THE LAST SUNRISE OF 2012 brilliantly illumined the eastern skyline of Clatskanie Monday morning, Dec. 31, and gave no hint of the snowstorm that was to follow in a few hours. Photo Courtesy of Robert Keyser
by Deborah Steele Hazen
Coal export proposals, the closing of local landmark business Hump’s Restaurant, the accomplishments of local citizens, and progress in the restoration of an historic building topped the headlines of The Clatskanie Chief during the first half of 2012.
Following is a month-by-month review of some of last year’s top stories.
Columbia County began 2012 with an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent, almost two percentage points lower than the previous year’s 11.8 percent, but still higher than the statewide rate of 8.9 percent and the national rate of 8.4 percent.
Like thousands around the state, local University of Oregon football fans were celebrating the Ducks’ victory in the Rose Bowl on the second day of 2012.
On a more somber note a candlelight vigil and fundraiser dinner was held Jan. 5 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter being killed in the line of duty.
Meanwhile, closing arguments in the competency hearing of his accused murderer, Daniel Armaugh Butts, came to a close during the first week of January.
Winners in the Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce “Spirit of Christmas in Clatskanie” shop locally campaign were Megan Evenson, Jeremy Furnish and Linda Smith.
A lifelong Rainier area resident Micheal “Mike” Gene Earlywine was killed in a logging accident Jan. 6, while working on Debast Road south of Rainier.
Clatskanie High School’s Tiger cheerleaders won first place in the 3A division at a cheerleading competition hosted by Lake Oswego on Jan. 7.
Rainier city finance director Debra Dudley was named interim city administrator at the Rainier city council business meeting on Jan. 9.
Ballots went into the mail Jan. 13 for the special election to fill the vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives created by the resignation in August of 2011 of Congressman David Wu from Oregon’s First Congressional District. Four candidates were on the ballot, Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat; Rob Cornilles, a Republican who had run against Wu in 2010; James Foster, a Libertarian, and Steven Reynolds, a member of the Progressive party.
Snow showers that began on the night of Jan. 14 and continued off and on into the morning of Jan. 18 made for slippery driving conditions, closed schools and contributed to power outages in Northwest Oregon. After several lighter snowfalls, a major snowstorm dumped several inches on the valley floor on the morning of Jan. 18. There was about a two-foot accumulation at the summit of Highway 47 between Clatskanie and Mist.
A town hall meeting that had been scheduled in Clatskanie by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley was canceled due to the bad weather. So were the week-long rehearsals – culminating in performances – of the Clatskanie Arts Commission’s Missoula Children’s Theatre production of “King Arthur’s Quest.” The production was rescheduled for the first week in March.
When the snow turned to rain later in the third of week of January, there was some minor lowland flooding.
The Columbia Land Trust, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the largest purchase of riverside habitat in the Columbia River estuary in nearly 40 years. The acquisition was aimed at expanding and permanently protecting habitat for salmon, steelhead and other wildlife.
The Columbia Land Trust completed the purchase of the 920-acre Columbia Stock Ranch on the south shore of the Columbia River near Goble on Jan. 23 with $5.2 million in BPA funding. The land, previously owned by the Leppin family, lies between the Columbia River and Highway 30 between Goble and Deer Island.
After hearing presentations from two companies proposing to ship coal out of Port Westward, and about two hours of public testimony, both for and against, the Port of St. Helens board of commissioners voted Jan. 25 to allow the process to begin on both projects. About 150 persons were in attendance at the meeting held at the former middle school building in Clatskanie.
After the presentations and public testimony, the Port commission voted four to one to enter into an agreement with Kinder Morgan Terminals “for an option to lease property from the Port to operate a marine bulk facility to start their due diligence process.”
The commission unanimously approved entering into a terminal services agreement option with Ambre Energy and Pacific Transloading LLC to operate a coal transloading facility at the existing dock at Port Westward.
By the end of the year, Ambre Energy was continuing to go through a permitting process for its project, which would see coal brought in enclosed barges from the Port of Morrow at Boardman in eastern Oregon to Port Westward where it would be transloaded onto Panamax ships using a fully-enclosed conveyor system. The Kinder Morgan project, which would see the coal brought to Port Westward by train, was still in the “due diligence” process.
A group of state and local officials, business leaders and citizens developing recommendations for improving safety along a 56-mile section of Highway 30 met in Clatskanie on Jan. 26. The 17-member Safety Working Group is co-chaired by Senator Betsy Johnson and Columbia County Commissioner Earl Fisher.
