by Kristina Crawley and Cara Gardner

Continuing the Fight -- SANDPOINT, Idaho -- It's been an uphill battle, but the Rock Creek Alliance isn't about to give up in its fight to stop Revett Silver from building the proposed Rock Creek Mine. The proposed site is in northwestern Montana, 25 miles upstream of Lake Pend Oreille. The Alliance is concerned about the negative effects the mine could have on the environment.

"We're talking about catastrophic impacts on the wilderness," predicts Mary Mitchell, executive director for the Rock Creek Alliance.

The mine could be in operation 24 hours a day for 30 years, producing runoff that would end up in Lake Pend Oreille, among other places.

"When you're looking at perpetual runoff, there's no way that the lake's not going to be polluted," says Mitchell.

In March, the jewelry retailer Tiffany & amp; Co. -- a major consumer of precious metals -- publicly voiced its opposition to the Rock Creek mine with an advertisement in the Washington Post, calling for more responsible mining practices.

But Revett Silver currently has the go-ahead from the State of Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service. All three agencies issued the company permits to build the mine after conducting research into the effects it would have on the environment. The Rock Creek Alliance is contesting those permits in court; they are now awaiting a decision on the suit.

The Alliance will be holding its annual meeting at 6 pm on August 17 at the Pend Oreille Winery in downtown Sandpoint. To raise money, wine will be on sale for $15 a bottle, with $5 going to the Alliance for each bottle sold. The public is invited to attend. Call: (208) 265-8272

Cover Your Noggin -- SPOKANE -- Well, it's official. The helmet ordinance goes into effect this week. As of Aug. 11, all bike riders, skateboarders, rollerbladers, scooter drivers and pretty much everyone on something with wheels, need to helmet-up or risk a $25 ticket or an embarrassing public lecture on the delicate nature of your noggin.

"While the police acknowledged that enforcement is important, they say top priority is education and have developed a yellow card they'll be handing out with information on why helmets are important, where to get them and how to use them," says Dr. Kim Thorburn of the Spokane Regional Health District.

Officials say the helmet ordinance isn't about controlling the public or underestimating peoples' common sense. In Washington state, the cost of treating non-fatal bicycle injuries among children 14 years and younger is about $218,000 per child. Spokane area hospitals treated more than 4,500 people for bicycle injuries in the past five years -- 26 percent of which consisted of damage to head, face and neck. In the same time period, 259 people were hospitalized and six died from bicycle-related accidents. Wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head injury by 85 percent, and officials say that's enough to mandate it in the community.

"People are taking it seriously," Thorburn says. "Since the ordinance was [signed], we have given away over 2,000 helmets."

Keeping the Base -- SPOKANE -- After the Bush administration's announcement that its goal was to close up to 20 percent of the nation's military installments in the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, cities all over the United States have been scrambling to save those military bases that provide economic stability to their regions. Spokane is no exception; the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce has formed Forward Fairchild, a group made up of local leaders to keep Fairchild Air Force Base alive and running -- even growing -- during a time when other bases around the country will get the axe.

"Retaining and expanding Fairchild AFB is the most important economic development objective for this region," Rich Hadley, president and CEO of the Spokane Chamber, told The Inlander earlier this year.

The Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development is on board, too; on Monday, it awarded the Chamber about $60,000 for educational and informational activities regarding the protection of Fairchild. This money adds to the $10,000 grant the Department gave to the Chamber last May.

Preliminary lists and theories about which bases will get the axe during the 2005 round of BRAC, which will begin next March, don't include Fairchild. Hadley says that's probably because Fairchild serves a number of important functions.

Publication date: 08/12/04

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