Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Economic Development’ Category

Coal train EIS scoping hearing in Seattle Thurs. – speak out!

by Matt Rosenberg December 13th, 2012

A public hearing will be held Thursday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle to seek comment on how best to assess environmental impacts of a proposed freight train route to a terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham that would facilitate a range of international exports including coal to China. The Dec. 13 Seattle hearing will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 800 Convention Place, Ballroom 6F, with doors opening at 3 p.m. There will be 150 two-minute slots for comment at the hearing, and other opportunities online.

Irrigation lubricates the farm economy, but challenges ahead

by Matt Rosenberg October 29th, 2012

Irrigation in agriculture packs a big economic punch. Although the almost 57 million acres of irrigated farmlands in the U.S. represent just 7.5 percent of all crop- and pasturelands in the nation, that good wet earth nonetheless accounts for a full 40 percent of the value of U.S. agricultural production and is on average more than three times more productive in dollar terms than dry croplands, according to a report issued last month by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report, “Water Conservation in Irrigrated Agriculture: Trends and Challenges in the Face of Emerging Demands,” also notes that almost three-quarters of U.S. irrigated agriculture in is 17 Western states. The report warns that competing demands for water will mount from requirements for in-stream flows to protect water-borne species; from Native American water rights; and from an expanding energy sector. One response will need to be increased water conservation in irrigated agriculture through improvements to equipment and management practices, the report says.

Washington State ranks 10th nationally in irrigated acres of farmland. Twelve states together account for more than three-quarters of U.S. irrigated acres of harvested cropland, pasture and other lands. Among those 12 are Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, which together account for 15.8 percent of U.S. irrigated acres. Three data visualizations from the USDA report follow.



U.S. irrigated acres grew from 48.8 million in 1982 to 56.5 million by 2007. Total irrigated acres grew most sharply in that time in the Northern Plains, and Delta regions, and have declined in the Pacific region.



Western U.S. crops most requiring irrigation are rice, vegetables, orchard fruits, peanuts, and sugar beets. A very small percentage of wheat croplands in Western states are irrigated.



Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Mapping Washington state unemployment by county

by Matt Rosenberg October 29th, 2012

The Washington State Employment Security Department provides an online map of unemployment rates by county that’s updated monthly. September unemployment in Washington was highest in Lewis, Grays Harbor and Ferry Counties and lowest in Douglas, Whitman, Chelan and Walla Walla counties. The lowest rates for September ranged from 6.2 percent to 6.6, and the highest at or near 12 percent. Eight counties in southwest and northeast Washington had double-digit unemployment last month. Here’s the department’s map of the September 2012 unemployment data, by county.

September, 2012 unemployment data by county/Washington Employment Security Department

Check the department’s latest monthly map of unemployment by counties, and access additional reports including county economic profiles, here.

The profiles show that the four counties with lowest September unemployment had economies most reliant, variously, on agriculture, tourism and leisure (Douglas and Chelan); retail, manufacturing, healthcare, tourism and agriculture (Walla Walla); and export-related manufacturing, technical educational services, and agriculture (Whitman).

The three with the highest September unemployment tended to have been reliant on resource extraction in past decades, and to have populations with markedly lower rates compared to the state average, for high school graduation and higher education degrees.

Public Data Ferret’s Washington State+Data Visualization archive


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Global vehicle penetration, sliced three different ways

by Matt Rosenberg October 28th, 2012

Data visualizations derived from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators show that while North America far outpaces other major global regions in vehicles per 1,000 people, that gap compared to the developing world is declining. And perhaps more revealing: several developing global regions have more vehicles per kilometers of roadway than North America. Surface transportation of course is just one sector of the energy economy. Growing global energy demands in coming decades for surface transportation, plus other consumer, commercial and institutional uses, and manufacturing, accent the bracing challenge of developing competitively-priced green energy on a vast scale in order to limit climate change.

The World Bank has posted a wide array of World Development Indicators to Google Public Data Explorer, so that users can easily build their own charts, graphs and visualizations. Picking just three among dozens of data depictions across different World Development Indicators, let’s look at global vehicle penetration, by global region, and measured three different ways. The first is passenger vehicles per 1,000 people (not including two-wheelers). North America has almost 2.5 times more than the next closest competitor, but has been declining in recent years; while on the rise are the Europe/Central Asia region, Latin America/Caribbean, and East Asia/Pacific. This chart will likely look quite different in 2020, and even more so in 2030, as the gap between North America and the rest of the world continues to narrow.

Adding in buses and freight vehicles, this next graph looks at motor vehicles per 1,000 people. The gap between North America and other continents is even wider.

