Anna King | KNKX

Anna King

Richland Correspondent

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.

The South Sound was her girlhood backyard and she knows its rocky beaches, mountain trails and cities well. She left the west side to attend Washington State University and spent an additional two years studying language and culture in Italy.

While not on the job, Anna enjoys trail running, clam digging, hiking and wine tasting with friends. She's most at peace on top a Northwest mountain with her husband Andy Plymale and their muddy Aussie-dog Poa.

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Kenichi Wiegardt can really shuck oysters. His hands work at a dizzying pace opening the shells, a rhythmic thump, thump, crack, slice. Then oyster meat blurps into a strainer over and over.

Wiegardt, a fifth-generation oysterman, makes his living in the mud of Willapa Bay on Washington's coast.

"This time of year we should be shucking 40 to 45 hours a week, and we're down to 15 to 18 hours," Wiegardt says.

Kenichi Wiegardt can really shuck oysters. His hands work at a dizzying pace opening the shells, a rhythmic thump, thump, crack, slice. Then oyster meat blurps into a colander over and over.

Wiegardt, a fifth-generation oysterman, makes his living in the mud of Willapa Bay on Washington’s coast. 

“This time of year we should be shucking 40 to 45 hours a week, and we’re down to 15 to 18 hours,” Wiegardt says. 

Flood waters in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon are starting to recede. But this relatively good news follows days of bad news and inundated towns – along with collapsed bridges, dozens of helicopter rescues and washed-out roads.

It’s all caused by recent heavy rainfall and fast-melting snow.

There's probably more written on how to kill a bigleaf maple tree than how to grow one, according to Neil McLeod of Neil's Bigleaf Maple Syrup, a farm in the tiny northwestern Washington burg of Acme.

"It's hard to kill," McLeod says with a wry smile. "A great tree. Perfect weed. It makes good syrup."

Fujis and Pink Ladies are some of the most valuable and last to ripen apple varieties in the Northwest. 

And this winter there are huge swaths of them left unpicked in orchards east of the Cascades. 

The trees’ leaves have dropped, and now with a blanket of snow the tracts of unpicked acres glow red even from miles away. The left-behind fruit has many speculating: Trump’s tariffs? Unripe? Bugs? Foul weather? 

The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a more than $1 million penalty to the U.S. Department of Energy for withholding important information at the Hanford cleanup site.

Ecology leaders say without access to this data, they can’t effectively protect the land, air and water for residents in eastern Washington and surrounding communities. They say they’ve attempted to negotiate this issue with federal Energy managers for years.

A blazing haystack puts out a ton of heat and light, and smells like a big cigar. 

Early Saturday morning, Nov. 30, in Washington's Tri-Cities region, a haystack was set alight north of Pasco in Franklin County. The fire was called in by an air traffic controller at the Tri-Cities airport in Pasco who could see it from miles away.

Outside Palouse, Washington, it’s mid-autumn and Chad Redman’s combine tractor keeps jamming with rocks it picks up in the field. 

Chad and his father, Jim, tug and ratchet at the combine. But nothing dislodges these rocks from the cutting header. 

“So we’ll have to go back to the pickup,” Jim Redman grumbles.

Racing The Rain

They’re racing the rain, and Chad says they just don’t need an extra challenge.

At Hanford, in southeastern Washington, contractors have just completed much of the demolition work at the site’s Plutonium Finishing Plant. But now crews have to finish the job. 

And that’s the tough part. 

Demo Timeline

In the early morning light, dust from hooves creates a fog at Silvies Valley Ranch in remote eastern Oregon. Cowboys whistle and talk low to their eager herding dogs. They're moving the cattle from one vast, sage-studded range to another.

Five young purebred bulls mysteriously showed up dead on the ranch this past summer, drained of blood and with body parts precisely removed.

The ranch's vice president, Colby Marshall, drives his truck down a U.S. Forest Service road.

The fire that engulfed Notre Dame cathedral shocked the world earlier this year. And a wildfire in July on Rattlesnake Mountain in southeast Washington similarly shocked Northwest tribes.

Treeless Rattlesnake Mountain is over 3,600 wind-swept feet above sea level. It’s part of the Hanford Reach National Monument designated by President Clinton, home to rare plants and fauna. 

Updated Friday, July 19, 11 p.m. PT

A wildfire continued burning today near the Hanford Nuclear Site on and around the Hanford Reach National Monument. The Cold Creek Fire is burning sensitive, federally protected habitat. As of Friday evening it was estimated at nearly 42,000 acres and 60 percent containment.

A new federal report says that a massive building at the Hanford Nuclear Site is worse off than managers thought. 

