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Electric City 

Electric car-less Spokane, a forested dispute, bedbugs and tweeting traffic.

click to enlarge The charging station at City Hall - JORDAN BEAUCHAMP
  • Jordan Beauchamp
  • The charging station at City Hall

If you’re looking to charge your electric car in Spokane, you’ve got three options: City Hall, Avista headquarters and the Steam Plant Grill.

If you’re in the Puget Sound area, you’ll soon have 1,000.

Seattle, and not Spokane, is part of a federally funded project to install electric-car infrastructure in 18 metropolitan areas across the country. The first six were installed this month at Qwest Field and the rest should be finished by the end of the year.

The east-west disparity is the product, experts say, of a simple difference in demand.

The EV Project, a partnership between electric technology company ECOtality and the U.S. Department of Energy, studies “what drivers need to support using electric vehicles” in areas with proven interest, says Rich Feldman, ECOtality’s Pacific Northwest regional manager.

Anna Scarlett, a spokesperson for Avista, which oversees Spokane’s charging stations, says the company isn’t sure how many cars use the stations in Spokane, but that interest has been “limited.”

Ultimately, Feldman says, the expansion of electric-car technology across Washington is dependent on consumer interest. The benefits of the project will be there when the demand arrives.

“The lessons learned [in Seattle] are going to be applicable to Spokane,” Feldman says. “And a lot of lessons will be learned.” (Heidi Groover)

Challenges to Mount Spokane's Expansion

Fearing a denuding of forests and wildlife habitats, a Spokane-based conservation group has filed a complaint in court against a proposed expansion to the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

Mike Petersen, executive director of the Lands Council, which filed the complaint in Thurston County Superior Court last Friday, says the expansion would remove old-growth trees and wetlands from the backside of the park and threaten wildlife habitats.

An environmental impact statement is already planned for the project, says Brad McQuarrie, general manager of the park, and the new chairlift and seven new runs are planned to be as non-invasive as possible.

The area proposed for expansion was designated as “recreation area” last May by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, according to Petersen, with the new designation allowing for its development.

But Petersen said his group would like the impact statement to encompass the entire mountain, which could result in the land being re-designated as “natural forest,” meaning it would not be allowed to be developed.

No hearing date has yet been set for the complaint, but Petersen said cases of these kind have in the past taken over a year to resolve. (Chris Stein)

Sniffing Out Bedbugs

Besides their well-documented utility for finding bombs, drugs and dead bodies, dogs, and their sensitive noses, are finding a new profession: the detection of bedbugs.

Post Falls resident Greg Terry and his beagle, Sammie, make up the Bed Bug Scouts, a pair that has been working since opening last month to ferret out bedbug infestations across the region, at the cost of $224 per residence.

“Bedbugs, they feed on blood, so they stay where they can get their food source,” such as beds and couches, Terry says.

After detection, Terry says, an exterminator will come to destroy the nests of the bed bugs, often by saturating an area with chemicals or intense heat.

Having owned several small businesses in the past, Terry bought Sammie from a trainer in Florida after a neighbor advised him of the growing business of bedbug eradication.

Dogs are good at ferreting out bedbugs due to their sense of smell, Terry says, having an ability he believes is superior to machines. Still, the reliance on animals has required some adjustment.

“Dogs are the best tool on the market for finding bedbugs,” Terry says. “It’s a really high commitment to the dog.” (Chris Stein)

@Spokanedriver

The headquarters of the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center has a wall with 30 different screens, fed with information from 60 different traffic cameras and dozens of other traffic sensors. Every hour of the day, at least two technicians monitor those screens, zoom in and out, and report accidents.

They’re the ones who feed information to drivetime DJs for traffic updates. For years you’ve been able to access the same information through email. But now the SRTMC has added a new communication method. Just follow “SRTMC” on Twitter, and get about eight to 10 traffic updates a day.

“It’s quick. People can get it fast. Most of the other transportation management centers have done it,” SRTMC information coordinator Staci Lehman says.

So far, the computer-generated Twitter messages don’t have the brief, sardonic wit the medium is known for. Most messages are styled like “Motorcycle Collision WB SR 20 MP 324 beginning at 3:27 PM on June 20 2011 until 5:00 PM.”

For those unsure, exactly, what “WB SR 20 MP 324” means (West bound State Route 20, Mile post 324, for the record), each Twitter post helpfully has a link to a map and a longer, more informative description. (Daniel Walters)

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