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2014 in review

Images from some of the top stories of 2014.


Images from some of the top stories of 2014.

January

With H1N1 flu (swine flu) cases on the rise, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital institutes visiting restrictions in attempt to reduce the spread of the virus in the county. The restrictions allowed patients to have no more than two visitors at time and restricted children under the age of 18 from entering certain wings of the hospital due to their higher rates of exposure to the flu.

Update: Providence staffers reported in February that flu impacts ended up being “lighter than anticipated.”

Hood River Valley High School receives a $438,000 grant from the state as part of its Career and Technical Education Revitalization program. The funding was planned to give the welding shop a complete makeover with a new state-of-the-art welding facility, and the engineering department was slated to get new computers, 3-D printers and 3-D machines, and computer-aided milling machines, along with new Solidworks, 3-D software to design and build parts with.

Update: The components are in place and students are using them to learn.

A concert and event amphitheater planned for the old mill site in Dee receives a flurry of feedback from local residents who were either pleased at the announcement or upset about potential noise and traffic impacts. The developer, Jason Taylor, ultimately ended up scaling down the proposal from 3,095 parking spaces to 437, but the county’s decision to approve the scaled-down application was appealed to the Hood River County Planning Commission by the Hood River Valley Residents Committee. The appeal was heard in December and failed due to a deadlock.

Update: As of the Dec. 30 appeal deadline, nothing was filed.

February:

A weather-related landslide lets loose more than 3,000 cubic yards of debris about a mile west of Hood River, resulting in the shutdown of all eastbound lane of Interstate 84. No motorists were injured by the falling debris, although a driver from Summerville badly damaged his rental car due to the landslide. Crews worked round-the-clock and had all lanes of I-84 open within a few days.

The U.S. Forest Service approves Mt. Hood Meadows to construct an 878-car parking lot, referred to as the Twilight Lot. The lot is to be located east of Elk Meadows trailhead and west of the Oregon Department of Transportation maintenance yard off of Highway 35 near the entrance to the Hood River Meadows lot. The decision drew some controversy from those who felt the plan would impact nearby Nordic skiing trails.

Update: Meadows say Twilight Lot likely won’t be developed for a couple years.

Hood River County Circuit Court Judge Paul Crowley announces his retirement after serving over 20 years on the bench, 15 of which he served as the presiding judge of the Seventh Judicial District. Judge John Olson was named presiding judge by Thomas Balmer, Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. Judge Karen Ostrye was appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber in June to fill the vacancy and Ostrye later was elected to the position in November, defeating opponent Timothy Farrell.

March

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife releases a report that wolf tracks had been discovered in the Mt. Hood National Forest, only the second time a wolf has been documented in the Oregon Cascades since 1947. It was unknown whether the wolf is part of a pack, whether it is male or female, or if it is a resident or transient wolf. Some heralded the return of the animal, while others expressed concerns over livestock predation.

Update: In November, west-side residents reprted evidence of a wolf near their home on Country Club Road.

A state law goes into effect that creates a medical marijuana dispensary registry program. Hood River County’s first fully-legal dispensary, The Gorge Green Cross, opens up in July on the corner of Sixth and Oak streets in downtown Hood River. The city’s second dispensary, Mountain View Naturals, opens a month later on Wasco.

Hood River County School District announces it will need to make $800,000 in budget cuts for the 2014-15 school year due to a reduction in state education funding. Superintendent Dan Goldman reported a 2-percent reduction in programs would be needed. In May, the district passes its budget that includes cuts to staff, materials, programs, and bus routes.

April

After ceasing operations in November 2013, Hanel Development Group auctions off its remaining equipment at the lower Hanel Mill site in Odell. The following month, the Port of Hood River purchases the 9.3-acre mill site for $850,000, subject to a due-diligence process. The port stated at the time it had planned to sue the property for economic development purposes.

In what is a sign of the valley’s growing cider industry, the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce hosts the first Hard-Pressed Cider Fest at the Mt. Defiance Cold Storage Unit in Odell. The festival featured 40 ciders from 12 cideries, including a handful from the Gorge. Over 1,000 people attended the festival, which sold out of its cider in three-and-a-half hours.

Update: By the end of 2014, four cider makers were bottling or kegging by year’s end, with at least one more aiming to start in 2015.

Cascade Locks, Hood River, and Hood River County all consider the idea of placing moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries that began registering with the state in March. The moratoriums are ostensibly designed for the local governments to set up their own restrictions on the “time, place, and manner” in which the dispensaries can conduct business. The county and Cascade Locks both decide to impose moratoriums, but the city of Hood River does not, making dispensaries legal within the city limits.

Update: The moratoriums will be expiring in April 2015.

May

Barrett Park is in the news once again as HRVRC announces plans to appeal Hood River Parks and Recreation’s decision to develop an RC airplane field and requests the state pull a grant earmarked for Barrett Park. Eventually, Parks and Rec decides to pull the application for the RC field and develop facilities that do not require an application. The state allows Parks and Rec to use the grant money for another site.

