Klamath Basin News, Wednesday, Aug. 14th – IQOR Closing, Ward Fire Update

The latest News around the Klamath Basin from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS 1450AM/102.5FM, BasinLife.com and The Herald & News.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2019

Klamath Basin Weather

Today
Sunny, with a high near 88. Overnight, clear with a low around 57.

Thursday
Sunny, with a high near 86.

Friday
Sunny, with a high near 84. Northwest wind around 6 mph.

Saturday
Sunny, with a high near 88.

Sunday
Sunny, with a high near 87.

TODAY’s HEADLINES IN THE BASIN…

According to a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission removal of the four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River is expected to cost just under $434 million and could happen by 2022.

Regulators are now considering whether to transfer the dams’ operating license from PacifiCorp to KRRC before the project can move forward. A general contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. of Fairfield, Calif., is already on board and working on a plan for razing the dams.

But first, KRRC must answer questions from a six-member independent board of consultants appointed by the feds to prove they have the money, insurance and contingency for such a large proposal. By restoring a more free-flowing river, the parties hope to improve spawning and survival of fish species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry (left), Sen. Jeff Merkley (right)

Senator Jeff Merkley was in Klamath Falls Monday, touring facilities aimed at rearing and releasing the short-nose and Lost River suckers both federally listed as endangered species.

Merkley helped secure $3.5 million for ongoing recovery efforts at the Gone Fishing sucker-rearing facility. Merkley toured the facility with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials for the first time Monday, and spoke of wanting to cut through any red tape to build more ponds, enough to hold 60,000 fish.

According to USFWS fish biologist Zach Tiemann four to eight more rearing ponds are to be built on site if possible this year which would raise the capacity at Gone Fishing from 10,000 to 60,000 suckers in the hope to reverse a downward trend in the population in the lake since the 1990s.

The first year, the facility had seven man-made ponds to rear juveniles. The plan is to roughly triple that capacity with new ponds.In addition Fish and Wildlife officials also led Merkley and Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry on a boat tour of the newest recovery effort: floating netted pens on Upper Klamath Lake. The pens contain 900 fish from 1 ½ to 2 years old reared at the Gone Fishing facility, which can swim freely and feed in a natural habitat while they acclimate to the lake.

iQor has announced that it’s call center operations in Klamath Falls will close Aug. 30, putting 300 people out of work at the site.

Robert Constantine  iQor Vice President of Marketing said leadership teams have worked hard to secure another client in Klamath Falls but despite our best efforts, factors outside of our control will not permit us to maintain our operations in Klamath Falls.”

Most of the iQor jobs pay minimum wage. The company declined to say how much its annual payroll is. Employees will be paid regular wages through the date of their separation and will receive severance pay if they stay on until the layoff takes effect.  iQor had a contract with a vendor until the start of the summer. With that contract ending there is no new vendor available that needs the call center, though iQor had been negotiating with one early in the summer and was confident it would be awarded a contract however those efforts were unsuccessful.

With the warmer, drier weather yesterday, there were several flare-ups during the day and overnight inside of the perimeter of the Ward Fire, where residual hot spots ignited drying grass and brush.

According to Mitch Williams, Field Night Operations Flare-ups such as these are common with the current weather conditions and are a vivid reminder that work on this fire is not yet finished.

Conditions also gave rise to a couple of new fires ignited by the last storm in areas close to the Ward fire yesterday. These fires were quickly controlled by Initial Attack crews. Firefighters spent much of the last 24 hours continuing to secure firelines and mop up along the perimeter of the burned area.

Governor Kate Brown  has signed a bill requiring eggs produced by commercial farms to eventually be cage-free.

Yesterday she approved the new law mandating all eggs produced or sold in Oregon must come from cage-free hens by 2024. The measure signed Monday applies to commercial farms with 3,000 or more chickens. The state requirements will apply to about 4 million birds. Oregon joins a handful of other states with similar laws including California, Washington and Massachusetts.

Vikki Breese-Iverson, a Prineville real estate agent and Republican activist, was sworn in as the House District 55 representative at the state Capitol Tuesday.

Breese-Iverson was selected Thursday to replace former Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, who resigned July 1 to take an appointment as a circuit court judge for Cook and Jefferson counties. House District 55 encompasses Crook county and portions of Deschutes, Jackson, Klamath and Lake counties.

A three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals heard arguments by Sky Lakes Medical Center, which disagrees with the City of KIamath Falls decision to approve location of the state Department of Human Services building in TimberMill Shores.

The case moved to the courts after the state Land Use Appeals Board denied Sky Lakes’ petition and kicked the issue back to the city council to rectify some of the wording for a conditional use permit, but in general supported the council’s decision to allow the project to go forward.

Sky Lakes appealed and now, the court of appeals is expected to render a decision in few weeks. Meanwhile, Sky Lakes has filed another appeal in a separate case to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Oral arguments in that matter have not yet been scheduled and the appeal is expected to take significantly longer to resolve.

The Trump administration moved yesterday to weaken how it applies the 45-year-old Endangered Species Act, ordering changes that critics said will speed the loss of animals and plants.

Under the enforcement changes, officials for the first time will be able to publicly attach a cost to saving an animal or plant. Blanket protections for creatures newly listed as threatened will be removed.

While the nearly half-century-old act has been overwhelmingly successful in saving animals and plants that are listed as endangered, battles over some of the listings have been years long and legendary. Locally they have pitted northern spotted owls, lost river and short nose suckers and other creatures against industries, local opponents and others in court and political fights. Republican lawmakers have pushed for years to change the law itself. One of Monday’s changes includes allowing the federal government to raise in the decision-making process the possible economic cost of listing a species.

Oregon gas prices have fallen 3.3 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.10 a gallon today.

Gas prices in Oregon are 10.7 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest station in Oregon is priced at $2.69 a gallon today while the most expensive is $3.79 a gallon. As comparison the cheapest price in the entire country today stands at $1.82 a gallon while the most expensive is $5.49 a gallon.

…For complete details on these and other stories see today’s Herald & News.  Wynne Broadcasting and the Herald and News…stronger together to keep you informed.

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