Democrat Suzanne Bonamici won the special election that ended Jan. 31 to represent Oregon’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove issued a written opinion on Feb. 2 declaring that Daniel Butts, the alleged murderer of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter, was competent to stand trial. In an arraignment on 24 counts of murder and other crimes related to Chief Painter’s death, Butts pleaded “not guilty.”
Steve Francoeur, formerly vice president-manufacturing for Georgia-Pacific Corporation’s Halsey operations, was named vice president-manufacturing, Wauna operations, effective Feb. 6. Francoeur took the top position at the Wauna Mill, previously held by Mike Tompkins, who was named senior vice president of building products operations for Georgia-Pacific.
With his appointment as Wauna Mill manager, Francoeur, was returning to his roots with the company. He first joined Georgia-Pacific in 1985 at the Wauna Mill.
James Bradfield and David Sills were sworn in as the Rainier City Council’s newest members, replacing two councilors who were recalled in a December, 2011 vote.
The Clatskanie High School cheer team won second out of nine teams competing in the 3A, 2A,1A division at the state cheer championships at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum.
The “Men of Worth,” two musicians who specialize in the music of their native homelands in Ireland and Scotland, returned to Clatskanie Feb. 10 under the sponsorship of the Clatskanie Arts Commission.
Over $66,000 was raised at the 15th annual Knappa Schools Foundation dinner and auction Feb. 11.
Steele family descendants marked 90 years of owning and operating The Clatskanie Chief.
Both the Clatskanie city council and the Rainier Cemetery District board of directors took unanimous action at meetings in February to ask voters to approve an annexation proposal on the May primary election ballot.
The proposal involved the cemetery district taking over the ownership and care of the three cemeteries located within the Clatskanie city limits.
Both the Rainier boys and girls basketball teams won the Lewis and Clark League championships. The Rainier girls took fifth place at the state championships, while the boys were eliminated after two losses. However, the Columbian boys won the state tournament sportsmanship award, and Brad Tripp was named to the second all-tournament team.
Kaylea Knox was named co-most valuable player of the league. Teauna Hughes of Clatskanie, also made the first team all-league.
The Clatskanie girls basketball team ranked highest in the state 3A division under the Dairy Farmers of Oregon Academic All-state recognition program with a 3.82 accumulative grade point average.
The Clatskanie boys basketball team received the Lewis and Clark League sportsmanship award.
Four Clatskanie wrestlers – Trevor Lefebvre, Jake Wemmer, Chris Puckett and David Adkinson – earned a trip to the state competition because of their performances at the district championship.
The Rainier wrestling team qualified 10 wrestlers for state and finished second as a team at the 2A District 1 Regional Wrestling Championships Feb 18. Going to state for Rainier were Brandon Aberle, Tyler Schmunk, Sean Shipley, Dorian Graff, CJ Osterman, William Rose, Tyson Lorentson, Charlie Vestal, Evan Gleaves and Tyler Coulter.
Earning medals at state were Shipley, second at 160 pounds; Osterman, second at 285 pounds, and Gleaves, fifth at 220 pounds.
After 65 years of operation by the Humphrey/Sellix family, Hump’s Restaurant closed after the evening dinner hour on Sunday, Feb. 26. Pam (Humphrey) and Eric Sellix were looking forward to a well-deserved retirement and prolonged sailing vacation. By year’s end, the building remained up for sale, but in the meantime it housed antique and craft sales.
After being postponed because of bad weather in mid-January, the Missoula Children’s Theatre came to town the first week in March, under the sponsorship of the Clatskanie Arts Commission, and involved over 50 local students in rehearsals and performances of “King Arthur’s Quest.”
Todd Norrish, a flight instructor for Aero Maintenance Flight Center in Vancouver, and student pilot Jimmy Kravets, of Vancouver, were killed in a plane crash near Goble on the evening of March 14.
The Rainier city council appointed interim city administrator Debra Dudley as city administrator on March 19.
Also on March 19, the Clatskanie school board offered a one-year contract as district superintedent to Mary Mitchell, who had been serving as interim superintendent since the previous summer.
The local communities celebrated Easter with religioius observances and egg hunts during the first week of April.
