Klamath Basin News, Monday, March 1 – Circuit Court Upholds Klamath Tribes Water Rights For Now; Basin Irrigators Look To Limit Scope of Those Rights

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The latest and most comprehensive coverage of local News, Sports, Business, and Community News stories in the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM / 102.5FM, The Herald & News, and BasinLife.com, and powered by Mick Insurance.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 54. South wind 8 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Overnight, clear with a low around 27.

Tuesday Sunny, with a high near 55. Overnight low of 26.

Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 58.

Thursday Sunny, with a high near 57.

Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 57. Breezy.

Today’s Headlines

There were no new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon reported on Sunday, and the state’s death toll remains at 2,208. Oregon Health Authority reported 292 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 155,597.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (7), Clackamas (26), Columbia (4), Coos (10), Curry (3), Deschutes (6), Douglas (11), Grant (1), Hood River (1), Jackson (21), Jefferson (3), Josephine (3), Klamath (2), Lake (1), Lane (36), Lincoln (1), Linn (4), Malheur (1), Marion (52), Morrow (2), Multnomah (25), Polk (11), Umatilla (8), Washington (42), Yamhill (10).

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 134, which is 14 fewer than yesterday. There are 26 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is five fewer than yesterday.

The Klamath County Circuit Court upheld a majority of decisions concerning the Oregon water rights of the Klamath Tribes on Wednesday, but Basin irrigators say there could be changes in how those rights are enforced down the road.

Using treaty language wherein the U.S. government promised adequate resources for hunting and fishing on the former Klamath Indian Reservation, the Tribes had successfully proven the existence of their time immemorial water rights in federal court in the 1970s and 1980s. But that litigation required their participation in the Klamath Basin Adjudication in order to quantify those rights. Judge Cameron Wogan’s latest proposed order upheld most of the Oregon Water Resources Department’s decisions on tribal water rights made during the adjudication’s administrative phase.

Basin irrigators, including those within the Klamath Project and along the tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake, had made several motions to limit the scope and quantity of those rights.

Local residents got a front row, virtual seat Thursday evening to ask finalists for superintendent of Klamath Falls City Schools what qualifies them for the job. Finalists Keith Brown, of Texas, and Jeff Bullock, of Klamath Falls, shared their passion for education and students, administrative accomplishments, and their plans for their first 100 days if selected for the position during the virtual community forum, which drew more than 100 attendees.

Finalists were selected from a pool of 14 applicants, according to the school district’s website.

Brown, who comes to the district most recently retiring as superintendent of Taylor Independent School District in Texas, has 27 years of administrative experience, 17 of which he has served as a superintendent.

Jeff Bullock would bring 25 years in total education experience, 19 of them at Klamath Falls City Schools and Klamath County School District, along with a well-connected professional network to the role.

Nominations for the 28th annual Klamath Country Volunteer of the Year are due April 1 to the United Way of the Klamath Basin at 136 N. Third Street in Klamath Falls, according to a release.

Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, a celebration luncheon will not be held this year, but every nominee will receive an award and be highlighted in a special Volunteer Appreciation tabloid published during national week on Friday, April 23 in the Herald and News.

Nomination forms can be obtained by contacting the United Way at 541-882-5558, or can be downloaded from United Way’s home page at www.unitedwayoftheklamathbasin.org. According to officials, nomination forms can also be e-mailed or sent to you via U.S. postal service.

Rip City Riders Oregon, a Klamath Falls motorcycle club, donated $1,000 to the Assistance League of Klamath Basin to assist in transforming the lives of children and adults through community programs.

The Assistance League, based in Klamath Falls, said the generous donation will be used for the league’s primary philanthropic program, Operation School Bell. The local chapter provides school-age children with clothing, supplies and meets other challenges. Rip City Riders Oregon is a nonprofit organization located in Klamath Falls. The club works to establish a positive image for motorcycle enthusiasts. Their mission is to benefit Klamath Falls through charitable events and donations and to support other organizations that help the less fortunate.

Klamath Outdoor Science School recently received a $25,000 Environmental Education Grant from the Gray Family Foundation to do a series of outdoor field studies with local elementary students.

Third and fourth grade students participating in the program will travel to local natural areas with KOSS naturalist/instructors to do hands-on science explorations and investigations. Programs will begin in March and continue through the rest of the school year, and Gray will consider continued funding for this program in 2022 and 2023 as well. The programs will tie in with the students’ classroom science units and support Next Generation Science Standards.

Third graders will study ecological concepts, focusing on biodiversity, plant and animal life cycles and adaptations to the environment. Fourth graders will study local geology, including volcanoes, geologic faults and strata, and erosion and deposition.