Update: Parks and Rec is still looking for another site.

Law enforcement conducts searches for 24-year-old Jason Muschaweck of Parkdale, who is reported missing from his Clear Creek Road home since May 4. Family members contacted police after finding the home had been ransacked and Muschaweck’s 2-year-old pit bull had been shot and stabbed. The dog survived the incident; friends, family, and law enforcement searched for Muschaweck, but found few clues as to his whereabouts.

Update: Jason Muschaweck still has not been found.

Licenses for same-sex marriages begin to be filed in Hood River County and across Oregon after a federal judge rules the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The first couple to be married in the county are Samantha Meyers and Amanda Durnez after being in a relationship for four years. “It’s a crazy feeling. We feel wonderful, and it’s an honor to realize we are the first,” in the county, Meyers said.

June

The episode of “Hotel Impossible” featuring Hood River’s Vagabond Lodge airs on The Travel Channel. Crews from the cable TV show were at the motel property earlier in the spring to film host Anthony Melchiorri directing the motel’s makeover. The Vagabond’s owner, Grant Polson, called it “a totally great experience.”

Orchardists state they’re having trouble finding enough labor to harvest the year’s bountiful cherry crop. Late in the month, the crop is damaged by an early summer rainstorm, with splitting reported as high as 70 percent. Despite the splitting, the rain wasn’t as damaging as a similar storm that hurt cherry crops in June 2013.

Geotechnical work begins on an abandoned portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway that is to be restored for hiking and biking purposes. The work was designed to provide data to engineers on the composition of material located other the abandoned highway. The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct a section that will run from Wyeth to Starvation Creek, and will eventual complete the rest of the trail to Hood River.

Update: Hood River County Planning Department currently evaluating ODOT’s application that will allow for actual construction of the trail to commence.

July

The county purchases a 2.05-acre property off West Cascade Avenue it intends to develop as much-needed workforce housing for the community. The parcel of land, which was purchased for $325,000, is located behind another affordable housing development: Hood River Crossing. The county reported the development will be geared towards people who make too much money to meet the income requirements for Hood River Crossing, but don’t make enough money to afford unsubsidized housing in Hood River. Development was targeted for completion within three years.

Hood River County’s unemployment becomes the lowest out of all counties in the state with a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.2 percent, beating out Benton County. The Oregon Employment Department noted this was the first time Hood River had been ahead of Benton County and still ranked first in the state since January 2000.

Hood River Valley Parks and Rec arranges a public hearing to receive input on a dog park for the Hood River area. The dog park would be a designated area where dogs can roam off-leash and socialize with other animals. The two sites initially considered were located down at the Hook and up near the Union Street substation located off of Indian Creek Trail.

Update: Sites are still being evaluated by HRVPRD.

Dee-area resident Dale Allen Bush, 66, was arrested for attempted murder, assault in the first degree, and possession of methamphetamine after allegedly knifing Richard E. Wilson, 54, of Ocean Park, Wash., causing life-threatening wounds. Law enforcement also reported finding ammunition, explosives, illegal weapons, and drugs on Bush’s property. Bush had previously been arrested in 1999 on a federal fugitive warrant for drugs and weapons violations. The 2014 arrest held similarities to the 1999 incident, in that Bush’s residence was found by law enforcement to contain chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine, as well as “a stash of weapons, including fully automatic assault weapons, hand grenades and other weapons, buried underground in a refrigerator.”

Update: Bush is still in prison, waiting for further proceedings.

August

The Rowena Fire torches 3,680 acres of land between Rowena and the west edge of The Dalles, becoming the largest fire in the Gorge that summer and attracting national attention. The fire damaged several structures and burned a home inside Foley Lakes Mobile Home Park located on the west side of The Dalles. The cause of the fire was not officially determined.

A former Insitu contractor was sentenced to jail time after he was arrested for trying to sell proprietary information related to one of Insitu’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones. Stephen Martin Ward, 49, of Owensboro, Ky., was sentenced in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Washington in Yakima to three months’ prison after being convicted of Theft of Trade Secrets under the Economic Espionage Act after stealing proprietary information related to RQ-21A Blackjack drone. A one month undercover operation resulted in Ward’s agreeing to exchange the data for $400,000 in currency and benefits. During the operation, Ward e-mailed the cover page of the manual to foreign entities in Kuwait to gauge their interest in the information.

After more than two years of public review, analysis, and permit filings, delays, and extensions, the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) announces that it has rejected a crucial permit needed for the construction of the Coyote Island coal export terminal proposed for the Port of Morrow. Ambre Energy, an Australia-based energy company, had planned to ship via barges approximately 8.8 million tons of coal annually from the port located in Boardman, about 90 minutes east of Hood River. DSL stated the permit was “not consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state’s water resources, and that the applicant did not provide sufficient analysis of alternatives that would avoid construction of a new dock and impacts on tribal fisheries.”

