Columbia Gorge Community College has become the first institution in the Pacific Northwest offering “Trusted Operator Program ‘Level One’” certification training for commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicle pilots. “Level One” is the first of three certification levels established by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International, a global non-profit dedicated to the advancement of autonomous systems and robotics. Pilots holding Level One certification have demonstrated their competence to fly UAVs for certain commercial purposes. CGCC will be seeking Level II certification as a service provider by late summer of this year, in which certificate holders demonstrate the ability to operate in more demanding conditions. Ultimately, the college hopes to achieve Level III certification, for pilots who demonstrate their ability to pilot UAVs for very specialized, industrial applications such as inspection of high-voltage transmission lines and wind turbine blades.
Maryhill Museum of Art’s Exquisite Gorge Project is underway, with eleven artists slated to work in communities along the Columbia River from the Willamette to the Snake River this summer to create a 66-foot woodblock print. The collaborative printmaking project will connect artists and communities as they explore their assigned stretch of river and carve images on 4 x 6 foot wood panels. Each completed panel will then be connected end-to-end and printed using a steamroller at Maryhill on August 24. Events associated with the project are planned, including artist Neal Harrington talking about it at The Dalles Farmers Market in City Park on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A full list of events is available at maryhillmuseum.org.
One Community Health’s annual Cherry Harvest Migrant Farmworker Food Drive had a record year, raising $3,400 in donations. The money was delivered to the Columbia Gorge Food Bank, which in turn purchased 12,240 pounds of food that is being distributed to migrant farmworkers and their families as they arrive in the Gorge to pick cherries for a number of orchards. A One Community Health spokesperson says the workers arrive to the region without enough money to support themselves and their families until the first paycheck arrives, and the food drive strives to address the need. One Community Health will be rolling out its migrant farmworker outreach program, connecting with farmworkers and their families in the orchards to provide critical health education and health screenings. The non-profit health center will also have special walk-in hours for the workers.
A study by Oregon State University researchers into use of a tiny insect as biological control for the fruit-consuming brown marmorated stink bug shows it would be more effective in natural areas bordering crops or at times when certain insecticides are not applied. The study published this week in the Journal of Economic Entomology looks at the use of the samurai wasp, which lays its eggs inside stink bug eggs, preventing the stink bugs from hatching. Study co-author and OSU Extension orchard crops specialist Nik Wiman says because the active ingredients in neonicotinoid and pyrethorid insecticides tended to kill the samurai wasp, using it will be most effective along orchard borders. A fact sheet about the samurai wasp is available through the OSU Extension Service.
An error in the published notice of Wednesday’s scheduled budget hearing before the Wasco County Commission forced it to be postponed to a later date. Commissioner Scott Hege says they could not proceed with the formal hearing without proper notice. He noted the Commission received all the budget information and heard presentations, but will have to come back for the formal proceedings. Hearings for the County, Library District, and Extension District were all pushed back. The rescheduled hearing is tentatively planned June 26 at 1 p.m.
Mike Kallio has been selected to be Undersheriff in the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Bob Songer made the announcement on the department’s Facebook page that Kallio was being promoted from Chief Criminal Deputy and took the oath of office earlier this week. Songer indicated the Undersheriff will take on added responsibility, with the Chief Jail Deputy reporting to that position. The Sheriff also said the Chief Criminal Deputy position will not be filled…with the money budgeted for that position instead to be used pay out overtime to put more deputies on the road.
Crews dealt with a small grass fire in the Westside area of Hood River on Wednesday afternoon. The Westside Fire Department indicates it occurred in the Portland Drive and Acree Drive area, and burned about three-quarters of an acre. No structures were threatened. Westside, Wy’east, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area crews responded to the scene.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden pushed for movement on a backlog of forest fuel thinning projects during a committee hearing on Thursday. In questioning of Forest Service Director of Fire Aviation and Management Shawna Legarza, Wyden was critical of a Forest Service proposal to roll back environmental rules for forest management projects, saying the focus should be on dealing with a backlog of already approved projects to reduce fire risk. Legarza said they need windows to do prescribed burns and get contracts in place to do the work Wyden describes.
A small fire Tuesday morning in The Dalles provided a reminder that it is fire season in the region. Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue Division Chief Jay Wood says it was actually three small fires that occurred along Highway 197 on a small bank, with two of them merging into one. He says passers-by stopped and had put out the fires by the time crews arrived. Size of the fire was very small, about 50 feet long and 15 feet up the bank. The cause of the fire could not be identified. Wood added that people should check their safety chains on trailers to make sure they are not dragging and sending out sparks, and don’t throw cigarettes out of vehicles as that also could start a roadside fire.
The Port of The Dalles is continuing to explore the idea of building a food start-up production facility to enhance the regional economy through value-added agriculture. Port Executive Director Andrea Klaas says they’ve been considering that sector for some time. The Port is conducting an online survey among growers, processors, and other food businesses, and is interested in hearing from people who might like to make use of a commercial food production building. Results will be used as part of a larger study to determine whether to move forward with facility construction.