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AppleSox debut jerseys designed in collaboration with Colville Tribes
seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

Wenatchee AppleSox baseball players, dressed in "throwback Thursday" jerseys with the name of the Wenatchi tribe in front, congratulate Joichiro Oyama after he won this year's Tommy Watanabe Award. The tribal name is translated as "The people in between." The award was presented to Oyama before their game with Kamloops on Thursday.

WENATCHEE — Before it had the AppleSox, the city of Wenatchee had the Chiefs, a minor league baseball team founded in 1937 that operated until 1965.

And before there was a city of Wenatchee, there was the Wenatchi, the tribe of Native Americans to which the town owes its name. Many Wenatchi descendants continue to live on the Colville Reservation and across North Central Washington.

This year, the AppleSox are rolling out a new commemorative jersey design in honor of the Wenatchi and the 85th anniversary of the Chiefs’ founding. The team is wearing the new “throwback Thursday” jerseys for the July 21 and July 28 home games. The jerseys, which will replace the previous Chiefs-inspired throwback uniform, are a collaboration with the Colville Tribal Language Program and Colville Casinos.

The front of the jerseys displays the word “Šnp̓əšqʷáw̓šəxʷ” — the name of the Wenatchi tribe in Nxaʔamxčín, the tribe’s language, which is also known as South Interior Salish. The name directly translates to “The people in between.”

seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

Tyler Chipman warms up before the Wenatchee AppleSox game against Kamloops.

The sleeves, collar, and buttons feature a geometric pattern that interprets a bitterroot basket pattern. The pattern on the sleeves represents the Wenatchee Foothills while the pattern down the buttons represents the Wenatchee River, said Colville Tribal Language Program Administrative Assistant Sharon Covington. One sleeve sports the AppleSox logo while the other sports the Colville Casinos logo.

Covington is one of five Šnp̓əšqʷáw̓šəxʷ tribal members who works at the Colville Tribal Language Program who had a direct hand in the design of the jerseys.

Covington said the group specifically chose not to include the English translation of the tribe’s name on the jerseys. “We just wanted people to know and see that’s our tribe,” she said.

AppleSox general manager Allie Schank said the team was inspired to commission the new jerseys by a similar project by the Spokane Indians. In 2014, the team debuted a new alternate uniform that featured the word “Sp’q’n’iʔ,” which is the name of the Spokane tribe in the Spokane language. In 2015, the design became the team’s main home game uniform.

“We just genuinely really wanted to have something that was a strong connection to the Native roots that are in Wenatchee,” Schank said.


Business
The thrill is gone for North Central Washington's once-hot crypto industry
World file photo/Don Seabrook 

Miguel Medina, operations technician, and Nick Warner, chief operations officer for Salcido Enterprises, perform maintenance on servers in the server farm at Pangborn Industrial Park in January 2021. Owner Malachi Salcido, anticipating a drop in crypto prices, stepped up plans to shift more of his business from mining to conventional data processing for other customers.

WENATCHEE — Last fall, as soaring cryptocurrency prices touched off yet another round of investor mania, one of the biggest crypto miners in Washington state was already watching the exits.

Malachi Salcido, a Wenatchee miner since 2013, knew that crypto prices — bitcoin was near $68,000 — were about to do what they’d done several times before: tank. But rather than just ride out another “crypto winter,” Salcido stepped up plans to shift more of his business from mining to conventional data processing for other customers, a less volatile business that he increasingly expects “will be a majority of what we’re doing in the future.”

There’s a similar “been there, done that” vibe these days across much of North Central Washington, once ground zero for the U.S. crypto boom.

Though a lot of mining still happens in Chelan, Douglas and Grant counties, thanks to the abundant hydropower that miners prize for their energy-intensive processors, NCW’s crypto industry is a shadow of its former Wild West self.

Many of the miners who flocked to the region during the last decade have either gone out of business or moved to other states, like Texas.

And while the three public utility districts still get inquiries from would-be miners looking for juice to run the complicated calculations that underlie cryptocurrencies, it’s nothing like the heyday from about 2014 to 2017. Back then, investors from as far away as China were eyeing about two-thirds of the NCW’s total hydropower output. Today, crypto mining accounts for maybe 4% of the combined output of the region’s five hydroelectric dams.

