Wednesday, March 22, 2023
March 22, 2023

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Morning Press: River, volcano, loot, songster, teachers

The Columbian

Were you away for the weekend? Here’s what we were doing.

The week promises sun and showers, cloudy and clear. Local weather coverage is online here, to help you work out which is coming when.

Where once a lake lay, a river runs

WHITE SALMON — Three and a half years have passed since Northwestern Lake drained like a bathtub in a single afternoon. Only traces of it remain.

On the sloping banks above the White Salmon River, a faint but distinct line marks the old water level. Unused stairways and docks sit high and dry, partially obscured by vegetation. Boaters have spotted a forgotten rope swing dangling impossibly high over the river below.

Northwestern Lake disappeared in October 2011 when Condit Dam was breached with a blast of dynamite. The dam was removed the following year as the White Salmon River began a remarkable recovery process that continues today.

The transition still generates mixed feelings around this close-knit community. Many cheer the return of migratory fish that now number in the thousands each year. Some cabin owners on the former lake, meanwhile, live in a state of uncertainty as their homes continue to shift and crack on unstable ground.

Condit Dam’s breaching and removal came only after a dozen years of legal wrangling and plenty of opposition. The drawn-out planning process divided people. Some wondered whether it would actually happen at all.

“For people to think through and live through that kind of landscape change is crazy — unprecedented, really,” said Margaret Neuman, executive director of the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group. “It did cause a lot of anxiety, and it was hard for the community in a lot of ways.”

Once the breach day arrived, a new reality began to set in. A variety of interests — environmental groups, cabin owners, white-water rafters, Native tribes and others — became engaged in a different way as the White Salmon River began to chart its course, Neuman said.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” she said. “But I think that there’s been a lot of community healing in the last three years, along with watershed recovery.”

  • Read the complete story here.

‘Trashcano’ erupts

“Which way to the trashcano?” visitors asked scientists as they walked through the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory in east Vancouver. During Saturday’s open house, it was clear which demo drew the most intrigue.

A sizable crowd gathered in the warehouse parking lot and watched as a volcanologist poured liquid nitrogen into a plastic soda bottle, screwed the cap on tight and set the bottle in a trash can of water. The liquid nitrogen, a gas, wants to expand but can’t inside the confines of the bottle.

“It’s the same principle that drives volcanic eruptions,” said volcanologist Alexa Van Eaton.

After a few seconds of anticipation … BOOM! Water and pink and red balloons shot out of the trash can.

A pair of children — eager to help with the experiment — traced a chalk outline showing how far the material dispersed.

Learning how volcanoes work and identifying hazards is the crux of the volcano observatory, which monitors the Cascade Mountains as far north as Mount Baker near the Canadian border and as far south as Crater Lake in southern Oregon.

There hasn’t been an open house in five years, said spokeswoman Carolyn Driedger. One was scheduled for 2013 but didn’t happen due to budget restraints. Saturday gave researchers a chance to show off what they’ve been working on and the technology they use to learn more about the Cascades. It also happened to fall a couple weeks shy of May 18, the 35th anniversary of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.

“As the memory of Mount St. Helens declines, we want to get the message across that this is an active volcano,” Driedger said.

  • Read the complete story here.

Search goes on for owners of stolen goods

Hundreds of items were organized and labeled — everything from power tools to musical instruments, bicycles, golf clubs, televisions, watches and weapons (both legal and illegal). But these things weren’t part of a garage sale.

Vancouver police recently recovered more than $50,000 worth of stolen property during an investigation into a string of property crimes, and they’re trying to match every thing with the rightful owners.

The agency hasn’t had such a large-scale recovery in a long time. Typically, police recover a few items or a carload of stolen goods at a time.

“This is kind of a bigger case for us,” said Sgt. Steve Dobbs. He leads the neighborhood response team on the east side of the city, which deals with street-level crimes and livability issues.

On April 23, detectives served a search warrant on a storage unit in east Vancouver, where they seized stolen items, and later served additional warrants on a vehicle and residence, where they found more stolen property.

While the neighborhood response team usually moves quickly through cases, this particular case has consumed an estimated 352 staff hours so far due to the sheer volume of items involved. Dobbs will keep working with another detective to wrap up the case and identify property owners.

After announcing last week that they had recovered all this property, the department was flooded with calls from people trying to retrieve belongings. Detectives and volunteers were still trying to evaluate and document each individual item.

So, for the first time, the agency set up a website and a phone number that leads people through the process of recovering their belongings. Police will get back to people starting Tuesday.

  • Read the complete story here.

Teachers will walk out May 13 — at least in Evergreen district, maybe in more

The 1,800-member Evergreen Education Association has voted to hold a one-day strike in Evergreen Public Schools on May 13, and teachers in several other districts are considering joining in.

The strike was approved Friday by 92 percent of the association’s members.

“This is not an action against our local community,” said Rob Lutz, union president. “Our action is against the Washington Legislature, which is failing our students. This is a conversation-starter with our local friends, family and neighbors about the need to invest in our kids’ education.”

Other teachers unions are discussing joining EEA members in the May 13 walkout. Next week, the Camas Education Association (393 teachers), the Battle Ground Education Association (746 teachers), the Vancouver Education Association (1,250 teachers), the Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals (582 educators) and the Washougal Association of Educators (189 teachers) will have emergency membership meetings or otherwise vote to determine if they will strike May 13.

The 104 members of Ridgefield Education Association will not participate in the strike, said Joe Thayer, union president.

Read an updated list of one-day strikes in Washington at

Local cancer fundraiser

“American Idol” contestant Daniel Seavey performed Friday at a cancer research fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation at The Quarry Senior Living in Vancouver.

The event, which also featured a head-shaving that included teacher Ada Dellay, was spearheaded by Cascade Middle School in memory of Grant Jensen, a Cascade seventh-grader with cancer who died in December 2013.

  • See more photos here.