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Columbian Newspaper

President Biden to end COVID-19 emergencies on May 11
Author: ZEKE MILLER and AMANDA SEITZ, ZEKE MILLER and AMANDA SEITZ, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden informed Congress on Monday that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11, as most of the world has returned closer to normalcy nearly three years after they were first declared.

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La Center man dies in Sunday boating accident on the North Fork of the Lewis River
Author: Jessica Prokop

A 65-year-old La Center man was killed after the small boat he was in capsized Sunday on the North Fork of the Lewis River.

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Boeing will open new assembly line to build 737 Max planes
Author: The Associated Press

Boeing will add a fourth assembly line to produce more 737 Max aircraft, as it tries to more quickly translate a backlog of orders into cash-generating deliveries of new planes.

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The Chronicle - Centralia

Thurston County Sheriff on Tyre Nichols Killing: 'You Deserved Better'

After Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was beaten by several police officers in Memphis on Jan. 7 and died in a hospital three days later, body cam footage released in the days following revealed a gut-wrenching, aggressive attack. 

As Nichols’ death and the subsequent footage re-ignited conversations and protests over race relations and policing across America, Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders released a statement on Saturday sympathizing with Nichols’ family and calling for the attention of law enforcement nationwide.

Nichols was reportedly pulled over for reckless driving, which Sanders called “completely irrelevant. There is no crime that exists in which police would ever be authorized by legal, moral or ethical standards to act in such a ruthless manner.”

The basic duty of a law enforcement officer, Sanders wrote, is to develop probable cause for a crime and bring the accused before a magistrate to have their day in court. 

“At no point in this video did I observe any meaningful attempt to actually place Tyre under arrest,” Sanders wrote. “What makes me particularly uneasy about this footage is watching how comfortable these police officers were when they carried out their attack; Tyre probably wasn’t their first victim. It is the duty of sheriffs and police chiefs everywhere to seek out and eradicate these individuals from our ranks.”

Sanders continued to say he was proud to serve among officers in Washington who have taken additional steps to decertify police who commit misconduct and where some of the “best police training in the country” takes place.

Each time this sort of incident occurs, he said, police everywhere step back and say these bad individuals do not represent police as a whole. Sanders stated while he agrees with the statement, “we as police officers need to listen to the fact that communities across the country have been begging for us to reciprocate that trust for decades.”

Despite Memphis and Olympia being 2,324 miles apart, he said, “we all have to do our part.”

He closed saying, on behalf of the entire Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, “our hearts go out to Tyre Nichols and his family, friends and local community. You deserved better.”

Five Memphis officers have been charged with murder in connection with Tyre Nichols’ death. They were fired from the police force. 

First Public Behavioral Health Facility of Its Kind in Washington Unveiled at Maple Lane

Inside what Gov. Jay Inslee described as Washington’s first facility on a “new horizon of behavioral health treatment,” daylight warms the room despite it being a foggy, rainy Friday morning.

Inslee and other officials gathered inside Maple Lane School’s newest building for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, celebrating what they’re calling “Oak Cottage.” It is the state’s first publicly-funded “civil” center for behavioral health treatment. It’s located on Old Highway 9 SW in Grand Mound. The site will have controlled entrances and exits for security. According to the Governor’s Office, agreements with local law enforcement are in place.

The Thurston County co-ed facility can host up to 16 people above the age of 18 and includes sleeping quarters, shared spaces and classrooms to teach life skills, help with sensory issues and focus on a variety of mental and behavioral issues which can halt a person’s social and personal development.

Inslee said Washington is experiencing a mental health crisis which was exacerbated by the “long shadow of COVID.”

Far from the “old, centralized, huge industrial complex” evoked by the thought of behavioral health treatment, Inslee told The Chronicle, the new model is meant to keep people closely connected with their communities, churches and families. He said it falls in line with a mission outlined in 2018 to dramatically change the mental health model in Washington, which he called “long overdue.”