Update: The decision has been appealed and is expected to go to a hearing in December 2015.

September

The city announces it has reached a deal to help end a dispute over Naito Development’s Nichols Landing project, which would create a four-story, 88-room hotel and a 20,000-square-foot commercial building at the southern edge of the Nichols Boat Basin. The deal pushes the development away from the water’s edge and allows for the creation of a passive-use park that is to eventually be owned by the city. Work on the project was expected to begin sometime in early 2015.

Approximately 200 people attend a climate change march in downtown Hood River. The march, which was organized by the Columbia Gorge Climate Action Network (CGCAN), was part of a larger, worldwide event held to draw attention to climate change issues such as global warming and the burning of fossil fuels. Protests also focused on the shipment of fossil fuels through the Gorge.

The county receives numerous comments on a plan submitted by Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort to develop a 179-space gravel park and ride in the center of the community of Mt. Hood. The proposal attracted some controversy after a neighboring property owner, Libby Rossknecht, filed appeals against it, arguing the county improperly approved the application. Meadows ultimately retracted the application in an attempt to find a different park and ride site along Highway 35.

October

Farm and orchard equipment retailer Sheppard’s enters into a memorandum of understanding with the Port of Hood River that would result in its move down to a yet-to-be-constructed facility at the corner of North Second Street and Riverside Drive. Sheppard’s has been at its current location at First and State for 85 years, and in business for 10 years longer than that. The Sheppard family said they made the move in part due to logistical reasons and plan to expand their business at their new location.

Miguel Angel Soto-Quintana, 29, is arrested for allegedly murdering the mother of his child, Cecilia Campuzano-Ortiz, 23, after her body was found inside her apartment at 22nd and Montello. Soto-Quintana was convicted in 2013 of assaulting Campuzano-Ortiz and was ordered by the court to have no contact with Campuzano-Ortiz, with the exception of mail or email to arrange parenting time or text messaging in the case of a medical emergency of their 3-year-old daughter. The courts and law enforcement released little info about the case, although court documents noted that Soto-Quintana allegedly murdered Campuzano-Ortiz “while under the influence of an extreme emotional disturbance.”

Update: Soto-Quintana is scheduled for further proceedings Jan. 5.

Representatives of RipCity, that is, the Portland Trail Blazers, came to Hood River to film a commercial down at the waterfront with local fans. Blazer Dancers, color commentator Mike Rice, and Blazers alum “Mercy Mercy” Jerome Kersey joined in on the fun. The commercial was scheduled to air at an undisclosed point in the 2014-15 NBA season.

Update: No sign of the Hood River spots yet, but the Blazers were 23-5 on Dec. 31.

November

The Hood River Valley High School boys soccer team make history by claiming the school’s first-ever state title, winning the OSAA 5A championship. The HRV Eagles shutout Woodburn, 2-0, and held a perfect 18-0 record to finish the season. Gio Magana, Uriel Torres, Alex Gutierrez, and Marco Cuevas were all selected as First-Team All-State players and fifth-year coach Jaime Rivera was selected as the 5A boys Coach of the Year.

Paul Blackburn beats out Greg Colt for the Hood River mayoral race, defeating him by a margin of 2-1. In the Hood River City Council race, seven candidates vied for three positions; winners were Becky Brun, Peter Cornelison, and Susan Johnson. Voters also approved measures supporting fire and EMS departments at West Side and Cascade Locks and re-elected U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, State Sen. Chuck Thomsen, and State Rep. Mark Johnson, all Republicans.

Update: Blackburn and council will take the oath of office Jan. 5.

Columbia Gorge Community College announces that it will have to close its Indian Creek campus on the Heights due to a $2 million budget deficit. The announcement received significant negative feedback and was reversed a couple days later, although college administration has stated the deficit would require cuts elsewhere.

December

The Hood River City Council votes down Walmart’s application to expand its Wasco Avenue location during a remand hearing from the Land Use Board of Appeals. Walmart had planned to add an additional 30,000 square feet to the 72,000-square-foot store. The council voted 4-3 that the store’s vested right to expand had expired.

Columbia River Gorge Commission receives a mixed message on funding after getting an 89-percent increase in its budget from Oregon, but only a 7-percent increase from Washington. Because the commission has to be funded equally, it is required to take the lower amount. Administrators of the commission have repeatedly said it does not have enough staff to process the backlog of National Scenic Area building permits, and needs double the funding it currently gets to fulfill its obligations mandated by the federal government.

Update: Budget could alter in upcoming legislative hearings.

The city of Cascade Locks says it has come up with a way to fast track a proposed Nestlé water bottling plant, cutting down the process from an anticipated four years to two. The change is designed to reduce the time needed to process appeals from environmental groups. The plant is expected to cost $50 million, and be 250,000-square-feet in size.

Update: Application will come to CL city council for approval Jan. 12.

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