WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee School Board set aside millions this week to construct softball facilities at Wenatchee High School. However, it’s still unclear when the team could take to the new field.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, board members unanimously approved a resolution that designated $4 million “in General Fund reserves for this specific purpose.”
“If the final quote exceeds $4 million, the board would need to look at approving additional funds,” district spokesperson Diana Haglund wrote in an email Thursday. “Construction costs appear to be a moving target right now.”
The field construction is part of a voluntary resolution agreement Wenatchee entered into with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights last November to resolve a complaint that the district violated an anti-discrimination law known as Title IX.
The difference between the facilities provided the school’s baseball and softball teams is the issue. While the baseball team plays on a recently renovated field near campus, the school’s softball team plays at Walla Walla Point Park, nearly three miles away.
Title IX requires schools or educational programs that receive federal funding to provide the same quality of facilities, regardless of funding source. The differences between facilities has existed for years. A 2018 bond, which would have in part funded additional softball facilities, failed.
Under the agreement, Wenatchee assessed its facilities and found differences, including dugouts, scoreboards, locker rooms, cages, press boxes, permanent fencing and proximity to campus.
Wenatchee then submitted the assessment and a plan to resolve the differences by a March 1 deadline. Haglund said the district received a July 15 letter from OCR responding to the plan. It now has an Aug. 31 deadline to submit a response.
Once a plan is formally approved, Wenatchee will need to provide regular updates to the OCR.
The district has identified two locations for the field on the school’s campus: the baseball field near the track and the practice football field. Each plan would cost between $4 and $5 million, and both are still under consideration.
Haglund said the timeline for construction of the new facilities is still dependent upon OCR’s approval.
Mitchell Roland: (509) 661-5201
WENATCHEE — As another school year begins, Wenatchee High School is ready to assist students in need of food, clothing, toiletries, backpacks and other school supplies.
Panther House is a pantry located in a classroom at WHS. It is made possible by food drives, cash donations and partnerships with local companies, according to Assistant Principal Donna Moser.
Moser said Panther House started around seven years ago, and originally only provided second-hand clothing. The Panther House Fund also started at this time, so community and staff members could donate to keep it running.
Moser said the Class of 1982 recently donated $4,300 to the fund. Her neighbor, Jenny Capelo, is from the class and reached out to Moser about the Panther House. Moser said it takes $12,000 a year on average to provide the service.
Panther House has grown over the years to match the growing needs of students, according to Moser.
“The financial barriers for students just have widened,” Moser said, explaining that more students are being asked by their families to work. The Panther House provides students with clothes to use not just in school, but at work.
Moser said the school has worked hard to make the program more individualized, so “students aren’t feeling like a number.”
Former Family Advocate Patty Muniz said students who request to use the pantry remain completely anonymous.
“We serve about 200 to 300 students a year,” Muniz said. “If anybody is interested or knows a student or family… we ask them to fill out a request form under programs and resources.”
The request form can be found at wwrld.us/PantherHouseRequest Form.
Muniz is returning to WHS this year as the multilingual student retention specialist, but spent her time as family specialist working on the Panther House. She said she would shop for food when the shelves needed refilling, and she’d help students find clothes they liked.
Muniz explained that while food and monetary donations are appreciated, when it comes to clothes, it’s best to leave it up to the student.
“I know if you’re in high need, you’re going to take whatever,” Muniz said. “But these are high school students who want to fit in. It’s just a motivation for them to come to school and be in school.”
Students can go to the store and find the styles and sizes they like and put them on hold so Muniz can go pay for their items.
The school works with some local businesses to aid students further. Moser said Plaza Super Jet donates coupons so students can get fresh food they won’t find in the pantry.
Richardson’s Safe Driving School offers a substantial decrease in tuition for students on a case-by-case basis, Moser said.For instance, a student who works to help make money for their family could qualify. In this situation, students would need to discuss their needs with the family Advocate or the assistant principal.
Moser said those who wish to help Panther House can do so through food or cash donations. Unexpired non-perishables can be dropped off at the front office. Cash donations can be made by calling the ASB office.
Moser noted how difficult it can be for students to ask for help.
“I think sometimes the community might think, with a service like this, someone might be using and abusing it,” Moser said. “But it takes really strong relationships … for Wenatchee students to trust us with the things that they need.”
Libby Williams (509) 661-5210
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled the U.S. central bank is likely to keep raising interest rates and leave them elevated for a while to stamp out inflation, and he pushed back against any idea that the Fed would soon reverse course.
“Restoring price stability will likely require maintaining a restrictive policy stance for some time,” Powell said Friday in remarks prepared for the Kansas City Fed’s annual policy forum in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy.”
He said restoring inflation to the 2% target is the central bank’s “overarching focus right now” even though consumers and businesses will feel economic pain. He reiterated that another “unusually large” increase in the benchmark lending rate could be appropriate when officials gather next month, though he stopped short of committing to one.
“Our decision at the September meeting will depend on the totality of the incoming data and the evolving outlook,” he said.
Two-year Treasury yields rose as investors digested the remarks, pushed as high as 3.44% while the 2- to 10-year yield curve resumed its flattening. Equities were lower.
