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State House Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, drew guffaws this past week at a building industry event when he joked he’d propose a bill on gopher-trapping in Thurston County.

But it’s no laughing matter to builders and chambers of commerce in Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey, Yelm and unincorporated Thurston County. On April 9, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service added four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher to the endangered species list. These gophers are found in Thurston County and Pierce County.

Although the gopher has been protected by state law since 2005, local agencies allowed builders to develop property with gopher habitat as long as they set aside lands on site for the rodents.

Now, property owners whose land could harbor the protected species face the risk of criminal and civil penalties as well as lawsuits from gopher-lovers if they disturb the animals’ habitat without approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Attorneys say even land owners with vested development rights to build a home aren’t immune from federal penalties if they harm the gopher.

“This is the first species ever in Washington listed under the Endangered Species Act that has high levels of occupancy in cities and urban areas,” said Heather Burgess, a land-use attorney who represents landowners and builders.

Through Oct. 31, Thurston County and the Fish and Wildlife Service are inspecting properties where the gophers may exist, and if so, determining whether proposed projects would hurt their habitat. The county is negotiating a long-term habitat-conservation plan to streamline the permitting process so developers won’t have to consult the federal government.

“How they handle this one could certainly set a precedent, particularly if we start litigating some of this stuff,” Burgess said.

Sanjay Bhatt:

Boeing, Airbus differ on forecasts

The twin reigning superpowers of the commercial-airliner business, Boeing and Airbus, both talk to all the potential customers around the world. Yet they’ve come away with significantly different predictions of what those customers will buy over the next 20 years — forecasts that in turn will shape each plane-maker’s manufacturing and development strategy.

So how does Airbus foresee 31,358 new plane deliveries over 20 years, while Boeing projects 36,700 — a hefty 17 percent more?

The biggest difference in the rival 20-year forecasts is easily explained: Airbus limits its forecast to jets with more than 100 seats, while the count from Boeing’s prognosticators includes 2,490 regional jets with less than 90 seats.

Subtract those smaller jets, and the Boeing figure is 34,280.

The discrepancy arises from their views of the single-aisle market — 737s versus A320s (and going forward, MAX versus neo). Boeing envisions the world buying 25,680 of these — roughly 3,600 more than Airbus forecasts.

In the widebody segment, Airbus and Boeing both project roughly 9,000 jets, but they divvy up their forecasts quite differently.

Airbus forecasts demand for 1,501 large aircraft — a category where its entry is the A380, which has garnered a disappointing 318 orders to date. Boeing’s target for that market, where its own 747-8 is struggling to win orders, is a much more modest 620 jets over 20 years.

More surprisingly, the Airbus forecast for small 787-size widebodies is about 600 jets larger than the Boeing forecast.

Boeing is putting more emphasis on the larger-but-not-gigantic widebody market — the 787-10 and 777 — where it predicts 3,466 new planes from now to 2033. Airbus, which offers the A350 in that category, expects 24 percent fewer deliveries for this market segment — just 2,641.

Some things both manufacturers agree on: The Asia-Pacific market will be the largest destination for new full-sized commercial jets, with European airlines buying about half as many, and North America trailing close behind.

And the larger the airplane, the larger the Middle East looms: In large widebodies, meaning the 747-8 and the A380, Middle Eastern airlines account for a quarter (Airbus) to nearly a half (Boeing) of the projected deliveries.

Dominic Gates:

Computer science grows at Whitman

Whitman College in Walla Walla is establishing a computer-science program, and a computer-science chair, thanks in large part to a gift from Microsoft.

The college has offered computer-science courses since the 1970s but has not had a formal computer-science program until now.

A $2.5 million gift from private donors, with a significant portion from Microsoft, changed that.

Microsoft’s donation allowed the college to establish the chair, said Michelle Ma, a Whitman spokeswoman.

The search to fill the new Microsoft Chair of Computer Science is under way, and there will be expanded course offerings beginning in the fall of 2015.

“Computer science drives innovation that touches every aspect of our daily lives — business, government, education, health care and the arts,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel. “Students at colleges throughout the state should have the opportunity to discover the exciting opportunities that it can create for their futures.”

Janet Tu:

Clippers’ iPads out of favor

Former Microsoft CEO and current Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has always been one of the biggest cheerleaders for Microsoft products.

And that apparently hasn’t stopped, even though he stepped down as head of the company in February and stepped off the board in August.

In an interview Wednesday with Reuters, Ballmer talked about switching those Clippers who are using iPads over to Windows tablets. According to the Reuters story:

“Most of the Clippers are on Windows; some of the players and coaches are not,” Ballmer said.

“And (coach Doc Rivers) kind of knows that’s a project. It’s one of the first things he said to me: ‘We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren’t we?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, we probably are.’ But I promised we would do it during the offseason.”

Janet Tu: