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Klamath Basin News, Monday, June 20 – Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Shares Info on Senate Bill 48 (SB48), the Legislative Bill That Goes Into Effect July 1st, signed by Governor Brown

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Mostly sunny, with a high near 75. Calm wind becoming northwest 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon. Overnight, clear with a low around 45. North wind around 9 mph.

Tuesday Sunny, with a high near 84. Northeast wind 3 to 8 mph. Overnight, clear, a low of 45.
Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 89.
Thursday Sunny, with a high near 88.
Friday Sunny, with a high near 89.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 91.
Sunday Sunny, with a high near 92.

Today’s Headlines

The Klamath County Sheriff’s Office would like the public to be aware of how Senate Bill 48 (SB48), passed during the last legislative session and signed by Governor Brown, will affect public safety in Klamath County. Here’s a statement from the Sheriff’s department:

SB48 will have the effect of requiring the release of a significant number of criminal suspects from police custody, without bail, back into the community.

Essentially, anyone arrested for committing a property crime such as theft, burglary, car theft, trespass, or a non-domestic violence assault, arson, unlawful purchase of a firearm and many other crimes, will not be able to be kept in jail any longer than it takes to process them.

SB48 becomes effective July 1, 2022. The law is codified in Oregon Revised Statute 135.233, and by order of the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, requires release from custody those suspected of committing certain classifications of crimes without security (bail).

As part of the nationwide movement for police / bail reform, Oregon has taken a dangerous step that requires law enforcement to arrest, book, and then immediately release suspects that have committed some misdemeanor and felony crimes

Klamath County Sheriff’s Office deputies and other law enforcement officers in our community will continue to uphold their oaths to keep the peace and enforce criminal law by taking into custody those suspected of committing crimes. Even though the option of citing criminal suspects to appear in court continues to exist, law enforcement will be encouraged to take into custody and process suspected offenders whenever appropriate. However, if the crimes they are charged with meet the broad criteria established by the Chief Justice, the suspects will be released from the jail, without bail, under conditions such as being required to appear in court or avoid contact with the victim of their offense.

One of the negative effects of this decision is that many people battling mental illness, who are taken into custody for lower level offenses, will be released and miss an important opportunity for connecting with mental health services to aid them in their illness and maybe prevent future criminal activity. Locally, partnerships are in place between the Sheriff’s Office, mental health service providers, and the court to evaluate appropriate responses to these situations. With these individuals being immediately released, this important work, which benefits the community and the individual, will suffer.

The Sheriff’s Office wishes to make sure the citizens of Klamath County are aware of this change in judicial procedure, decided by representatives of the Oregon Legislature and the Chief Justice, and not supported (by vote) by any locally elected representatives of Klamath County. Both Senator Linthicum and Representative Reschke opposed this legislation.

Remember to lock your doors, lock your cars, keep an eye on your neighborhood, and report suspicious activity.

The Klamath Basin has been plagued by drought and a lack of water for years. Last year, the region faced one of the worst droughts on record, and this year Gov. Kate Brown declared a drought emergency in Klamath County for the third year in a row.

The effects are far-reaching for tribes, ranchers, farmers, waterfowl advocates and people who rely on residential wells. Oregon Public Broadcasting spoke to people from the region to hear how they’re faring as they face another dry year.

Salmon numbers remain low. Last year, the Yurok Tribe in Northern California faced a catastrophic fish kill. The losses will affect salmon populations for years to come. But this year, salmon numbers are faring better, said Barry McCovey, the Fisheries Department director for the Yurok Tribe.

Klamath County is facing another year of a drought emergency, leaving residents with wells that have gone dry. The county has received help from the state to truck in water.

Kelley Minty Morris is the chair of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners. She said the county remains in a tough spot, even with some precipitation from earlier in the year.

Some farmers and ranchers in Southern Oregon have been contemplating their future as a lack of water continues to plague the region.

Klamath Basin farmers  are coping with a fertilizer crisis along with the rest of the agriculture community across the country, brought on by soaring fossil fuel prices and industry consolidation. The price of synthetic fertilizer has more than doubled since 2021, causing great stress in farm country.

This crunch is particularly tough on those who grow corn, which accounts for half of U.S. nitrogen fertilizer use. The National Corn Growers Association predicts that its members will spend 80% more in 2022 on synthetic fertilizers than they did in 2021. A recent study estimates that on average, this will represent $128,000 in added costs per farm.

