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, your local health and Medicare agents.
Monday, June 14, 2021
Klamath Basin Weather
Today A 30% chance of showers, mainly before 11am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 73. Overnight, cloudy with a low of 47 degrees.
Tuesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 71.
Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 87.
Thursday Sunny, with a high near 91.
Friday Sunny, with a high near 94.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 95.
There is one new COVID-19 related death in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,730. Oregon Health Authority reported 167 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 yesterday bringing the state total to 205,029.
Two new cases were reported here in Klamath County. Since the pandemic began, Klamath County has recorded 4,753 total cases. 77 people in Klamath County have died.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (3), Clackamas (25), Columbia (1), Crook (3), Curry (1), Deschutes (13), Douglas (7), Harney (2), Jackson (6), Jefferson (3), Josephine (3), Klamath (2), Lane (5), Linn (9), Marion (14), Morrow (4), Multnomah (51), Polk (4), Union (1), Wallowa (1), Washington (4), Yamhill (3).
Oregon has now administered 2,375,566 first and second doses of Pfizer,1,670,469 first and second doses of Moderna and 156,225 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
A Klamath Falls native who was killed at Pearl Harbor and whose remains were believed to be lost, has been identified by federal scientists and will be laid to rest in July.
Warren Gillette, a first class Navy Seaman, was 21 years old when he was sent to the island of Oahu in Hawaii to serve on the USS Oklahoma, a U.S. battleship once moored at Fort Island, Pearl Harbor.
Gillette, along with 429 of his fellow crew members, was killed after Japanese planes attacked the ship on Dec. 7, 1941. The Oklahoma was hit with multiple torpedoes, causing it to capsize quickly. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor led the United States to formally enter World War II the next day.
Mr. Gillette will be buried on July 12 in Eagle Point, Oregon.
Once spanning 100,000 acres at the foot of the Medicine Lake Volcano, it’s unlikely that Tule Lake has been as low as it is now for millions of years.
What used to be a massive network of open water and fringe wetlands is now essentially a giant mud puddle, spelling trouble for migratory birds that have used it as a rest stop for thousands of years.
The solution, at least for now? Dry it up. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages th Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Tulelake Irrigation District, are working with waterfowl conservation organization Ducks Unlimited to move as much as 12,000 acre-feet of water between two large wetland units on the refuge.
Biologists and irrigators alike hope the undertaking will give birds a better chance at surviving this summer’s historic drought.
As local high school seniors prepare for upcoming graduation ceremonies, Klamath County Rotary members are awarding scholarships to deserving recipients across the Basin.
The Rotary Foundation of Klamath County scholarships are awarded to students who best represent the standards and ideals manifested in the lives of the individuals for whom the scholarships are named, and Rotary in general. Students are evaluated and rated on a combination of GPA, school activities, and community involvement. They are also scored on short essays that summarize their extracurricular involvement, needs, and the impact someone special has made on their lives.
This year, five Klamath County Rotary Foundation Scholarships were awarded:
• $2,000 to McKenna Neubert (Mazama High School, will attend Oregon State University)
• $1,000 to Sapphire Delgado (Klamath Union High School, will attend Portland State University)
• $1,000 to Lena Dreyer ( Henley High School, will attend Oregon Institute of Technology)
• $1,000 to Alexandra Magana (Mazama High School, will attend Oregon State University)
• $1,000 to Carli Moore (Henley High School, will attend Oregon Institute of Technology)
After qualifying for nationals in April, the Oregon Tech Steel Bridge team was announced as first-place winner of the 2021 American Institute of Steel Construction Student Steel Bridge supplemental competition.
More than a thousand student engineers at 102 colleges and universities around the country participated in the Steel Bridge Competition, either competing from their own campuses with a fabricated and constructed physical bridge, entering a design-only supplemental competition, or both. AISC Thursday announced the results of the national finals, which included 31 of those schools. The Oregon Institute of Technology took first prize overall in the supplemental competition, and the University of Florida came out on top in the “Compete from Campus” finals.
Around the state of Oregon
In a press conference on Friday morning, Governor Kate Brown addressed workforce shortages going on right now.
It’s a problem seen in Oregon and across the country. There are many reasons why people are not returning to work.
That includes childcare hardship and the lack of childcare providers during the pandemic. The governor says she is encouraging people to go back to work or to find work if they’ve been laid off. Oregon is closing in on a 70 percent vaccination rate and a relief from economic restriction. But as that approaches, there’s a statewide shortage of workers Oregon’s unemployment has gone down since the pandemic began, but hiring isn’t meeting the demand for business.
As Oregon nears its vaccination target to reopen the economy, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday she is extending the state’s mortgage foreclosure moratorium through September.
However, the governor was unable to extend the state’s eviction moratorium — which began in April, 2020, as tenants financially struggled during the pandemic. That is set to expire at the end of June.
