The Chronicle - Centralia

Helicopter Airlifts More Than 9 Tons of Trash From Abandoned Homeless Camps Along Yakima, Naches Rivers

They were dropped from the sky, huge white trash bags weighing about 250 pounds each.

Early Wednesday, a helicopter began airlifting the bags filled with garbage and other debris left behind at abandoned campsites along the Yakima and Naches rivers and dropped them in an open area near Rotary Park just off 18th Street in Terrace Heights.

The bags would be trucked from there to the Terrace Heights landfill.

In all, 79 bags totaling more than 9 tons of garbage were pulled from several abandoned homeless camps along the rivers and on islands within the 13-mile stretch between Selah and Union Gap.

"This is an environmental cleanup," said Yakima County Public Services Director Lisa Freund. "These are public properties. We have a public duty to clean them and make them environmentally safe."

The work was part of an ongoing effort to clean up homeless encampments that for decades have dotted the rivers' banks and areas of the Yakima Greenway, which features parks, lakes and a recreational pathway along the Yakima and Naches rivers.

Homeless people started building encampments there decades before the county adopted an ordinance in 2013 banning overnight camping along the river.

Makeshift wood structures, bicycle parts, clothing, mattresses, garbage and syringes are some of the typical debris left behind. For several years, service providers and the county have been working to clear the garbage from the area with little to no funding.

But that changed this summer, when the county received a $60,000 solid waste grant from the state Department of Ecology and a $10,000 grant from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The solid waste grant was a pass-through from the Yakima Health District, which determined that the debris was a health issue. And Fish and Wildlife says it impacts habitat.

Last spring, a lot of debris was swept into the rivers by high water.

Those who take up life along the riverbanks are the most chronically homeless people in the county. They are often reluctant to accept services.

County code enforcement officers have been going to camps, talking to those living there and offering to connect them to services, Freund said.

Code enforcement officers typically post cleanup notices at camps days before work begins, she said.

"They're making continual sweeps through here," Freund said.

The airlifted debris came from five abandoned camps in remote areas inaccessible by trucks, said Joel Freudenthal, water resource strategic manager for Yakima County.

"This is about the really remote stuff, whether the camps or active or not, and getting them out of there," Freudenthal said. "You don't want to have to build roads and stuff just to get this stuff out."

County crews spent several weeks reaching those areas by foot and bagging up the garbage.

Using the helicopter was much more efficient than manually removing the garbage bags from those area, Freund said.

"In terms of cost effectiveness, it will be well under $10,000," she said of the use of the helicopter. "We couldn't get that efficiency with ground crews."

But the work isn't done. An estimated 30 camps remain throughout the area that sill need to be cleaned up, Freund said.

"There's still plenty out there," she said. "A lot of this is on city jurisdiction but the county owns the property. You've got to be in lock-step to approach it."

Columbian Newspaper

Judge: Fake heiress can fight deportation on house arrest
Author: Associated Press

NEW YORK — A U.S. immigration judge cleared the way Wednesday for fake German heiress Anna Sorokin to be released from detention to home confinement while she fights deportation, if she meets certain conditions.

She must post a $10,000 bond, provide a residential address where she’ll stay for the duration of her immigration case and refrain from social media posting, Manhattan Immigration Judge Charles Conroy said.

Sorokin, 31, has been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since March 2021, after spending more than three years behind bars for swindling banks, hotels and friends to bankroll a posh lifestyle.

Immigration authorities say she’s overstayed her visa and must be returned to Germany.

Sorokin’s lawyer, Duncan Levin, said they are “extremely gratified” by the decision to release her to home confinement.

“The judge rightfully recognized that Anna is not a danger to the community,” Levin said in a written statement. “While there are still a few hurdles to jump through on her release conditions, Anna is thrilled to be getting out so she can focus on appealing her wrongful conviction.”

A message seeking comment was left with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Sorokin, whose scheme inspired the Netflix series “Inventing Anna,” was convicted in 2019 on multiple counts of larceny and theft. She was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison, credited with more than 500 days time served while her case was pending and released on good behavior in February 2021.

Immigration authorities picked her up a few weeks later.

Using the name Anna Delvey, Sorokin maneuvered her way into elite New York social circles by passing herself off as a socialite with a $67 million (68 million euros) fortune overseas, prosecutors said. She falsely claimed to be the daughter of a diplomat or an oil baron.