In response, the Biden administration announced a new grant program March 11 “to support innovative American-made fertilizer to give U.S. farmers more choices in the marketplace.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest $500 million to try to lower fertilizer costs by increasing production. But since this probably isn’t enough money to construct new fertilizer plants, it’s not clear how the money will be spent.

One reason U.S. fertilizer prices have spiked is that farmers are beholden to imports. COVID-19 disrupted supply chains, especially from China, a major fertilizer producer. And the war in Ukraine has cut off access to potash, an important potassium source, from Russia and Belarus.

Three men were arrested on drug charges last Wednesday, June 15, at the Midland Rest Area on Highway 97.

Oregon State Police troopers obtained a search warrant to search their vehicle late Wednesday afternoon. The police said they “found approximately 13.9 pounds of methamphetamine, 5 pounds of fentanyl pills and a large quantity of marijuana items that were unlawfully imported into Oregon,” according to a statement on the arrests.

Urve Magana, 31 of Compton, California, Gael Elian Orenelas, 18 of Yakima, Washington, and Ruben Carmelo Sotelo, 25 of Lynwood, California, face charges of alleged drug possession and attempted trafficking.

Earlier this month, state police arrested 41-year-old man at the rest stop after learning he had outstanding criminal warrants.

The Klamath Basin Oral Health Coalition (KBOHC) partnered with Medical Teams International, Oregon Tech Dental, Klamath Health Partnership, Smith Dental, and Konnect Dental Kare to provide free dental services valued at nearly $18,000 to residents of Merrill and Malin last month.

This event would not have been possible without a community of volunteers. Medical Teams International provided their mobile dental unit, in which volunteers performed dental exams, fillings and extractions. Dental treatment was provided by Dr. Andrew Bernhard from Oregon Tech Dental Clinic, Drs. Andrew Smith and Nicholas Smith from Smith Dental, and Drs. Aaron Davis and Jessica Dodge from Klamath Open Door.

Dental hygienist Celeste Hernandez from Klamath Open Door along with Oregon Tech students and dental hygiene faculty members Krista Beaty, Kim Pratt and Darlene Swigart provided dental cleanings. Brenna Chavarin and Brooke Keffer of Konnect Dental Kare placed dental sealants, fluoride applications on children, and provided dental cleanings.

Oregon water regulators want to impose stricter rules for drilling new irrigation wells next year to preserve groundwater levels and prevent over-pumping.

A preliminary analysis of available data suggests that little groundwater across the state is available for new allocations, said Ivan Gall, field services division administrator at the state’s Water Resources Department.

The goal is to create a policy that’s “simple and transparent” and also “protective” of groundwater and senior water rights holders, Gall said at the June 16 meeting of the state’s Water Resources Commission, which oversees the department.

The agency plans to hold public outreach workshops about the proposal this summer, following by a “rules advisory committee” to weigh in on potential changes.

Under this timeline, the commission could vote to adopt the new regulations in early 2023.

The agency is on an “ambitious schedule” to revise the rules for permitting new wells, he said. It plans to later deal with other groundwater reforms, such as the rules for deepening existing wells.

The second annual community day was held at the Klamath County Family YMCA on Saturday.

The YMCA had many events and signups for Summer activities. The Y is offering camps and classes all summer long including football, volleyball, swimming and more to keep kids busy during the summer break.

Activities begin in the morning Saturday and run all day at the Y.

If you would like more information, call them at 541-884-4149.

Wildfire smoke has become a routine summer visitor to Southern Oregon in recent years. Klamath County Public Health (KCPH) and other regional agencies are encouraging people to be prepared for wildfire smoke in the days and weeks ahead.

First, know where to get a good reading on local air quality. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality updates air quality numbers every hour.

Also, stay indoors as much as possible. Keep out of the smoke as much as possible. Keep the air indoors as unpolluted as possible.

Limit vigorous physical activity when the air quality is poor. This includes running, biking, physical labor, and sports.

If you have asthma or another respiratory condition, make sure you have an inhaler or other medications that you might need. Make an asthma management plan with your healthcare provider.

Make plans for indoor activities for kids on smoky days. Consider what your children can do if they need to stay indoors when smoke levels are “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or worse.

The right mask and proper fit can reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke, but they don’t work for everyone. N95 respirators and KN95 masks offer good protection, consult your medical provider for the best advice.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is reporting the first case of probable hMPXV (denoting the human version of the monkeypox virus) in Oregon.

The individual identifies as an adult male and has traveled to a community with confirmed cases. He remains isolated and is following recommendations from public health officials and medical providers. Confirmatory testing is being done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

OHA is working closely with the CDC, local public health and the patient’s health care providers to ensure appropriate actions are taken to identify individuals at potential risk for exposure.