“It’s been fairly quiet,” says John Stoll, managing director for customer utilities at Chelan County PUD, which at one point had power requests for more than 200 megawatts of power, or more than the county’s existing residents and businesses were using. The PUD’s current mining load is 8 megawatts, or around 3.5% of local load.

“We do get calls, but we haven’t had any active applications for several years,” Stoll says. (A megawatt is enough to run around 650 homes.)

Part of that new quietude is forced. To shield local power grids from crypto’s boom-bust dynamic and short-term investment horizons, the utilities adopted new rates and other policies for their hydropower, which typically goes for around 2.5 cents to 5 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to around 15 cents for U.S. average.

Chelan County, for example, charges miners roughly triple what it charges residents for electricity. Douglas County caps its total crypto mining load at 39 megawatts (it’s currently just under 33 megawatts) and steps up rates for crypto miners 10% every six months. In Grant County, rates for “evolving industry” customers, as crypto miners are known, get bumped a few cents up if miners’ total current and requested power demand exceeds 5% of total county demand, which it has since March.

Even a small rate increase matters a lot to crypto, given what mining involves. For example, in bitcoin, still the biggest cryptocurrency by market value, miners use their banks of computers to do two things. First, they act as a kind of decentralized Venmo and process all the bitcoin transactions currently in the bitcoin network. Next, they compete to earn a reward — a bitcoin — by being the first to solve a very complicated mathematical computation that is programmed to get harder as miners bring more computing power into the network.

These days, commercial-scale miners do trillions of high speed calculations on tens of thousands of computers that, despite improvements in efficiency, use a lot of juice. Next to the cost of computers and buildings, a miner’s “biggest single expense over time is going to be power,” says Lauren Miehe, a veteran of the NCW crypto sector who pulled the plug on his own mining operations last fall. Even rate increases of a few cents “are huge,” he says.

For example, when miners triggered the higher rate in Grant County in 2020, most of the county’s mining capacity shut down, says Louis Szablya, Grant County PUD’s senior manager of large power solutions. He expects a similar effect if the utility commissioners approve an expected rate adjustment later this year.

Higher power rates aren’t the only thing dampening miners’ affections for the region. Opening a new commercial mine today takes huge capital — $50 million and up, says Salcido. That kind of money makes many investors wary of any regulatory, bureaucratic or local political hurdles that might delay when they can switch on their mines and start earning back that capital.

Malachi Salcido

Cryptominer

“New entrants recognize they’ve got to get massive capacity up and operational as fast as possible,” says Salcido.

But public utility districts are highly regulated and can be highly deliberative when considering new requests for power, Salcido says. Local building and electrical permitting can also be slow. That’s one reason many crypto startups now head to places like Texas, which has lower regulatory hurdles and lots of private utilities, Salcido says.

More broadly, in parts of North Central Washington, crypto mining seems to have worn out a welcome that was always tenuous.

In the industry’s early days, critics complained about the fly-by-night nature of some crypto miners. The industry’s massive power consumption also raised fears that residents could lose their historically cheap power, while “a relatively few [miners] were getting extremely rich, extremely fast,” says Miehe. The local politics of crypto became “really toxic,” he says.

Boosters promised to address those concerns with better regulation. They also argued that crypto could transform North Central Washington into a 21st century technology hub. In Douglas County, port officials proposed a “blockchain innovation campus,” focused on finding new uses for the blockchain, the decentralized accounting and processing technology that underlies most cryptocurrencies.

That vision hasn’t quite come to be. The innovation campus went nowhere, and while crypto’s fly-by-night operators were largely swept away by regulation and market swings, so too was that loftier conception of the crypto industry, which more and more operates like any other business.

“We’re not seeing as much interest in innovation [from] blockchain as we are in just straight out mining cryptocurrency right now,” says Ron Cridlebaugh, director of economic and business development for the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority, which administers port leases.

The notion of “blockchain innovation” as the basis of a fundamentally new sector “has just kind of fallen by the wayside.”

Douglas County is still seeing a technology boom; it’s just a more conventional one: Microsoft is building a massive data center, one of many that tech companies have located in NCW to score on cheap power.

Another potential sign of the times: A bankrupt crypto mining venture that is being repurposed as a business “incubator” is getting interest from “more of your mainstream industries,” such as a bakery and a coffee wholesaler, Cridlebaugh says.

