Gas Tax Increases By 7 Cents In Washington State

gaspumpOLYMPIA, Wash (AP) - The price of gas may be going down nationally, but Washington drivers may see slightly higher prices at the pump as the state's gas tax makes the first of a two-step increase.

The state gas tax increased by 7 cents a gallon Saturday, bringing total state gas taxes up to 44.5 cents a gallon. Adding in the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents, total gas taxes in Washington are now 62.9 cents a gallon.

Because the tax is paid by fuel wholesalers, not added directly to prices at the pump, it's uncertain how much of an increase drivers will see.

The increase is the first of two that are part of a $16 billion revenue package approved by the Legislature this year. The 16-year plan pays for transportation projects across Washington. Next summer, the tax will increase an additional 4.9 cents a gallon.

August 1, 2015

Kitsap Sewage Spill Prompts Warning To Stay Out Of Water

SILVERDALE, Wash. (AP) - Health officials are warning people to avoid contact with water in Dyes Inlet and the Port Washington Narrows on the Kitsap Peninsula after thousands of gallons of sewage spilled into the water during a construction project.

The Kitsap County Public Health District's no-contact advisory will remain in effect through Thursday. Shellfish harvesting is closed in the area.

An estimated 40,000 gallons of sewage spilled near the Clear Creek Estuary when a contractor's excavator bucket ruptured a sewer pipeline.

The spill happened at about 3 p.m. Thursday. Sewage flow was stopped by 5:30 p.m.

Parks in the area were temporarily closed but have reopened.

Health officials urge people to stay out of the water, off beaches and not collect rocks or shells until the advisory is lifted.

August 1, 2015

Public Has Until Aug. 28 To Comment On Hanford Plan

hanford B reactorRICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - People who have an opinion about the creation of a national park at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have until Aug. 28 to comment on the operations plan created by the federal government.

Portions of Hanford are proposed to become part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

The Tri-City Herald reports a draft agreement has been reached between the National Park Service and the Department of Energy to create and operate the park. The public now has a chance to comment on that agreement.

The park will also include historic areas at Los Alamos, New Mexico and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Hanford was the site of the world's first full-sized nuclear reactor and for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.

July 31, 2015/IMAGE - http://www.hanford.gov/page.cfm/BReactor#BReactor

Information from: Tri-City Herald, http://www.tri-cityherald.com

USGS Awards $4M To Boost Earthquake Early Warning Systems

earlywarningUSGSSEATTLE (AP) - The U.S. Geological Survey has awarded $4 million to four universities in the Pacific Northwest and California to boost the development of earthquake early warning systems.

The University of Washington, the University of Oregon, the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, received the awards, which were announced Thursday.

The goal is to improve and test a coast-wide system designed to detect potentially damaging earthquakes and alert people seconds before severe ground shaking takes place.

The USGS also spent an additional $1 million on 150 new and upgraded sensors to improve the speed and reliability of the warnings.

The ShakeAlert demonstration system is currently sending alerts to test users in California, Oregon and Washington.

July 31, 2015

Higher Wages A Surprising Success For Seattle Restaurant

ivarsSEATTLE (AP) - Menu prices are up 21 percent and you don't have to tip at Ivar's Salmon House in Seattle after the restaurant decided to institute the city's $15-an-hour minimum wage two years ahead of schedule.

It is staff, not diners, who feel the real difference, with wages as much as 60 percent higher than before. One waitress is saving for accounting classes and finding it easier to take weekend vacations, while another server is using the added pay to cover increased rent.

Seattle's law bumped the city's minimum wage to $11 beginning April 1, and scheduled increases will bring it to $15 within four years for large businesses and seven for smaller ones.

As Washington, D.C., and other cities consider following Seattle in phasing in a $15-an-hour minimum wage, Ivar's approach, adopted in April, offers lessons in how some businesses might adapt.

July 31, 2015 - GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press

WWII Veteran Leaves $235,000 To Post Falls Police

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The Post Falls Police Department can afford some dog treats after a World War II veteran left more than $235,000 to the department's animal safety division.

KXLY-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1VQRsZd) that 82-year-old Richard Weitzel, who died Jan. 28, was an animal lover who often would donate to animal organizations. His wife died in 2011 and they did not have any other family.

Weitzel left his neighbor Bob Hickey to carry out his will, which included the police department donation as well as $15,000 to SpokAnimal and a quarter of a million dollars to an animal protection organization on the East Coast.

Police Capt. Pat Knight says the department is looking at how to use the money, options include spay/neuter programs, better kennels and expanding the office.

July 31, 2015

Information from: KXLY-TV, http://www.kxly.com/

Yakima Hospital To Affiliate With Seattle's Virginia Mason

 YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital will proceed with an affiliation with Virginia Mason Health System.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports (http://bit.ly/1UbrHAY ) that the Memorial Hospital board voted Tuesday to proceed with the deal, subject to an agreement that would need to be approved by both boards.

In an announcement Thursday, the Memorial Hospital board said the final deal should be complete in about 60 days.

Hospital leaders say out of respect for the process and Virginia Mason, they cannot disclose those details yet.

This will be the first time Virginia Mason has absorbed an entire hospital into its network. Memorial is the largest employer in the Yakima Valley.

July 31, 2015

Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic, http://www.yakimaherald.com