Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out-of-the-way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years.  He got his start in radio at WCAL-FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place beyond the reach of email.

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Photo credit: Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College / Northwest News Network

Here in the Northwest, you hear lots of complaints about the abundant rain. But this year's cool March weather and above normal rainfall in April may have eased the suffering of people with pollen allergies.

Photo courtesy WSDOT

Fresh snow in the mountains has slightly delayed the reopening of one high mountain pass in the Washington Cascades. Highway crews are on track to reopen two other scenic cross state routes before Memorial Day. Correspondent Tom Banse reports the snowpack is deeper than average for this time of year in Washington, north Idaho and the northern Oregon Cascades.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

A pair of U.S. Geological Survey studies counted 14 schools in Oregon and 48 in Washington that could be underwater after a major tsunami. Administrators and parents in some of those places are talking about relocating their vulnerable schools. The Seaside, Oregon school district has the largest number of students in the tsunami zone along the Oregon coast. Correspondent Tom Banse reports on a drill there that shows why some school districts want to rebuild on higher ground.

At 11 o'clock sharp, students at Seaside High School get the order to evacuate.

Photo Credit: Patriarca12 / Wikimedia commons

The sound of tsunami warning sirens sent hundreds of people in Seaside, Oregon scurrying on foot to higher ground Wednesday. The resort town held a community-wide evacuation drill.

Courtesy of Riverbank Power

If you thought the great dam building era of the Northwest was long over, you might be mistaken. But we're not talking about damming rivers here. This is about building long earthen dams to make new off-stream hydropower reservoirs. They're being designed to act as giant batteries and shock absorbers for the electric grid. Correspondent Tom Banse explains.

Image courtesy Oregon State University

Rare, once-lost historic records about pioneer Chinese immigrants to the Northwest have found a new life online. The digital archive is hosted by Oregon State University. A Chinese-American civic group hopes the document trove can help families locate ancestors gone missing early in the last century. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

The first items of debris swept into the Pacific Ocean by last year's big tsunami in Japan are turning up on the Northwest coast. More is out there drifting our way. The state of Washington hosted a meeting Wednesday to prepare local governments and beachgoers for what to do about this. Oregon held similar meetings last week. Here's the takeaway: tsunami debris pickup depends largely on you. Correspondent Tom Banse is beach side with the latest.

Photo Credit: United States Navy

Thursday in Ocean Shores, Washington, dozens of people from government, tribes and community groups strategized how to respond to marine debris from last year's Japanese tsunami.

Photo Credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

This month's auction of state-run liquor stores in Washington raked in nearly $31 million. The state liquor control board revealed the winning bidders Monday.

Photo courtesy Hanson Dodge Creative

Some Olympic hopefuls are lucky. They have six-figure endorsement contracts and can concentrate solely on training for peak performance. More commonly, dreams of Olympic glory mean scrounging for dollars. One runner from Eugene even auctioned his left shoulder on eBay recently. Correspondent Tom Banse reports on some creative personal fundraising by elite local athletes.

Photo courtesy Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary Horizon Air continue to make money despite sharply higher fuel prices. Executives with the Seattle based airline group Thursday reported a twelfth consecutive quarterly profit. CEO elect Brad Tilden says the 28 million dollar net profit in this year's first quarter is "marginally" smaller than the same quarter last year.

Brad Tilden: "Given this quarter's solid results and the current demand environment, we're cautiously optimistic about 2012. The biggest headwind is high fuel prices and their impact both on our cost structure and on the pocketbooks of our customers."

Photo Credit: USGS / Northwest News Network

Geologists have discovered two previously unknown earthquake faults, and possibly a third, near Bellingham, Wash. The scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey believe the shallow faults are capable of spawning damaging tremors.

A day after Oregon delivered a virtually unchanged monthly jobs report for March, neighboring Washington did the same. Washington's employment department pegged the state's unemployment rate last month at 8.3 percent. That's the same as the revised rate for February.

Photo credit: Tim Melbourne, CWU / Northwest News Network

A prototype, earthquake early warning system, worked as designed when an actual quake gently shook California last Friday. Researchers reported the results Tuesday at the annual meeting of American seismologists.

Last year, a private foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey gave a multimillion dollar grant to create an automated earthquake warning system for the Pacific Coast states. The idea is to provide advance notice to prepare people for severe shaking. It could come via a cell phone alert or a pop-up on your computer or TV screen.

