by Pia K. hansen

Still hung out to dry -- SPOKANE -- The state of Washington continues to be plagued by a drought, which was officially declared by the Department of Ecology in March and is expected to continue through the end of the year. Water levels this year have been some of the lowest on record for the last century, with stream flow for June at about 25-45 percent of normal levels.

Northwest residents have been encouraged to save water since spring, and now, at the beginning of fall, people are still being asked to turn off the faucets.

"We are still close to 1977, the worst year [for drought in the Northwest] and we are asking people to continue to conserve," says Jani Gilbert, a spokeswoman for Ecology.

So far, there has been no indication of unusual winter weather for this coming season, but it is difficult to predict the amount of precipitation. Therefore, the best plan is to practice conservation efforts until we see normal snowpack, says Gilbert.

There are many simple steps the average family can take to do its part for the conservation of water and energy. "Don't water where unnecessary, or choose low-water plants for landscaping," says Gilbert. "Only run the dishwasher or washer when they are full, and make sure your toilet tank has a device for low flow of water."

With the dry weather persisting over the last several months, Gilbert warns that dust storms can still to be expected, similar to the one that blew through Washington on Sept. 25. When that happens, residents should take precautions against breathing in the particulates.

Still, the most important issue to keep in mind is to continue to conserve water. "The more we can conserve now," says Gilbert, "the more we have conserved for a possible second year of drought conditions."

-- Jessica Milstead

Full steam ahead -- SPOKANE -- Steam Plant Square, located on south Lincoln, has won yet another historic preservation award. The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) has just announced that the plant-turned-restaurant has won a 2001 National Preservation Honor Award, to be celebrated at the National Preservation Conference held in Providence, R.I., later this month.

"Any city that has a white elephant can learn something from Steam Plant Square," said Richard Moe, president of NTHP in a written statement. "Once, these buildings were a deserted brown field; now they're the heart of a vibrant new district, bringing money downtown and proving that preservation is great for business."

The plant was built in 1916 as the central steam plant for downtown Spokane. It had been sitting vacant for 10 years when its owner, Avista, teamed up with local restorers and developers, Wells and Company, with the goal of turning the plant into a retail, office and restaurant space.

"We are thrilled to win this distinction from the National Trust," says Ron Wells, owner of Wells and Company and manager of the plant. "While the Steam Plant is clearly an important local historic landmark, having it recognized by the National Trust for such a high honor is incredibly gratifying."

Northwest Winterfest @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Fridays, 5-8 p.m., Saturdays, 4-8 p.m. and Sundays, 3-6 p.m. Continues through Jan. 1
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