WHITEFISH – Officials in northwestern Montana say the Whitefish River will be blocked and the flow piped downstream so crews can vacuum toxic sludge off the riverbed.The plan is the second part of a three-part cleanup of old railroad pollution being carried out by Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad that is being overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency.Jennifer Chergo of the EPA says work should begin within two weeks.The EPA ordered the railroad to undertake the river restoration near a fueling facility upstream from Whitefish after finding diesel and other contaminants in the sediment.Crews plan to use portable dams and reroute the river through several four-foot diameter pipes, leaving the riverbed dry. Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
A railroad spokesman says a train hauling 105 cars loaded with wheat has derailed in northwestern Montana.BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas says 18 cars derailed Tuesday afternoon at Rock Creek some 52 miles west of Whitefish, spilling an undetermined amount of grain across the rocky, hilly terrain.He says nobody was injured. A cause of the derailment has not been determined.Melonas says the line will be out of commission for at least 24 hours while cleanup crews access the wreck from a nearby logging road.That line is the busiest in Montana, handling up to 40 trains per day. Some of that traffic will be re-routed on a southern line.The train was headed from Moore, Mont., to Kalama, Wash. Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a measure Friday that had stirred debate over abortion during the legislative session by proposing to make it illegal to kill an unborn child except in cases of medical procedures.House Bill 167 brought opposition from backers of legal abortion, and support from those who want to eventually make the procedure illegal.Republican supporters argued safeguards in the bill protect a woman from being charged in some way for the death of her own unborn child and say it has nothing to do with abortion. Democrats opposed to the measure in the session argued it would be far better to enhance criminal penalties against pregnant women rather than argue around the edges of the abortion debate.“I have issued this veto because I believe its primary purpose and focus is to serve a political agenda, not to protect pregnant women from violence or punish the acts of offenders,” the governor wrote in his veto measure. “I also am concerned that prosecution of crimes under HB 167 could invade the privacy of a pregnant woman, who has already been traumatized by the violence against her, by exposing her medical records and other private information in a criminal court proceeding, including to the perpetrator of the crime.”Republicans don’t have enough votes in the Legislature to override a veto.Schweitzer is working his way through dozens of bills lawmakers sent him as they adjourned last week. He vetoed and signed several others on Friday, including a small piece of the budget package that would have transferred relatively small amounts of money from special accounts such as search and rescue and recreational safety into the state’s general fund.Schweitzer poked at Republicans who harshly criticized the fund transfers he proposed in December before launching many of their own across several bills, which the governor called “rich” irony. The governor argued the $150,000 a year in House Bill 375 is not needed to balance the state’s books. Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
In 1940, my high school science teacher taught us that it had been proven that the weather in Western Europe was controlled by the temperature of the water in the Gulf of Mexico. The warm water from there moves eastward to sweep around Key West, Florida, and then heads north forming the Gulf Stream. When it collides with the cold, arctic water it makes a U-turn and heads south for Western Europe. As the cold, Arctic storms sweep south and pass over that warm water, they are dramatically affected. So much so, that when the coast of Normandy was invaded by the Allied Forces in World War II, they depended on this theory to decide when the weather would be just right for the invasion to take place. In November of 1960, I commented to a group of ski shop owners in a meeting in Southern California, “If the ocean stays as warm as it was when I went surfing this morning the local mountains will have a lousy ski season.” Snow making machines had not been invented yet and that winter was one of the worst on record. Ten years later I mixed my knowledge of the Gulf of Mexico’s warm-water effect on Western Europe with the Sea of Japan and the Japanese currents’ effect on the West Coast. As that current streams north from Japan, it is deflected by the Aleutian Islands and heads down the West Coast. Depending on its temperature, it has to affect Western America’s weather in the same manner as the Gulf Stream does when the storms power out of the Aleutians Islands. If the current is warm the snow level will rise and a water shortage will follow in the summer. However, that Northeastern part of the Pacific Ocean has been covered by hundreds of millions of plastic, water bottles and other accumulating, floating debris until the mass completely covers an area twice the size of Texas. Since plastic is not biodegradable, every ounce of it that has been manufactured since its invention in the early 1930s will exist forever. Forever is a long time. The incredible size of what is now called the Water Bottle Gyre (or North Pacific Gyre) has to have enormous reflective powers and keeps that part of the Pacific from gathering heat with its daily doses of sunshine. The result of this cooling effect is that as the Japanese current flows by that now, cooler water it too loses