The Clatskanie I.O.O.F. (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) Hall/theater building, on South Nehalem Street, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1926, the building was the town’s first large concrete and masonry building and was designed by noted Northwest architect Ernest Kroner. It was the setting for organizational meetings, public gatherings, dances, dance and exercise lessons, movies and live entertaiments for over 60 years until it was sold into private hands in the early 1990s and began to fall into disrepair.
The hall and theater deteriorated inside and out – changing from Clatskanie’s grandest building to an eyesore – until it was purchased by the Clatskanie Foundation in the spring of 2008.
C. Keith Birkenfeld, whose great-grandparents and grandparents were pioneers of the Nehalem Valley and Clatskanie, made a bequest of $500,000 in his will to the Clatskanie Foundation to be used for a “bricks and mortar” project. With that money, the Foundation purchased the I.O.O.F. Hall in hopes of turning it from an eyesore into a civic and cultural center in the core of historic Clatskanie.
The Foundation completed the restoration of the facade in 2010, and developed plans for the future interior reconstruction including a multi-purpose theater, a lobby with elevator and a retail space downstairs, and offices to be used for the future home of the Clatskanie city hall as well as the reconstructed ballroom upstairs.
Working with the City of Clatskanie and the Clatskanie Arts Commission, the Foundation continues the fundraising process to complete the project. The historic register listing means that approximately $400,000 in tax credits can be sold to help fund the restoration project. In June, the Foundation learned it had been successful in applying for a $500,000 grant from the C. Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Trust of the Seattle Foundation.
A local leaders’ fundraising campaign began in August, and by year’s end almost $118,000 had been pledged and/or contributed to the project. Several large foundation grant applications were pending.
The annual bulky waste clean-up day was held Saturday, April 14, under the sponsorship of the City of Clatskanie, Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce, Clatskanie Sanitary Service, Clatskanie Park and Recreation District, Clatskanie People’s Utility District, and numerous organizations and businesses who contributed materials, services and volunteers.
The cold waters of Wallace Slough on the Columbia River northwest of Clatskanie, claimed the life of Brant Hicks on the morning of April 14. Hicks, a 35-year-old husband and father, who had lived most of his life in the Clatskanie area, drowned after diving into the water from a fishing boat to rescue his little boy who had fallen into the water. Hicks got the child to safety before sinking below the surface.
The public was invited to a fun evening of gaming for a good cause on April 21 when Turning Point Community Services Center and the Clatskanie Masonic Lodge presented “Monte Carlo Night.”
A fatal car crash, claiming the life of one student and ending in the arrest of another, was simulated in the Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) parking lot on the morning of April 26. The simulation was part of student body leaders’ effort to warn students against the dangers of alcohol and drinking and driving.
The sixth annual Raymond Carver writing festival was held the last weekend in April with a movie based on a short story by the Clatskanie-born author, plus a writing workshop and poetry slam.
The Oregon Symphonic Band performed at the Donavon Wooley Performing Arts Center at CMHS on Sunday afternoon, April 29.
In late April, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber issued a statement asking federal agencies “to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the environmental, community, economic, transportation and energy security impacts of proposed coal exports to Asia before proceeding with further permitting and leasing decisions.”
At a town hall meeting in Clatskanie May 1, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley said he was in the “information collecting stage” regarding the coal export proposals.
Subsequently, Merkley did join Kitzhaber in calling for a “programmatic and comprehensive environmental impact statement” on the issue before allowing a coal export facility in the Pacific Northwest.
Port of St. Helens board of commissioners president Robert Keyser wrote to Governor Kitzhaber inviting him and his economic development team to visit the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie, and “have a conversation with us regarding the future of this site…Our intent is not to attempt to change your position with regard to coal, but given that position, see how best to move forward.”
The City of Rainier sponsored a Rainier Cleanup Day on May 5.
The writing of a $1 million check by the Rainier Economic Development Council (REDCO) brought a close to a five-year legal battle with United States Gypsum (USG).
Two incumbent Columbia County commissioners topped the field of candidates for their respective positions in the May primary election, but not by large enough margins to avoid run-off elections in November.
Only 32.4 percent of Columbia County voters returned their ballots in the May 15th primary election. Columbia County Commissioner Earl Fisher topped the field of five candidates for his position 1 on the commission, but faced a run-off against Wayne Mayo.
Commissioner Tony Hyde fell just four percentage points short of the 50 percent plus one mark needed to not face one of his three challengers. Top vote-getter among those challengers was Tammy Maygra.
Voters of the City of Clatskanie and the Rainier Cemetery District approved the annexation proposal that saw the district taking over the ownership and responsibility for the three cemeteries – Maplewood, Murray Hill and Cedar Hill – within the city of Clatskanie.
