Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, November 19, 2007

Human waste plagues Lake Roosevelt

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COULEE CITY, Wash. - The Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area is 129 miles of watery beauty that is becoming a giant outdoor toilet, and workers are not pleased.

The National Park Service is studying ways to stop people from defecating along the shores of the lake, which is the long, thin reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.

"It's the greatest threat to the health and vitality of the recreation area," said Debbie Bird, superintendent of Lake Roosevelt. "A lot of people are completely disgusted by this issue."

The problem is that more than 1 million people a year visit the lake, which has relatively few bathrooms. Most of them are boaters who venture far from campgrounds. Rather than using portable toilets, which the service has required since 2000, too many visitors are doing their business right on the sandy beaches, Bird said.

Forecast bad for Lower 48 ski resorts

DENVER - Although anecdotal information has ski resort managers in the lower 48 states hoping for the usual snow dump that has followed warm, dry falls, forecasters are holding out little hope.

Forecaster Klaus Wolter of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration says his latest forecast still calls for a pervasive tendency towards dry conditions throughout Colorado and most surrounding areas.

As always, he hedges his forecast by calling it experimental.

The dry, warm weather has already delayed the opening of some major ski resorts - including some who are almost always open for Thanksgiving. There will be some snow by mid-week, perhaps enough to make travel painful, but not enough to makeup for the dry spell.

Wolter said moderate La Nina conditions have become established and aren't going anywhere at least until early next year.

"Bottomline: After a warm and mostly dry fall season, the upcoming winter may end up rekindling drought concerns in much of the Interior Southwest. Renewed drought conditions may reach further north than even during typical La Niña winters, including northern Utah and northwestern Colorado," his latest report says.

The outlook is the same much of the rest of the nation, according to a national forecast released by NOAA last week.

Report: Tides could spread spilled oil

SAN FRANCISCO - Tides predicted to peak shortly after Thanksgiving could wash sticky, thick balls of oil off beaches and spread them to places previously unaffected after a cargo ship hit a bridge this month, spilling 58,000 gallons of fuel.

Most of the oil floating on the water has already washed up on beaches or was recovered by cleanup teams by early last week, according to an environmental study of the spill, federal and state officials said Sunday.

More than 16,000 gallons of oil had been collected, and another 4,000 gallons had evaporated by Sunday, according to a statement issued by the Coast Guard and wildlife officials.

The agencies' environmental report said that tar balls could persist in the San Francisco Bay through the end of the month. As sand begins sticking to the globules of oil, they may begin to sink, the report said.

The freighter Cosco Busan struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog on Nov. 7. Federal prosecutors are doing a criminal investigation of the spill. Officials are focusing on the actions of the ship's pilot and crew.

Coldwater Ridgevisitor center closed

COLDWATER RIDGE, Wash. - The U.S. Forest Service closed the 14-year-old, $11.5 million Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center at Mount St. Helens this month.

The center opened on May 15, 1993. Once considered world-class, Coldwater was showing signs of age. Rather than pouring money into the center, the Forest Service opted to shut it down.

Monument Manager Tom Mulder, who in April announced the Forest Service's decision to permanently close the facility, said the agency intends to focus on a lower-key approach rather than "wowing people with infrastructure and visitor centers."

Coldwater was not the only visitor center on the west side of Mount St. Helens. The closest visitor center to the mountain is now 16 miles west at Cowlitz County's Hoffstadt Bluff Visitor Center.

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