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Fire Danger Continues

Evan as we see a few clouds moving into the area, local fire danger continues to be at extreme levels, with a wildfire currently burning in the woods near Pe Ell. The Department of Natural Resources says that more than 200 firefighters are involved in the response to the Fork Peak Fire, which reportedly has grown to 117 acres in timberland about five miles west of Pe Ell. DNR officials say that the fire was first reported last Friday, but they haven’t said anything about the cause. This fire is now listed as about 50 percent contained, as the aggressive response continues. It doesn’t appear that any structures have been threatened by this fire.

Meanwhile, Port Blakely is once again closing all of its timber holdings in Washington and Oregon to public access. The closure is indefinite, and will continue until further notice. They say that the prolonged hot and dry weather has led to higher-than-normal forest fire danger, so all of their holdings in both Washington and Oregon are closed to all access, including vehicles, pedestrians and horses.

Body Recovered

13 days after he drowned in Mayfield Lake, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office says that they were finally able to recover the body of a Winlock man near Ike Kinswa State Park. The drowning was reported back on the 2nd of this month, when a friend of the 51 year-old victim called 911, saying that the victim had jumped off of a 30-foot cliff into about 100 feet of water, and failed to resurface. The friend says that he spent about an hour looking for the victim before he went home and called 911; extensive searches failed to find the body. Yesterday afternoon, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Dive Team located the body, using a submersible device equipped with a camera. The body was found in about 65 feet of water, wedged between a cliff wall and a submerged log. The body was found about 25 feet from where he had jumped in; they say that there were no signs of foul play. An autopsy is planned for later this week; the man’s name has still not been released.

More Coal Trouble

Ambre Energy just had another roadblock go up in their effort to build a coal export terminal in eastern Oregon, as the Corps of Engineers announces that its environmental review of the proposed project at Boardman is on hold, as the appeals of a state agency decision move forward. Oregon’s Department of State Lands is denying a construction application for the Coyote Island Terminal, citing negative impacts to fisheries on the Columbia River. Ambre is appealing that decision, along with at least two other groups. Yesterday, the Corps’ Portland District Commander announced that continuing the environmental evaluation at this point would be “inappropriate,” given the current unknown status of the state permit, and because of the amount of time needed to complete such a review. If the decision is reversed, Ambre would be allowed to ask for that process to resume.

Port Westward Expansion

The company that’s moving crude oil from North Dakota through Port Westward near Clatskanie is announcing that it’s preparing to invest between $50 million and $70 dollars for an expansion of that facility. The South County Spotlight reports on the latest meeting of the Port of St. Helens Commission, where representatives of Global Partners LP made that announcement. They say that the current setup allows them to transload crude oil OR ethanol, but not both. General Manager Daniel Luckett says that they’re looking at an expansion that would once again allow for ethanol production at the site; they would also expand the number of rail unloading stations, would add holding tanks, replace the existing pipeline to the dock, add additional dock, and would expand the existing Beaver Dock. This would increase the number of unit trains using the Pacific and Western rail line that goes through Columbia County, but plans are also in the works to increase train speeds to 25 miles an hour in certain sections along that line. They claim that could reduce some of the congestion caused by the mile-long unit trains going in and out.

Audit Findings

The Washington State Auditor’s Office and the City of Longview are butting heads over accounting procedures regarding federal pass-through money that goes to the Cowlitz Transit Authority. In its latest audit report regarding the City of Longview, the Auditor took issue with the follow-up to a 2012 audit finding regarding the CTA. That finding indicated that the CTA wasn’t maintaining adequate “time and effort documentation” connected to federal grant dollars; this year, they’re chastising Longview for failing to follow up on that previous finding. They say city staff did not dedicate the resources necessary to ensure compliance with the grant requirements, and as a result, they question salary and benefit costs of $17,259 that were charged to the grant. In its response, the city challenges the Auditor’s definitions and methodology, and claims that all of the rules were followed. They also say that these questioned salary and benefit dollars had no effect on the amount of money that the city received, and had no effect on the allowability of charging those costs to the grant. City officials say that there’s no impact on the city’s financial statement. In response to that, the Auditor thanks the city for its commitment to resolving this finding, and will review the corrective action in the next audit.