Prosecutors said Sorokin falsified records and lied to get banks to lend, luxury hotels to let her stay and well-heeled Manhattanites to cover plane tickets and other expenses for her, stealing $275,000 in all.

Rochester reaches $12M settlement for Daniel Prude’s kids
Author: Associated Press

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — City officials agreed to pay $12 million to the children of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after police held him down until he stopped breathing after encountering him running naked through the snowy streets of Rochester, New York.

A federal judge approved the settlement in a court document filed Thursday. Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans said in a statement that the agreement was “the best decision” for the city.

“It would have cost taxpayers even more to litigate, and would have placed a painful toll on our community,” said Evans, who wasn’t in office when Prude died in March 2020.

The settlement money, minus lawyers’ fees and costs, will go to Prude’s five children, who are heirs to the estate, attorneys said.

“I think that it’s an amount of money that is sufficient to show that the City of Rochester recognizes that something very bad happened and that it’s very important for the city to put it in the rearview mirror and move forward,” said lawyer Matthew Piers, who represents the administrator of the estate.

Police confronted Prude, 41, after his brother called to say the man needed mental health help. Prude had been taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation earlier that night but was released after a few hours, and later bolted from his brother’s home.

Police video showed that Prude complied with police demands to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back. He became agitated as he sat, handcuffed, on the pavement.

Police then put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting and held him down for about two minutes until his breathing stopped. He died several days later after being taken off life support.

The county medical examiner said his death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint” and cited the drug PCP as a contributing factor.

The officers said they followed their training. A grand jury last year declined to bring criminal charges against them.

The relatives’ lawyers said that Prude’s constitutional rights were violated by the police actions and what the family called an attempted cover-up by the department and city government.

Emails released showed that in June 2020, Rochester police commanders urged city officials to hold off on publicly releasing the video because they feared violent blowback if it came out during nationwide protests that were then unfolding over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Prude’s family eventually obtained the video and released it in September 2020.

Closing arguments held in Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook trial

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A lawyer for families of eight people killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre told a jury Thursday that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones started lying about the shooting the day it happened and provided the machinery that allowed that lie to spread.

Christopher Mattei began presenting closing arguments in a trial to determine how much Jones should pay for persuading his audience about the lie that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax staged to impose more gun control laws.

“The lies that started on December 14, 2012, are continuing to this very day,” Mattei said. “In two months it will be 10 years, 10 years since these families lost their loved ones and even now, even now, he’s still doing it.”

The six-person jury could begin deliberations by the day’s end in the lawsuit, one of several filed against the conspiracy theorist by relatives of the 26 people killed in the mass shooting.

Since the trial began Sept. 13, all 15 plaintiffs in the Connecticut lawsuit have testified about being tormented for a decade by people who believed Jones’ claims that the shooting never happened, and that the parents of the 20 slain children were “crisis actors.”

The plaintiffs said they have received death and rape threats, mail from conspiracy theorists that included photos of dead children, and had in-person confrontations with hoax believers. They sued Jones for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violating Connecticut’s unfair trade practices law by profiting off the hoax lies.

The people suing Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, in the Connecticut case include the relatives of eight massacre victims, as well as an FBI agent who responded to the school.

Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was among the 26 victims, told the jury conspiracy theorists threatened to dig up the boy’s grave to prove the shooting never happened.

“This is so sacrosanct and hallowed a place for my family and to hear that people were desecrating it and urinating on it and threatening to dig it up, I don’t know how to articulate to you what that feels like,” Barden told the jury. “But that’s where we are.”

Jones, whose show and Infowars brand is based in Austin, Texas, was found liable for defaming the plaintiffs last year. In an unusual ruling, Judge Barbara Bellis found Jones had forfeited his right to a trial as a consequence of repeated violations of court orders and failures to turn over documents to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Jones took the stand for a contentious day of testimony, saying he was “done saying I’m sorry” for calling the school shooting a hoax.

Outside the courthouse and on his web show, he has repeatedly bashed the trial as a “kangaroo court” and an effort to put him out of business. He has cited free speech rights, but he and his lawyer were not allowed to make that argument during the trial because he already had been found liable.

Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, has been trying to limit any damages awarded to the victims’ families and claimed the relatives were exaggerating their claims of being harmed.

In a similar trial in Texas in August, a jury ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children killed in the shooting, because of the hoax lies. A third such trial, also in Texas, involving two other parents is expected to begin near the end of the year.

