer a fascinating case study in how quickly an altered landscape can revert to its original form. Since Wednesday, when explosives opened a tunnel in the 98-year-old dam through which the reservoir drained in little more than an hour, sediment has continued to slough off the sides of the reservoir and also has built back up in places.

Breaching of dam unleashes flood of water, emotions

By Kathie Durbin and Eric Florip October 27, 2011 6 a.m.

WHITE SALMON — Davis Washines watched in awe, then bowed his head. He wiped tears from his eyes. The sight of the White Salmon River rushing freely through the base of Condit Dam — released for the first time in 98 years Wednesday by a ground-shaking detonation of 700 pounds of dynamite — set off a rush of emotion for Washines and dozens of others watching on a live video feed, just a short walk from the blast site.

Dam breaching required a lot of preparation, planning on tight schedule

By Kathie Durbin October 27, 2011 6 a.m.

On June 13, after 12 years of delays, negotiations and regulatory hoops, PacifiCorp pulled the trigger. The Portland utility announced that it had reached agreement with federal regulators on all issues and would proceed in late October with breaching Condit Dam. The window was tight. Threatened fall chinook salmon arriving in the lower three miles of the White Salmon River below the dam would have to be captured and transported above the dam, out of the path of a massive sediment surge and into their native waters. An estimated 2.7 million cubic yards of sediment had built up behind the dam in its 98 years. No one knew what lay beneath the sludge.

NEW VIDEO - Breaching Condit Dam

By Mark Bowder , Kathie Durbin , Eric Florip and Al Thomas October 26, 2011 2:17 p.m.

Read The Columbian's live coverage of Wednesday's explosive breaching of Condit Dam.

Independent ad bashes Rep. Sharon Wylie

By Kathie Durbin October 26, 2011 6 p.m.

A $40,000 TV ad paid for by an out-of-state political group attacks state Rep. Sharon Wylie for having been a registered lobbyist in Washington state and for allegedly supporting tax increases and accepting tobacco money while she served as an Oregon state legislator in the 1990s.

Condit Dam to be breached Wednesday

By Kathie Durbin October 24, 2011 6 a.m.

Watching crews set dynamite and blow a hole in the bottom of a 125-foot-tall hydroelectric dam might sound like a fun way to spend a day in the Columbia River Gorge. But PacifiCorp is taking no chances as it makes final plans for the historic breaching of Condit Dam on Wednesday, and state, federal and tribal officials will be working overtime to prevent mishaps as the White Salmon River bursts through a 12-by18-foot tunnel . A huge surge of released water and sediment is expected to rush downstream to the river’s mouth and all the way to the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam. The Army Corps of Engineers is lowering the dam by two feet to make room for the added volume.

National forest branches out

By Kathie Durbin October 23, 2011 6 a.m.

Back before the spotted owl, the salmon and ecosystem management changed the rules of the game, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest was one of the biggest timber producers in the Northwest. The numbers tell the story.

DSHS town hall draws a crowd

By Kathie Durbin October 21, 2011 6 a.m.

More than 350 recovering drug addicts, long-term care providers, caregivers for the disabled and others who depend on Washington’s tattered safety net got a stark look Thursday at what another $883 million in state social services and health cuts would feel like. The statistics, and the programs they represent, were much more than numbers to scores of speakers who came to hear Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan N. Dreyfus lay out the options the Legislature will face when it meets in special session Nov. 28 to carve another $2 billion out of the 2011-13 state budget lawmakers adopted just five months ago.

Mount St. Helens mine foes sue to halt drilling

By Kathie Durbin October 20, 2011 6 a.m.

RANDLE — On a brilliant fall day, with the maples and cottonwoods beginning to turn, a deep quiet settled over a remote section of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on the northwest edge of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. South of this depressed timber town, in the Green River watershed, the legacy of the volcano’s 1980 eruption is written on the hillsides.

Reed says nixing presidential primary mutes state’s voice

By Kathie Durbin October 16, 2011 6 a.m.

Washington could be largely irrelevant in the 2012 presidential nominating process now that the state’s 2012 presidential primary has been canceled and some states are considering holding their primaries as early as January, Secretary of State Sam Reed said in an interview with The Columbian. The budget-strapped Legislature voted to cancel the 2012 presidential primary to save $10 million. That makes it less likely that front-running Republican candidates will schedule stops in Washington next year, Reed said. He noted that the state’s February 2008 presidential primary drew Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain to the state, but said the primary was undercut by the decisions of the two major political parties to use the results of their caucus votes to choose delegates to their national conventions.