Veterans like Salcido and Miehe don’t expect crypto to disappear from the region. When crypto prices surge again, which Salcido expects could be as soon as 2024, if past cycles are any guide, investors may again focus on the North Central Washington.

But in the meantime, says Miehe, miners may be “looking for ways to transition that infrastructure” into businesses, such as data processing, that are less vulnerable to rate changes, market volatility or local politics.

Salcido agrees. While he plans to do some mining long term, he’s also fine with having a larger share of his business in an industry that, while it may lack crypto’s highs, also doesn’t have its lows. “No boom,” says Salcido. “But no bust, either.”


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News
Stayman Flats Fire near Chelan 100% contained, crews to repair landscape

CHELAN — The Stayman Flats Fire was 100% contained Friday morning after burning about 1,200 acres south of Chelan most of the week.

The fire will remain in “patrol status,” with local firefighters monitoring the fire lines until they feel comfortable leaving it by itself, said Ryan Rodruck, a state Department of Natural Resources spokesperson. Slight breezes in the area didn’t affect the fire behavior overnight, he added.

Local fire districts were called to the fire at 2:37 p.m. Monday, when it began spreading from 35 acres. DNR arrived Tuesday morning to help fight the blaze and the fire was handed back to local fire districts Thursday morning.

Now, DNR will bring landscape and geotechnical experts to the area to rehabilitate and stabilize the ground and slopes, Rodruck said.

“(Repairing) anything we had to do to tear up the landscape,” he said, referring to things like ditches that helped stop the fire from spreading.

The process of healing the landscape takes much longer than the fire, he said. For instance, the DNR was still working at the site of last fire season’s Schneider Springs Fire, he said. That lightning-caused blaze started in August about 20 miles northwest of Naches and burned 107,322 acres.

The official cause of the Stayman Flats Fire was listed as lightning, Rodruck said, as crews found the spot struck, or “toe of the fire,” near Stayman Flats Road.

He said about 10% of wildfires are caused by lightning with human-sourced fires at around 90%.

Many wildfires are caused by such things as chains dragging on the road in between a vehicle and trailer, causing sparks, or someone setting off fireworks, he said.

Another thing that was “strange” about lightning was whether it struck the ground or stayed in the sky, he said, referring to different types of lightning, such as sheet or anvil.

Rocco Pelatti, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service based in Spokane, said a “rogue” lightning strike was recorded at about 5 a.m. Monday on Stayman Flats Road, and came from the “anvil,” or top, of the cloud.

There were four lightning strikes recorded in Douglas County and 48 in Okanogan County from the weather system that day, he said.

The terrain and extra grass, due to non-drought conditions, were perfect conditions for a fire, said Pelatti.

The initial call came on Monday as two fires, Chelan County Fire District 1 Battalion Chief Peter Rigelman said. Both original fires were between 5 and 10 acres each in the Stayman Flats area off of Highway 97A and Stayman Flats Road.

Chelan County Fire District 1, Douglas County Fire District 2, DNR and U.S. Forest Service were among the 10 agencies asked to respond at 3:07 p.m., when a second alarm went out. About 125 people fought the fire from land and air Wednesday.

The fire spread north toward Chelan by Monday evening, and about 27 structures were in a Level 3 or “Go Now” evacuation notice. Ninety-eight structures were under a Level 1 or “get ready” notice.

All evacuation notices were lifted by Thursday morning.


07272018 World photo/Don Seabrook A group of family members from Seattle numbering 15 put their tubes into the Icicle River at the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery for a three hour ride on Friday. They said the experience is an annual tradition. This year they bought all their own tubes instead of renting them.


Luke Hollister leans down to take a photo during sunset of Lake Ethel on July 16. Mosquitos can be seen in the setting sunlight. 


Troy Abercrombie, a firefighter with the Wenatchee River Ranger District, lights brush in a prescribed burn Sept. 28, 2016, near the Chiwawa River Pines housing development overlooking the Chiwawa River. The fire crew burned about 40 acres in this area.


In this file photo, Bishop Carlos Sevilla sprinkles holy water on stone memorial pillars as he blesses the new additions to the Ahtanum St. Joseph Mission in Yakima.


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