Last month, Brown signed a bill that reinstated Oregon’s moratorium on foreclosures, which allow homeowners to put their mortgage in forbearance at least through June 30. The law also gave Brown the authority to extend the end date, which she announced she was doing on Friday.
However, the governor was unable to extend state’s rent moratorium. Brown urged those who will struggle to pay rent in July apply for rental assistance.
Talent Trailer Park Destroyed By Wildfire Finally Getting Some FEMA Trailers
Totem Pole Trailer Park, off Highway 99 in Talent, burned down entirely last fall. After months of planning and weeks of construction, the park now hosts 27 FEMA one-to-three bedroom trailers for wildfire survivors.
Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood says the low-income families who lost their homes were the ones most in need of help.
“Every day is a difficult situation when you live in these kinds of circumstances,” said the mayor. “And when what little you have is ripped away from you, you don’t get back unless your community wraps their arms around you and does everything they can to bring you back.”
Each unit is fully furnished, included with bedding and disposable utensils. There’s a kitchen, bathroom and a built-in fire suppression system with a smoke detector. Some were built to be wheelchair accessible and they all can house multiple people.
Toney Raines, a federal coordinator with FEMA, says site organizers have been working to make move-in as easy as possible.
“All the applicant has to do is walk in with their pots and pans and food, and they can make their first meal,” said Raines. “There are sheets for the beds, there’s pillows, there’s everything they need to get a good night’s sleep in their home.”
The trailers are designed to be temporary housing, but city officials are looking into using the site for more permanent living. Either way, residents at the park will be able to live in the units rent-free until at least March of next year.
Gov. Brown Defends Plan To Lift Mask Mandate When Oregon Hits Vaccine Benchmark
Gov. Kate Brown acknowledged Friday that ending a statewide mask mandate will place greater risks on already vulnerable people and communities. But during a contentious news conference, she stood firm on her decision to lift the mandate once the state reaches its vaccination goal.
Oregon currently plans to lift most restrictions once 70% of the state’s adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination. As of Thursday, 67.2% of eligible adults were vaccinated.
At Friday’s briefing, Brown reiterated that she is “very concerned” about communities and populations that have not yet had sufficient access to the vaccine. Although progress has been made closing the vaccine equity gap, the percentage of people vaccinated varies wildly from county to county — and even ZIP code to ZIP code.
Lane County passed a vaccination milestone this week: Over 65% of its eligible adults have received a first dose. Clackamas County is not far behind, Brown said. Once that benchmark is passed, Lane and Clackamas counties can move into “lower-risk” restrictions. Benton, Deschutes, Hood River, Lincoln, Multnomah and Washington counties are the only other counties to have reached that goal.
That means 29 of Oregon’s 36 counties have not yet reached that particular benchmark. But when the state hits the 70% vaccination rate benchmark, which is expected to happen sometime in the next few weeks, they will also reopen, regardless of vaccination levels and the amount of COVID-19 spreading locally.
“We still have more work to do to ensure all Oregonians are healthy and protected from COVID-19,” Brown said.
Although many businesses could soon reopen fully, the economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic still lingers. Brown said she has extended Oregon’s foreclosure moratorium until Sept. 30.
She was unable to extend the eviction moratorium, which will expire at the end of June.
Oregonians currently have until next year to pay off any late rent accrued between April 2020 and June 2021. But all renters will need to pay their July rent, or face eviction. Brown encouraged those who might be unable to pay rent this July to apply for federally-funded rent assistance, through oregonrentalassistance.org.
The number of new COVID-19 cases went down across Oregon for the sixth straight week. Deaths and hospitalizations have also continued to decrease.
Possible Witnesses to Almeda Fire Sought By Ashland Police
The Ashland Police Department is seeking info on two people seen near the start of the Almeda Fire on September 8, 2020. These individuals are not suspects.
Ashland Police would like to interview them as witnesses. Police are asking anyone who may know these people to call Ashland Police Department at 541-488-2211.
Medford Tanker Base Receives New Fire Retardant Tank
In February the U.S. Forest Service awarded a contract to design and build a 16,000-gallon, mobile, retardant mixing tank for the air tanker base at Medford, Oregon. The agency wanted the ability to relocate the tank during the off-season and needed one large enough to refill very large air tankers (VLAT).
The tank contract specified use of carbon steel, top and side access, an integrated axle, and a top walkway with folding railings.
FORTRESS North America, the company that received the contract, delivered the tank/trailer in Medford on May 24 where it was inspected and accepted.
High Cost Of Lumber and Building Materials Stalls Rebuilding For Some Oregon Wildfire Survivors
Nine months ago forest fires burned more than a million acres in Oregon last September. While some survivors have begun rebuilding, others simply cannot afford the cost of building materials, which skyrocketed during the pandemic due to supply shortages coupled with high demand.
