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BMS students show off their science skills

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Can you use household items to extract DNA? That is the question behind Isabella Evans’ Science Fair experiment at Baker Middle School Tuesday. By combining rubbing alcohol, saltwater and Dawn dishwashing liquid, she says she would get DNA from strawberries and a banana. Evans methodically worked on the presentation for judges, who were to figure out the best projects done by all the students.

By Chris Collins

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Science experiments on topics ranging from how to make plastic out of milk to preserving potatoes were presented by the 255 students of Baker Middle School during a Science Fair Tuesday night.

BMS science teachers are Nicole Butler, Chelsea Hurliman and Alan McCauley.

Here are the top winners at this year’s event:

La Grande woman thinks she found missing Malaysian airliner

Internet sleuths seek clues in ongoing mystery, share information through Facebook

By Pat Caldwell

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Sharon Cantrell thinks she knows where the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is.

And it isn’t off the coast of Australia.

Instead, the La Grande woman said she believes the missing Boeing 777-200 crashed into the Andaman Sea off the northern coast of Sumatra. She said she reached her conclusion after spending days poring over satellite imagery on the NASA web site and while working with an online group of amateur sleuths via Facebook.

Getting in Deep

Snowpack Gains Ground

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald This March photograph reveals the high peaks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness laden with snow that could help ease concerns about severe summertime drought.

By Jayson Jacoby

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Northeastern Oregon’s mountain snowpack hasn’t made up for its sluggish start.

But it has turned a major deficit into a minor one.

After the fifth-driest autumn on record, and a similarly arid January, the region’s snowpack was about 32 percent below average.

The dramatic shift in the weather pattern that started around the first of February, though, has nearly made good those early shortfalls.

A series of storms has boosted the water content in the snowpack, as measured at 16 sites, most in the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains, to just 8 percent below average.

Pickup truck rolls onto side in Albertsons parking lot

A Boise woman drove a pickup truck into a landscaping rock causing the vehicle to flip on its side in the Albertsons parking lot just after noon Tuesday.

Teresa Coombs, 46, was taken by ambulance to St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City. 

“There seems to be a high likelihood that there could have been some type of medical event that led to the crash,” said Chief Wyn Lohner said. 

Coombs had driven into the west end of the parking lot from Oak Street and ran into the rock at 12:06 p.m., Lohner said. 

Hot food, friendly faces


S. John Collins / Baker City Herald A recent Open Door breakfast program at the Presbyterian Church finds eighth-grade student Derritt Gwyn receiving a plate of hot food from two of the volunteer servers, Kate Averett and Dave Davis. Bob Moon is in the background. (S. John Collins)

By Chris Collins

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Nestled on a couch in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church on the Thursday morning before spring break, Chandler Blatz, Jason Buchanan and Destin Lahey were plowing through a breakfast of sausage and eggs before class.

It’s the food, the friends and the fun that keeps them coming back each school day to the Presbyterian Church’s Open Door program, they said.

“You get a nice warm meal and a fun place to be,” says Chandler.

His pal, Jason, says the church basement filled with friendly adults is a good place for the middle schoolers to wait for the building just across the street to open its doors before class starts in the mornings.

“It’s cool for people whose parents have to go to work really early,” he says.

And when they are finished eating, Chandler and Jason and Destin Lahey, along with the 30 to 40 other students who come for a meal, find other ways to occupy their time before the school day begins.

City Council to consider water fee hikes during Tuesday night work session

By Pat Caldwell

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A proposal to boost city water fees will be a key item of discussion Tuesday night during the Baker City Council’s work session at City Hall.

The meeting, which is open to the public, is slated to kick off at 6 p.m.

Along with the water fee hike proposal, elected leaders will discuss Baker City Public Works capital plans and the 2014 pavement management blueprint.

New conservation law in place

By Pat Caldwell

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It is called a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, or CCAA, and it may just be one of the most significant preservation tools for landowners and cattlemen that you’ve never heard of.

The agreements are the focal point of a bill passed by Oregon lawmakers — and subsequently signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber — during the Legislature’s short session that ended March 7. The legislation, spearheaded by Oregon State Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) produces exemptions to the public records law regarding written pacts — CCAAs — connected to conservation of sage grouse. Bentz represents Baker, Grant, Harney and Malheur counties along with a portion of Lake County

In a CCAA, a private property owner agrees to conduct certain conservation efforts under a special permit. Under the provisions of the agreement, a property owner is guaranteed that if he or she participates in specific conservation activities — also known as a site specific plan — for a species they will not be forced to implement extra measures beyond what is outlined in the CCAA. And, if a specific species included in the CCAA is listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the landowner will not be forced to make more land, water or resource modifications unless they agree to.

Some business leaders frustrated by Council's decision on Resort Street LID

By Pat Caldwell

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The action Tuesday night by the Baker City Council to approve the first reading of an ordinance that levies assessment charges on a group of local business owners might signal the beginning of the end of a long local political ordeal but the decision did not sit well with at least one merchant.

The Council voted 4-3 to accept the first reading of Ordinance No. 3329, the legal mechanism the city will use to extract assessment payments from property owners involved in the Resort Street Local Improvement District (LID). Businessman Randy Daugherty said Thursday the Council’s decision Tuesday night sent the wrong message.

Police seize more than 3 pounds of marijuana valued at $7,500

An Oregon State Police trooper found more than 3 pounds of marijuana when he stopped a Portland driver speeding east on the freeway near North Powder Wednesday.

Jesus Macias, 35, is being held at the Union County Jail in La Grande on charges of possessing, distributing and manufacturing marijuana.

Macias was driving a rented 2013 Ford Fusion displaying Arizona license plates when he was pulled over for an alleged speeding violation at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, an OSP press release stated. 

The marijuana, with an estimated value of $7,500, was found in a suitcase in the back seat of the rental car, police said. The OSP Drug Enforcement Section is continuing the investigation.

Sam-O Swim Center reopens in time for spring break


Sam-O Swim Center re-opened Monday just in time for spring break from school. Devyn Efird, left, and Tanner Downing share a float tube during the open swim from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. (S. John Collins)

By Pat Caldwell

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An issue that grabbed the local city political stage in January is on its way to a solution after the new domestic hot water heaters were recently installed at the Sam-O Swim Center.

Along with the installation of the new domestic hot water heaters, a damaged gasket for the boiler was also replaced during the upgrade project.

The Sam-O Swim renovation issue flared in January after questions were raised by Baker City Councilor Rogers Coles and Baker County YMCA director Heidi Dalton regarding whether the city was committed to infrastructure repairs. One of the central issues revolved around uncertainty regarding which entity — the city or the Baker County YMCA — was responsible for a grant-writing process to generate funds for the Sam-O Swim Center renovation project.

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