more of its heat than it had gathered in the Sea of Japan and is thus colder than it used to be. I think the result is that the storms that hit the west coast are colder than they used to be. The snow levels in the mountains are lower and the storms that hit the West Coast are farther south. A side effect of all of this is that it has also deflected the jet stream farther south and instead of sliding across Washington, Oregon and Idaho, Utah, Montana and on eastward, as it has since forever, it is sometimes now much farther south. It flows across California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. After Texas it slides under the hot air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico and bingo, you have a lot more tornados, ice and snowstorms and mammoth floods all over the Eastern United States. Here in Washington the summer of 2011 was the shortest and coldest on record. The Pacific Rim, consisting of the West Coast, Canada, the Aleutians and south to Japan have been known for years as The Rim of Fire. If the Water Bottle Gyro grows in size will it become the rim of fog, snow and ice? A simple experiment will add credibility to my water bottle, reflection hypothesis. Just put two cookie sheets out in the sun in the morning. Fill both of them with water and then float a mirror in one of them that is one-third the size of the pan. Take the temperature of both pans of water later in the day and you will see a noticeable difference in their temperature due to the mirrors reflection. That is what is happening in the northeastern Pacific while you are reading this. Remember plastic is not biodegradable, however the water bottles break up into smaller pieces so this gigantic cloud of plastic particles has taken over the ocean to a depth of more than 300 feet. The broken-up, shards of plastic are slowly being consumed by the fish, whales, seals and all other forms of sea life and consequently shortens their life. What if this was all true? How can we get rid of that mass? Email me at [email protected] I would like to know what you think. Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
Speaking at a workshop sponsored by the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors last week, Tammye Treviño touted the benefits of President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act for rural America, including the Flathead Valley. “This is chock full of ideas from both Republicans and Democrats and we believe this is such an important piece of legislation and it needs to pass now,” said Treviño, the United States Department of Agriculture rural development administrator for housing and community facilities. Treviño was invited by the group to discuss the government benefits, including guaranteed housing loans, available to people who are looking for a home in a rural area. According to Matthew Jones, state director for the USDA rural development program, Kalispell and the surrounding communities meet population requirements to qualify. For a town to be included, its population must not exceed 20,000. According to the 2010 Census Kalispell’s population is 19,927. Treviño said the trip to Montana, which included speaking at the workshop as well as visiting various housing sites throughout the area, had been planned for months, but promoting the President’s jobs act was an added “benefit.” The bill was submitted to Congress on Sept. 12 and touted as a way to create jobs. Critics have called the legislation simply a sequel to the 2009 stimulus package, but Treviño said the bill was a much-needed step toward economic recovery. “I have to strongly encourage folks to support the American Jobs Act,” she said in an interview with the Beacon. “It’s not going to be the one big thing that gets us where we want to be, it’s going to be one more step and it’s a step in the right direction.” Treviño said rural America has the most to gain from the bill through tax incentives for small business, which will help stem unemployment in rural areas as well as rebuild infrastructure, including roads and schools. However those on the right, including Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg, have said government spending does not create jobs. “The more the government spends, the worse the economy gets. It’s time to try something different,” Rehberg said in an address for the Congressional and Senate Western Caucus earlier this month. Following the meeting, Tia Robbin of the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors, said “it was a very productive session and people seemed to come away with the idea that even if Washington D.C. is so far away, they are in tune with the needs of rural America.” Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
Tesla Motors, Inc., earned the top ranking on Deloitte’s list. The company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., designs and manufactures electric vehicles and electric vehicle power train components. Winners hailed from cities across North America.“The companies on the Fast 500 list are among those that have demonstrated remarkable innovation, creativity and business savvy,” said Bill Ribaudo, a partner with Deloitte & Touche LLP and national TMT leader for audit and enterprise risk services (AERS).“As a result, these companies have continued to successfully forge ahead in a challenging economic environment. We applaud the leadership and employees of Avail-TVN for this impressive accomplishment.”Kazmier has been an advocate for expanding the tech industry in the Flathead, touting its potential for good-paying jobs that represent a viable and “clean” alternative to traditional extractive and manufacturing industries. He pointed to Semitool founder Ray Thompson and the founders of Nomad Global Communication Solutions as other examples of entrepreneurs who have found success in the Flathead.