Klamath Basin News, Wednesday, 2/23 – Dancing With Your Klamath Stars Hits Ross Ragland on Friday Night!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 37. Wind chill values as low as zero. Tonight mostly clear with a low around 10 degrees.


Thursday Sunny, with a high near 41. Overnight, clear with a low around 14. North northeast winds to 8 mph.
Friday Sunny, with a high near 43.
Saturday A slight chance of rain and snow after 4pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 50. Chance of precipitation is 10%. Mostly cloudy overnight with a low around 31.
Sunday A chance of snow before 10am, then a slight chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.

Today’s Headlines

Oregon reports 3,400 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 29 new deaths

There are 29 new COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 6,485, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported today. OHA reported 3,400 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of today, bringing the state total to 689,325.

The 3,400 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 include those from Feb. 18, Feb. 19, Feb. 20 and Feb. 21.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (15), Benton (89), Clackamas (287), Clatsop (27), Columbia (44), Coos (64), Crook (23), Curry (22), Deschutes (202), Douglas (110), Harney (11), Hood River (21), Jackson (283), Jefferson (7), Josephine (99), Klamath (58), Lake (10), Lane (360), Lincoln (37), Linn (177), Malheur (8), Marion (218), Morrow (3), Multnomah (513), Polk (73), Sherman (1), Tillamook (16), Umatilla (54), Union (12), Wallowa (8), Wasco (17), Washington (420) and Yamhill (111).

With sunny days, high temperatures upwards of 60 degrees and 95% of the Klamath Basin’s wildlife refuges dry and cracked, 2022 wasn’t a normal year for the Winter Wings Festival.

Peppered among last weekend’s photography workshops and birding trips were frank discussions of why the Klamath’s bird populations have plummeted — and what could be done to recover them.

Klamath Basin Audubon Society, which helps organize Winter Wings, included programming at this year’s festival targeted explicitly at the issues facing the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, which haven’t received enough water to create wetland habitat for waterbirds for more than two decades.

The festival included seven presentations and field trips — six of them brand-new for 2022 — describing how the refuges have gotten into this situation and the efforts being made to save them.

Klamath County Museum Manager Todd Kepple led a Friday morning tour of sites near Klamath Falls that illustrate colonization’s impact on the basin’s once-abundant wetlands and the myriad species and societies they supported. Before the caravan left the Oregon Institute of Technology, he gave an introductory presentation on the Klamath’s water crisis.

Kepple has led this program a few times in the past at Winter Wings, especially as the situation on the refuge has gotten more dire, but he said this was the first year he brought climate change into the conversation.

Though the basin’s water woes ultimately stem from the destruction of its ecosystems, drier summers and less snowy winters make water management especially tight.

The Ross Ragland Theater stage welcomes back “Dancing With Your Klamath Stars” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25.

After its final rendition was announced in 2018, then returned the following year due to popular demand, the event was forced into hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year marks its return to the historic Ross Ragland stage, all in the name of a good cause. Modeled after the smash hit television series combining celebrities with professional dancers, Klamath County’s rendition brings prominent community members together to strut their stuff in a friendly competition on behalf of regional charities.

Participating in the dance competition, once again, is the Utah Ballroom Dance Company accompanying six selected Klamath County residents in a fun-filled evening of glitz and ballroom glamour. At stake, as with past competitions, is $500 for the winning charity, with additional proceeds benefiting the Ross Ragland Theater general operations fund.

This year’s competitors include Amanda Blodgett with Klamath Health Partnership, competing for 4-H of Klamath County; Ray Holliday the owner of Holliday Jewelry, dancing on behalf of the SMART Reading program; Brittany Montjoy with Cascade East Family Medicine, dancing for CASA of Klamath County; CJ Riley with Oregon Institute of Technology, participating for the Klamath Trails Alliance; Rhiannon Kerr with Klamath Union High School, dancing for Klamath Hospice; and Ryan Wheelock owner of Steel Sensations, representing the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.

Tickets for Dancing With Your Klamath Stars are $29 for adults, discounted senior and military tickets are $26, student tickets are $19, and box seating is $49.

Contact the Ross Ragland Theater Box Office to purchase tickets, or visit www.ragland.org for more information and to purchase tickets online.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon’s Legislature is sending a bill to the Governor to change lawn and landscape sprinkler systems in the state as part of a drought remediation effort.

Ashland Representative Pam Marsh authored House Bill 4057 which passed the State Senate today after passing the State House February 10.

The measure adopts efficiency standards for urban landscaping with new requirements for sprinklers to reduce water and energy consumption, thus reducing those costs. When signed into law, House Bill 4057 would authorize the Oregon Department of Energy to adopt efficiency standards for landscape irrigation sprinkler system devices.