Woodland mayoral candidates have wealth of experience

By Kathie Durbin October 17, 2011 6 a.m.

Two candidates with long experience in local government are vying to succeed Woodland Mayor Chuck Blum, who chose not to seek re-election. John “J.J.” Burke has served nine years as a member of the Woodland City Council and lost narrowly to Blum in the 2007 mayoral race. He is a member of the Downtown Revitalization Committee and several other civic groups.

Riley, Wylie worlds apart in 49th race

By Kathie Durbin October 16, 2011 6 a.m.

Their last names rhyme. The similarities stop there. Democratic Rep. Sharon Wylie, the appointed incumbent in the 49th Legislative District, faces a robust challenge from Republican Craig Riley, who ran in the 49th last year and lost to veteran state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, by just under 7 percent of votes cast.

Woodland voters to fill 2 council seats

By Kathie Durbin October 14, 2011 6 a.m.

Woodland voters will fill two open city council seats along with choosing a new mayor on Nov. 8. Two 70-year-olds, retired repairman Robert Ripp and retired real estate broker Scott Perry, will face off for Seat 7, relinquished by former Councilman Darwin Rounds, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor.

Police chief: Woodland needs new station now

By Kathie Durbin October 13, 2011 6 a.m.

The Woodland police station, built in the early 1970s, has outlived its life span, and Woodland voters are being asked to authorize the city to impose an additional 0.1 percentage-point sales and use tax to build a new one. Woodland’s police department shares its building with the city’s fire department and government offices. The building lacks space for conducting interviews and storing evidence, and the lone detective’s office is in a janitor’s closet. The department’s 12 employees work in a 1,000-square-foot space that has a single holding cell. When there’s a need to lock up adults of different genders or an adult and a child, one suspect is handcuffed to a bench.

'Occupy Vancouver' rally scheduled for Saturday

By Kathie Durbin October 11, 2011 7:02 p.m.

Local organizers plan a nonviolent one-day “Occupy Vancouver” assembly at Esther Short Park Saturday to “show this nation that we are aware of the injustices,” in the words of organizer Dan Walker, and to show solidarity with the Oct. 15 International Day of Occupation.

BirdFest and Bluegrass Festivities fill Ridgefield

By Kathie Durbin October 9, 2011 6 a.m.

RIDGEFIELD — The weather gods delivered a warm, mellow autumn day Saturday as this spiffed-up town celebrated both bluegrass music and its neighboring wildlife refuge, a major stopover for migratory waterfowl this time of year. Bluegrass bands occupied just about every vacant stretch of grass or pavement downtown. Two indoor venues, the restored Old Liberty Theater and the Pickled Heron Gallery, featured a dozen bands, from the homegrown Countryside Ride, together five years and about to cut its first record, to Portland-based Whiskey Puppy, which toured The Netherlands last month.

State panel backs Skamania wind project

By Kathie Durbin October 7, 2011 6 a.m.

Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council recommended Thursday that Gov. Chris Gregoire approve a proposed wind project on private forest land in Skamania County, but with 15 of the project’s 50 turbines eliminated to protect views in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The council met in Stevenson, and neither its members nor its staff were available for comment after the meeting adjourned at about 7 p.m. The vote to approve the project with modifications was 6-0, with one member absent.

Herrera Beutler seeks delay of federal rule

By Kathie Durbin October 7, 2011 6 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler took to the House floor Thursday in support of a bill that would delay a federal rule aimed at curbing pollution from boilers and process heaters used by many forest products companies. “Those businesses provide tens of thousands of good, family-wage jobs to the folks in my region,” she said in her five-minute speech. Cowlitz County would be particularly hard hit, she said.

Spotted owl advocates pipe up over Whistling Ridge wind farm proposal

By Kathie Durbin October 6, 2011 6 a.m.

Five conservation groups have asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to formally reconsider its finding that a proposed wind project in Skamania County would not harm the northern spotted owl. In a letter to the agency sent Wednesday, the groups cite a biologist’s report that nine owl sightings near the proposed wind turbine sites were documented in surveys last year. Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is scheduled to announce its recommendation on the controversial wind project at a special meeting in Stevenson on Thursday. The meeting is scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. at the Hegewald Center. No testimony will be taken.