The skyrocketing prices for building materials made it difficult for many to rebuild after the fires.
At the moment, wood costs three times what it was during the pandemic. Metal, dry well and equipment costs have also increased, according to Josh Lehner, an economist in the state of Oregon.
“You are talking about 25-30% higher construction costs if you build today,” said Lehner.
Lumber prices have nearly quadrupled in the past year and show no signs of stopping. Not just big lumber used for large construction jobs but even the plywood someone might use to build a fence or repair a deck.
The sticker shock you might be feeling is all about supply and demand and a little about COVID-19. The director of purchasing and finance with Renaissance Homes, Marc Hartman, said last January it cost him about $8 for a sheet of plywood. Today, that price is closer to the mid-$40 range. In some cases, it’s costing $20,000-$25,000 dollars or more to build a home with just the high cost of plywood alone.
He said there’s a couple of reasons behind the huge cost. Part of it has to do with the fact more people are purchasing homes, especially with mortgage rates hitting historical lows.
Jeff Reimer is a professor of applied economics at Oregon State University. He said this trend is happening all over the country.
“It just seems to be the strong demand for lumber prices right now by the big home builders but this is a nationwide thing all over really, so the southern United States it’s all over really,” said Reimer.
Along with the demand for new homes, comes the demand for more material. But where does that material come from? Our neighbors to the north: Canada. And those materials are not that easy to get right now.
Reimer said there have been changes in supply from Canada. There is a tariff for some wood and a lot of mills closed in 2019, which has made less available material for parts of the United States.
When COVID-19 hit, some mills in both Canada and the United States were forced to close or even shut down for good. More than a year later, some are just now getting back up and running. That not only impacts builders, but also your bottom line.
Hartman said some of these high prices can’t be sustained forever because the overall cost will eventually slow the construction of housing down. He added, while the demand is still there he doesn’t see the high cost of lumber dropping anytime soon.
“Income is rising, the demand for housing is rising,” he added. “And if you have this shutdown on the supply side of the construction industry, even for a few months, when the demand is behind the eight.”
This means bottlenecks and a lack of availability of building materials.
Oregon Lawmakers Considering New Stimulus Payments For Essential Workers
Oregon lawmakers will consider a proposal to pay essential workers who stayed on the job through the pandemic up to $2,000 in new stimulus payments and a separate $1,200 payment to unemployed Oregonians who return to work in front-line jobs by fall.
Labor leaders and some Democratic lawmakers have been pushing to use money from the latest federal stimulus bill to reward essential workers for their work during COVID-19. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Congress approved in March authorizes states to spend some of their stimulus money to reward essential workers and get others back on the job. Oregon received $2.6 billion in all.
A proposal being circulated Friday by SEIU Local 503, the largest union representing Oregon state employees, would use $450 million of the state’s share of that stimulus money for the essential worker bonus and the back-to-work incentive.
Here’s how each portion would work:
- The essential worker bonus would be $2,000 for workers whose base pay was less than the state’s average wage in 2019 — roughly $26.50 an hour — or $1,000 for workers earning more than the average but less than 150% of it — around $39.70 an hour. Workers making more than 150% of the state average would receive no bonus.
- Front-line workers who were unemployed during the pandemic but are back on the job for at least four weeks by Oct. 15 would receive $1,200.
The proposed legislation lists 17 categories of eligible job categories, among them health care, law enforcement, education, agriculture, food, energy, transportation, communications, defense, residential shelter work and hygiene products and services.
Workers must have been within 6 feet of the public while on the job or cleaned public facilities. Those who worked remotely would not be eligible.
The legislation is sure to face intense competition for funding as lawmakers hash out budget priorities in the remaining weeks of the legislative session. But Democratic leaders, who control both legislative chambers, have indicated they are open to the idea.
“Legislators are prioritizing bills that help communities impacted by the pandemic. Essential workers are the people hit hardest,” Ben Morris, SEIU spokesman, wrote in an email this week. “So we are hopeful that the essential worker pay proposal will be among the bills that get prioritized.”
Dru Draper, communications director for Senate Republicans, said his caucus will oppose the bill because it leaves in place a $300 weekly unemployment bonus. Some businesses say that federally funded bonus provides an incentive for prospective hires to stay home. The state’s jobless rate remained elevated at 6% in April, even though many small businesses say they’re struggling to find work.
“Other states are using back-to-work payments, too, but generous unemployment benefits must also be addressed in any plan, which this bill does not,” Draper said.
Rep. Rob Nosse, D-southeast Portland, co-authored an opinion piece in The Oregonian last month pitching the value of stimulus money for front-line workers who staffed hospitals and clinics, kept the grocery stores open and continued harvesting food through the pandemic.
