Interstate 90 slows to crawl after tractor-trailer fire

August 30, 2011

Traffic slowed to a crawl along eastbound Interstate 90 late in the afternoon of Aug. 26 as a tractor-trailer burned along the roadway.

The truck driver managed to stop the vehicle on the road shoulder just west of the Front Street North exit before escaping from the rig at about 4 p.m.

State troopers reopened all lanes by 5:30 p.m., but motorists faced significant delays into the early evening.

Washington State Patrol troopers respond to a tractor-trailer fire along Interstate 90 in Issaquah late in the afternoon of Aug. 26. By Tom Corrigan

Trooper Julie Startup, a Washington State Patrol spokeswoman, said the truck had not been hauling any hazardous material. The driver escaped unharmed.

“The semi was able to make it onto the shoulder, but is burning up pretty steadily over there,” she said.

Troopers stopped traffic in the eastbound lanes at state Route 900. The backup stretched for six miles as the afternoon commute started to peak.

King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit riders in the Issaquah area faced delays as the mass transit agencies rerouted buses to compensate for the closed highway.

Eastside Fire & Rescue crews responded to the blaze as people climbed atop nearby buildings to see the flames. The fire destroyed the cab, but did not appear to do much damage to the trailer.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Startup said troopers had yet to determine the contents of the tractor-trailer by late Aug. 26.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

Puget Sound Energy mails out stinky bills as gas leak reminder

August 30, 2011

The utility bills reaching more than 1.5 million Puget Sound Energy customers now through September stink.

Inside each envelope is a scratch-and-sniff pamphlet to help customers recognize the rotten-egg odor used to help identify and report natural gas leaks.

Scratch and the pamphlet releases a sulfurous aroma, similar to eggs gone bad. PSE and other natural gas utilities add the scent, or odorant, mercaptan to colorless and odorless natural gas.

“We distribute this pamphlet to our customers and others in the region to make sure both natural gas users and the general public are familiar with the odor so they can recognize it and safely report if they suspect a natural gas leak around their homes or elsewhere,” Martha Monfried, PSE director of corporate communications, said in a statement.

Residents can detect natural gas leaks in other ways.

“Smell isn’t the only way to detect a natural gas leak,” Monfried said. “A hissing sound, blowing dirt or bubbles in a puddle may also indicate a possible natural gas leak.”

Bellevue-based PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and almost 750,000 natural gas customers throughout Western Washington, including Issaquah.

Help state, club count cyclists, pedestrians in Issaquah soon

August 30, 2011

Join the state Department of Transportation and the Cascade Bicycle Club to tally the number of people in Washington using foot or pedal power to commute.

The partners need volunteers to count people bicycling and using bike lanes, and walking on paths and sidewalks, from Sept. 27-29. Join the effort in Issaquah, a city selected as a documentation site.

The agency set up a website to answer questions about the count at www.wsdot.wa.gov/bike/Count.htm.

Or, contact Cascade Bicycle Club Principal Planner Tessa Greegor at tessa.greegor@cascadebicycleclub.org or 206-204-0913 to learn more about volunteering.

The tally is used to help measure the Department of Transportation’s efforts to increase bicycling and walking, and reducing the number of vehicle miles driven.

“This annual count of bicyclists and pedestrians helps us more accurately measure demand, gauge the results of our investments and plan for future improvement projects,” Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said in a statement. “The information volunteers collect helps ensure that we are investing transportation dollars on priority projects, in locations where they are needed most.”

City renames forestland for former councilwoman

August 30, 2011

City Council members recognized Maureen McCarry on Aug. 15 by renaming a forested tract on Squak Mountain for the former councilwoman.

The change renamed the 40-acre Issaquah 69 parcel as McCarry Woods. The designation recognizes McCarry’s efforts as a councilwoman to acquire and preserve a key wildlife habitat and trail access to Squak Mountain State Park.

“This is, in my mind, one of the highest honors I think that we can give to any individual who has contributed so much to this community,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said before the unanimous decision to rename the land.

The city acquired the land in August 2007 as part of the Cougar-Squak Mountains Wildlife Corridor project. The forested land is just east of Squak Mountain Loop Southwest in the Forest Rim neighborhood high on Squak Mountain. McCarry is a Forest Rim resident.

In addition to preserving wildlife habitat, the acquisition protected a piece of the Bullitt Fireplace Trail — a link to the state park from Mountainside Drive Southwest.