Though hMPXV is in the same group of viruses as smallpox, it is not smallpox. hMPXV is much harder to catch, and it is not as severe. There are two strains of this virus, and the one that’s circulating now causes milder disease. Most people are recovering at home without any special treatment. Additionally, there have been no deaths reported nationwide.

Historically, people have become infected by handling wild animals, but hMPXV can also be transmitted person-to-person. This can happen through prolonged, close contact, either skin-to-skin, contact with fluid from hMPXV lesions, or less commonly from large respiratory droplets.

Child Dies After Water Rescue In Eagle Point

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has released updated information that as of 8:55 p.m on 6/18., the 7-year-old child in Saturday’s Water rescue in Eagle Point has passed away.

The Sheriff’s Office has informed us that the name of the child will not be provided at this time out of respect for the family.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that a missing 7-year-old, who went missing in Little Butte Creek, has been found and has been taken to a local hospital.

According to search and rescue crews, the 7-year-old was located by JCSO deputies in the water near Butte Creek Mill. The child was taken by Mercy Flights, however the condition of the child is undetermined at this time. 

Jury Finds Man Guilty Of Setting Pacific Pride Fire

A Jackson County Circuit Court twelve-person jury found a man guilty of setting a fire on April 12 that razed or damaged the Pacific Pride fueling station and five other businesses on South Central Avenue.

The fire also released approximately 20,000 gallons of petroleum products according to the Department of Environmental Quality, some of which was found in Bear Creek.

John Salmons will be sentenced Wednesday, June 22 for first-degree arson, six counts of first-degree criminal mischief, which refers to property damage, and for recklessly endangering.

Jury members heard witness testimony and video evidence from Medford Police Department detectives showing security footage of 49-year-old John Salmons leaving the vicinity less than a minute after smoke started to fill the air.

According to court documents, Salmons was originally arrested April 16 for an unrelated incident after MPD Officer Harvey found Salmons with a lighter and a fire inside of a Monster energy drink can.

This fire was a parole violation from an Aug. 1 2021 incident when Salmons was arrested for starting another warming fire on Biddle Road near Crater Lake Highway. He was convicted Jan. 11 and spent 20 days in prison, after which he was required to undergo supervised parole for two years.

A court document, written by Salmon’s parole officer, Bryan Hescock, said the April 16 fire “is very similar to the behavior that placed Mr. Salmons on supervision in the first place.”

Nearly a week later, the Medford Police Department announced on April 22 that they had connected him with the Pacific Pride fire.

Five Illegal Marijuana Grows Busted in Douglas County Last Week

Over the course of the past week, the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team (DINT) has addressed several illegal marijuana sites in Douglas County.  In total, DINT has eradicated illegal marijuana from 5 sites, and made several arrests.

DINT eradicated two sites on Raleigh Drive, outside of Winston.  In the 600 block of Raleigh Drive, DINT located a property that had 18 greenhouses containing illegal marijuana plants.  DINT eradicated 3,832 marijuana plants from the property, and seized several other items of evidence of criminal activity.  In this case, DINT arrested 25 year old Jesus Manuel Martinez-Munguia, and 42 year old Ezequiel Martinez-Garcia, both lodged at the Douglas County Jail.

In the 500 block of Raleigh Drive, DINT detectives located another illegal marijuana grow operation consisting of approximately 1,330 marijuana plants.  In this case, detectives arrested the property owner, 43 year old Jackie Willis, who was lodged at the Douglas County Jail.  

Detectives located another illegal marijuana growing operation in the 1600 block of Weaver Road, Myrtle Creek.  In this case detectives eradicated 757 marijuana plants, and approximately 311 pounds of processed marijuana.  Detectives discovered the suspects had been diverting large amounts of water from the adjacent BLM land.  They discovered an area on the BLM land where a creek had been impounded to collect water, and that water was run through pipes a great distance to the marijuana growing operation. Detectives also seized a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle from the residence.  A check of the serial number revealed the rifle had been reported stolen out of San Joaquin County, California.  35 year old Arturo Perez-Aguilar was arrested and lodged at the Douglas County Jail.  

Detectives eradicated approximately 1,765 plants from a location in the 1200 block of N. Old Pacific Hwy in Myrtle Creek.  Again, all of these plants were illegal marijuana.  

At a residence in the 700 block of Buckhorn Road, Roseburg, detectives located and eradicated 1,103 illegal marijuana plants.