The Rainier baseball team and the Clatskanie softball team won their respective league championships and headed into state competition.
Rainier’s Brad Tripp was named to the first team all-state, and the Lewis and Clark League player of the year. Also winning all-state and all-league honors were Mitch Staeffler, Ethan McGlone and Kevin Engstrom. Rainier coach Jerimy Kelley was selected as Lewis and Clark League coach of the year.
Earning second team all-league honors for Rainier were Oliver Bolden, Ethan Langley, and Wes Tripp, while Cody McGlone won honorable mention.
Clatskanie’s Storm Engel and Jake Wemmer were named to the first team all-league, while German George, Mica Karber and Shaine Warren were second team all-league.
On the girls side, Rainier’s Kylee Crape was named Lewis and Clark League player of the year, while Kaylea Knox got first team all-league.
Clatskanie’s coach Renee Wells was honored as Lewis and Clark League coach of the year, while team members Teauna Hughes, Hunter Spendlove and Kierra Kallunki made first team, and Kelli Burgher, Lacey Britton, McKenzie Garlock and Jocelyn Dines got second team recognition.
Three Tiger track and field athletes – Carley Lannan in the girls shot put and discus, Cedet Bailey in the 100 and 200 meter races, and Adam Siltala in the 1500 meter run – qualified for the state track meet.
Going to the state track meet for Rainier were Cody Gollihugh, Erik Sutfin, Devin Marshall and Brian Guisinger, on the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams; Sutfin also qualified in the 300-meter hurdles, while Marshall competed in both the 200 and 400-meter races. Alex Hisey qualified to compete in shot put, while Ayla Womack competed in the girls discus.
The continuing downturn in the ethanol market caused a reduction in force of 49 employees of the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie. The layoff, announced May 18, impacted about two-thirds of the plant’s 72 employees.
Clatsop County and Georgia-Pacific Corporation reached a settlement over the company’s property tax challenge regarding its Wauna Mill. The county and 60 other taxing districts agreed to pay G-P a total of $2.5 million in a property tax refund. The case involved the challenges filed by G-P against a 2008 tax penalty and the tax assessment on part of the Wauna facility. The settlement ended a four-year legal struggle.
Jennifer Warren, an experienced mental health worker for Columbia Community Mental Health (CCMH) was stabbed to death during a client visitation May 20 in St. Helens. The client, Brent Redd, 30, of St. Helens, was arrested for the murder.
Memorial Day weekend events planned for the Clatskanie and Rainier areas included breakfasts, services, the decoration of graves and fundraising by local veterans organizations.
If only one word could be used to describe local weather for December 2012, it might be “soggy.”
Clatskanie received a total of 13.26 inches of rain – more than three and a half inches over average for the month, as measured by City of Clatskanie public works employees.
Based on weather records assembled by the Western Regional Climate Center since 1935, typical rainfall for the month in Clatskanie is 9.61 inches. Record rainfall for December was set in 2007 with 18.48 inches.
Precipitation was recorded each day last month except one. More than an inch of rain fell on five days, and two days delivered two inches or more. With totals measured at 8 a.m. each morning, the lack of precipitation recorded Dec. 31 reflects the previous 24 hours.
Heavy rains during December caused minor flooding in the area and mudslides. There was black ice on Dec. 18, accompanied by accumulations of snow in the higher elevations around Clatskanie.
Flurries of snow ushered out 2012 on New Year’s Eve and whitened the world around town with scenes from a winter wonderland.
December temperatures were a little milder than usual. Average maximum and minimum temperatures were 46 and 36 degrees, compared with historical averages of 44.9 and 34.4.
Mean temperature, calculated using the average high and low temperatures, was 41 degrees, slightly higher than the typical mean of 39.7.
Starting rather warm and wet with highs in the 50s, December settled into a pattern of wet weather with highs in the 40s and an occasional freezing temperature.
Following are Clatskanie’s daily maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation for the past month.
Date Max. Min. Precip.
