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

Department of Energy. File photo of Yucca Mountain

Washington’s state Attorney General is praising an appeals court decision on a nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The ruling requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to get the licensing process back on track for Yucca Mountain.

The state of Washington wants Yucca Mountain to be the permanent waste repository for radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. But President Obama buried the project because of opposition from Nevada’s political leaders.

InciWeb. Lightning at the Mile Post 10 Fire

Torrents of mud and debris have closed three roads near Wenatchee in central Washington. The landslides were caused by thunderstorms on Sunday, along with wildfire damage. The mudflows have hampered firefighting efforts on the Mile Post 10 fire, which has grown to 6,000 acres since Friday.

Some residents and fire trucks were stranded. Rick Isaacson is an information officer for Chelan Fire District 1. He says it’s been a pretty tough couple of weeks. “If I lived up there I’d be on vacation in Hawaii for about three weeks. And just leave it at that. If I could.”

The Blue Mountain Eagle. The view from the Grant County Regional Airport of the Grouse Mountain Fire burning near John Day, Oregon.

Nearly a dozen wildfires continue to send up plumes of smoke across the Northwest.

Some of the large fires are under control including the Colockum Tarps fire at about 81,000 acres near Wenatchee, Washington.

But in southern Idaho, fires are ripping through timber and brush near Challis and near Mountain Home. That 30,000 acres complex of blazes closed U.S. Highway 20 and prompted evacuations for the small town of Prairie. People in Pine and Featherville, Idaho, are also being encouraged to leave.

Hanford.gov. File photo from 1938 of the main entrance of Hanford High School.

Senator Patty Murray is pressing legislation in the U.S. Senate that would make some historic sites at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington part of the national parks system.

The Democrat toured the historic site of Hanford High School Thursday. The building was part of the town that was forcibly vacated to make way for the secretive Manhattan Project during World War II. Now, the remains of the building sit amid the brush near the Columbia River.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The blueberries on your morning cereal are less expensive this year. That’s because farmers are harvesting a bumper crop this summer.

It’s good news for berry lovers, but the bounty might wreck some blueberry growers.

In Richland, Washington, Genoa Blankenship pops open the lid on a box of blueberries. She loves the idea of healthy snacks that are easy to take along to soccer practice.

InciWeb. Mile Marker 28 Fire near Goldendale, Wash.

Over the weekend the wildfire burning near Goldendale, in southeast Washington, grew to more than 20,000 acres.

Firefighters are battling flames in grass, brush and timber. So far, no homes have burned, but the fire has closed a highway that runs between the towns of Toppenish and Goldendale.

The blaze called the Mile Marker 28 fire is moving toward the town of Bickelton, Washington and is about 25 percent contained. More than 1,200 firefighters are working about 78 miles of fire line.

Steve Derry is a fire crew chief. He was just getting ready to head back out.

Hanford.gov

Federal officials are trying to figure out what to do about radioactive materials that remain at a place near the Columbia River known as the 300 Area. It’s the subject of a series of public meetings that kick off this week.

The 300 Area was where workers milled uranium rods and tested ways to process plutonium during WWII and the Cold War. They poured about 2 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste a day into sandy ponds and trenches right next to the Columbia River. Cleaning up buildings and material there has kept crews busy for 20 years.

Washington Incident Management Team #2/ InciWeb. A column of smoke rises from the Mile Marker 28 Fire near Goldendale, Wash.

A wildfire near Goldendale, Washington is blackening grasslands, shrubs and forests along Highway 97. It’s called the Mile Marker 28 Fire.

About 30 homes have been evacuated so far.

“As of the last information we have, no structures have been lost. So it’s still in a precautionary mode, says Randy Shepard, an information officer on the fire. "But given the nature of the fire, we didn’t want to get anyone too close to the fire.”

The fire started on Wednesday, but the cause is still unknown. Much of the active blaze is on Yakama Nation land.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

A group of farmers in southeast Washington is trying to stop the federal government from giving endangered species protection to a rare plant. It’s called the White Bluffs bladderpod. And it grows on a narrow ribbon of federal land and farms.