“For a lot of those workers, they didn’t actually see any increase in their compensation from their employers,” Nosse said Thursday. “It’s a way to say thank you. And candidly, the other reason to do it is there’s a lot of essential workers that don’t make a very rich living.”
While Nosse said the total payout might be trimmed during the budget process, he said he’s hopeful lawmakers will ultimately reward front-line workers.
“There’s still a chance this is going to happen. I doubt it’s going to be a check worth $2,000,” Nosse said Friday. “This is a pretty big swing.”
Oregon’s Cannabis Market Keeps Trending Upward
Data from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) revealed that the state sold over $105 million in cannabis products in May 2021.
In March and April, the state sold approximately $109 million and $110 million, respectively. Recreational marijuana sales hit a new record high of $110.5 million in April 2021, a 23.5% increase over April 2020 when sales reached $89.7 million.
The figures mark significant gains for Oregon, which saw sales surpass $70 million per month at the start of the pandemic.
The state is known for its mostly smaller vendors and uncapped market. 2021 data from the Portland Business Journal lists cannabis brands Nectar Markets LLC, Golden Leaf Hldgs Ltd (OTC: GLDFF) and Halo Collective Inc (OTC: HCANF) as leaders in statewide employment operating locations.
Golden Leaf CEO Jeff Yapp called Oregon the bellwether state for cannabis.
“It has been and continues to be a leader in product innovation, and the quality of our growing regions making it the primary cultivation market in the country,” said Yapp.
Yapp credited the state’s pro-cannabis congressional team for fighting to advance cannabis reform on the federal level.
Kevin Hogan, president and co-founder of craft brand Oregrown, recognizes the state’s long-running operators as industry examples.
“Mature markets like Oregon have battle-tested operators equipped with the experience and innovative edge necessary to compete in any market,” Hogan said.
In 2019, Oregon State University launched its Global Hemp Innovation Center to advance hemp research.
Hogan said the state’s innovative nature stems from its hyper-competitive market.
“We are at the forefront of product innovation and quality, giving us a competitive advantage over limited-license operators as more states open up and federal legalization occurs.”
Oregon Bill Would Require 100% Clean Electricity By 2040
A bill for new requirements for utilities in the state of Oregon for 100% renewable energy or 100% clean electricity commitments is being reviewed.
If it gets through the state legislature, it will be one of the most aggressive timelines in the United States. However, it still gives the utilities nearly 20 years to fully decarbonize.
100% clean electricity by 2040 is ambitious when compared to other laws around the States. However, when looking at how much we need to cut emissions by 2040, that should be more of an average or norm than a leadership position.
Additionally, the bill as it is currently written requires that electric companies such as Portland General Electric and Pacific Power (the state’s two largest utilities) cut their carbon emissions 80% by 2030. An 80% reduction in emissions from a baseline level in just about a decade is a pretty aggressive transition for this sector.
Oregon House Bill 2021 — “Requires DEQ to determine each electric company’s baseline emissions level and, for each retail electricity provider, the amount of emissions reduction necessary to meet the established clean energy targets in the state policy.”
Reports out of Oregon indicate that the legislation is likely to be passed this year. It apparently has 100% opposition from Republicans in the state legislature, but Republicans don’t rule the show there. Its likelihood of passing is reportedly high despite a cap-&-trade bill dying last year as Republicans walked out of session early in order to kill it. This new bill is much narrower. Furthermore, it seems to have the support of the electric utility companies.
According to the DEQ, emissions from electricity accounted for 30% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. The entities regulated under HB 2021 are responsible for the vast majority of that, but some providers are left untouched.
“Several dozen small consumer-owned utilities around the state are not impacted by the bill. Nor is Idaho Power, the state’s smallest investor-owned utility, which was removed from HB 2021 after pressing for an exemption and touting its own decarbonization goals.”
Mark Nearman is now a former State Representative. In 59-1 vote the Salem area Republican was expelled from the Oregon Legislature.
This is the first time in Oregon’s 160-year history that a member of the Legislature has been voted out. Nearman is facing criminal charges for allowing protestors into the state capitol during a session that was closed to the public. There is also video that shows Nearman appear to plan the breach. He called the breach “Operation Hall Pass”. Nearman has said repeatedly that the Legislature did not have legal authorization to keep the public out of the session.
Nearman was the only House member not to vote in favor of his removal.
An audit by the Oregon Secretary of State has found six-point-four-billion dollars in accounting mistakes by state agencies.
The report says the mistakes were unintentional and proposed steps to fix the errors. The annual Keeping Oregon Accountable report is required by the federal government to monitor how federal money is spent.
The division also audited 14 federal programs in eleven state agencies and questioned over five-million dollars in expenditures. Thirteen programs received clean audits while suggestions were made to improve the state’s handling of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.