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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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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Debt debate
9:18 am
Wed August 10, 2011

Sen. Murray selected to deficit committee, criticism follows

Sen. Patty Murray
Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has named Democrat Patty Murray of Washington to co-chair a powerful "super committee" charged with finding more than $1 trillion in deficit cuts this fall.

The choice immediately drew cries of disbelief from conservatives.

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Credit ratings
4:36 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

Update: Gregoire warns of more cuts to come; credit rating stable

Governor Chris Gregoire is telling state agencies to prepare for further budget cuts because of the faltering economy. Her budget office today asked agencies for ideas to reduce planned spending by 5 or 10 percent. 

Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's downgrade of federal debt is unlikely to have much near term effect on the borrowing costs for the state. Although, S&P did deal the city of Tacoma a blow by downgrading it's credit rating on debt backed by the federal government.

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D.B. Cooper
4:56 pm
Fri August 5, 2011

Niece: No DNA match to purported D.B. Cooper

This FBI photo shows the black J.C. Penney tie Cooper was wearing during the hijacking, which he removed before jumping. it later provided a DNA sample.

A DNA test has failed to connect a deceased central Oregon man to the unsolved 1971 hijacking of a Northwest Orient jet. This according to the man's niece. She came forward this week to finger her uncle as the legendary fugitive D.B. Cooper.

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D.B. Cooper
3:26 pm
Fri August 5, 2011

D.B. Cooper's purported niece: Money was all lost

The woman who claims her uncle was the legendary hijacker D.B. Cooper believes he lost all the money from his heist.

At SeaTac Airport in 1971, a hijacker exchanged a planeload of passengers for 200,000 dollars in ransom and four parachutes. Transplanted Oklahoman Marla Cooper now says the fugitive and a previously unknown accomplice were her uncles.

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Endangered species
10:09 am
Fri August 5, 2011

Ranchers worried budget crisis will limit payments in wolf plan

Washington's wolf plan looks great on paper, ranchers say, but they worry the state budget crisis will hamper payments for livestock killed by wolves.
Idaho Fish and Game

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington ranchers would get full compensation for confirmed wolf kills of their livestock under a new state wolf management plan. That proposal got its first public airing in Olympia Thursday.

Just as in neighboring Oregon, ranchers are uneasy about how the payments will work in reality.

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Law
5:08 pm
Wed August 3, 2011

Expert casts doubt on latest suspected D.B. Cooper

An expert on the infamous airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper is dubious about the latest suspect to emerge in the 40-year-old case. An Oklahoma woman went public this week with the claim her late uncle was the mysterious hijacker.

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Environment
5:06 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Study: 'Intensive' thinning needed to best cut wildfire risk

In the last ten years, the federal government and rural landowners have spent increasing sums of money thinning spindly trees and removing underbrush. The aim is to reduce risk from wildfire.

A new study by the Forest Service finds that tree stands need to be "intensively" thinned for that strategy to be effective.

Study co-author David Peterson of the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Seattle says a dense tinderbox forest before thinning could have more than a 1,000 trees per acre.

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Environment
10:43 am
Mon August 1, 2011

With defense money, scientists swap eggs to reverse lark's decline

A researcher bands an Oregon chick that successfully fledged from Washington nest.
Adrian Wolf

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Wildlife biologists are employing a little trickery to stop the downward spiral of a rare grassland bird in Western Washington. On Friday, biologists took eggs from healthier larks in Oregon and swapping them into western Washington nests, hoping the lark mothers don't notice.

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Business
10:08 am
Mon August 1, 2011

Standoff puts some airport construction projects in limbo

Spokane International Airport viewed from the south. The Airport is in the midst of a major runway reconstruction project.
Liesl Matthies

The Congressional stalemate over the debt ceiling isn't the only Washington standoff in the news this week. A separate showdown over spending by the Federal Aviation Administration is having an immediate effect on jobs and airport construction in our region.

Since last week, this little noticed budget battle has shut down non-essential divisions of the FAA. Airline ticket taxes are going uncollected and the federal workers who drive that money back out for airport improvement projects are furloughed.

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Teen activism
8:52 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Tribal youth using digital media to battle silent epidemic: suicide

Tribal youth from across the Northwest work on comic book panels on another track of the recent health promotion conference.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

PORTLAND – According to government statistics, American Indians are 70 percent more likely to die by suicide than the general population. The high suicide rate has been called a "silent epidemic." But it's silent no more.

Prevention workers at a health workshop in Portland are hoping teen-generated web videos, music and even a comic book can save lives.

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