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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Buzzy buses; homelessness up

The Columbian
Published: June 12, 2023, 6:03am

Cheers: To electric buses. C-Tran has placed its first battery-powered buses on the road, beginning the process of phasing out diesel buses with the goal of a zero-emission fleet by 2040. “Wherever these vehicles are assigned in our system, we know that we’ll be able to meet the same standard of service that our riders expect,” C-Tran spokesman Eric Florip said.

The addition of electric battery buses to the fleet highlights the laborious process of reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change. C-Tran tested such buses nearly a decade ago, but it wasn’t until 2021 that the board of directors authorized their purchase. At that time, the plan was to purchase eight buses for nearly $10 million. With the vehicles now on the street in Clark County, C-Tran is helping to make our community cleaner — and quieter.

Jeers: To increasing homelessness. The annual Point in Time count indicates that the number of unhoused people in Clark County has increased 9 percent in the past year. Results of a survey conducted Jan. 26 were released last week, indicating 1,300 people were experiencing homelessness — either outside, in a shelter or in transitional housing. Last year, 1,197 homeless people were counted in the area.

The survey is an imperfect science, with the number of unhoused residents being difficult to quantify. But it provides some idea of the daunting situation facing our community. Cheers go to the many public and private efforts to reduce homelessness and provide assistance; but jeers go to the conditions — including a housing shortage and substance abuse — that make it difficult for many people to find shelter.

Cheers: To unearthing history. The Kalispel Tribe in Eastern Washington has uncovered evidence of ancient earth ovens believed to be 6,000 years old. While land was being cleared for future tribal housing, a cluster of fire-cracked rocks that were used for cooking in fire pits was discovered four feet below the surface. A Washington State University professor surmised: “This is some of the oldest technology used by humans to cook food anywhere in the world. And here, we have some of the oldest ovens in North America.”

The discovery is a reminder of the remarkable history of humans in the Northwest. As a tribal official said: “It makes me feel proud. We’ve been here for a long time.”

Jeers: To cyanobacteria. Warming temperatures mean it is blue-green algae season in waterways. The Columbian reports: “The culprit is cyanobacteria, a microscopic aquatic and photosynthetic bacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. … Cyanobacteria can cause rashes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, respiratory illness, seizures — and even death.”

The harmful blooms grow naturally in all water body types, and they frequently appear in Vancouver, Lacamas and Round lakes. A typical summer is accompanied by temporary closures to mitigate the hazards to swimmers, boaters and pets. As one local health official warns: “When in doubt, stay out.”

Cheers: To a resilient 10-year-old. Stories of people missing in the forest often end in tragedy. But Shunghla Mashwani, 10, recently was reunited with her family after spending more that 24 hours in the Cle Elum River Valley.

While playing and hiking in the woods during a family outing, Shunghla became lost. She hiked downstream through the forest and spent a night sleeping between trees in the rugged wilderness. She was found the next day. The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office called her “an extraordinarily resourceful and resilient 10-year-old.” Cheers go to a happy ending.