The so-called PUREX -- Plutonium Uranium Extraction -- plant isn’t clean. Starting in 1956 the plant processed loads of plutonium. Its walls are up to 6 feet thick, and it’s as long as three football fields.

PUREX is located within Hanford’s 200 East Area. It’s about 7 miles from the Columbia River and 5 miles from State Highway 240.

Several years ago, Union Wine Company of Tualatin, Oregon, put some wine in cans for a food festival. It was such a hit, says owner Ryan Harms, he decided to do it as his main business.  

“I think there are a lot of indicators that are helping us feel confident about our continued investment and what we’re doing,” Harms says.

Now, Union ships its Underwood-branded cans to 49 states and 11 countries. Other big wineries have noticed.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld its earlier decision against a Richland florist who refused to sell wedding flowers to a gay couple.

Fire crews in central Washington are battling one of the largest fires yet this year in the state.

The so-called 243 Fire in Grant County grew to an estimated 5,000 acres Tuesday after spreading overnight Monday. It’s just outside of Royal City, east of Vantage and Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River.

Like the crumbling gasket in your kitchen faucet, sometimes even small parts can mean a lot. Now, federal watchdogs are looking into all types of parts at a $17 billion construction project at the Hanford Nuclear Site.

The Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Energy has found a sample of parts going into a large waste treatment plant at Hanford had problems.

Carlos Perez Carillo walks amid a fruit orchard outside of Mattawa in central Washington. He’s not far from where the workers who’ve been exposed to mumps are being quarantined at King Fuji Ranch. He says he’s been warned to stay away.
Anna King / Northwest News Network

We roll up a long, gravel road about 20 miles outside Mattawa, a small farming town in central Washington state.

We’re on the King Fuji Ranch where there's four suspected cases of the mumps and over a 100 exposed workers quarantined.

Asparagus cutters bend deep over their work in the early morning light. Colorful plastic bins stack like giant legos amid the scrubby fields north of Pasco, Washington.

Growers in Washington, California and Michigan raise the majority of the nation’s domestic asparagus -- and Washington’s season is on.

But business in U.S. spears is noticeably dwindling.

That’s because there’s increasing amounts of cheaper asparagus from Peru and Mexico coming in: fresh, canned and frozen. And that’s cutting into profits for U.S. growers.

The federal government recently doled out two “green findings” to the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear reactor.

The Columbia Generating Station, near Richland, is run by the utility Energy Northwest.

There are several agencies and a group of stakeholders who watch over cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. But the partial government shutdown is blocking some of that important oversight.

In the past 10 years, the Environmental Protection Agency office in Richland has shrunk from nearly 10 experts working on Hanford issues to just three – including the top manager.

Updated at 9:35 a.m. ET Jan. 3

On a recent rainy day, farmer Allen Druffel stands outside a silo shuffling his feet in the gravel. This co-op bin is where he stores his dried garbanzo beans in the tiny town of Colton, Wash. The place should be busy; trucks should be loading and hauling this year's crop to markets and international ports. But midafternoon, there's just the rain.

Since farmers like Druffel brought in this year's crops, hardly any garbanzos — or chickpeas — have moved.

 

The Christmas holiday is centered around peace. But an escalating marketing war for families’ hearts is developing between the real and fake tree industries.

 

Crews have finished drilling around 230 core samples in Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River in central Washington state.

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Forestry

From Bend, Oregon, to Ellensburg, Washington, there is a fire weather watch Friday for hot temperatures, low humidity and breezy weather.

If you think there’s already been a lot of wildfires in the Northwest this year, you’re right. 

Every morning, JoHanna Symons quietly rides her sorrel Quarter Horse through dusty pens packed with young cattle at her ranch in Madras, Ore.

She's looking for the ones that cough or are injured so she can doctor them.

But when it comes to international trade wars, Symons and her husband, Jeremy, are at the mercy of bigger forces.

"I feel like some of us little guys," Symons says, "our hands are just tied."

A large wildfire is burning outside of Naches, in central Washington state. The fire, called the Conrad Fire, started Sunday afternoon. It’s currently estimated at 5,200 acres and about 20 percent contained.

U.S. beef ranchers who voted heartily for President Donald Trump are getting a bit skittish about his trade wars. International tariffs are set to hit U.S. beef the first week of July.

Residents of Prosser, Washington, were told to prepare to evacuate last night as fire spread in the hills above the city. 

About 150 firefighters worked all night to fight what is now being called the Montecito Fire which erupted Wednesday evening. 

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrowly focused ruling Monday that favored Masterpiece Cakes, a Colorado bakery, which refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

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