“My main goal is to show other companies like this that they can do it here,” he said. “We absolutely have our roots here.” Satellite dishes point to the sky behind Avail-TVN’s office space south of downtown Kalispell. – File photo by Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon Email Avail-TVN, a company with Flathead roots and a primary office in Kalispell, recently was named the sixth-fastest growing tech company in North America. Among media and entertainment companies, it claimed the top spot with 38,479 percent growth from 2007 to 2011, according to Deloitte’s 2012 Technology Fast 500 rankings. Mike Kazmier, chief technology officer for Avail-TVN, said the recognition is a “stamp of approval” for a firm that does a good portion of its work out of the Flathead Valley. Kazmier founded a tech company in Kalispell that later merged to form Avail-TVN.“I think it helps us establish credibility in the fact that we can run a true global organization from an area like Kalispell,” Kazmier said in an interview last week.Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 is an “annual ranking of the fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and clean technology companies in North America.” In its 18th year, it bills itself as “the pre-eminent technology awards program in United States and Canada.”Award winners were selected this year based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth from 2007-2011.“It is an honor to be included on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500,” Avail-TVN CEO Ramu Potarazu said in a statement. Avail-TVN is the “largest global provider of multiplatform video services, working with both content and service providers to bring the most innovative digital video services into consumers’ homes and onto their connected devices,” according to its website. The company works with every major Hollywood studio and television network. It is headquartered in Reston, Va., with offices in California and Kalispell. The Kalispell office, located near MacKenzie River Pizza, employs around 30 people and is currently hiring, Kazmier said.Potarazu said Avail-TVN has made strategic investments in international expansion and the development of new products and services that have “helped to fuel continued growth.”“Today, Avail-TVN’s reach extends to 28 countries and more than 75 million households globally, making us the largest provider of advanced digital video services worldwide,” Potarazu said. Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
The fortune cookie given to Kidsports president Dan Johns at dinner before Monday’s critical city council meeting revealed a foreshadowing message.“Be prepared to receive something special,” the tiny piece of paper read.Nearly 17 years after the city of Kalispell began relocating athletic fields to a section of school trust land that evolved into a regional landmark, the city council looks poised to purchase the entire permanent easement for Kidsports Complex using tax increment finance (TIF) funds. A consensus emerged at a work session inside City Hall after councilors debated the merits of finalizing what the city started in 1996 and tapping into available funds in one of its TIF districts. Six councilors — Jeff Zauner, Tim Kluesner, Phil Guiffrida III, Randy Kenyon, Wayne Saverud and Jim Atkinson — banded together in majority support of a proposal to use $2.26 million from the Kalispell City Airport/Athletic Complex TIF district to pay the state of Montana for the easement. The council will officially vote on the resolution in its final meeting of the year at 7 p.m., Dec. 17. If the resolution were approved, the city could immediately authorize payments to the state and avoid a $22,000 additional option fee due after Dec. 31.It would also solidify Kidsports’ future and signal a monumental victory for the popular youth complex.“It’s a legitimate project and a legitimate expense,” Saverud said.“It’s practically a no-brainer,” Kenyon said. “I’m behind it 100 percent.”Kenyon’s turnaround reflected a sign of coalescing support in the council as the deadline for easement payments nears. He previously expressed reservations about solely using TIF funds for the purchase. But he said he changed his mind after realizing the possible consequences of floating a citywide general obligation bond asking voters to decide whether to pay for part of Kidsports’ easement.“You don’t want to pit the citizens of Kalispell against Kidsports,” Kenyon said.Mayor Tammi Fisher remained reluctant of using only TIF funds. She built on her previous idea that the city manage the youth complex like Buffalo Hill Golf Club and proposed the Kidsports nonprofit organization make annual payments into the TIF district for the remaining years as a way to restore funds.“At least I can sleep at night knowing the TIF is not being totally obliterated,” she said.Councilor Kari Gabriel, who was not present Monday, has previously supported a similar “hybrid” payment plan. Fisher’s proposal spurred a quick rebuttal from Zauner, who disagreed with the comparison to Buffalo Hill. Instead, he compared Kidsports to a city park like Woodland that is maintained by the city but does not draw revenue. As far as paying money back into the TIF, Zauner said there are no projects that warrant funding right now anyhow, but if there were in the near future they could obtain a loan. The Airport/Athletic Complex TIF generates roughly $500,000 a year, according to the city. Zauner added that removing the old ball fields in south Kalispell opened up land that was purchased and developed by businesses like Rosauers and Mackenzie River Pizza, which have benefited the local economy and south entrance.