A Klamath Falls man was arrested Thursday and indicted for murder for his part in a 2019 shooting in which two people died.

Sean Brazil-Gates, 30, was indicted two days prior by the Klamath County grand jury. He was indicted on charges of murder, manslaughter, unlawful use of a weapon, felon in possession of a weapon and perjury. Detectives from the Klamath Falls Police Department arrested Brazil-Gates without incident at the Klamath County Parole and Probation Office, according to Klamath Falls Police.

Detectives from the Klamath Falls Police Department arrested Brazil-Gates without incident at the Klamath County Parole and Probation Office, according to Klamath Falls Police.

A 30 year old Pacific Terrace resident was booked into the county jail just before midnight Sunday morning on several counts.

Anthony House was charged with strangulation, resisting arrest, harassment, and four counts of attempting to commit a crime. No further details on the arrest were released,.

Around the state of Oregon

Meanwhile in Medford, The Medford Police Department originally reported a death on the Bear Creek Greenway north of the Medford Railroad Park that was considered a homicide investigation.

Police released an update Saturday morning that they have taken a 17 year-old into custody on Friday night for the shooting death of the male victim, whose identification has not been disclosed pending next of kin. The juvenile was charged with Murder and his name is not being released at this time. Detectives are continuing the investigation and more details will be released at a later time.

Oregon Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner is blasting Republicans for refusing to show up on the Senate floor late last week.  

Wagner issued a statement saying “Lives are at stake as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet the Senate Republicans continue their anti-democratic walkout tactics.”  Republican senators skipped yesterday’s legislative session in protest of the state’s handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

The walkout came on the same day that Governor Kate Brown extended Oregon’s state of emergency for another 60 days.  This is the third year in a row Oregon Senate Republicans have walked out.

Oregon Rolls Out New Process for Covid Vaccination Appointments

Starting  Monday, a new coronavirus vaccine sign-up process will go live in the effort of helping those spending hours online trying to schedule an appointment.

Health officials said they are going to use the registrations from the Get Vaccinated Oregon tool as an invitation system for people to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine.

If you register in Get Vaccinated Oregon, officials will transfer the names of eligible people in the metro area to the Oregon Health Authority partners. They will contact you directly to schedule a vaccine appointment.

Officials said on Thursday, over 400,000 attempts were made to make appointments at either the Oregon Convention Center or at the PDX Red Economy Parking Lot for appointments available on that day.

Four health systems – Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, OHSU, and Providence Health & Services – operate the All4Oregon Vaccination effort at the Oregon Convention Center. 

In a release, the health systems announced that they have partnered with the Oregon Health Authority that will help alleviate the challenges people have faced when attempting to schedule a vaccine appointment.

“The process will be further improved as vaccinations at the COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Site at the Oregon Convention Center moves to a larger space, allowing more daily vaccinations once additional vaccine supply is available,” reads the release signed by the chief medical and operations officers at all four health systems. 

The PDX Red Economy Parking Lot site will continue its online schedule release on Monday. 

The new process kicks off on the same day that seniors aged 65 and older become eligible for coronavirus vaccinations.

Officials with the Oregon Health Authority anticipate that 75% of all Oregon seniors will be vaccinated by March 29. 

Governor Kate Brown Issues Statement One Year After First Confirmed Case Of Covid-19 In Oregon

One-on-one with Oregon Governor Kate Brown | KATU

“Today, I want to take a moment to say: Thank you, Oregon.

“Thank you to all our frontline workers––from our doctors, nurses and health care workers who have worked tirelessly to save lives, to the agricultural, food processing, and grocery workers who have kept food on our tables throughout the pandemic, to first responders, postal workers, transportation workers, restaurant and food service workers, educators and school support staff, and the many more who have kept us all going.

“Thank you to everyone who has helped friends and neighbors in need––from Oregonians experiencing hunger or homelessness, to those displaced by wildfires, to those who lost jobs and livelihoods during the pandemic.

“Thank you to parents and caregivers, especially working mothers, who have balanced school, work, and family responsibilities in ways we never before imagined.

“We must also acknowledge that this pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Tribal, Latino, Latina, and Latinx, Pacific Islander, Asian, and communities of color, as well as our immigrant and refugee communities. We must do better––to build a stronger, more just, more equitable Oregon for everyone who lives here.

“With our vaccine efforts ramping up, the light at the end of the tunnel grows closer each day. We are reopening school buildings, businesses, and communities. But we must keep up our guard, with new, more contagious COVID-19 variants circulating in the United States, including in Oregon.

“Today and every day, we remember the more than 2,200 Oregonians we have lost. Our hearts are with the families who have lost loved ones to this deadly disease. We must continue to keep each other safe by wearing masks, avoiding gatherings with people from outside our households, maintaining distance, washing our hands, and staying home while sick.

