Cherry harvest is underway in the Mid-Columbia, starting last week with Chelans, and the early bing cherries will start to be picked in a couple of days. Oregon State University extension agent Lynn Long says crop size appears to be very good, and he expects a 40,000-ton crop in Wasco County alone. What that means for market prices is always a concern, but Long thinks the crop should sell well. Cool temperatures in the past few days has slowed ripening, which Long says will create longer spacing between varieties. He added they have been fortunate to have no rain in the past few days, and clear skies are forecast in the middle part of the week.
A contingent from Hood River’s sister city, Tsuruta, Japan, arrives in Hood River on Tuesday afternoon. This visit will feature the Tsuruta Mayor Kenji Nakano, who is making his final visit as mayor. He is leaving that position after 40 years. Nakano and the Tsuruta contingent will arrive in Hood River Tuesday afternoon and will stay until Friday. A no-host cocktail hour will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Columbia Gorge Hotel, followed by a dinner at 6:30 p.m. for which limited tickets remain available, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Wednesday will feature a community ceremony at Children’s Park at 10:30 a.m., where a tree will be planted in Nakano’s honor in the cherry grove the Tsuruta group planted two years ago. They will fly home on Friday.
A 23-year-old Klickitat man was taken to Skyline Hospital in White Salmon Monday morning following a one-car accident on Highway 14 six miles east of Bingen. According to the Washington State Patrol, 23-year-old Jacob Williams was eastbound on Highway 14 at about 7:30 a.m. when the car he was driving drifted off the eastbound shoulder, struck rocks, rolled multiple times, and came to rest on its side against the guardrail. The WSP indicated Williams had fallen asleep behind the wheel, leading to the accident. Williams was taken to Skyline for treatment of unspecified injuries, and the vehicle was totaled.
When Columbia Gorge Community College holds its 2013-14 graduation Friday afternoon, it will mark a pair of milestones. This year’s class is the first to receive diplomas under the college’s recently awarded independent accreditation, and the ceremony will take place in the recently opened Fort Dalles Readiness and Workforce Center. Ceremonies begin at 3 p.m. Friday, and is open to the public. At the ceremony, graduates will be given diploma covers along with a personally signed note from CGCC President Frank Toda. Toda also plans to hand-sign the approximately 300 degrees and certificates, bearing the new, official CGCC seal. Official diplomas will be mailed to students a few weeks after graduation.
The Forest Service says a pair of Columbia River Gorge trails closed since Monday have reopened as crews battle a nearby wildfire. The Dog Mountain and Augspurger trails had been closed since Monday due to the nearby Dog Falls fire, burning above state Highway 14 about 50 miles east of Vancouver. Officials announced the trails’ reopening early today. The Forest Service says 3.5-acre fire is now 70 percent contained. Difficult terrain and high winds have made fighting the fire located west of Dog Creek a challenge.
The City of The Dalles will not take part in a road district in Wasco County. City Councilors decided instead to instruct municipal staff to bring back a resolution to put a gas tax increase on the November ballot. Councilors and Mayor Steve Lawrence all expressed concern that property tax compression from a road district would have a negative impact on other governmental entities, in particular Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue District. County Commissioner Steve Kramer says the county will proceed with its road district plans, awaiting answers from other municipalities and acknowledging without The Dalles the tax rate would be higher. Motions to opt in to the road district at the full rate and at a phased in rate were both defeated, and then the motion to have the gas tax resolution prepared was passed unanimously.
The Dalles City Council, acting in its role as the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency, received an update from Michael Leash of Rapoza Development on the Granada block development project in which Leash admitted the clock is ticking to get equity partners on board. Leash told Councilors there are investors at the local level who have become interested in the hotel and conference center project in the last two months, and talks continue with a real estate investment bank in Bellevue. He added that Venture Hospitality of Portland will sign a letter of intent to handle food and beverage for the facility, but Portland hotelier John Lee is “on the sidelines,” even though Leash also said Lee is not completely out and he remains in contact. Mayor Steve Lawrence expressed skepticism that Rapoza can meet all of its requirements by a December 31 deadline established by Urban Renewal last year, saying he was looking for reality checks. Leash responded by saying he was getting a reality check everyday.
Hood River County Commissioners will be considering whether or not to add a codes enforcement officer. The officer is a part of the 2014-15 budget, and Commission Chair Ron Rivers says it is in response to citizen feedback. Currently the County relies on citizen complaints to deal with code violations. County Administrator David Meriwether says the codes officer would initially be dealing with land use ordinances, and ultimately move into other areas. Commissioners will consider the position at their meeting this coming Monday.
The Lions Clubs of Hood River County will be conducting a food drive at all of the markets in the County on Saturday…accepting both food and cash donations for FISH Food Bank. Lions Club member Chuck Bugge says at this time of year FISH can have shortages while the need for food assistance remains, noting there are more people in the community at this time of year. The Lions will be at the markets on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will also be accepting donations of used eyeglasses and hearing aids.
Fire season is officially underway in The Dalles Unit of the Oregon Department of Forestry. It began Monday morning on all lands protected by State Forestry in Hood River and Wasco counties. That means all industrial operations on forest land are required to have fire tools, water supply, and fire extinguishers on site, and a new law enacted this year bans the use of exploding targets, tracer ammunition, and sky lanterns on State Forestry protected lands. A burn ban begins July 1. Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue has placed a partial burn restriction in place, with all outdoor burning prohibited until further notice, with the use of burn barrels outside of The Dalles city limits allowed until conditions warrant a full ban. Crews were dealing with two fires near Washington Highway 14 on Monday, one a brush fire eight miles east of Bingen that disrupted traffic for a time, and another burned about two-and-a-half acres near Dog Creek about five miles west of Bingen.