Columbia River barges involved in 5 mishaps

Tidewater Barge Lines vessels carrying a total of more than six million gallons of gasoline have been involved in five mishaps on the Columbia River in the last year and a half. Scott Learn of the Oregonian reports that officials have little to say about the incidents, citing confidentiality of ongoing investigations that have lasted up to 16 months. Three times the vessels went aground. The other two involved accidents at locks. The Vancouver, Wash.-based company's barges all have double hulls and multiple cargo compartments to reduce the likelihood of a spill from grounding, and reduce the amount of any spill. The company's last spill was in 1993.

Sea otters rebounding in WA

KUOW correspondent Tom Banse reports that sea otters, once hunted to extinction in the Pacific Northwest,  are making a solid comeback after being re-introduced 40 years ago. Banse also touches on what's becoming a bit of a problem: Fishermen are unhappy that the protected marine mammals eat razor clams and other shoreside delicacies with impunity. The otters were reintroduced along the Pacific coast in Olympic National Park, and are now expanding their range inland and south along the coast.

People going hungry in WA's farm belt

We believe this qualifies as true irony: More than 10 percent of the people living in one of the country's richest farm belts don't know where their next meal is coming from. Ingrid Stegemoeller of Washington's Tri-City Herald writes that the food stamp program in the area -- near a lot of farms as well as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation -- is now allowing food-stamp recipients to spend their coupons at farmer's markets. The story is ostensibly about the food-stamp program but provides a good overall look at the need in Benton and Franklin counties in south-central Washington.

Small farming grows despite recession

Farming is on the rise as land preservation increases and a new generation of farmers steps up, according to Elizabeth Weise of USA Today, whose report focuses on Washington state farmers. Higher demand for organic and local food and and community support is encouraging young, first-generation farmers to start small organic farms. In a related report by Amy Radil of KUOW News, land trusts are aiding farmers who normally wouldn't be able to afford buying land for long-term planning, and Washington just gained its first USDA-inspected slaughterhouse, enabling local livestock farmers to sell their meat here instead of shipping it to Oregon packing houses and back.

– Emily Linroth