“But, while we must continue to keep our physical distance from one another, we will get through the rest of this pandemic the same way we have come this far: together.”

With the last group of Oregon seniors set to become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, state officials are looking ahead to the next groups prioritized to receive the vaccine.

Up until early Friday, the state’s still-evolving vaccine plan did not detail groups beyond the eligibility of seniors 65 and older, effective March 1. A representative for Governor Kate Brown’s office released preliminary details on the next steps ahead of a virtual press conference planned for 11 a.m. on Friday. The next phases were developed with recommendations from the state’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, “with the goal of ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines to those communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, and Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Tribal communities,” Brown’s office said.

The VAC recommended that Oregon prioritize people with underlying conditions and frontline workers.

Emergency Allotments for SNAP Recipients Continue in March

Oregon has been approved to issue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotments for the month of March 2021. These emergency allotments will be available on:

  • March 10 for current SNAP recipients
  • March 30 for new SNAP recipients after March 10

Emergency allotments raise each household’s regularly monthly SNAP allotment to the maximum allowable amount based on household size. Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), SNAP households already receiving the maximum allowable allotment based on household size are not eligible to receive the emergency allotment.

SNAP recipients do not have to take any action to receive these supplemental benefits as they will be issued directly on their EBT cards. Total benefits will be different based on each household’s regular monthly allotment for the month of February.

The maximum monthly SNAP benefit amounts by household size and more information about emergency allotments are available at https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/ASSISTANCE/FOOD-BENEFITS/Pages/About-SNAP.aspx.

Administered by ODHS, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1 million eligible, low-income families and individuals in Oregon, including many older adults and people with disabilities. Oregonians in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP, child care, cash assistance, and Medicaid. Learn more at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits. For local resources in your area, such as food or shelter, please call 2-1-1 or reach out to the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) at 1-855-ORE-ADRC or 1-855-673-2372. Oregon Department of Human Services

Lawmakers Announce Funds for Oregon Emergency Management

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Congressman Peter DeFazio, along with Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, have announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide additional funding for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

A joint release said OEM will receive $13.1 million for costs tied to the 2020 wildfires.

In the release, the group said, “Between the COVID-19 pandemic, and the catastrophic wildfires that ravaged our state last fall, southwest Oregon is recovering from multiple crises at one”. The release said that state, tribal and local governments have seen their public health and emergency management capacities stretched thin or exceeded and their financial resources come under strain. The lawmakers said federal support will ensure that communities can focus on recovery instead of on the financial burdens of the effort.

The lawmakers said they will continue to pursue additional relief for Oregon.

Grants Pass Arson and Burglary Suspect Arrested

Joshua Lee Leach
Joshua Lee Leach

On February 28th, 2021 at about 1905 Hours, The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS) 911 agency began fielding calls of a male subject lighting the gas pumps on fire at the Pacific Pride, located at 505 Rogue River Hwy.

At approximately the same time, an alarm call came in at 85 Fruitdale Dr., which is the Industrial Source Welding Supply and in close proximity to the gas pumps. GPDPS Police and Fire/Rescue units responded to each scene. Dispatch began to provide updates from callers, of a male subject who was responsible for both the fire at Pacific Pride and what was determined to be a burglary at the welding supply. This male subject had used a gas pump to spray fuel into the air and directly onto the pumps.

The gas pump had been taken from a citizen’s vehicle who had been filling her tank. He then tried to start a fire numerous times, until he was successful. The male subject then ran to the welding supply and shattered the front glass door to make unlawful entry to the business. 

With the help of witness statements, the male subject was located and placed in custody without incident, near the intersection of Fruitdale Dr. and Williams Hwy.

He was identified as 44 year-old, Joshua Lee Leach who is transient but has a listed address in Pennsylvania. GPDPS Fire/Rescue was able to extinguish the fire quickly at Pacific Pride and prevented what could have been a large explosion. Businesses that were nearby were evacuated for precautionary measures by Police units, until the scene was safe. The GPDPS Fire Marshal responded and assisted at the scene of the fire. The location was made safe and is not a danger to the public. Damage appears to be limited to one island at the fueling station.  

Police units investigated both scenes and were able to get witness statements and video footage of the incidents. When the investigations were completed, Leach was lodged at the Josephine County Jail on the charges listed below. 

1. Arson in the First Degree (3 counts)

2. Burglary in the Second Degree

3. Criminal Mischief in the First Degree

4. Reckless Endangering

5. Unlawful Entry to a Motor Vehicle

6. Theft in the Third Degree (2 counts)

7. Disorderly Conduct 

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