Updated March 30 at 6:45pm: Number of mudslide fatalities remains at 21
The number of people unaccounted for after the mudslide near Oso, Wash. dropped from 90 to 30 on Saturday, according to Snohomish County officials. In recent days detectives from the county sheriff's office ferreted out duplicate names from a list of those reported missing to arrive at the new total. Over the weekend the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office also confirmed four more deaths, bringing the official number of slide victims to 21. There are 620 people working at the slide area, including 160 volunteers. Heavy rains on Saturday formed ponds some areas of the site, complicating search efforts. Satellite imagery has shown that the mud is up to 75 feet deep in some places. - B.L.
Obama approves request for more Oso emergency aid
Update 1:01 p.m. President Barack Obama on Friday approved Gov. Jay Inslee's request for additional federal aid to help pay for mudslide response efforts. The governor's office has said that the slide will cost local and state agencies at least $4.5 million. Under the amended emergency declaration Obama approved, the federal government will reimburse local and state agencies and non-profit organizations for 75 percent of eligible costs. —B.L.
Zoo elephants forever!
Update 3:25 p.m. After a lengthy review, Woodland Park Zoo officials said Friday that they plan to keep their Asian elephants and add to the herd. They did say they would remove the most troubled elephant, African elephant Watoto. Watoto won't be going to a sanctuary, as some have suggested: The zoo plans to find a spot with another zoo that keeps African elephants. In a blog posting, zoo CEO Deborah B. Jensen said Woodland Park will launch a $1.5 to $3 million plan to improve the elephant program and support conservation in the wild. Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and In Defense of Animals denounced the decision as "clinging to the past." The Seattle Times editorial board recently renewed its call to let all three elephants go to sanctuaries. (Scientific American recently called for freeing both elephants and orcas from exhibits.)
Jensen wrote, "Like you, we are also deeply concerned for the future of elephants in the wild. Our vision is that our investment will make an impact on reducing human-elephant conflict in the world, and inspire a growing respect for sharing the planet with these awe-inspiring animals." — J.C.
Ferry fare increases?
Update 3:38 p.m. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued an opinion Friday that will allow the state to raise ferry fares without the approval of the Legislature. The opinion says that a Tim Eyman tax-and-fee limitation measure, Initiative 1185, fails to require legislative approval, since it didn't specifically eliminate the state Transportation Commission's longstanding authority to decide on fare increase. At least in theory, the opinion could make it easier for Washington State Ferries to raise money to avoid possible service cuts — and maybe even easier to replace departing boss David Moseley. Of course, ferry riders aren't always eager to support fare hikes. — J.C.
Update 4 p.m. Chief Technology Officer Erin Devoto is leaving the helm of Seattle's Department of Information Technology for a job as public works superintendent in the City of Kirkland. Devoto says the new Eastside post "fell into my lap." She'll leave around April 15. Mayor Ed Murray's office sent out a statement today saying that he will name an interim director in the next few weeks.
Under her tenure the department has worked to slim down the number of city data centers from 15 to two (the project should be finished next year), and to transition city departments to cloud-based Microsoft Office 365. There have been some bumps along the way. The department was overseeing a now-defunct effort to connect city neighborhoods with ultra-fast broadband Internet. The project fell apart in early January after Gigabit Squared, the company that was supposed to provide the service, went belly-up financially. Devoto notes that providing the city with “fiber-to-the-home” is a “heavy lift” without an easy solution — and it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The Gigabit Squared deal, in her opinion, was a reasonable idea. “Given the other options on the table,” she said, “I think it was good to try the private sector to see if they could make something happen.”
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