According to Inslee’s office, an additional 10 facilities will be completed statewide by 2024 and provide 239 beds. Construction will then begin for another 76 beds. He said these will support connections to existing care teams and other local resources without forcing residents to drive across the state. 

“It’s cutting-edge,” said the governor. “It’s been designed with compassion.”

The ribbon-cutting was attended by the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation council members, including Chairman Dustin Klatush and the tribe’s health director, Denise Ross.

“I’m honored as the Chehalis Tribal Chair to be here on behalf of the Chehalis Tribe and be part of this vision,” Klatush said, reading from a prepared statement. “I worked on the groundbreaking actually, as one of the contractors. … To see how beautiful this has turned out, it just brings me joy to see the finished product. I raise my hands to everybody that had a part in it.”

Classes inside the facility, according to Director Jeneva Cotton, of Grays Harbor County, will include financial management, basic home skills such as cooking and laundry, problem solving, effective communication and “empirically-supported cognitive behavioral treatment.” Lessons will be centered on taking action guided by core values, Cotton said, and discharge planning will begin the day a new resident arrives.

Speakers at the ceremony also touted the building’s design and green focus. It relies heavily on natural light, uses solar power and, in general, looks less like a prison than most dorm buildings.

“We want our residents to be able to fully, successfully reintegrate back into their communities, which is again, our communities,” Cotton said.

State Agencies Back Out of Tenino Town Hall on Sex Offender Housing

There were only two seats left vacant in the Tenino High School auditorium during Sunday’s community town hall: one for a representative of the state Department of Corrections (DOC) and one for a representative of the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). 

The two agencies had agreed to attend the town hall to answer questions about a proposed Less Restrictive Alternative (LRA) housing facility for sex offenders from the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center that has caused outrage and concern among Tenino-area residents. 

“When I met with our state government, we confirmed that they were all good to go, that they were going to show up and they were going to be a part of this, and that was what my ask was,” Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders said. 

However, two days before the scheduled town hall, the two agencies backed out. 

“Regrettably, due to threats by individuals and other information circulating on social media, we will instead host a virtual, public webinar 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1,” said DSHS and DOC in a joint letter to Sanders on Jan. 27. 

The specifics of those threats and “other information” have not been released.  

The agencies had sent Sanders an email earlier to express concerns about safety and the “structure” of the town hall, Sanders told the Tenino community Sunday. 

Sanders said he explained it would operate as a traditional town hall, with the officials at a table on stage and Sanders himself moderating from a podium, and that not only would the venue be a gun-free zone, personnel from the sheriff’s office and the Tenino Police Department would be on hand.

“At no point did they offer state troopers or any of their security,” said Sanders. “If the sheriff’s office had anything they needed to do, if there was a security concern, we would make it happen. The state government has 100-times more resources than we do. They just didn’t feel like making it happen. That’s what makes me mad.” 

In their conversation prior to the town hall, Sanders said representatives from DSHS and DOC “apologized” and “said they made a number of mistakes” in regard to the Tenino facility, which was contracted out to Supreme Living LLC. Notably, state officials said that they sent notification about it to the sheriff’s office before Sanders was sworn in, but due to a lack of transition between Sanders and former Sheriff John Snaza, Sanders didn’t receive the notification. 

“A number of apologies were made and that was OK, fine,” Sanders shrugged. “I said, ‘You owe it to our community to come out and answer some questions. You just do.’” 

The state agencies claim they will answer those questions during the Feb. 1 webinar. 

“We will be providing information and responding to community concerns regarding the less restrictive alternative planned for Tenino,” stated the agencies in the Jan. 27 letter to Sanders. Information on how to attend the webinar had not been released as of Monday morning. Per DSHS and the DOC, “a link to the webinar information is forthcoming. We will share this information with the public via social media and on the DSHS and DOC websites.” 

While DSHS and DOC representatives were absent from Sunday’s town hall, Sanders and Thurston County Commissioners Gary Edwards and Carolina Mejia spent over two hours fielding questions about the facility from a packed house of concerned citizens not just from the Tenino area, but from other areas in Washington that are impacted by LRAs.

