Anna King

Richland Correspondent

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.

The South Sound was her girlhood backyard and she knows its rocky beaches, mountain trails and cities well. She left the west side to attend Washington State University and went abroad to study language and culture in Italy.

While not on the job, Anna enjoys trail running, clam digging, hiking and wine tasting with friends. She's most at peace on top a Northwest mountain with her husband Andy Plymale and their muddy Aussie-dog Poa.

In 2016 Washington State University named Anna Woman of the Year, and the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Pro Chapter named her Journalist of the Year. Her many journalism awards include two Gracies, a Sigma Delta Chi medal and the David Douglas Award from the Washington State Historical Society.

Ways to Connect

Courtesy of Marcus Luke (father)

When Marcus Aaron Luke runs fast, everything feels slow. 

“You feel every small step,” he says. “You feel every small detail.”

But in the pandemic year of 2020, he’s missed a lot of important details of his last year of high school.

Luke was a leader on his varsity track team, and also as a senior at Pendleton High School in northeastern Oregon. He missed his much-anticipated senior track season. Now bigger and stronger, he was ready to push his times down even more. 

He’s missed more than two months of classes.  

Courtesy of Washington State University Extension

Just as a farmer’s fruit should be turning juicy and sweet, an old foe called “little cherry disease” robs the harvest. 

From The Dalles, Oregon to Brewster, Washington, Northwest cherry growers are checking their orchards now, just before harvest. Infected trees have to be cut down. And the disease can spread like wildfire from tree to tree until an entire orchard is just stumps. 

Small, pale, bland and bitter

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Mother’s Day at Palouse Falls State Park in southeastern Washington looked like a scene out of the movie Mad Max

Massive RVs sped down the gravel washboard of Palouse Falls Road. They kicked up drifts of dust. In all, Palouse Falls, with its modest parking lot and viewing area saw hundreds and hundreds of visitors last Saturday and Sunday. 

Courtesy Liesl Zappler

With spring warming up, Northwest asparagus spears have started to breach the sandy earth at a swift clip.

For the last decade, the Northwest asparagus industry has been challenged by lower-cost imports, labor shortages and increased farming costs. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the foreign asparagus supply,  increasing sales for the Northwest’s crop. 

Air travel is down, meaning there aren’t as many plane bellies to fill with Peruvian asparagus. Mexican imports are down, too. And cold weather is hurting the crop in Michigan and eastern Canada. 

Anna King / NW News Network

It really frustrates Mark Anderson when he sends a truck to a Northwest port hauling a container of alfalfa or timothy hay and the truck rolls back without an empty shipping container to refill.

Anderson’s hay feeds everything from bunnies to camels to top race horses in 30 different countries.

He puts his compressed hay in containers to protect it. Once at port, the containers are loaded on and off container ships like large blocks of colorful legos. 

Courtesy of Tyson Foods

Updated April 30, 2020, 10:40 p.m. PT:

County health officials are updating their numbers on the Tyson Fresh Meats plant near Pasco, Washington. They now say there are 56 new positive cases of coronavirus instead of 75, as they first said Thursday afternoon, April 30. That’s on top of more than 100 workers who were already confirmed positive.

Inciweb/National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Blaine Vandehey spends his summers rappelling from helicopters into active wildfires. 

This is his 12th year in the U.S. Forest Service. And he’s worried about going to fire camp this summer with the menace of COVID-19.

Courtesy of Gary King

Cattle brandings in the Northwest are usually dusty group affairs. 

Cowboys yell and call to each other. Horses work into a hot lather, helping their riders chase and rope the calves. Nervous mother cows bawl to try and find their babes. A smoky fire heats the irons. Children clad in Carhartt coats and cowboy hats watch from nearby pickups. You have to stay alert to not be trampled by horses or cloven hooves.

Anna King / NW News Network

In recent weeks, Armand Minthorn led two traditional Washut religious services for elders at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation longhouse. Washut is the traditional religion of many Northwest Native Americans.

But now, everything is different.

“We’re all in a sense warriors,” Minthorn says. “We’re at war. There’s people — sad to say — there’s people dying all around us.”

Ann King / NW News Network

The coronavirus pandemic continues to make its presence known in all facets of daily life, including agriculture. That extends to some supply and demand economics lessons for Northwest apple and potato growers.

Potato Cuts  

Some of the largest potato processors in the world are dramatically cutting back their contracted acres with farmers this spring. 

That’s largely because the global pandemic has closed restaurants, and therefore demand for frozen french fries. 

Anna King / NW News Network

It’s springtime in the Northwest: birds sing, emerald shoots are pushing up from the earth and the irrigation sprinklers tick, tick like clocks — same as always. 

But so much else has changed. 

Still, spring work starts up, ready or not. And Northwest growers are scrambling to figure out how to work around the global coronavirus pandemic and still bring in the coming harvest. 

Farmers wonder: Can they get it done safely?

First Up: Asparagus

Anna King / NW News Network

Kenichi Wiegardt can really shuck oysters. His hands work at a dizzying pace opening the shells, a rhythmic thump, thump, crack, slice. Then oyster meat blurps into a colander over and over.

Wiegardt, a fifth-generation oysterman, makes his living in the mud of Willapa Bay on Washington’s coast. 

“This time of year we should be shucking 40 to 45 hours a week, and we’re down to 15 to 18 hours,” Wiegardt says. 

Anna King / NW News Network

Flood waters in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon are starting to recede. But this relatively good news follows days of bad news and inundated towns – along with collapsed bridges, dozens of helicopter rescues and washed-out roads.

It’s all caused by recent heavy rainfall and fast-melting snow.

Thomas Reese

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued an emergency proclamation for 20 counties as major flooding inundated Washington and Oregon.

