As anticipated, the Cowlitz PUD Commission moved ahead with a 7.5 percent rate increase, effective on the 1st of next month. The average monthly household PUD bill will go up about $8 a month, going from $116.15 cents to $124.45 cents. The monthly Basic Charge also rises, going from $17 to $18.50. PUD officials say that the rate increase is needed to respond to a recent increase in wholesale power rates from the Bonneville Power Administration, along with significant capital needs. The PUD Commissioners say that this was a difficult decision, but they also say that it’s one that needed to be made to keep the PUD in good shape financially.
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Some of the numbers are down at the Port of Longview in the first half of 2015, but port officials say that they’re still running right at the original projections for this year. Port Executive Director Geir Kalhagen says that things should start picking up in the next few weeks. Imports are up substantially, with the 144,000 metric tons handled so far this year being nearly double the amount handled in the same period last year. Exports are down 19 percent, but the amounts involved are much larger; in the first six months of last year, the port moved nearly 3.8 million metric tons, compared to about 3.1 million tons this year. Budget numbers are reported to be right on track with original budget projections.
In other business at yesterday’s Port Commission meeting, it was announced that a special informational session is being set up, where the Riverside Energy proposal will be discussed. At yesterday’s meeting, Kalhagen announced that this project is much bigger than first proposed; he now says that it would be an “energy facility,” not just an “energy project.” The next steps in the Berth 4 renovation were approved, and the Commission also approved acceptance of a grant that will help pay for security improvements at the port.
July’s unemployment rate held steady in the local area between 2014 and 2015, coming in at 7.8 percent for each year. Meanwhile, the job growth numbers that Employment Security has been presenting for the past few months are now being revised sharply downward. Regional Economist Scott Bailey says that the preliminary estimates for the first half of the year are being cut by 800 jobs, moving the total number for the year from +200 to -800. The biggest loss reportedly came in the “all other services” category, which has shrunk by 1,000 positions, with most of the losses happening in June. It’s noted that these are preliminary estimates, and they could be revised. Both initial and continuing unemployment claims continue at very low levels.
From noon to 4 pm today, you’re invited to head over to the old Reynolds Metals site in West Longview, where Millennium Bulk Terminals will be holding an Open House. Lisa Nathan with Millennium says that you’ll be able to tour the facility, learn about some of the organizations that Millennium partners with, and perhaps you can also win a door prize. Burgers, hot dogs, salads, sodas and cake will be served; they’ll also have face-painting and games for the kids. You’re asked to bring a non-perishable food item, which will be donated to the Help Food Warehouse. There’s also a plan to take a “Reynolds Alumni Photo” at 1:30 pm. It’s free to take part, but they would like to have a headcount, so call 425-2800 to RSVP.
As the 2015 Columbia River Tour winds down, you still have a chance to check out Washington’s Tall Ships today down in Cathlamet. The brig “Lady Washington” will be open for tours from noon to 5 pm today at the docks in Cathlamet, and there will also be an “Evening Sail,” going from 6 to 8 pm. A $3 donation is suggested for the walk-on tour; admission for the Evening Sail is $35, and you can check for tickets by calling 1-800-200-5239, or by going to historicalseaport.org.
Additional details are now coming in about this morning’s fire that injured two people at a home on Cunningham Road. The fire at 235 Cunningham Road was reported at about 3:40 this morning. Details about the fire haven’t yet been disclosed, but we have learned that a man and a woman were transported from the scene; the as-yet unidentified male was taken out by LifeFlight, while the female was transported to St. John Medical Center. After trying to get into the airport in Kelso for use as a landing zone, responders moved to the Segale property near the Longview Wye for use as an LZ. Firefighters got the fire knocked down at about 4:15 am. There’s no word yet on the cause of the fire or is there an estimate on damage. Additional information should be released later today.
The State Patrol continues to investigate this morning’s car crash that had two lanes of the southbound freeway blocked for about 90 minutes. The crash at milepost 30 in Kalama was reported at about 5:20 am; it’s reported that this was a multi-car crash, with the center and left lanes of the freeway blocked by wreckage. Extrication was needed to remove at least one patient. The freeway fully re-opened to traffic shortly before 7. Additional information should be released later on.
As the investigation continues into last week’s huge warehouse fire in Winlock, the Department of Ecology is out with some estimates about environmental impacts. DOE now says that between 66,000 and 100,000 fish died as a result of the vegetable oil that spilled into Olequa Creek. Nearly 95 percent of those dead fish have been identified as sculpin, a small bottom-dwelling fish. The exact mechanism hasn’t been identified, but it’s suspected that the oil was responsible for most of the die-off, either through suffocation by oil coating their gills, or by the oil causing a toxic algae bloom. Officials say that they think pretty much everything in the three-and-a-half miles of creek downstream from the spill has been killed, but none of the oil has reached the Cowlitz. Dead fish have been floating downstream for several days. The cleanup of the oil is continuing, as is the investigation into the fire itself.
The Sheriff’s Office is looking into a vandalism and theft incident reported yesterday morning at a logging operation off of Ostrander Road. Shortly before 6 yesterday morning, a manager for the logging operation reported that two Komatsu log processing machines had been entered and vandalized. Windows were broken and CB radios were stolen, along with antennas and clearance lights. They also say that computers used for running the machines were damaged. The loss is estimated to be in the area of $5,000. No suspects have been identified.
Four people are recovering from injuries they received in a two-car crash that took place yesterday afternoon on Industrial Way. State Troopers say that the collision took place a few minutes after 4 pm, as Colby O’Neal, 16, of Longview was eastbound. Andrew Williams, 43, of Castle Rock stopped for traffic in front of him, and he was hit from behind by O’Neal. O’Neal was taken to St. John Medical Center, along with two passengers, Cypher, 13, of Longview and Matthew Linden, 15, of Longview. Williams was also injured, but he declined to be transported. O’Neal was cited for following too closely.