“Enumclaw (King County) it’s happening to, Tenino it’s happening to, spread the word to your neighbors … We have to watch out for our own neighborhoods. If we do it one neighborhood at a time, we can help each other,” said an Eatonville, Pierce County, resident on Sunday who said her community has an LRA opening without community input or notification. 

A full livestream of the town hall is available on The Chronicle’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thecentraliachronicle. 

While LRAs are not new in Washington, a bill passed in the 2021 state legislative session amended state law as it relates to conditionally-released sexually violent predators in Revised Code of Washington 71 in two key ways. 

First, it established what legislators called “fair share principles,” meaning each county must provide community-based housing placements for conditionally-released sexually violent predators who are from their county. 

Under that principle, Thurston County is responsible for housing 11 conditionally-released sexually violent predators, according to Thurston County Commission Chair Carolina Meja. 

Second, the bill granted each civilly-committed sexually violent predator the right to develop a discharge plan and encouraged the filing and approval of resident petitions LRAs. The legislation also reduced the requirements for opening an LRA in a way that overrides city and county land use ordinances, according to Thurston County commissioners. 

Since the start of 2022, a total of 22 McNeil Island residents have been released to LRAs, according to DSHS. 

Of those, eight have gone to King County, 11 have gone to Pierce County, one has gone to Snohomish County and four have gone to Spokane County, according to DSHS.  

While the Tenino facility is slated to hold up to five sex offenders who have been granted an LRA, only one resident had been confirmed as of Monday morning.  

The Tenino facility was initially scheduled to open Feb. 1, but due to non-compliance with county health septic and water systems, that opening has been delayed. A new opening date had not been announced as of Monday morning. 

DSHS did not release information to The Chronicle about planned future releases or LRAs that are in the process of opening. 

LRAs are a topic on the agenda for an upcoming Lewis County Mayors Meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 3 at the Lewis County Historical Courthouse. 

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and Tenino Residents Against Supreme Living intend to post the link to the Feb. 1 webinar on their respective Facebook pages, https://www.facebook.com/Thurstoncountysheriff and https://www.facebook.com/groups/1207180946554980, when it becomes available. 

 

 

 

In Focus: Semi-Rare 'Hair Ice' Photographed Near Napavine

Chronicle staffer Sarah Burdick captured these photos of semi-rare "hair ice," also known as ice wool or frost beard, during a walk near Napavine on Sunday morning. 

"Fungus shapes a strangely wondrous kind of ice called hair ice that is found only on rotting logs ... To see hair ice, one’s best chance is to hike into a broadleaf forest between the latitudes of between 45° and 55° N on a cold morning. There, amid patches of snow and frost, a keen eye might spot delicate crystals extending from wood in filaments about 0.01 millimeters thick — about the diameter of a human hair. But as soon as the sun rises, the fragile sculpture will melt away," Smithsonian Magazine wrote. 

To submit photos to The Chronicle for potential publication, email news@chronline.com.

Chehalis Basin Group Unveils Four Non-Dam Flood Prevention Proposals; Asks for Public Input

The Chehalis Basin Local Action Non-Dam (LAND) Alternatives Steering Group held a workshop earlier this month at the Great Wolf Lodge to give basin residents a first look at four proposals that now require public input.

The group was formed and funded through the Office of Chehalis Basin to look at large-scale flood mitigation in the Chehalis River Basin outside of a proposed water retention structure near Pe Ell. For reference, a 2020 preliminary estimate put the cost of the structure between $475 million and $675 million.

Office of the Chehalis Basin Director Andrea McNamara Doyle explained in an email that so far, $2.4 million has been invested in LAND to work with consulting groups, and the current contract ends June 30. McNamara Doyle estimated roughly 75% of the $2.4 million has been spent on the initial steps. Cost estimates of the various proposals by the LAND group range from $560 million to $2.3 billion.