The original proclamation of 19 counties in western Washington was updated Wednesday to include Walla Walla County in southeastern Washington.

CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company

The large plant that produced two-thirds of the United States’ Cold War-era plutonium no longer exists. 

Crews at the Hanford site recently finished demolishing the tricky Plutonium Finishing Plant’s main processing facility in southeastern Washington. 

But the demolition gave contractors some real trouble.

Courtesy of Kaden Wiberg

NOTE: This story includes images and descriptions of dead cows and their mutilation that readers may find disturbing.

Rancher Stephen Roth is rattled by the recent slaying of one of his cows near Hampton, Oregon.

ANNA KING / NW News Network

There’s probably more written on how to kill a bigleaf maple tree than how to grow one.

So says Neil McLeod of Neil’s Bigleaf Maple Syrup, out of the tiny northwestern Washington burg of Acme.

“It’s hard to kill,” McLeod says with a wry smile. “A great tree. Perfect weed.”

And then he adds, “It makes good syrup.”

CREDIT: Mike Denny

Fujis and Pink Ladies are some of the most valuable and last to ripen apple varieties in the Northwest. 

And this winter there are huge swaths of them left unpicked in orchards east of the Cascades. 

The trees’ leaves have dropped, and now with a blanket of snow the tracts of unpicked acres glow red even from miles away. The left-behind fruit has many speculating: Trump’s tariffs? Unripe? Bugs? Foul weather? 

ANNA KING/NW NEWS NETWORK

The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a more than $1 million penalty to the U.S. Department of Energy for withholding important information at the Hanford cleanup site.

Ecology leaders say without access to this data, they can’t effectively protect the land, air and water for residents in eastern Washington and surrounding communities. They say they’ve attempted to negotiate this issue with federal Energy managers for years.

Courtesy of Grant County Fire District 13

A blazing haystack puts out a ton of heat and light, and smells like a big cigar. 

Early Saturday morning, Nov. 30, in Washington's Tri-Cities region, a haystack was set alight north of Pasco in Franklin County. The fire was called in by an air traffic controller at the Tri-Cities airport in Pasco who could see it from miles away.

ANNA KING / NW News Network

Outside Palouse, Washington, it’s mid-autumn and Chad Redman’s combine tractor keeps jamming with rocks it picks up in the field. 

Chad and his father, Jim, tug and ratchet at the combine. But nothing dislodges these rocks from the cutting header. 

“So we’ll have to go back to the pickup,” Jim Redman grumbles.

Racing The Rain

They’re racing the rain, and Chad says they just don’t need an extra challenge.

CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company

At Hanford, in southeastern Washington, contractors have just completed much of the demolition work at the site’s Plutonium Finishing Plant. But now crews have to finish the job. 

And that’s the tough part. 

Demo Timeline

ANNA KING / NW News Network

 

In the City of Palouse council chambers, Sharon White and Brenda Brown are trying to get their hair just right. 

They rattle a can of super-hold hairspray before spraying liberally. 

“Here let me spray and then you pick [your hair],” said Sharon White, a director of events at nearby Washington State University and Palouse resident. 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Twitter via AP

A critical navigation lock on the lower Columbia River reopened Friday night, Sept. 27,  according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps previously said the river would reopen Sept. 30, but crews were able to finish work a few days early.

That means barges full of grain and other materials waiting to get from Inland Northwest ports to Vancouver and Portland and out to export markets can resume. 

ANNA KING / NW News Network

You’ve heard the grim numbers about the Hanford nuclear site — the millions of gallons of radioactive waste and the growing price tag for cleanup.  

But now, the creators of a new musical work called “Nuclear Dreams” highlight the dreams and nightmares of people who work and live near Hanford in Washington’s Tri-Cities. 

ANNA KING / NW News Network

Outside of Pendleton, Oregon, Terry Anderson’s cattle have messed up his irrigation spigots. Again.

The cows knock them down pretty much daily, and he has to fix ‘em. He jumps out of his side-by-side vehicle and deftly rights them again or screws on a new spigot if they’re really bad.

“Cows just rub on stuff for the heck of it,” Terry Anderson says with a smile. “They love to scratch.”

Not One Drop Of Blood

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Twitter via AP

The Northwest’s soft white wheat harvest is in full swing, but that grain is going nowhere fast. That’s because of an emergency repair to a lock at Bonneville Dam on the Lower Columbia River.

So far, there’s no word on when the lock will reopen to barge traffic.

The bulk of the Northwest’s wheat is shipped down the Snake and Columbia rivers to Portland and Vancouver, Wash., which means all that traffic is on hold for the time being. The grain is largely exported to Pacific Rim countries.

Nicole Berg

There’s a lot of time to think while sitting behind the wheel of a combine. 

Right now, Northwest wheat farmers are wrapping up their harvest in many areas. But across the country, farmers are losing money on every load of that golden grain. 

“You have to be wired differently to do this work,” says farmer and grain consultant Kevin Duling, of Maupin, Ore. “It’s very frustrating. It’s very stressful.” 

Inciweb

You might have noticed some smoky skies lately, particularly in the Inland Northwest from the Williams Flats Fire near Grand Coulee Dam

Still, the fire season so far has been relatively mild as far as large fires and region-wide smoke inundation go. But that could change in late summer and early fall, according to a recent federal report from the National Interagency Fire Center.

Sheri Whitfield / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The fire that engulfed Notre Dame cathedral shocked the world earlier this year. And a wildfire in July on Rattlesnake Mountain in southeast Washington similarly shocked Northwest tribes.

Treeless Rattlesnake Mountain is over 3,600 wind-swept feet above sea level. It’s part of the Hanford Reach National Monument designated by President Clinton, home to rare plants and fauna. 

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