A farmer group is using genetic tests to claim that the plant is not as rare as it seems.

Energy Northwest

The federal agency that watches over the nuclear power industry is taking a close look at the Columbia Generating Station in southeast Washington this week. That’s because the plant had a problem with the cooling system for a room of important electrical equipment. It wasn’t properly maintained.

Energy Northwest self-reported the issue to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NRC spokesman Victor Dricks says the public was never in any danger, because there were backup systems in place.

NASA

The head of the U.S. Department of Energy has decided to reshuffle the management of the agency. Those changes at the top may shift how cleanup gets done at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington.

U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, has added another top manager position to his ranks. The new hire will watch over Energy’s environmental cleanup work.

This means that work at Hanford will be separated out from a much larger nuclear security program. That might give more attention to cleanup at Hanford.

Anna King/Northwest News Network. Leonard Flores, 27, a forklift operator checks out the just picked fruit at Middleton Farms near Eltopia, Wash.

North America’s blueberry crop is so substantial this year that farmers say prices are dropping. That’s after about a decade of rapid expansion of new plantings.

The Northwest is one of the top producers of blueberries in the nation. July is the peak of harvest.

Dozens of workers at the Middleton Farm outside of Eltopia, Washington stoop over chest high rows of bushes. It’s hot, but they’re they’re bundled in hoodies, scarves, hats – anything to shield against the blazing sun.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

  The first bushels of Northwest wheat are coming off honey-colored fields in southeast Washington.

The harvest comes just as Japan and South Korea say they’ll resume buying Northwest wheat. The Asian countries banned the U.S. grain after some genetically modified plants were found in Oregon this spring. The bounce-back is a huge relief for Northwest farmers, but market confidence remains shaken.

At Blain Ranch, there’s an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood and the sound of ripe wheat shifting in the breeze.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Managers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation say crews have cleaned up 15 million tons of radioactive soil and debris from near the Columbia River. It’s gone to a massive dump at the center of the site.

In central Hanford, a ceremonial load of soil marked 15 million tons of waste disposed of at the 52-football-field-sized dump called ERDF. Dozens of truck horns blared in response.

Sandy White Shield / Inter Tribal Buffalo Council

Northwest Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation stretches across 1.5 million acres. But it turns out that isn’t enough room for the free-roaming bison herd that tribes are attempting to establish. Northwest Native Americans are hoping restored buffalo herds may reopen ancient trade and cultural traditions.

Most American bison were exterminated more than 100 years ago. Now, tribes across the country are trying to coordinate with Canada, the federal government, states and even private ranchers to once again bring herds back to the Western landscape.

The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to pay $136,000 in fines for allegedly mishandling waste left over from plutonium production at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The penalty comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Energy doesn’t agree with EPA's findings.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The Northwest is well positioned to make wine into the future despite global climate change. So says a scientist who presented his findings on climate change and wine at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. Monday.

Wine grape vines can be productive for decades. But how will climate change affect that? That’s the question Antonio Busalacchi, with the University of Maryland, sought to answer.

US Department of Energy

Ernest Moniz, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy visits Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington on Wednesday. Among the issues he will have to deal with are the leaking underground tanks of radioactive waste and the troubled waste treatment plant.

From his resume, it appears Moniz isn’t short on brainpower. He’s been on the faculty of MIT since 1973. Secretary Moniz received a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in physics from Boston College and a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University.

US Department of Energy

The federal government says in a new report that it may take six years to start emptying a leaking double-hulled tank of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Washington state law says any leaks must be dealt with as soon as possible – but the federal government’s soon as possible is maybe years away. That’s because it could take 18 months just to get and set up equipment to pump sludge from the leaking double-hulled tank called AY-102. In addition it will take about six years to secure appropriate tank space to put all that sludge.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

City of Richland workers recently rediscovered many documents from the Manhattan Project era. They are finding old records from when the southeastern Washington city was a high-security government town that sprung up to build the Atomic Bomb.