Marsh says the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association supports HB 4057, which establishes water-saving and energy efficiency standards for residential and commercial spray sprinklers.  It requires sprinklers made and installed in Oregon after January 1, 2023 to meet Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense program product specifications.

Explosion At Hermiston Potato Chip Plant

Umatilla County Fire District #1 said at about 12:50 p.m. Tuesday it responded to Shearer’s Foods, one of the largest potato chip plants in the area for reports of an explosion. Evacuations were put in place for the people who live south of the plant and a nearby hotel.

Firefighters said six people were hurt in the explosion and were taken to a nearby hospital. The cause of the explosion was a portable boiler that was fueled by natural gas, according to Umatilla County Fire District #1.

Firefighters said this was the largest fire the district has responded to in the last decade.

Man Arrested After Two-Vehicle Crash While Holding Gun To His Head

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested a man near the border of Central Point and Medford while he held a gun to his own head following his involvement in a two-vehicle crash. The crash and arrest happened Tuesday night at the intersection of Crater Lake Ave and E Vilas Rd. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Aaron Lewis said the suspect male and the other driver engaged in a confrontation following the crash.

Lewis said the suspect threatened the other driver with his gun. Then, a struggle between the suspect and the other driver ensued over the firearm. Lewis said once a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy arrived on the scene, the suspect held the gun to his own head and began retreating back to his vehicle.

The vehicle was disabled due to the collision and the driver surrendered himself to deputies without force. Medford Police Department and Central Point Police Department assisted in the arrest. Lewis said a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) investigation is now underway.

Survivors of the 2020 Almeda and South Obenchain fires still living in FEMA-built trailers throughout the Rogue Valley recently received letters from the federal agency informing them that they’ll need to start paying rent if they want to stay beyond March 15.

The FEMA temporary housing unit (THU) program was extended through September 15 of this year at the request of Oregon officials, as it was originally set to expire 18 months after the Presidential disaster declaration.

Now, instead of being forced to move out on March 15, survivors will need to start paying monthly rent based on “fair market” prices. Residents of the FEMA trailers have been given the option of buying their trailers. While some have taken that offer, one survivor says that it was not something they’d seriously consider — the price was too high and does not come with a guarantee that they’ll have somewhere to park the trailer when the FEMA program comes to an end.

Temporary housing residents who don’t plan to buy their trailer or pay rent must vacate the units by March 15.

Oregon’s Department of Transportation says I-84 westbound is now open in eastern Oregon.

“Good coordination with all responding crews, including law enforcement, fire stations, emergency responders, ODOT and over a half-dozen tow companies helped clear the route enough to open the freeway several hours ahead of earlier estimates.”

The agency says eastbound I-84 reopened around midnight yesterday.  Over 100 vehicles were involved in the area, which encompassed over 100 miles. ODOT says disabled vehicles were moved from the roadway with some set at a nearby truck weigh station and rest area.  ODOT says outstanding response from our tow companies and all who responded, including law enforcement and EMS got everyone out fast, which made clearing the scene go well.

ODOT says more clearing work is needed and travelers should expect reduced speeds, crews working near the roadway, lane restrictions near the crash site, and winter conditions along the route.

School leaders across the state are five weeks away from having permission to make masks optional for students and staff without the risk of fines or the loss of COVID relief funds.

Still, school boards in Molalla, Alsea and Redmond have decided to skip the wait and accept the risks to allow for optional masking early.

It’s a move that puts their district superintendents in a difficult position: Follow Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to mask in schools until March 31 and risk being fired by their school board, or follow their school board’s decision and risk losing some school funding, their superintendent’s license and owing fines of up to $500 per day.

Marc Seigel, communications director at the Oregon Department of Education, said agency officials would release further guidance for districts next week.

Cline hopes the department will accelerate the mask policy change, sparing him a tough decision.

Oregon Small Enterprise Fund (SEF) has reopened for financial relief to Oregon businesses excluded from federal pandemic relief assistance programs due to the owners’ immigration status.

The non-profit Oregon Worker Relief (OWR) will administer the fund as crucial aid for those businesses. The Small Enterprise Fund has $1.5-million for one-time relief grants to Oregon businesses excluded from federal relief assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program. Call center agents have started contacting people on the fund’s waitlist since it first opened March 2021. 

SEF will take new applications starting today, Feb.  22.  Eligible immigrant-owned small businesses owners can call 1-888-274-7292 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to apply for the fund. 