Prior to Powell’s speech, investors saw the odds of a half-point or another three-quarter point hike at the Fed’s Sept. 20-21 gathering as roughly even. They remained in that vicinity after he spoke, but the amount of reductions in fed rates priced for 2023 briefly retreated.
Mark Spindel, chief investment officer at MBB Capital Partners, said the resolute tone of Powell’s speech points to another large rate rise next month.
“Failure to back that up with another 75 basis point increase would cheapen his talk,” Spindel said, noting that Powell took pains to quote former chairs Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker and Ben Bernanke, invoking the Fed’s Hall of Fame to bolster his message.
“Restoring price stability will take some time and requires using our tools forcefully to bring demand and supply into better balance,” Powell said in remarks that were set to be live-streamed for the first time from inside the lodge where the event has been held since 1982.
Other Fed speakers in recent days have also pushed back against expectations that the Fed would raise rapidly to a restrictive policy stance and then begin to ease.
Restoring price stability will require a “sustained” period of below-trend growth and a weaker labor market, Powell said. “While higher interest rates, slower growth, and softer labor market conditions will bring down inflation, they will also bring some pain to households and businesses,” he said.
Powell’s remarks at the retreat, which gathers top policy makers from around the world, come as U.S. central bankers confront the highest inflation in 40 years. Officials were slow to spot the risk and are now moving aggressively to keep prices from accelerating further. Officials raised rates by 75 basis points at their last two meetings and signaled the same could be on the table again when they gather next month.
Critics have slammed the Fed for failing to anticipate the inflationary surge, which the Fed initially viewed as transitory. Powell told the conference in his address a year ago that price pressures were limited to a relatively narrow group of goods and services. But within months it was spreading and by the time the Fed began raising rates from near zero inflation was already three times their 2% target.
It remains elevated: While the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation eased to 6.3% for the 12-month period ending July, wages and salaries had the biggest monthly gain since February, according to a government report released earlier on Friday.
“While the lower inflation readings for July are welcome, a single month’s improvement falls far short of what the committee will need to see before we are confident that inflation is moving down,” the Fed chief told the audience, gathered in person after two years of holding the conference virtually because of the pandemic.
“We are moving our policy stance purposefully to a level that will be sufficiently restrictive to return inflation to 2%.”
Fed officials in June projected rates rising to 3.4% by the end of this year, according to their median estimate, and 3.8% by end 2023. They will update those forecasts in September. Investors were pricing in the probability of cuts in the back half of 2023, though Fed officials are starting to push back against that view.
Looking beyond the current rate-hike cycle, policy makers are trying to assess whether longer-run inflation pressures will remain persistent. Supply chain costs may be shifting higher, and the supply of U.S. labor could remain tight for years to come due to an aging population and limited immigration.
Powell said the labor market is “clearly out of balance” with demand for workers “substantially” exceeding supply.
U.S. unemployment rate matched a five-decade low of 3.5% in July with payrolls fully recovering to pre-pandemic levels.
Ahead of Powell’s speech, several Fed officials emphasized the central bank is in no way done, with Kansas City Fed Chief Esther George noting that the destination of the federal funds rate may be higher than markets are currently priced for.
“We have to get interest rates higher to slow down demand and bring inflation back to our target,” said George, who votes on monetary policy this year.
Financial markets have the benchmark lending rate peaking under 4% early next year.
Asked how high the Fed should push borrowing costs, George said there was “more room to go” and pushed back against bets in financial markets the central bank would begin cutting rates next year.
“I think we will have to hold — it could be over 4%. I don’t think that’s out of the question,” she said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “You won’t know that, I think, until you begin to watch the data signs.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray have concluded that the Lower Snake River dams should not be breached before the financial and environmental benefits they provide are replaced, work that would cost an estimated $10 billion to $31 billion, according to a report commissioned by the two Washington Democrats.
The joint statement coincided with the release Thursday of a final version of the report, which weighed the costs and benefits of removing the earthen portions of the four dams between the Tri-Cities and Lewiston in an effort to restore declining salmon runs, for which the federal government has guaranteed fishing rights to Northwest tribes.
Calling the possibility of salmon extinction unacceptable, Murray and Inslee pledged to continue fish recovery efforts while calling for the “enormous” investment in energy and transportation that could make breaching feasible in the future.
In a separate statement, Murray said she and Inslee looked carefully at research “on all sides of this issue,” consulted with tribes, farmers, environmentalists and other stakeholders, and considered every option to restore dwindling populations of salmon, steelhead and other anadromous fish that migrate upstream from the ocean to spawn.
“However, it’s clear that breach is not an option right now,” she said, because “while many mitigation measures exist, many require further analysis or are not possible to implement in the near-term.”
Murray emphasized that breaching the dams would require bipartisan support in Congress, where there is staunch opposition to such a move from Northwest Republicans. After a draft of the report was released for public comment in June, GOP Reps. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane introduced a bill that would prevent the dams from being breached.
In a statement Thursday, Newhouse criticized Murray and Inslee for the “duplicative, unnecessary” report.