 

Option One

The first option proposed by the group is the simplest. It features building safe structures along with floodplain management. It would aim to recreate how the river flowed before the floodplain was developed.

Safe structures, according to the LAND group, begin with having flood insurance and can include utility relocation, flood proofing, structure elevation and voluntary buy-out’s with compensation and relocation assistance. Floodplain management involves the restoration of floodplains surrounding the Chehalis and Skookumchuck Rivers. 

Some pros of the first option include flood protection from small flooding events, potential benefits for landowners who decide to restore floodplains on their properties using grant funding and potential environmental benefits. It would likely require adoption of flood-friendly land use and building codes by local municipalities to avoid further development. 

This option does not reduce the risk of flooding from catastrophic storm events. The LAND group estimates total costs to be around $560 million. 

Many parts of this option, including structure elevation and floodplain restoration, have already been practiced in the basin. While LAND is proposing expanding their use, these efforts are already ongoing. 

 

Option Two

The second option focuses on water flow conveyance and diversion. In other words, digging a new river fork to wrap around Providence Centralia Hospital. 

First, a new 700-foot-wide, one-mile long water diversion passage would be created by excavating approximately 1.3 million cubic yards of soil west of Mellen Street. 

Then, the Mellen Street Bridge would be removed and reconstructed approximately 2,000 feet south of its original location connecting to Military Road west of the Chehalis River and Interstate 5. 

Finally, in order to speed up water flow near Mellen Street, the project would require removing another approximately 1.3 million cubic yards of soil immediately to the north and approximately 3,000 feet to the south of the existing Mellen Street Bridge. 

These projects would be combined with the first option as well and would reduce flooding extent and lower water levels in the Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers, China and Salzer Creeks and make improvements in the Newaukum River. 

Positives from this option, according to the LAND group, include reduced impact to structures, possible economic development benefits and reducing flood risk from catastrophic storm events. 

This option would require major infrastructural changes to a large portion of the Centralia community, including much of the neighborhood beyond the bridge. Other cons include complex permitting and land acquisition — including homes and other structures that would need to be obtained and demolished — balancing cut and fill requirements for 2.6 million cubic yards of material and providing less flood damage reduction than levees. 

It would also require extensive evaluation of documented cultural resources in the vicinity of the Mellen Street Bridge prior to any ground disturbance. It also doesn’t provide as much flood protection compared to levees. 

The price-tag on this option, LAND reported, could be anywhere between $1.2 billion and $1.7 billion. 

 

Option Three

Instead of focusing on the speed of water flow during flood events, the third proposed non-dam option focuses on constructing new levees as well as expanding existing ones. The LAND group mapped out a total of 20.4 miles of proposed levee construction and expansion. 

First, a new levee would be placed on the north bank of the Chehalis River starting north of Fort Borst Park and ending at Galvin Road, approximately 2.7 miles. Then, a new levee would be built east of I-5 from China Creek to Salzer Creek, approximately 3.3 miles. 

New and expanded levees would be added on both the north and south banks of the Skookumchuck River, approximately 6.6 miles. The levee around the Chehalis-Centralia Airport would be expanded as well, accounting for approximately 4.3 miles. 

Finally, new levees will be placed on the north bank of the Newaukum River east of I-5 and on the north and south banks of China Creek from I-5 to the railroad tracks, approximately 3.5 miles. 

This option also includes everything from the first option and, aside from the levees, would also expose many sections of China Creek that have been covered up. While this option would significantly reduce flooding in the Centralia area, it would raise water levels upstream of Mellen Street. 

This option would provide the most flood reduction to the most people out of the four proposals. Other positives listed from this proposal by the LAND group include economic development benefits.

Some of the cons include the highest construction-related impacts, increasing river levels in some locations, visual and community connectivity impacts and constraining rivers and creeks to limited areas. 

This option would require removing many downtown businesses, homes and possibly Centralia City Hall. It would involve challenging permitting and land acquisition issues. Estimated costs for this option range anywhere between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion. 