1 54 43 2.08
2 52 42 1.03
3 48 44 1.14
4 51 45 .87
5 51 36 .27
6 49 37 .03
7 47 39 .18
8 48 35 .23
9 43 36 .08
10 45 40 .09
11 47 37 .05
12 46 37 .26
13 45 35 .05
14 45 36 .22
15 47 30 .11
16 40 33 .61
17 48 38 1.37
18 43 32 .31
19 41 31 .22
20 45 36 2.00
21 41 35 .10
22 46 39 .10
23 46 38 .30
24 45 35 .42
25 46 35 .58
26 41 38 .13
27 44 37 .26
28 47 37 .05
29 43 35 .09
30 43 32 .03
31 44 28 0
Total Precipitation 13.26
Representatives of the Veterans Administration (VA) will be at the Clatskanie Legion Hall, 930 NE 5th Street, on Saturday, Jan. 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The VA representatives will be able to assist veterans in applying for VA programs including benefits, health care, education, home loans, and assistance with new and in-process claims.
Any local veterans who have questions about their claims will not have to travel to St. Helens or Portland to get answers to their questions.
Clatskanie American Legion Post 68 is sponsoring and hosting this event for local veterans as a way of thanking them for their service to the community and country.
The local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and auxiliaries will sponsor a light lunch at the Legion hall to coincide with the VA representatives’ visit here.
Columbia County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in November, unchanged from the previous month, but lower than the year before at 9.8.
Labor force and unemployment estimates in the county are based on a survey of households.
The rate was higher than the statewide rate of 8.4 percent and the national rate of 7.7 percent.
Total employment rose by 56 to 22,417 and the number of unemployed people climbed by 61 to 2,162. Total employment this November was 168 less than one year before and there were 140 fewer people unemployed this year, yielding a total drop in labor force of 308.
Seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment rose by 30 in November to 9,710. Seasonally adjusted figures compare expected changes with actual changes. A loss of 40 jobs is normal for the month, and the county’s payroll employment dipped by 10. The private sector shed 10 jobs and government employment was unchanged.
Durable goods manufacturing and educational and health services each added 20 jobs and retail trade grew by 30. Leisure and hospitality trimmed 30 jobs and professional and business services shed 20 jobs.
Total nonfarm employment in November was down 50 jobs from one year before. Private sector employment decreased by 20 and governments cut 30 jobs.
Many Columbia County residents commute elsewhere for work, so it is not uncommon for the total number of employed people residing in the county to change without a similar change in the number of payroll jobs located within the county.
Clatsop County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in November, varying only slightly from the previous month’s 7.6 percent, but lower than the year before at 8 percent. It was lower than the 8.4 percent statewide rate and about the same as the 7.7 percent national rate.
Total employment in the county decreased by 194 from the previous month to 19,081. The estimated number of unemployed people rose by 48 to 1,543. The number of unemployed this November was 107 fewer than one year before and 268 fewer people were employed, yielding a total drop in the labor force of 375.
Seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment rose by 40 in November to 16,880. Seasonally adjusted figures compare expected changes with actual changes. A loss of 350 jobs is normal for the month and the county shed 310. The private sector lost 340 jobs and government employment grew by 30.
Food manufacturing cut 240 jobs and leisure and hospitality shed 200. Retail trade added 100 jobs as the holiday shopping season began. Local governments, excluding education, added 40 jobs.
November’s total nonfarm payroll employment was 140 more than its level last year.
State Senator Betsy Johnson has been named co-chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development for the 2013 legislative session.
“Although we continue to face funding challenges, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to put in the hard work listening to Oregonians’ concerns and producing a budget that reflects the right priorities,” said Johnson, a Democrat who represents Northwest Oregon in the state senate. “I look forward to discussing plans to get people working again in both rural and urban parts of Oregon.”
As co-chair, Johnson will be responsible for overseeing the budget for the Department of Consumer and Business Services, the Business Development Department, the Department of Transportation, the Public Utility Commission, and several others.
In addition to being named co-chair, Johnson was named vice-chair of the full Ways and Means Committee and will also serve on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on General Government, the committee she previously chaired during the 2011 and 2012 sessions.
The 77th Oregon Legislative Assembly will convene on Jan. 14. Committees will begin meeting for legislative business on February 4.
RED-HAIRED IRISH DEXTER CALVES stood out against the fresh fallen snow Monday afternoon, Dec. 31, on a farm in the Swedetown area. Seemingly oblivious to the weather, the hardy little cattle gathered with their herd around the feed trough. Snow began falling mid-morning Monday and continued throughout the afternoon. While only a little stuck on the valley floor, there was about an inch and a half in the Swedetown area, and more reported at higher elevations. Freezing temperatures overnight made for slick driving conditions. Chief Photo by Adam J. Wehrley