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."

Ways To Connect

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Nearly 100 years of hydropower production comes to a close today (Wednesday) on the Elwha River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The turbines at the two dams on the river are going off line for good in preparation for the biggest dam removal in North American history.

U.S. Census Bureau

The American West is home to more young people than any other region of the country according to new data from the U.S. Census. Still there are differences in the age demographics within our region.

Meals on Wheels Association of America / Lindsay Garrett

Gas prices in Washington and across the Northwest are inching downward again after peaking above $4 a gallon earlier this month. The trend comes too late to erase the blow delivered to Meals on Wheels programs around the region.

Ken Balcomb / Center for Whale Research

Ferries, freighters and whale-watching boats are part of the tableau that makes the Pacific Northwest postcard pretty and tourist friendly. But all that marine activity creates cacophony underwater.

This month in Victoria and Seattle, separate groups of scientists are sharing their observations that the ocean is getting noisier. And now, conservationists and shippers are also talking about how to dial down the volume.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Quick, name the oldest city in the Northwest.

You get a gold star if you answered Astoria, Oregon. It is named for wealthy fur trader John Jacob Astor. The settlement at the mouth of the Columbia River celebrates its bicentennial this year. The official kickoff is this weekend [May 20-22].  KPLU's Tom Banse reports Astoria's founding has left legacies that span the whole Northwest.

Going on a whale watching tour is a popular activity in the border waters between Washington State and British Columbia. New rules that take effect  Monday require vessels to give a wider berth to the iconic resident killer whales. KPLU's Tom Banse reports from one of the home ports of the whale watching fleet, in Victoria.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The quest to find new uses for an uncompleted nuclear power plant in western Washington has a new twist. The U.S. Army has taken a liking to training soldiers in the tunnels, plazas and towers of the old Satsop complex.

US Navy / Chief Intelligence Specialist Louis Fellerman

Washington state senators Wednesday praised Northwest chopper pilots for flying a celebrated mission that no one can confirm they were on. That would be the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

This much we know: Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma is home to a battalion of the U.S. Army's "Night Stalkers." That's an elite helicopter unit that flies commando and combat rescue missions.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire puts one long running environmental controversy to bed Friday. She’s traveling to Centralia to sign into law a phase out of coal-fired electricity generation in the state. But meanwhile, another coal controversy is heating up in another part of Washington. It has to with a big new export terminal planned for north of Bellingham.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

After last month's Japanese tsunami, some coastal Northwest Indian tribes are expressing new urgency about the same danger they face. Two Washington tribes actually have plans to move parts of their villages to higher ground.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The Washington State Climatologist is out with a report card on how the weather phenomenon La Niña treated the Northwest. If you thought it’s been wetter and colder than usual since November, you’re right. But overall, this La Niña was milder than predicted. KPLU's Tom Banse reports:

Courtesy Ecola Architects, PC

If you’re near the coastline and a major earthquake strikes, the advice as always is to scramble for higher ground. But sometimes, high ground is far away. For example, if you’re in Ocean Shores or Seaside, Ore., the best option could be to head for the rooftop of a sturdy building, if there is one.

In Westport, and communities along the Northwest coast,  the horrible and gripping images of destruction from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are still top-of-mind. In this fishing and beach resort town, retiree Linda Orgel is one of hundreds of coastal residents spurred to become better prepared. That interest is being channeled into planning and design meetings for a possible string of manmade refuge towers.

Ted S. Warren / AP

When disaster response in Japan turns to rebuilding, Northwest timber companies and sawmills should see an increase in exports. But an industry consultant says the slow pace of disaster recovery means those new orders may not come for months. 

Stock prices for some North American timber companies spiked in the immediate aftermath of the Japan disaster. Wall Street anticipates a surge in Japanese demand for logs, lumber and plywood to rebuild homes.

Jim Bryant / AP

There’s good news and bad news for logging and saw-milling jobs in the Northwest. The bad news is new figures out show construction spending dropped in February to the lowest level in more than a decade. The good news is that timber demand from China is soaring.

Russia has traditionally been China’s main wood supplier. An export tax by the Russians combined with the expanding Chinese economy has created an opening for exporters on the West Coast.

U.S. Army

He was the sole survivor of a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan that killed seven of his comrades and their interpreter. Now, Corporal Roger Scherf, Jr. has also died, the victim of a car accident on an icy highway.

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