“I think we need to do it. I think it’s an obligation that we have to do it,” Zauner said of the proposed easement purchase.City Manager Doug Russell is crafting an updated memo of understanding that the Kidsports organization would need to enter into if Kalispell purchased the entire easement. On Tuesday morning, Russell said the exact terms of the deal are still being negotiated. Johns, speaking for the Kidsports organization, has already stated an intention to match the city dollar for dollar through private fundraising to pay for future projects and upgrades, primarily the completion of Four Mile Drive.Johns predicted that support from donors could help Kidsports construct the rest of Four Mile Drive at a lower cost than if the city put out a bid.“That’s a huge benefit. That is epic to have that done,” Kluesner said of Four Mile Drive, which could attach to the future U.S. Highway 93 Alternative Route. “And it’s something we cannot do with TIF dollars … That’s a pretty good trade off, and not only enhances the ball fields but also that end of town.”Johns went further, telling council that Kidsports is prepared to help pay for future maintenance costs at the complex. The city most recently paid $180,000 for annual upkeep at Kidsports, a $40,000 hike over the previous year due to equipment needs. With the permanent easement acquired, eliminating the $44,000 annual lease payments, Kidsports would have funds newly available. “We’re not looking for a free ride. We’re stepping up to the plate,” Johns said, adding, “We’re interested in continuing the partnership.” Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Email
Email As another school year approaches at Flathead Valley Community College, administrators are moving forward with discussions with state universities about possible partnerships that could greatly expand four-year degree opportunities at the Kalispell campus. FVCC recently received the results of a broad community-wide survey that showed Flathead County has a demand for more graduates with four-year bachelor’s degrees, particularly in five fields of study.According to survey responses from more than 300 businesses and community members, the local workforce would benefit from more graduates with four-year degrees in business, computer science/information systems, health professions, education and accounting. FVCC sent out questionnaires earlier this year as part of its inquiry into whether the Kalispell campus should offer more bachelor’s degree programs with the help of state universities.“One of the pleasant surprises was how well aligned the businesses’ feedback was,” said Brad Eldredge, executive director of institutional research at FVCC. “(The survey results) indicate what the valley needs.”Eldredge said FVCC is in discussions with the University of Montana and Montana State University about the possibility of partnering together and offering more programs and classes for higher degrees. This would constitute the creation of a new university center in the Flathead, which is the largest county in Montana without a public or private four-year college or university.If accomplished, this would be a unique arrangement for the state. Instead of developing into its own four-year university, FVCC would establish facilities and staff that would allow UM or MSU to provide a wide range of educational choices through the Kalispell campus. This hybrid model is not currently used anywhere else in Montana, but schools across the nation like North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene and Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, NC, have adopted it with success.Eldredge said the latest survey results provide hard data showing support in the local community for expanded opportunities at FVCC, which has experienced considerable growth in the past decade.In Flathead County, 28 percent of the population between the ages of 25 and 64 holds a bachelor’s degree, according to 2012 U.S. Census data. In counties that host a four-year campus, 35 percent of the population has four-year degrees. The Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, an independent research institute, estimated that 34 percent of all jobs in Montana would require a bachelor’s degree by 2018.FVCC currently offers nearly 30 bachelor and graduate-level degrees on campus, primarily through distance learning. The new university center would expand the number of faculty from the partnering universities and expand the available choices for students.“Having a university center at FVCC has been a common request from area businesses and community members,” President Jane Karas said when the needs assessment survey was announced in early February.“We are excited about the opportunity to expand our partnerships with the Montana University System to continue to meet our community needs.”The school’s survey featured 12 questions that asked employers, current students, alumni and residents to gauge educational and professional training needs in the local workforce. The questions included, “Thinking of Flathead County as a whole, in which of the following educational areas would it be beneficial to have access to local bachelor’s degrees?” and “How important is access to locally delivered bachelor’s degrees to Flathead County’s economic development?” The survey also asked what methods of learning would be most appealing, such as online courses or night classes. “Business” programming received the largest consensus of support among the community, according to survey results. It was ranked the highest priority by local employers, both in terms of individual needs and the perception of the county’s collective needs. Among students who filled out the survey, 21 percent said they were interested in pursuing a four-year business degree in Kalispell.The need for business degrees far and away outpaced other program areas in terms of projected growth, too, according to the results. “Accounting” ranked second in terms of businesses’ individual needs and fifth for county needs. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry projected a 22 percent growth in accountants and auditors across the state between 2010 and 2020. FVCC currently offers transfer and workforce accounting programs, and enrollment has historically remained small yet stable.“Computer and Information Sciences” ranked third for individual needs and second for county needs. FVCC’s transfer program in computer science has struggled to reach high enrollments, according to the school, and only 17 percent of current students expressed interest in studying in the field. But this business segment was projected to see the third highest job growth in the near future.“Health” professions are increasingly in need in the Flathead Valley, and employers ranked it the county’s third highest demand. It did rank low for individual needs. Healthcare was the most popular choice for students interested in receiving a bachelor’s degree, according to the study. “Education” degrees ranked fourth highest as a need in the county. It also ranked second among local students interested in pursuing a degree. Education has the second highest project job growth, according to labor market data.RELATED: FVCC Updating Master Plan to Map out Future Growth Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
Email A new $34 million medical center will officially open in Libby on Jan. 30. Cabinet Peaks Medical Center will replace a smaller facility, St. John’s Lutheran Hospital, which was built in 1952 and has served the community for more than a half century. “We’ve been preparing for this move for what seems like forever, so we’re really excited about getting over there and getting to work,” said Kate Stephens, marketing manager and executive director of the hospital foundation. Construction began on the new hospital in 2012 and was aided in part by a $32 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Department. The new hospital is 77,000 square feet as opposed to the current facility that is 53,000 square feet. The new building has all private rooms with toilets and showers, as well as sleeper units for guests. There is also an expanded emergency department, larger surgical suites and more recovery room. The new building is located near the current hospital and close to the Libby Care Center and Northwest Community Health Center. As of mid-January, Stephens said furniture was still being installed and the finishing touches were being made to the interior paint. On Jan. 30 at 4:30 a.m. the hospital staff will meet to organize the patient transfer that will start at 6 a.m. Nurses and hospital staff will accompany each patient and ambulances from Libby and Troy will move back and forth between the two facilities. Stephens said a patient will be moved every three minutes and they hope to have the entire move completed within two hours. On Jan. 31 at 12 p.m. a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place outside the hospital at 209 Health Park Drive. Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
Nearly three weeks after it was closed by a massive wildfire, all 50 miles of the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road are open.Glacier National Park officials announced Friday that the east side of the road between Logan Pass and St. Mary would be open daily with limited access from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The decision to reopen the entire route comes as the Reynolds Creek Fire continues to burn near St. Mary. As of Friday morning, the fire was 4,311 acres in size and 67 percent contained.Visitors will not be able to drive the road at night or stop along the road between the St. Mary Campground and Siyed Bend. The Rising Sun area will have limited concession operations. Smoke may be visible at and may reduce visibility, so visitors are required to drive slowly. Active fire may be visible from the road, and visitors should watch for falling debris such as rocks and tree limbs, as well as fire-weakened trees. Almost 500 fire-weakened trees have been removed from along the road. If anyone sees or encounters debris or fallen trees on the road, do not attempt to remove it, but please report it to a ranger or closest visitor center.Bicycle travel is not allowed in the fire areas, but cyclists may transport their bikes via the park shuttle system. The park shuttle service will operate as normal, although there will be no shuttle stops in the fire area. The only shuttle stops on the east side at this time will be Rising Sun and Siyeh Bend.The Glacier Boat Company will resume boat tour operations at Rising Sun. The Rising Sun Camp Store operated by Glacier National Park Lodges will reopen on Saturday, Aug. 8, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m daily. The Rising Sun Motor Inn and the Two Dog Flats Grill will remain closed at this time.The Rising Sun Campground is anticipated to be closed most of the season.Access to trails on the east side of the park along the Going-to-the-Sun Road is limited. All trails within the fire perimeter are closed. The Piegan Pass Trail from Siyeh Bend is open for hiking to the north, but not accessible to the south. The Siyeh Pass Trail is only open to Siyeh Pass, and is closed in the Baring Creek. The Gunsight Pass Trail remains closed from the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Gunsight Pass. Trails accessing St. Mary, Virginia, and Baring Creek Falls are closed.As of Aug. 7, nearly 300 firefighters are still battling the Reynolds Creek Fire. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but early evidence suggests it was human caused. Since July 21, the fire has burned 4,311 acres of land in the park and cost $10.1 million. Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.