Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2007

Montana governor has yet to draw an election challenger

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HELENA, Mont. - Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who swept into office as the new face of Western Democrats, draws plenty of ire from Republicans three years later but has yet to draw an opponent for re-election.

It's a big change from the flurry of campaign announcements and gubernatorial hopefuls usually seen at this point in an election cycle. There's no shortage of speculation among Republicans about who might run - just no actual announcements.

Political analysts point to the governor's popularity and fundraising prowess.

"Despite what the Republicans say, no one is excited about running against him," said Craig Wilson, a political scientist at Montana State University-Billings.

As governor, Schweitzer guides a state with a solid economy and historically low unemployment rates. He also enjoys relatively high approval ratings and has managed to avoid any fallout from a rancorous legislative session earlier in the year that saw plenty of mudslinging.

"Most of Montana agrees that we are getting Montana moving again," Schweitzer said in a recent interview. "And I think what they (Republicans) are finding is that it is difficult to find a groundswell of support to change the management of Montana."

Scientists want more data on Northwest seismic hazards

SPOKANE, Wash. - New research has bolstered some scientists' suspicion that large swaths of the Inland Northwest are vulnerable to damaging earthquakes.

Seismic activity in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho is relatively low compared to that on the Pacific coast, but scientists are proposing high-tech studies to assess the potential hazards.

Several recent earthquakes in north Spokane and southern Stevens County in northeast Washington were so small that no one reported feeling them. They turned up on an advanced network of seismographs covering the Western United States.

A "swarm" of minor earthquakes in 2001 and 2002 rattled downtown and north Spokane from depths so close to the surface that seismologists warned that a quake one magnitude stronger could cause serious damage to many of the city's stock of older buildings.

"I think this is a more important issue than Spokane might realize," Craig Weaver, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said about the 2001-2002 earthquake swarm.

Similar quakes have occurred periodically in Spokane, while larger ones have been documented across the region since 1872.

A magnitude-5.5 quake struck north of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in 1942, underscoring the potential for stronger tremors in the region.

Spokane had been considered a low-hazard area until a 3.7-magnitude tremor shook the city on June 25, 2001. It was the first of more than 50 earthquakes recorded over the next 10 months, the largest of which reached magnitude 4.0.

UFO Reporting Center moves from Seattle to old missile site

HARRINGTON, Wash. - To find the new home of The National UFO Reporting Center, you must go several yards underground at a former nuclear missile site in Eastern Washington.

The National UFO Reporting Center, which moved to this sparsely populated farm country from Seattle last year, is basically a telephone, tape recorder and desktop computer run in an underground bunker by one man who collects and publishes UFO reports from across the country.

Director Peter B. Davenport took over the UFO center's work from founder Robert J. Gribble in 1994. It had been located for years in Seattle's University District, until Davenport decided he wanted a change and paid $100,000 for the former Atlas missile site located about 50 miles west of Spokane.

"There was the allure of owning my own missile site," Davenport said.

The missile site covers 22 acres, and the massive concrete buildings are underground. The old Atlas E missiles rested flat, not upright in silos, in what were called "coffin launchers." In the event of war, a concrete lid would slide open, the missile would be hoisted upright and the engine fired.

Washington has a long history of UFO reports, including the famous Mount Rainier sighting in 1947 that led to the coining of the term "flying saucers." In that incident, pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine silver vehicles flying in formation at high speed and moving "like a saucer if you skip it across water."

Nearly 50,000 pounds of dead fish removed from lake

PORTOLA, Calif. - California officials have completed the grim task of collecting fish killed in last month's poisoning of Lake Davis to exterminate the northern pike.

California Department of Fish and Game crews gathered nearly 50,000 pounds of fish since Sept. 21, when 16,000 gallons of a toxic chemical were poured into the Sierra Nevada reservoir.

Northern pike - which wildlife experts believe were carried to Lake Davis by anglers from the Midwest or Great Lakes in the 1980s - decimated the lake's famous trophy trout and tourist industry.

Biologists in recent years have grown increasingly concerned that if the pike escaped the lake, they would also devastate California's weakened salmon and steelhead populations.

California first poisoned Lake Davis in 1997 but pike reappeared 18 months later, either reintroduced illegally by a rogue angler or having survived the first poisoning attempt.

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