Jones has said he expects the cases to be tied up in appeals for the next two years and has asked his audience to help him raise $500,000 to pay for his legal expenses. Free Speech Systems, meanwhile, is seeking bankruptcy protection.

Officials: Wildfire in Nebraska Sandhills nearly contained
Author: Associated Press

HALSEY, Neb. (AP) — Firefighters have nearly contained a large wildfire in the Nebraska Sandhills that has burned roughly 30 square miles and that led to the death of a volunteer firefighter, officials said.

The Bovee Fire began Sunday and spread quickly because of dry conditions in west-central Nebraska. The Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team said Thursday that their estimate of the size of the fire decreased slightly but remained around 19,000 acres (about 77 square kilometers).

The incident management team said the fire is 94% contained with only a few short sections of the fire line surrounding the blaze still unsecure. A night shift of firefighters will no longer be needed to contain the fire about 260 miles (420 kilometers) west of Omaha.

Cooler temperatures with highs near 60 degrees (16 degrees Celsius) are expected Thursday, but winds may gust up to 25 mph (40 kilometers per hour) as a cold front moves through the area. The high temperature on Friday is likely to be in the upper 40s.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the blaze, but have said it was likely “human caused.”

Assistant Chief of the Purdum Volunteer Fire Department Mike Moody died Sunday after suffering an apparent heart attack while fighting the fire. The cabins and main lodge at the Nebraska State 4-H Camp, and an observation tower in the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest were all destroyed by the fire.

The fire forced the residents of the village of Halsey to briefly evacuate their homes Sunday, and a stretch of Nebraska Highway 2 was shut down because of the fire.

Washington State News

Patriots to host Lions in battle of injury-riddled, 3-loss teams
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Lions RB D'Andre Swift likely out again in Week 5
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Camas Post Record

Steigerwald wildlife refuge reopens to public

The Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Washougal reopened to the public on Saturday, Oct. 1, after the completion of the final phase of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership’s (LCEP) habitat restoration project.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the LCEP reopened the refuge in May and closed it again in early August to allow crews to finish construction of a final section of the trail system, install salmon monitoring equipment and complete habitat improvements in the floodplain.

The habitat restoration project, the largest project of its kind on the Columbia River, included the removal of more than 2 miles of existing levees, along with existing water control and stream diversion infrastructure. New levees were built to allow Gibbons Creek to reconnect to the river once the concrete channel was removed from the creek.



Sister City Stories: Camas library highlights art, stories inspired by Polish sister cities
Author: Kelly Moyer

When Lloyd Halverson, the longtime Camas city administrator who helped guide Camas through its transition from a sleepy mill town to desirable suburban hub in the 1990s and early 2000s, thinks back on the many trips he and his wife, Ulrike Halverson, have made to Camas’ three Polish “sister cities,” he recalls personal stories of strength, determination and resilience.

“These are people who live in a region battered by the maelstrom of history … who have lived through huge challenges,” Lloyd said of the people living in Krapkowice, Morawica and Zabierzow — Camas’ sister cities in Poland.

The Halversons were able to live in Poland with their then-teenage son in the late 1990s, when Camas’ sister cities were trying to reestablish democratic control after years of living under communist rule.

“The transition period was energizing, inspiring, dramatic and grassroots,” Lloyd said. “I returned to Camas as a better manager and a better person having learned the incredible value of hope and of the ability of people to transform their own lives … to believe they could make their lives better after 45 years of communist oppression.”

In the years since then, Camas and its Polish sister cities have enjoyed cultural and educational exchanges — sending students, teachers and government officials back and forth to further the cities’ relationships and promote better cultural understanding and empathy toward others’ way of life.

“Something that really touched and moved me was when, within a day and a half of September 11, 2001, we Camas officials received letters of solidarity from the mayors of two towns that became sister cities (in Poland),” Halverson said. “These are quality people.”

More recently, when Poland agreed to shelter more than two million Ukrainian refugees fleeing a Russian military invasion, the city of Camas, through its Camas Sister City Organization and supporters like the Halversons, helped raise $15,000 to send to its three Polish sister cities to help feed, clothe and shelter the refugees.

The Halversons also had a chance to visit the Polish sister cities recently and met with several Ukrainian refugees.

“Poland and Ukraine have had their differences in history,” Lloyd said, “but now the Polish people are so generous with the Ukrainian refugees.”