Water Flushing

Longview’s water main flushing schedule continues this week in “Area #2,” working in the area between 33rd Avenue and Nichols Boulevard, going form Ocean Beach Highway to Washington Way. Work is being done tonight, tomorrow night and Thursday night, going from 7:30 to 11:30 pm each night. Advisory signs will be posted in work areas; you’re advised not to use water while this flushing is going on, and be sure to flush your own pipes after the work is completed. Call the City of Longview at 442-5700 if you have other questions.

Scam Meeting

They’ll be talking about “Scams and Cons Aimed at Seniors” at today’s meeting of the Lower Columbia School Retirees Association. Along with the discussion about criminals who are trying to take advantage of senior citizens, there will be a door prize. This meeting starts at 9:30 this morning in the dining room of the Somerset Retirement Apartments at 2025 Tibbetts Drive in Longview; you’ll also be able to buy breakfast if you like. Get more information by calling President Adrienne Gorman at 425-5428.

Vaccine Clinics

“Back-to-School Vaccine Clinics” open today in Longview, offered by the Longview-based Cowlitz Family Health Center. FHC officials say that these clinics are intended to help families make sure that the kids are vaccinated before we get into the main cold and flu season. Standard, age-appropriate vaccines will be offered at each of the clinics, helping local school kids have a healthy start to the year. The clinics will start today, going from 3 to 6 pm at the Longview Family Health Center Clinic on 12th Avenue. This will also be open to families that are not existing patients of the Family Health Center. Two other clinics will be held at the Longview Clinic on October 7th and October 14th. In addition, vaccinations will be held on October 1st in the Wahkiakum Clinic, October 21st in Woodland, and on October 29th at the Kelso Clinic. Get more information by calling Julie Nye at 636-3892, or go to the Family Health Center website.

KLOG Tuesday Sports

The L.A. Angels beat the Mariners 8-1 last night. The Angels clinch a playoff spot and the M’s now fall two games out of the Wild Card race. The teams play again tonight in Anaheim, KLOG 6:00 pm…..The LCC volleyball team has a home match with Clackamas tonight, 7 pm at the MM Gym…..In prep volleyball, Mark Morris is at Kelso, R.A. Long visits Washougal, Castle Rock at Toutle Lake, White Salmon at Kalama and Naselle at Three Rivers…..The MM boys tennis team beat Prairie 4-2 yesterday…..In boys golf, Tumwater downed RAL 212-236. The Jacks host Battle Ground today at Mint Valley. MM is at Kelso today at Three Rivers…..In girls soccer today, Prairie is at MM (5 pm) and RAL at Washougal (7 pm).

Pe Ell Fatal

A collision involving four motorcycles on Highway 6 near Pe Ell has resulted in the death of Teresa Jessee, 47, of Longview, along with the injury to five other people. State Troopers say that this happened Saturday afternoon, as a group of bikes were traveling eastbound on SR6. Shawn Jessee, 41, apparently failed to negotiate a left-hand curve on the highway, going off the road to the right. He hit the guard rail, ejecting him and his passenger, Teresa Jessee. The motorcycle continued on, veering back into the highway, where it was hit by Ronald Carr, 56, of Castle Rock. He was ejected, while Cheryl Palm, 50, of Castle Rock lost control of her bike and got dumped. She was hit by William Brown, 57, of Clatskanie, who was partially ejected from his motorcycle, along with his passenger, Laura Brown, 48. Teresa Jessee died at the scene, while Shawn Jessee and Ronald Carr were taken to Centralia Providence Hospital. Carr was eventually transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and was listed in serious condition yesterday. Palm was LifeFlighted to Oregon Health and Science University, but was released over the weekend. William and Laura Brown were not transported. The crash investigation is continuing.