Photo Credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

A new market survey finds many of the region's farmers in an optimistic mood because demand is strong and commodity prices are high. Exceptions to the overall trend include dairy and onion farmers.

Photo Credit: United States Bureau of Reclamation

GRAND COULEE DAM, Wash. -- Federal water and dam managers are draining reservoirs in the Columbia and Snake River basins to get ready for "big water" coursing downriver. In recent weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers has called for bigger drawdowns, or as the agency calls it "drafting", to protect against flooding. Supervisory engineer Peter Brooks says more room is needed to catch runoff from the bountiful snows of March.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is praising the rebalanced state budget that the legislature delivered to her in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. But Gregoire also told reporters Thursday that she's concerned by the very slim cushion of reserves lawmakers left in the state treasury. She indicates she will selectively veto some proposed spending to keep more cash in reserve.

Photo Credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

TACOMA, Wash. - Get ready to spot a new kind of "bird" in the sky. Within the next month, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to green light the use of small unmanned aircraft by emergency services. Some sheriffs' departments in the Northwest are showing interest in these aircraft.

A forensic imaging specialist from Woodinville, Washington is lending his analytic skills to the latest search for the pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart. This analyst discovered a possible upturned landing gear in a historic photo of a tropical atoll. A two million dollar expedition to that South Pacific location takes place this summer.

Photo credit: Wolfram Burner/ Flickr / Northwest News Network

PORTLAND – Organizers of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials say they’re on track for a sellout for the eight day event in Eugene. Single day event tickets go on sale Friday morning. University of Oregon associate athletic director Vin Lananna predicts they’ll disappear fast.

Photo courtesy of Conservation Northwest

TWISP, Wash. -- A Twisp, Washington man has changed his plea to guilty in a high-profile federal wolf poaching case. As part of a plea agreement, the 62-year-old man will not go to prison. The lack of jail time greatly disappoints a conservation group. Correspondent Tom Banse has more on the story.

Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Thousands of long-term unemployed workers in Washington and Oregon will no longer receive unemployment checks soon. The federal government won't pay for extended benefits anymore because the jobless rates have improved in both states.

An international research panel recommends cutting in half the global harvest of small, schooling fish like sardines, anchovy and herring.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Governor Chris Gregoire says she has put a compromise budget balancing proposal on the table in hopes of breaking the stalemate at the state capital. Speaking to reporters Friday, she indicated bipartisan negotiations are making some progress, but calls the talks "tenuous." Gregoire declined to reveal any details about what is included in her spending blueprint.

There are some 7,000 spoken languages in the world, and linguists project that as many as half may disappear by the end of the century. That works out to one language going extinct about every two weeks. Now, digital technology is coming to the rescue of some of those ancient tongues.

Members of the Native American Siletz tribe in Oregon say their native language, also called "Siletz," "is as old as time itself." But today, you can count the number of fluent speakers on one hand. Siletz Tribal Council Vice Chairman Bud Lane is one of them.

Photo Credit: elaen_anit, Flickr / Northwest News Network

Seventeen and a half thousand. That's how many Oregon and Washington homes could be inundated by rising seas caused by global warming over the next century. The number comes out a study by the research non-profit Climate Central and the University of Arizona.

Photo courtesy of CRITFC / Northwest News Network

The federal government has reauthorized the death penalty for the most troublesome California sea lions which congregate at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Electric car owners in Washington state would pay a $100 fee under a measure headed to the governor's desk. The aim is to offset the gas taxes these drivers are not paying. The bill passed Thursday night in one of the final votes of this year's regular session of the Washington Legislature, as Tom Banse reports.

Photo credit by Tom Banse. / Northwest News Network

It's shaping up to be a banner year for sport and commercial salmon fishing on the coast. The Pacific Fishery Management Council has released its proposals for the length of the ocean fishing season and catch limits for 2012.

Phot by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- Northwest-born Gardenburger and Tofurky are vegetarian alternatives to meat. They sell well, but they don't fool any meat lovers. This year, food companies from here and abroad aim to debut fake meat products that come closer than ever to mimicking the real thing. Dutch researchers claim they can grow hamburger in the laboratory from just a few bovine stem cells. But are people really craving a Petri-patty? Correspondent Tom Banse explores that question.