The City of Richland recently hired a public records consultant. It needed help sorting out just what to keep, what to throw out and how to organize it all.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The US Department of Agriculture says stalks of genetically modified wheat found in a field in Oregon look to be an isolated incident. In an announcement Friday the agency says its own tests confirm the suspect wheat carries modified genes designed by agribusiness giant Monsanto.

Northwest farmers appear relieved that the government is calling the discovery of genetically modified wheat “a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm.”

Washington State University

Washington State University has scrapped plans to expand its academic offerings at a satellite college center in Everett. It blames budget uncertainty in the Washington State legislature.

Colleen Kerr is the lead spokeswoman on the project for WSU. She says the university made the announcement Thursday because it can’t pull together the additional degree offerings planned to begin in August if funding isn’t secure.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

For thousands of years, Northwest tribes have used the Columbia River as a regional center of commerce. For the first time this summer, they’re building a new venue for their ancient tradition – a native-owned seafood shop.

Fresh catch

A silvery shad slips into an icy bath. Its tail flashes twice as it descends deeper into the chilly water. The fish was netted from the Columbia just moments ago. It’s so fresh it’s still kicking.

Tobin Fricke / Wikimedia - tinyurl.com/h99dl7h

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state attorney general say they’re quote ‘extremely disappointed’ that the U.S. Department of Energy may miss several key deadlines for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The two milestones that may be missed are: completing waste retrieval from two of Hanford’s aging single-shell tanks and finishing up construction on the Low Activity Waste Facility, one of the key parts of Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant.

Scott Butner / Flickr

Washington State University scientists are developing a sperm bank to capture the biodiversity of honey bees. The hope is to breed stronger pollinators, since populations keep declining.

Researchers are preparing to use liquid nitrogen to create a frozen semen bank. They’re also trying to come up with a new super-bee subspecies that could thwart the phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.

To extract semen from a bee you need a powerful microscope and petit glass tubes.

/ Bechtel

Workers are back on the job at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste treatment plant. Work stopped this week when radioactive soil was found under the nests of some swallows.

Swallows used some radioactive mud to make nests on exposed beamwork in Hanford’s waste treatment plant. That’s the $12 billion factory designed to bind-up radioactive sludge in glass logs. The nests were found during routine tests, but this is the first radioactive contamination of the new plant.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

There’s been a lot of speculation but few answers so far about how genetically modified wheat ended up in an Oregon field. Northwest farmers and seed purveyors say they go to great lengths to keep each variety of grain distinct, tracked and pure. And yet they concede, mistakes can still happen.

"A random isolated occurrence"

We’re in downtown Connell – prime Columbia Basin wheat country. Dana Herron is a seed salesman and as we talk I notice he’s a really clean guy. He carefully folds his paper napkin, and later he dons gloves to pump gas.

Mim Tasters / Flickr

Agribusiness giant Monsanto says genetically modified wheat found in Oregon could be the result of an accident rather than a widespread planting of the controversial seed. In a call Wednesday morning with reporters, the St. Louis-based company says its provided its specific tests to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for use in the investigation.

Mim Tasters / Flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has increased the number of investigators and field staff looking into the genetically modified wheat found on an Oregon farm. There are now 15 people on the ground in the Northwest, up from nine last week.

In about a month, Northwest wheat farmers will rev up their tractors for harvest. That means USDA investigators have a limited time to figure out how the genetically modified wheat sprouted up.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

An ankle-high plant with a funny name is stirring up controversy in southeast Washington. The federal government is considering whether to list a yellow-flowering plant known as the White Bluffs Bladderpod as a threatened species. Landowners worry the listing could curtail farming.

I’m out on the edge of a ridiculously steep precipice on the Hanford Reach National Monument – it’s a swath of protected federal ground. This spot overlooks old nuclear reactors just across the brimming Columbia River.

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