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Department of Ecology authority is upheld for shoreline rules

August 30, 2011

In a recent ruling, the state Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the state’s authority to sign off on shoreline management plans and regulations.

The decision came just before the state Department of Ecology approved the Sammamish shoreline regulations, or shoreline master program. Meanwhile, Issaquah is updating a 20-year-old shoreline master program.

The efforts establish shoreline rules in Issaquah and Sammamish aimed to determine appropriate creek and lakeside areas for construction, plus offer more clarity to landowners along creeks and Lake Sammamish.

Washington voters approved the Shoreline Management Act in 1972 to help minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas, reserve areas for water-oriented uses, and protect public lands and waters. The act grants local governments flexibility to tailor shoreline programs to respond to local conditions and needs.

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Citizens can offer input about medical marijuana ordinance

August 30, 2011

Citizens can offer input on the citywide moratorium on medical marijuana collective gardens as planners craft a possible solution.

Under direction from the City Council, the municipal Planning Department is developing a measure to determine what — or indeed if — business, safety and zoning restrictions should apply to such gardens. The city is offering opportunities for citizen input on a proposed ordinance in September and October.

Issaquah is in the midst of a six-month moratorium on the collective gardens. The council enacted the ban in June and, per standard procedure, held a public hearing on the issue July 18. Members agreed to uphold the ban, but after hearing from medical marijuana users and advocates, directed planners to formulate a solution as soon as possible.

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Suspected drug dealer pleads not guilty in overdose death case

August 30, 2011

The man suspected of selling a fatal dose of heroin to a 19-year-old Issaquah High School graduate pleaded not guilty to a drug homicide charge Aug. 18.

Prosecutors said Adam F. Pepka, 20, sold the heroin Zachary Lyter injected May 3. Investigators said Lyter later died from a heroin overdose. Lyter’s father discovered the former Issaquah High football player dead at the Bellevue home they shared the next day.

Pepka’s case-setting hearing is scheduled for Sept. 1.

The suspected dealer faces a charge for controlled substances homicide, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine. Under state law, a controlled substances homicide is treated similar to manslaughter.

In order to convict Pepka, prosecutors must prove he sold the fatal dose of heroin to Lyter. Investigators said Pepka continued to sell heroin after learning about Lyter’s death from a 17-year-old girl.

Use travel tools to reduce holiday traffic headaches

August 30, 2011

Labor Day is the busiest travel weekend of the year over Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90.

The state Department of Transportation is offering numerous travel information tools for motorists headed through the pass and other high-traffic areas during the holiday weekend.

Travelers planning to hit state highways can find information on the DOT website about the times and places drivers can expect to experience Labor Day weekend delays, including U.S. 2, I-90 and Interstate 5 at the Canadian border, and between Olympia and Tacoma.

Motorists can expect significantly better travel times in most areas Sept. 1 and Sept. 6.

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Migrating chinook reach Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

August 30, 2011

The autumn salmon spawning season in Issaquah Creek started early Aug. 23 as chinook reached the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.

Hatchery Foreman John Kugen spotted a pair of female chinook, or hens, in the creek just north of the bridge across Issaquah Creek on the hatchery grounds and alerted Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Executive Director Jane Kuechle at about 9 a.m.

“I was here and I was kind of fiddling around the office and all of the sudden he popped his head and he said, ‘The chinook are here!’” she said.

The announcement came as a tour group explored the hatchery. Docents led the guests to the creek bank to see the fish.

“I’m just excited to see the fish come and for things to get started around here,” Kuechle said.

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Serve as a Salmon Watcher during spawning season

August 30, 2011

Salmon should start returning to local creeks soon to spawn, and King County needs volunteers to help collect information about the fish.

Through the Salmon Watcher Program, the county trains volunteers to identify and record species and numbers of spawning salmon in Lake Washington watershed streams. Lake Sammamish, and Issaquah and Tibbetts creeks, drain into the Lake Washington watershed. The program includes numerous monitoring sites along Issaquah and Tibbetts Creeks.

Prospective volunteers must attend a training session. The county has scheduled training sessions from 7-9 p.m. at:

  • Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Ave. N.E., Sept. 15
  • Renton Community Center, 1715 S.E. Maple Valley Highway, Sept. 20
  • Woodinville City Hall, 17301 133rd Ave. N.E., Sept. 22
  • Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N. 85th St., Seattle, Oct. 5

Contact King County Senior Ecologist Jennifer Vanderhoof at jennifer.vanderhoof@kingcounty.gov or 206-263-6533 to learn more.

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