The Democratic majority in the Oregon State Capitol may extend Republicans a peace offering to use on their own priorities.

House Speaker Dan Rayfield says Democrats could set aside 100-million dollars in the surging revenue forecast for the minority to use as they see fit. The goal from state lawmakers is to ease partisan battles that have dominated previous legislative sessions. Leaders in both parties are still working out how the move could impact issues both parties agree on before finalizing the decision.

The Brother of MAX Train Murderer Jeremy Christian Is Suspect in February 16th Fatal Shooting in Portland

The brother of Jeremy Christian, who is serving life in prison for murdering two people and seriously injuring another on a crowded MAX train in 2017, is suspected in a Feb. 16 North Portland homicide.

“I can confirm that the name of the individual involved in the Feb. 16 shooting is David Christian,” said Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Elisabeth Shepard. “This case is an open investigation, and we are unable to provide further comment at this time.”

On Monday, the Portland Police Bureau identified the victim of the Feb. 16 shooting as 30-year-old Zachary Steven Moore. Police have not yet released the suspected shooter’s name. The bureau said in a press release last week that, at 12:20 am on Feb. 16, officers responded to a shooting call in the St. Johns neighborhood near the intersection of North Mohawk Avenue and Fessenden Street.

“When officers arrived they located a male victim who was deceased,” PPB said. “A person involved in the shooting remained at the scene and is cooperating.”

David Christian is not in custody, and it does not appear as though police consider him dangerous: “At this time, police are not looking for any suspects and there is no threat to the community,” PPB said in its press release.

The DA’s office did not confirm that David Christian, 47, is related to Jeremy Christian, now 39. But public records indicate that the two are indeed siblings.

Separate court records from 2017 for Jeremy Christian and David Christian, whose name also appears as Jonathan David Christian, list the same North Portland residential address. Court records for David Christian dating back to 2005 also list that address.

A recognizance release from 2017 for David Christian says his mother is Mary Christian. Multiple news articles about Jeremy Christian identify his mother as Mary. And Multnomah County property records show that Mary Christian and Donald Christian are the homeowners of the property that Jeremy and David listed as their residence in court records.

A November 2017 psychiatric evaluation report for Jeremy Christian says he is “the third of four sons born to the marriage of his parents.”

“He has been variously residing in his parents’ home or staying with friends when not in custody since his release from the Oregon Department of Corrections in 2010,” the evaluation says. “His brothers also reside in the family home or with extended family.”

Medical Drone Delivery To Transport Lab Samples In Oregon

Oregon-based Interpath Laboratory is joining forces with Spright, the drone division of air medical service provider Air Methods, to launch a drone delivery network that can transport lab specimens from remote and rural areas quickly.

A BVLOS 15-mile test flight conducted last week with the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center to Interpath’s main medical laboratory location in Oregon’s Pendleton saw a Wingcopter 198 drone being used to reduce the turnaround time of critical diagnostic test results greatly.

The current process for Interpath laboratory services works something like this: Patient samples are taken throughout the day, and then they are batched together for pick-up by ground vehicles in the evening for delivery to the lab. These vehicles typically drive thousands of miles each day across the region to pick up specimens from numerous clinics, hospitals, and facilities.

In contrast, the new medical drone delivery initiative will enable samples to be picked up repeatedly and delivered to Interpath throughout the day. Not only will this improve patient satisfaction and enable healthcare providers to implement follow-up care in a timelier manner, but the green solution will also remove gasoline-powered vehicles from roads and lessens local traffic, the companies say.

Joe Resnik, president of Spright, explains: “Many communities located in remote or rural areas lack timely and convenient access to essential medical supplies and services. We look forward to this proof-of-concept, showcasing drone delivery’s ability to solve many of healthcare’s existing access and efficiency challenges, while also improving patient care and experience.”

If successful, the new drone delivery approach will allow Interpath Laboratory to transport patient samples throughout the day, rather than primarily overnight. Maximizing daytime sample processing abilities will lead to more efficient laboratory operations, while benefiting patients and healthcare providers with faster delivery of vital test results.

While Aaron Hines, CEO of Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center, points out that the initiative can help to provide high-quality, primary healthcare for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Interpath Laboratory’s president, Tom Kennedy, says: “Medical laboratory services in rural areas frequently must invest intensive time and resources into sample pick-up. We anticipate Spright’s drone delivery service will alleviate many of the drawbacks and costs associated with automobile-based delivery.”

Oregon State University is investigating a possible hate crime on campus.

Police were called out to Tebeau Hall after a reported assault. Students told officers two college aged white men attacked someone while shouting expletives related to their sexual orientation. No other details about the case were released.

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