Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse, KPLU’s and N3’s Regional Correspondent, roves the Northwest to report on broad themes and telling details. His topics run the gamut from business to the environment and human interest. Home base is in Olympia, a legacy of a previously held state government beat from 1991-2003. Although he grew up in Seattle, Tom's radio career began by chance in Minnesota at Carleton College’s student radio station. Tom's memorable moment in public radio: "I am indebted to many people for tips and tutelage, but certainly some of the bluntest -- at times unprintable -- guidance came from NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg. I interned at NPR in 1989 and was privileged to keep Nina's chair warm at the U-S Supreme Court or at the high-octane Iran-Contra trial of Oliver North, wherever she wasn't at the time. Heady stuff for a tenderfoot reporter."

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Columbia River Dams
10:06 am
Thu September 29, 2011

U.S., Canada ponder new terms for shared Columbia River

Mica Dam was completed north of Revelstoke, B.C., in 1973 to store spring and summer runoff on the Columbia River. It also generates power for BC Hydro.
DAR56 Wikimedia commons

Your power bill could be cheaper if the U.S. didn't send so much electricity north of the border every year. Canada lays claim to around $300 million worth of hydropower annually under the terms of a 50-year-old treaty.

In return, the Canadians manage the upper Columbia River to prevent downstream flooding and to optimize power production. The Columbia River Treaty can be renegotiated soon and there are voices on both sides of the border clamoring for a better deal.

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Demographics
9:10 am
Wed September 28, 2011

Census: Thousands of same-sex married couples in NW

Population distribution in 2010.
U.S. Census Bureau

About 5,500 same-sex couples in the Northwest checked the box to be counted as married in the 2010 Census. Neither Washington, Oregon nor Idaho recognizes same-sex marriages.

A new Census Bureau report says the number of same-sex couples who identify themselves as married greatly exceeds the number of marriage licenses issued by states that legalized such unions.

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Rail safety
9:04 am
Tue September 27, 2011

Main rail line south of Chehalis examined for tampering

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Sheriff's deputies and BNSF railroad police are investigating what they say are about a dozen instances of possible tampering with the tracks in southwest Washington. BNSF officials declined to make any connection with an ongoing labor dispute in Longview.

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Sins of the explorer
3:32 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Capt. Clark's descendants make amends for stolen canoe

It took a dozen men to lift the Chinook canoe at the boat builder's shop earlier this year. The canoe will replace the one stolen by William Clark during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Laura McCallum

It's never too late to make amends. That could be the moral of a story unfolding Saturday near the mouth of the Columbia River. Descendants of explorer William Clark will replace a canoe stolen by the Lewis and Clark Expedition from a local tribe more than two centuries ago.

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Budget crisis
5:32 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Washington state agencies propose more 'painful' program cuts

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state agencies are putting entire programs on the chopping block – including $65 million from UW and WSU – to satisfy a request by the governor for more budget savings.

On Thursday, Governor Chris Gregoire notified state lawmakers that she will call them back to Olympia on November 28th for a special budget cutting session to make the cuts.

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Flu shots
10:09 am
Thu September 22, 2011

Needle-free flu shots available for needle phobes

Autumn officially starts on Friday and that means flu season is close behind. The CDC recommends everyone get a flu shot. This year, a suburban Portland company is promoting a needle-free vaccine for people with needle phobia.

Tualatin, Oregon-based Bioject Medical Technologies makes a vaccine injector powered by a CO2 cartridge. Bioject president Ralph Makar says the way it works is a burst of pressure creates a tiny opening in the skin.

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Crime
4:13 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

FBI: Violent crime continues to decline in Northwest

Alan Cleaver Flickr

The FBI says violent crime dropped 6 percent nationwide in 2010. Northwest states are following that same trend, but see less improvement when it comes to property crime rates.

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Quileute Indian Reservation
10:19 am
Fri September 16, 2011

Tribe renews plea for land to move kids out of tsunami zone

All of La Push’s lower village is in the tsunami inundation zone.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

An Indian tribe on the Washington Coast on Thursday renewed its plea to Congress to expand its tiny reservation onto higher ground. Quileute tribal leaders previously traveled to the nation's capital after the devastating Japanese tsunami in March.

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Business
2:07 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Wash. unemployment unchanged in August

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The unemployment rate held steady at 9-point-3 percent in Washington state in August. The state Employment Department released fresh jobs numbers Wednesday, a day after Oregon reported a slight uptick in its unemployment rate. Now it's at 9-point-6 percent.

In Washington, Employment Department chief economist Dave Wallace says the private sector statewide has added jobs for twelve months in a row now. But he says jobs need to be added at a faster pace to chip away at the unemployment rate.

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Economy
3:35 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

Census Bureau: Poverty rate in NW rose sharply then leveled off

Nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty, but the numbers are a little better in Northwest states. That's the headline from the latest population survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Science
12:24 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Undersea cable laid for 'transformative' ocean observatory

Map graphic courtesy of University of Washington.

This spring there was a big volcanic eruption in the Pacific Northwest. If you missed it, you're not alone. It happened under the ocean off the northern Oregon coast.

However, all this week a University of Washington research ship has been streaming live video via satellite of lava flows in the undersea crater. In a couple years, 24/7 video coverage of the ocean floor will be made possible by a new underwater fiber optic cable.

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Science
4:14 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

UW Researchers stream live video from undersea volcano

Coral grows on an older "pillow basalt" lava flow at Axial Seamount.
Courtesy of University of Washington

A University of Washington research ship is sending amazing live video of the aftermath of an undersea volcanic eruption. The large volcano is about 300 miles due west of Astoria, Oregon.

Some scientists theorize life on our planet started at a place like this.

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Environment
11:27 am
Mon August 22, 2011

Elwha River dam removal historic, but not explosive

The 108-foot tall Elwha Dam is the smaller of the two dams on the Elwha River slated for demolition.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

PORT ANGELES, Wash. – Seattle's Kingdome collapsed with a bang. Explosive demolition experts also brought down the cooling tower at the former Trojan nuclear plant. But if you're hoping for the same excitement from the upcoming destruction of two big hydropower dams on Washington's Elwha River, you'll be disappointed.

The history-making dam removal that begins in September will happen slowly and methodically.

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Fisheries
3:18 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

Efforts growing to control the smaller fish of the seas

School of Pacific Jack Mackerel at Santa Catalina Island, Calif.
Aleph1 Flickr

WARRENTON, Ore. – Perhaps you've had salmon, tuna or swordfish for dinner recently. Or maybe it's on the menu tonight. Every big fish that lands on your plate got that big by eating lots and lots of little fish.

If you don't have abundant small fish in the ocean, you won't have the big fish. That's why some scientists, fishery managers and advocacy groups are paying more attention to the small prey in the sea.

Some environmental group now also want tighter regulation, and that's making fishermen nervous.

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Environment
9:36 am
Wed August 10, 2011

Short-line railroad floats third coal export terminal proposal in Wash.

A short-line railroad is taking a hard look at opening a coal shipping terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor. This is the third location proposed by different developers in western Washington. It would export Rocky Mountain coal to Asia.

The corporate parent of the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad proposes to redevelop a public port terminal in Hoquiam. The railroad anticipates coal exports would be its main business.

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