 

Option Four

The final option proposed by the LAND steering group simply combines all three previous options. 

Benefits of combining all the options include potentially reducing the size and length of levees by combining them with water flow projects while providing the highest economic development possibilities and reducing flooding during catastrophic flood events. The LAND group also listed adoption of flood-friendly land use and building codes by local municipalities as a positive for options two, three and four.

Cons include the highest amount of displaced structures due to construction, permitting and land acquisition issues, additional access infrastructure cost and not providing as much flood damage reduction as levees in the third option. 

This option carries the biggest price tag of them all, with cost estimates ranging from $1.6 billion to $2.3 billion. 

 

Initial Public Reaction

McNamara Doyle said while no formal vote was taken at the Great Wolf Lodge workshop about the four proposals, attendees were still asked for their initial impressions.

“That said, there were folks in attendance who voiced support for each of the four options, and other folks who voiced concerns about all four of the options as well,” McNamara Doyle said. 

Consultants from MIG Inc. are still processing reports gathered from small groups at the workshop in order to summarize thoughts. 

McNamara Doyle explained the main goal of the workshop was to gather initial reaction to help decide if the projects are feasible, themes or consistent responses to concepts, pros and cons and to hear new ideas LAND might not have considered. 

At the City of Centralia’s regular City Council meeting last Tuesday, Chehalis Basin Flood Authority member Ron Averill expressed his thoughts on the proposals, and the high costs of the projects weren’t his only concern. 

“Unfortunately what I’ve seen in this, we in Centralia have really lucked out because we’re the center of attention in this particular project. But even in Lewis County, they don’t show what they plan to do to alleviate flooding in Chehalis or Adna or Boistfort Valley or Pe Ell and Doty. All of which took huge hits during the 2007 flood, much less what’s going to happen downstream with these projects,” said Averill. 

 

Looking For More Public Input

The LAND Steering Group plans to continue refining their proposals and have scheduled a Zoom webinar on Wednesday, Feb. 8, to provide an informational update on the currently considered options followed by a question and answer session for attendees. 

Registration is free, to sign up visit https://bit.ly/LAND-Webinar. 

The webinar will start at 6 p.m. and is expected to last an hour. 

LAND was created after Gov. Jay Inslee and the Office of Chehalis Basin directed its formation to look for non-dam alternatives for flood damage reduction and flood prevention in 2021. 

Since November 2021 the group has held monthly meetings to gather input from businesses, tribal governments, city managers and technical experts to explore potential non-dam projects in the Chehalis Basin. 

The steering group itself is composed of a member from each of the following organizations: the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, the Economic Alliance of Lewis County, the City of Centralia Planning Commission, the Wild Salmon Center, the Quinault Indian Nation, Western Water Futures LLC, the Maughan Family Farm, American Rivers and Conservation Northwest. 

Third party partners of LAND include: MIG Inc., CollinsWoerman, ECONorthwest, Community Attributes Inc., Stowe Development & Strategies, GeoEngineers, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, COWI North America and Stillwater Sciences. 

For more information on LAND visit https://www.chehalisbasinland.com/. For more information on the proposals discussed at the Great Wolf Lodge visit https://www.chehalisbasinland.com/emerging-options/

 

Washington State News

Rocket Lab launches first satellite mission from US

LONG BEACH, California: Long Beach, California-based Rocket Lab has launched its first mission from the United States, as part of its efforts to expand its business amidst a surge in private rocket activity at American space ports.

At 6 p.m. EST, the company's Electron rocket lifted off from its new launch pad at the NASA-operated Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

The launch was Rocket

Reports: 49ers QB Brock Purdy tore UCL, out 6 months
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy suffered a complete UCL tear in his throwing elbow during Sunday's NFC Championship Game and will require surgery, NFL Network and ESPN reported Monday. Purdy is expected to miss at least six months, but the 49ers hope he can be ready in time for training camp next summer if he undergoes a repair as opposed to a full reconstruction of the ligament, per the reports. Purdy under

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