Camas residents and visitors will soon have a chance to learn more about Camas’ Polish sister cities.

The Camas Public Library will host a special author event at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, to discuss Lloyd’s new book, “Silesian Stories: tales of resilience, history and connection with America,” and the library’s Second Story Gallery will kick off its October show, “Silesian Stories: Sister City Stories and Art,” featuring Ulrike Halverson’s Poland-inspired watercolors and keepsakes the Halversons have collected during their frequent “sister city” trips to the Polish cities Krapkowice, Morawica and Zabierzow.

The Second Story Gallery will host an opening night reception for the “Silesian Stories” show from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, in conjunction with the Downtown Camas Association’s monthly First Friday event.

Both Ulrike and Lloyd said they hope people who show up to the Camas library’s art show and author event will gain a greater understanding about the people who call Camas’ Polish sister cities home.

Ulrike Halverson, a native of Vienna, Austria, said her father’s family originally hailed from Silesia, the historical central European region that lies mostly within Poland.

Like her husband, Ulrike said she has always been moved by the Polish people’s resilient spirit.

“They have overcome difficult times,” Ulrike said, adding that she is always struck by the Polish people’s “generosity, hospitality, friendliness and ability to listen” when she and her husband travel to Camas’ sister cities.

“We saw this firsthand when we visited with the Ukrainian refugees this summer,” Lloyd added.

Both the Second Story Gallery art opening this Friday and the Oct. 12 author event featuring Lloyd Halverson’s “Silesian Stories” book and question-and-answer session, are free and open to the public. The Camas Public Library is located at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas. The Second Story Gallery is located on the library’s second floor. For more information, visit For more information about the Camas Sister City Organization, visit “Camas Sister City Organization on Facebook.

Camas hits ‘pause’ on skatepark remodel after lone bid comes in 43% over budget
Author: Kelly Moyer

Camas officials have hit “pause” on a long-awaited effort to replace the city’s rundown skatepark equipment with more durable poured-concrete elements after a lone bid came in significantly over the city’s budget.

“The project has had great momentum, but right now we’re in a little bit of a pause,” Camas Parks and Recreation Director Trang Lam told Camas City Council members at the Council’s meeting on Monday, Oct. 3.

Lam said the city recently put out a call for bids on the skatepark’s two-phase remodel, but that, “due to timing and market circumstances,” only received one bid.

Grindline Skateparks, Inc., of Seattle, estimated it would cost a total of $369,473 to complete both phases of the skatepark improvements — an estimate that is 43% higher than the city’s budget for the skatepark remodel.

Grindline estimated that, including more than $28,000 in sales taxes, it would cost the Seattle skatepark-construction company $274,834 to complete the first phase and $94,639 to complete the second phase — estimates that were, respectively, 52% and 35% over the city’s budget, Lam said Monday.

“Because the City only received one bid package at a substantially higher bid price than our estimate, staff recommends that the bid package be rejected and the City rebids the project early next year,” Lam stated in her staff report to the Council. “Rebidding (in early 2023) will likely garner more participants to the process, which allows the City to evaluate multiple bid packages to ensure that we are receiving the most competitive offers.”

The Council voted unanimously to reject Grindline’s bid and go out for more bids on the skatepark remodel in early 2023.

City leaders and skateboard enthusiasts in Camas and Washougal have been working since 2018 to improve the 20-year-old outdoor Camas Skate Park, located at 2900 N.E. Third Avenue near the Camas-Washougal border, and had hoped to see construction begin this fall.

In August, Lam told city officials the skatepark project was put on hold for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but had recently picked up some steam thanks to fundraising efforts by community members, the Camas Parks Foundation and the Parks Foundation of Clark County, which recently added nearly $30,000 to the skatepark improvement efforts.

“There is a lot of energy around this project,” Lam said about the skatepark improvements in August. “This energy has continued over multiple years. A lot of business owners are young adults who came up here and are still skaters … and they’ve stepped up and helped fund this.”

The city allocated $75,000 in its capital budget for the park, and Lam said there is money in the city’s Parks and Recreation capital budget to improve Camas’ parks and trail systems that could be used to help fund the skatepark improvements.

Lam said in August that she also has a personal affinity for the skatepark revamp.

“I grew up skating and have friends that are skaters,” the parks director said, “so it’s close to my heart.”