However, the measurement of motor vehicles (no two-wheelers) per kilometer of built roads is quite different. Though the data set has a few gaps, it is fairly striking that in the one year so far in which data exists for the Middle East and North Africa (2008), it leads the pack. By this metric, North America ranks third among the major global regions used in the World Development Indicators, behind Middle East/North Africa, and Europe/Central Asia. Data for Latin America/Caribbean is limited to only 2004, so can’t really be factored in. East Asia and Pacific is sharply rising. Europe/Central Asia and South Asia are also rising, North America is declining.

As more road infrastructure is built in developing nations, motor vehicles per kilometer of roadway will likely continue to grow in the developing world. This in turn has a strong probability of increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the surface transportation sector, unless net-green alternative fuels can be produced and sold on a wide scale. North America of course, with its huge number of vehicles overall, faces a related environmental challenge.

Against a backdrop of strong global concern about climate change, the data suggest we can expect even more effort will be focused on developing affordable green vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels; and that scrutiny will intensify of how electricity is produced for transportation and other purposes. In the developing world especially, will coal continue to dominate, or will cleaner, greener alternative energy sources actually gain a substantial foothold?

RELATED: “Global Energy Use and Carbon Emissions, 2005-2035,” Public Data Ferret.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Washington voters to decide on lowering state debt limit

by Matt Rosenberg October 21st, 2012

One more decision facing Washington voters as they mull their mail-in ballots and state Voters’ Guides at their kitchen counters and dining tables in the days prior to the Nov. 6 Election Day deadline, is whether to tighten the state’s borrowing limit and change the way the state’s debt is calculated. Like most other states, Washington borrows billions of dollars each year, not for regular staffing and operations, but mainly to help pay for building or repairing physical structures such as schools, university and college buildings, water and wastewater treatment facilities, and state roads and highways.

In this case the ballot measure comes not from an outside advocacy group but from the legislature, in the form of a proposed amendment to the state constitution, Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8221. Starting July 1, 2014 it would it would in stages ratchet down the state’s debt limit from nine percent of general state revenues to eight. It would also redefine how to calculate general state revenues, shifting to a six-year average from the current three years. Finally, ESJR 8221 would add property tax revenues collected by the state – and directed to education – to be counted as part of the state’s general revenues. The proposed constitutional amendment stems from the recommendations of a special commission which last December issued a report on managing Washington state public debt in the future.

Bill to open Hanford’s Rattlesnake Ridge stalled in Senate

by John Stang October 15th, 2012

A bill has stalled in Congress that would open up Eastern Washington’s Rattlesnake Ridge to the public. The 3,600-foot-high ridge is the dominating feature of the Hanford nuclear reservation and the Tri-Cities area. The ridge marks Hanford’s southwestern border and had been part of the site’s security buffer since 1943 when the Manhattan Project took over the area to build a nuclear plant to create plutonium for the first atomic bombs. For centuries,the ridge has also been a spiritual site for area Indian tribes, as well as being almost pristine shrub-steppe habitat. It used to have an astronomy observatory on top as well as part of a Cold War Nike Ajax missile site. A handful of radio antennas are also on top of the ridge. It is part of the 120-square-mile Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, which along with the neighboring 134-square-mile Wahluke Slope, are the non-contaminated parts of the 586-square-mile Hanford reservation. The Fitzner-Eberhardt land is under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Control. The Wahluke Slope north and northeast of the highly contaminated central Hanford is mostly accessible to the public.

Washington state companies land more military contracts

by Matt Rosenberg October 2nd, 2012

Washington companies other than Boeing in the last week won four more contracts from the U.S. military, together worth $45.3 million. The work is for pipeline dredging, building renovation, barge moorage construction, and water and wastewater system repair. The companies are located in Seattle, Renton, Lakewood and Richland.

Manson Construction of Seattle secured a $8.7 millon contract to do pipeline dredging in Port Arthur, Texas for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Galveston. Headquartered on South Marginal Way E., the marine construction and dredging firm is more than 100 years old. The award is only the latest in a long string of military jobs for the company.

WA adjusts ethics rules for horse racing commission workers

by Matt Rosenberg September 20th, 2012

The Washington State Horse Racing Commission will take a more direct role in regulating potential conflicts of interest for its employees working in the off-season for the horse racing industry they help regulate – at the Emerald Downs track in Auburn – with rules changes that were approved last week by the state’s Executive Ethics Board. One key change replaces a relatively complicated process for getting ethical clearance of off-season work with a more streamlined approach. Another major tweak was removing loopholes for accepting from industry representatives any gratuities or gifts such as meals, beverages, merchandise, special discounts, loans, or special free admission offers to events. Additionally, the new rules remove a loophole permitting commission employees the possibility of conducting outside business while on duty.