“This report outlines what central Washington has known all along: there is no reasonable replacement for the Lower Snake River Dams,” the statement reads. “The fact of the matter is, even if they were able to replace the 66% of the state’s energy which is currently provided by the clean, renewable, and affordable hydroelectric dams, the loss of the dams would still devastate our communities: prices would rise, crops would perish, jobs would be eliminated, and the environment would be threatened.”
McMorris Rodgers, meanwhile, said the Democrats’ conclusion was “a welcome step back towards reality,” but also slammed the process that got them there.
“For months, they led a sham process paid for by Washington taxpayers and pandered to radical environmental groups who ignored the facts in pursuit of what is still their end goal — breaching the Lower Snake River dams,” she said in the statement.
Advocates of dam breaching expressed measured optimism in response to Murray and Inslee’s recommendations. Samuel Penney, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe, called the Democrats’ proposal “the next step in the right direction to save these sacred species.”
”The Nez Perce Tribe appreciates Senator Murray and Governor Inslee’s courage and leadership at this moment of crisis for Columbia Basin salmon,” Penney said in a statement. “We appreciate Senator Murray and Governor Inslee’s recognition that salmon extinction is unacceptable, and that restoring the lower Snake River can be done in a way that not only addresses affected sectors but also ensures a better future for the Northwest.”
Kyle Smith, Snake River director at the nonprofit American Rivers, called the report “an important step toward gathering necessary information and crafting a collaborative, pragmatic solution.”
”This report is a call to our entire region to roll up our sleeves, have the tough conversations, and get to work on specific solutions with a timetable that works for everyone,” Smith said in a statement. “Communities are hurting and we need answers and action now.”
Inslee and Murray waded into the region’s intensely controversial salmon-and-dams debate in May 2021 when they spurned a proposal by Rep. Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, to spend $33 billion to replace the benefits the dams provide — including irrigation, barge transportation between Lewiston and the Tri-Cities, and enough energy production to power a city the size of Seattle.
Simpson shook up the long-running debate when he released his proposal in February 2021, drawing praise from tribal leaders and environmentalists, and scorn from his fellow Republicans in Congress. The region’s Democratic leaders largely kept quiet — reflecting the difficult balance they have tried to strike between Indigenous people’s rights and the low-carbon energy the dams provide — until Murray and Inslee announced in October 2021 they would conduct their own process to consider dam breaching.
In his own statement, Inslee said breaching the dams would give salmon the best chance to return to abundance in the Snake and the lower Columbia River into which it flows, but he added that doing so before replacing the benefits of the dams “would be disastrous.”
”The question of whether to breach the Lower Snake River Dams is deeply personal to the many communities and Tribes engaged in this debate,” the governor said. “The stakes are high, and the debate often devolves into a binary choice to breach now to save the salmon or not breach and maintain the status quo. Neither of those options are responsible or feasible.”
Advocates of dam breaching were encouraged in July when the Biden administration weighed in with a pair of reports that supported taking sweeping actions to restore salmon runs, including potentially breaching the dams.
When Murray got involved in the dam-breaching debate in May 2021, she signaled Congress could use the Water Resources Development Act — a bill lawmakers pass every two years to authorize federal water projects — as a vehicle toward eventually breaching the dams. But when the Senate passed the bill in a near-unanimous vote July 28, after the House passed its own version in a similarly bipartisan vote in June, it didn’t include provisions related to the dams, hinting that Congress was not about to take action on the issue.
The report, prepared by a consulting team composed of Seattle-based firm Ross Strategic and D.C.-based Kramer Consulting, assesses the potential costs and benefits of dam breaching but doesn’t make recommendations.
”With the damming of the Snake River, the wealth of the Snake River has been transferred through energy production, transportation, and irrigation to the detriment of salmon and the communities that rely on salmon,” the report concludes.
Maintaining the dams costs an estimated $150 million to $278 million per year, the report finds, but breaching them and replacing the benefits they provide would cost between $10.3 billion and $31.3 billion, in addition to other unforeseen costs.
During a public comment period from June 9 to July 11, the consultants wrote, they received “approximately 1,769 online form submissions, 22 comments via paper mail, and approximately 65,000 emails and attachments.”
Murray and Inslee note in their recommendations that, if the dams were breached, “some communities on the lower Snake River would experience fundamental changes, and that some industries relying on the Dams would no longer be viable.”
”We take these impacts extremely seriously,” they continue, “and any approach involving breaching of the Lower Snake River Dams must provide opportunity for all the communities that would bear these impacts.”
While acknowledging the intense disagreement in the debate over the dams that has raged for decades in the Northwest, Murray and Inslee urged the stakeholders to work toward a solution based on a shared desire to see salmon and low-carbon energy production coexist.
”While we have heard disagreement and intensity of feeling, we have also seen clear areas of common agreement,” they said. “The present moment affords us a vital opportunity to build on these areas of agreement, and we firmly believe that the region cannot afford another fifty years of confrontation, litigation, and acrimony over the Lower Snake River Dams.”
Orion Donovan-Smith’s reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.