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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startup spotlight
7:01 am
Sun September 1, 2013

Startup with New Business Model Pitches Cheaper Sewage Treatment

Blue Array co-owners James Reilly and Victoria Jelderks at the Vader sewage treatment plant.
Tom Banse

A startup company based in Vancouver, Washington is looking to upend the sewage treatment business.

There are literally dozens of small Northwest cities wringing their hands, trying to figure out how to add treatment capacity for growth, or simply update aging and failing infrastructure. This startup, named Blue Array, proposes to give interested cities and their ratepayers a treatment system for free with a service contract.

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one for all
1:04 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Beacon Food Forest: Edible Public Forest Takes Root in Seattle

A public food forest is taking root in Seattle. Over the past year, volunteers have been clearing grass next to a city park and planting all manner of fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and vegetables for the Beacon Food Forest.

What's different here is that the eventual bounty will be open for anyone to forage. It's a social experiment. Can respect and sharing triumph over hunger and greed in the edible arboretum?

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threatened species
11:42 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Feds Delay Controversial Decision on Pocket Gopher Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is postponing a controversial decision on whether to list the Mazama pocket gopher as a threatened species in the South Puget Sound area.

Washington State manager Ken Berg says his agency wants six additional months to consider input from upset landowners and affected counties. Berg says farmers and ranchers in Thurston County claim there are more pocket gophers than the government realizes and that they can co-exist with human activity.

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Cascadia fault zone
5:11 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Research Cruise Reveals New Findings about Megaquake Fault

Launching the ROV Jason, the unmanned minisub which deployed heat flow sensors and probes on the seafloor.
Courtesy of Cascadia Advective Conductive Heat Expedition (CACHE)

It's been a busy summer on the high seas for researchers trying to figure out the inner workings of an ominous earthquake fault.

The Cascadia subduction zone runs offshore from Vancouver Island to Northern California. When it rips, we could have a magnitude-9.0 catastrophe. 

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sequester
2:59 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Forest Maintenance Projects Cut Back Due to Budget Clawback

Olympic National Forest
GD Taber Flickr

Remember the sequester? The dust is finally settling and the consequences becoming real for a program in the U.S. Forest Service that sends money to timber counties.

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storied subs
5:01 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Storied Research Subs Visit Northwest Coast

Upgraded minisub Alvin was loaded onto R/V Atlantis at the WHOI dock on May 13, 2013.
Tom Kleindinst Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A storied research sub that explored and filmed the wreck of the Titanic is making an appearance in the Northwest.

The deep-diving submarine "Alvin" is in Astoria this week while its support ship changes crews. It's actually one of two well-known submersibles passing through the port town.

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Art by chimps
12:35 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Northwest Chimps Compete in National Art Contest

Chimp artist Jamie is said to be "the non-human boss" of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.
Courtesy of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest

Two chimpanzees living in the Northwest are competing in a national art contest. The chimps and their caretakers are trying to win a $10,000 first prize for their respective sanctuaries.

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bees and pesticides
4:26 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Controversial Insecticides to Carry Clearer Warnings to Protect Bees

Orlin Wagner AP Photo

Northwest beekeepers are applauding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for requiring certain pesticides to carry a clearer warning label. The idea is to prevent home gardeners and farmers from inadvertently harming beneficial pollinators, like bees.

The EPA directive applies to widely used bug killers, rose and flower treatments, and grub controls. Future labels will have to carry specific warnings under a picture of a bee. 

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the squirrel crossed, too
9:01 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Nutty! Fourth Squirrel Bridge Coming to Longview

Longview celebrates the 50th anniversary this year of the Nutty Narrows Bridge.
Tom Banse

As signature landmarks go, Seattle has its Space Needle. Newport, Oregon has the Bay Bridge. Astorians are proud of their iconic Column. And in Longview, Washington, you've got, well, the Nutty Narrows Bridge.

The skybridge is about 60 feet long. It spans a busy, tree-shaded thoroughfare and is just wide enough. For a squirrel, that is.

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unemployment rate
11:40 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Unemployment Rate Staying 'Pretty Flat' in Wash. State

Steven Senne, File AP Photo

Washington's statewide unemployment rate is staying "pretty flat" this summer according to a state labor economist. A fresh jobs report released Wednesday shows the unemployment rate ticked up a tiny bit to 6.9 percent in July, from 6.8 percent in June.

But state economist Paul Turek says he puts more stock in a different number from the monthly jobs report. He says the number of new jobs created last month continues to expand at a "decent" pace.

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mudslides
12:36 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Mudslides Keep North Cascades Highway Closed

This is one of eight mudslides across SR 20, the North Cascades Highway.
WSDOT

Washington's Department of Transportation doesn't know yet what day the North Cascades Highway will reopen. Intense thunderstorms over the weekend unleashed eight mudslides that have closed the northernmost route across the Cascade Range.

WSDOT spokesman Jeff Adamson says optimism is rising now that big bulldozers and other heavy equipment has arrived. He says his agency awarded an emergency contract Monday night to get more muscle on scene.

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immigrant investors
10:18 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Foreigners Finance More Diverse Ventures to Obtain U.S. Visas

Immigrant investors seeking U.S. visas financed the construction of this office and retail complex called "Home Plate Center" across from Seattle's Safeco Field.
Tom Banse

What do these things have in common: an Idaho gold mine, a proposed wind farm in central Washington, a new hotel in Portland, and the replacement floating bridge across Lake Washington?

They're all investment vehicles for well-to-do families seeking U.S. green cards. Under U.S. immigration law, wealthy foreigners can get a green card by investing at least half a million dollars to create at least ten jobs here. In the Northwest, an increasingly diverse range of projects are competing for such foreign investment.

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Man vs. Self
8:01 am
Sat August 10, 2013

Vegan Hiker Tops Wash. Woman's Trail Record Just One Day Later

Josh Garrett
Courtesy of Mercy for Animals

Two athletes have separately set new speed records for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. On Wednesday, a Bellingham woman completed the long distance hike in 60 days. Then Thursday night, a California man topped her by accomplishing the feat in 59 days.

The Pacific Crest Trail starts in a desert on the Mexican border and stretches for 2,655 miles through national forests and parks, across innumerable mountain passes to Canada. 

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Olympic athletes
1:56 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Northwest Runners Head to Moscow for World Championships

Olympic athletes from the Northwest are steering clear of politics as they head for Moscow, Russia this week for the 2013 World Championships in track and field.

Half-miler Nick Symmonds of Springfield, Oregon condemned anti-gay bias in Russia in a blog entry he posted before departure. But he said he would avoid further comment "out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation." 

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storied fishing boat
4:01 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Former Steinbeck Boat in Limbo in Dry Storage in Port Townsend

Anne Shaffer

The Port of Port Townsend is providing a temporary home to a piece of literary history. But the dry-docked sardine fishing boat once chartered by the writer John Steinbeck faces an uncertain fate.

The 76-foot boat's original name was the Western Flyer. In 1940, John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts (who later inspired the character "Doc" in Cannery Row) chartered the wood vessel for a cruise around Baja California. That resulted in a book still widely read, The Log From the Sea of Cortez.

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