Gig Harbor landowner fined for destroying wetlands

PUYALLUP, Wash. (AP) — A Pierce County landowner has been fined $90,000 after he destroyed forested wetlands that could take 50 years to restore.

The Washington state Department of Ecology says Richard Leone (Lee-O-nee) of Gig Harbor hired a contractor in 2016 to illegally drain, clear and fill two protected wetlands in order to expand a housing development.

Ecology manager Perry Lund said Wednesday that wetlands are critical to the overall health of Washington’s watersheds. He says Leone documented the wetlands in a report submitted to Pierce County, so he was fully aware of their locations and took specific steps to destroy them.

Leone didn’t return a message seeking comment. He has 30 days to pay the penalty or appeal the fine.

The Ecology order requires Leone to pay for the wetlands restoration.

Governors of two pot states push back on Trump administration

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Governors in at least two states that have legalized recreational marijuana are pushing back against the Trump administration and defending their efforts to regulate the industry.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week, asking the Department of Justice to maintain the Obama administration’s more hands-off enforcement approach to states that have legalized the drug. Marijuana still banned at the federal level.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee also sent a letter to Sessions this week, saying the attorney general made claims about the situation in Washington that are “outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information.”

Since taking office, Sessions has promised to reconsider pot policy, providing a level of uncertainty for states that have legalized the drug.

Four state employees fired over sexualized office culture

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Four Department of Fish and Wildlife employees have been fired after an investigation found a sexualized culture at one of the agency’s fish hatcheries led at least one woman to take a job at another location.

The employees at the Wells Hatchery complex near Pateros were fired last week following a June report in which investigators say that the hatchery’s manager did not stop “locker room talk,” by subordinates, according to Wednesday’s joint report by the News Tribune and Northwest News Network (http://bit.ly/2i6sFpD and http://bit.ly/2fLJ0iF ).

The consulting firm did not conclude that anyone had been sexually harassed, and Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Botka said that the agency is not pursuing criminal charges against the four.

The firings come after the news outlets reported last week on a 2015 workplace investigation that found a sexual office culture among some in the Fish and Wildlife department’s upper ranks.

Washington unemployment rate holds steady at 4.5 percent

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state’s unemployment rate of 4.5 percent held for a third consecutive month in July.

According to the latest numbers released Wednesday by the Employment Security Department, the state also added 1,600 jobs last month.

The biggest job growth was seen in government up 5,300, education and health services, up 2,000. The largest losses were seen in leisure and hospitality, which lost 2,600 jobs, and other services, which was down 1,600 jobs.

Job gains and losses are estimates based on a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate counts the percentage of people who are unemployed and actively looking for work, and doesn’t include those who have stopped looking for work.

The national unemployment rate was 4.3 percent last month. The rate in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area increased slightly to 3.5 percent in July from 3.4 percent in June.

Remote Alaska fish processing plant damaged by fire

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A remote processing plant operated by Seattle-based Peter Pan Seafoods near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands has been heavily damaged by fire.

Peter Pan spokesman Dale Schiffler confirms a fire at the Port Moller plant, but declines to provide further details.

But Bob Murphy, a state Fish and Game fisheries biologist assigned to the area for the summer fishing season, says the fire broke out Tuesday night and continues to burn as of Wednesday afternoon. He says no one was injured.

Murphy says the plant offices, the processing section and the facility’s large freezer were destroyed. Still standing are housing quarters for about 150 workers, the egg processing house and part of the dock.

Murphy says a cause is not immediately known.

Port Moller is an unincorporated area on the Alaska Peninsula.

Starbucks founder decries violence after Charlottesville

SEATTLE (AP) — Starbucks founder and chairman Howard Schultz has told employees that bigotry, hatred and senseless acts of violence against “people who are not white” cannot stand.

The comments follow last weekend’s deadly violence following a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Schultz says it’s hard to remain optimistic about the country’s future “in the midst of such a storm,” but he says he still is.

The Seattle-based company posted on its website an edited video of Schultz speaking at an employee forum.

Starbucks and Schultz have been outspoken on social issues.

He was not a member of either of President Donald Trump’s two panels of business leaders that dissolved Wednesday after several CEOs stepped down in protest of Trump’s comments on the rally

Trump renews Twitter criticism of Amazon

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is renewing his attacks on e-commerce giant Amazon, and he says the company is “doing great damage to tax paying retailers.”

Trump tweets that “towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

The president has often criticized the company and CEO Jeff Bezos (BAY’-zohs), who also owns The Washington Post.

Many traditional retailers are closing stores and blaming Amazon for a shift to buying goods online. But the company has been hiring thousands of warehouse workers on the spot at job fairs across the country. Amazon has announced goal of adding 100,000 full-time workers by the middle of next year.