Basin Briefs for Sept. 13, 2019

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Newhouse pushes for potatoes as part of Japan trade deal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Yakima, is asking Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue to push for open market access for U.S. fresh potatoes as part of trade negotiations with Japan.

“I strongly urge you to pursue full market access for U.S. fresh table stock potatoes to Japan as USDA is working to conclude the (United States-Japan Free Trade Agreement),” Rep. Newhouse wrote in a letter to Purdue.

“The length of this outstanding market access and the absence of pest and disease issues should make this an achievable goal that will benefit Washington State’s potato industry and the entire U.S. economy,” Newhouse added.

Newhouse noted that the Japanese market remains closed to U.S. fresh potatoes despite ongoing discussions of the matter since 1993 and a thorough Japanese review of U.S. potatoes in 2005 when Japan opened its market to U.S. frozen and processed potatoes.

There is no valid reason for Japan to continue to block imports of fresh potatoes, Newhouse said, adding U.S. potatoes are exported to a number of Asian-Pacific nations including South Korea, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Washington is the second largest potato-producing state in the U.S., and potatoes are the state’s fourth largest commodity, valued at $687 million in 2017.

The U.S. and Japan reached a preliminary trade agreement in late August, according to reports.

Suicide awareness gathering to be held Saturday at McCosh Park

MOSES LAKE — A Suicide Awareness Gathering will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at McCosh Park in Moses Lake.

Organizers stated snacks and beverages will be provided. Stories will be told and candles will be lit to raise awareness for suicide.

The organizer has a connection with mental illness and suicide.

Conservation District to use $11,000 orca grant funds for education, outreach

MOSES LAKE — The Grant County Conservation District will use an $11,000 orca preservation grant from the Washington State Governor’s Office for education and outreach.

All conservation districts in Washington state received the grant as part of an initiative by Gov. Jay Inslee to support marine life.

Grant County Conservation District Manager Marie Lotz said the education will take place in school districts throughout Grant and Adams counties for roughly four months.

Irrigation shutoff date announced

MOSES LAKE — The irrigation season will end Oct. 23 in the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District. That’s also the last day of irrigation season in the Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District.

The last day to order water changes will be Oct. 21, wrote Craig Simpson, ECBID manager. “On Oct. 23, ditch riders will close all farm units and water service contracts as they begin to drain the canal system.”

October 21 will be the last day for irrigation water changes in Quincy as well. Oct. 22 will be the last full day of water delivery.

People who have questions can contact the watermaster or ditch rider offices in their respective districts.

Museum director search on hold

MOSES LAKE — Moses Lake city officials will put the search for a new museum director on hold until January.

City officials have been looking for a new manager for the Moses Lake Museum & Art Center since the July departure of former director Freya Liggett. Parks and Recreation director Spencer Grigg said it’s not for lack of trying. “We’ve been through the process three times now,” Grigg said.

Three candidates have been selected and all three eventually turned the job down, Grigg said. Two candidates had other job offers, and the third would’ve had to take a cut in pay, he said.

Curator Ann Shempp is the temporary manager, Grigg said, and the museum has booked its exhibits for 2020.

New Larson Rec Center under consideration

MOSES LAKE — Moses Lake city officials are continuing work on a proposal for a new and expanded Larson Recreation Center.

Parks and Recreation director Spencer Grigg said the design process is underway. But when a new rec center might be built is still uncertain. “We’re crossing our fingers to see if we can make it work.”

The proposal includes a new, 30,000-square-foot building on the site of the existing rec center, 610 Yakima Ave. The building would include a gym, a changing room for teams and officials using the hockey rink, an indoor running track and the parks and rec offices.

At least one classroom will be included also. The city sold its building on Penn Street, Grigg said, which it had used for many of its classes. The new owners have leased the building back to the city for two years.

The old rec center had batting cages and an upstairs loft where there were activities for kids, but both of those have been eliminated in the new plan.

Currently the project is in the design phase. “We’re hoping to get to that next piece soon,” Grigg said. Cost estimates are not yet available, he said. Construction would take about 24 months.

City officials have determined that building a new building will be more cost-effective than trying to remodel the existing building, he said. The ultimate decision will be up to the Moses Lake City Council.

One good deed: Man arrested after reportedly stealing car from good Samaritan

A 25-year-old Edmonds man was arrested Wednesday after allegedly stealing two vehicles and then trying to steal a third while attempting to outrun pursuing officers, according to law enforcement.

Jaret Hester reportedly crashed a stolen vehicle along Road U Southeast near Warden. When a resident saw Hester in distress and stopped to help around 11:15 a.m., Hester reportedly stole their vehicle and drove away, eventually heading west on I-90, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a statement.

Grant County sheriff’s deputies and Moses Lake police headed to I-90 near SR-17 to intercept the vehicle, where a Moses Lake officer spotted the stolen 2000 Ford Excursion taking an exit onto state Route 17. A Grant County deputy pursued the Ford as it sped through the parking lot of Shari’s Restaurant on Kittleson Road and into a field, where the Ford became stuck in about one and a half feet of water, the sheriff’s office wrote.

With his vehicle paralyzed, Hester reportedly fled on foot, crossing the highway and ending up at West Coast Auto Sales, where he allegedly tried unsuccessfully to steal another car. Hester was detained on Maiers Road, law enforcement wrote.

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