In many of these cases, the investigations are continuing and more arrests are anticipated.

Southern Oregon has been inundated with large scale illegal marijuana grows during the last couple of years, including Douglas County.  The scale of these operations is unlike anything we have ever seen before and they are destructive to our communities.  

These operations are most often run and controlled by multinational criminal organizations with only profit in mind.  They pay no regard to our local resources, rules, laws, or ethics.  They often do vast amounts of damage to our natural resources, and damage our streams and rivers by dumping garbage, toxic chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides), and human feces.  Water diversion is another concern as they often illegally take water from wells and rivers.  It is common to see them illegally damming small streams to impound water for their own use.  

Douglas County is committed to pushing back against these illegal activities and restoring our long held standards.  Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team (DINT

The whole family is now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines! Children 6 months and older, and any eligible adult, can receive a COVID-19 vaccine for free. We're working with vaccine providers to make doses readily available at locations such as your health care provider's office and special COVID-19 vaccine clinics. We appreciate your patience.

Pediatric Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are now approved for use in Oregon for children ages 6 months and older. A two-dose Moderna vaccine series is available to children ages 6 months to under 6 years old. A three-dose Pfizer vaccination series is available to children ages 6 months to under 5 years old.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup has confirmed that both vaccines are safe and effective for these age groups, following authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommendation from the CDC. We’re working with vaccine providers statewide to make doses available at health care provider offices, federally qualified health centers and special COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

We recommend you call first and ask if your pediatrician or preferred clinic has the vaccine yet. We appreciate your patience.

Will Wet Spring in Oregon Be a Quiet Wildfire Season Or Fuel Major Fires

In June of 2017, the Statesman Journal published an optimistic story about the upcoming wildfire season. It had been a wet spring, after all, and there was plenty of snow in the mountains. “Quiet season expected for Oregon wildfires,” the headline said in part.

The reality turned out anything but quiet. Numerous large wildfires smoked out solar eclipse plans while ushering the beginning of a period that’s seen wildfires become a normal part of Oregon summer.

The 2017 season became the most expensive on record to fight at the time at $447 million while burning 757,000 acres. The Eagle Creek Fire brought chaos to the Columbia River Gorge and shut down Interstate 84 for an extended period, while the Chetco Bar Fire came terrifyingly close to burning the town of Brookings on the South Coast.

So what happened, and what might it tell us about the upcoming fire season?

“I actually think 2017 is a pretty good example of what we’re worried about this year,” said Eric Wise, a predictive wildfire meteorologist at the Northwest Coordination Center. “Every season is different, but there are definitely similarities.”

A few of the concerning aspects include rapid-growing grasses and fine fuels that could dry out and become highly flammable by late July and August, along with projections for more lightning strikes than a normal year, Wise said.

In general, the wet spring has been a very good thing for Oregon. It has refilled reservoirs, kept river flows higher than normal — good for fish and wildlife — and scaled back the severity of the state’s long-term drought.

It has also delayed wildfire season.

A year ago, major wildfires erupted near Mount Hood and brought evacuations to southern Oregon in mid-June. This year, there’s little chance of that happening so early.

“The upside is that it has delayed the fire season and given us extra time to do our hiring and training so that when fires do eventually start, we’re well-prepared,” said Jessica Prakke, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Forestry, which fights fire on Oregon’s state, county and private timberlands.

The late-season snowpack, which is between 160% to 400% of normal across Oregon’s mountains, also helps delay fire season and quell any potential ignitions from the Cascade Range to the Wallowa Mountains.

“I’d tend to say that (the wet spring) is a good thing overall,” Wise said. “And it could — could — end up not being much of a fire season at all. But there are definitely concerns depending on how the summer plays out.”

Anyone with a yard in Oregon can attest to how prodigious spring rain has caused plants, weeds and grass to grow rapidly, turning backyards into veritable jungles.

The same is true in Oregon’s forests and grasslands, leading to the rapid growth of what’s known as fine fuels — smaller plants and grasses.

“Once those dry out, they catch pretty easily and burn and spread really fast,” Prakke said.

That was one of the issues in 2017, Wise said. The growth of fine fuels spurred by a wet spring quickly dried out as temperatures spiked in July, August and September, leading to a flammable understory that ignited into major infernos such as Eagle Creek, Whitewater, Chetco Bar and Miller Complex wildfires.

Major wildfires are typically the product of multiple ingredients coming together — dry fuels, hot temperatures and wind being some of the most potent. But, of course, there also needs to be a spark, and that’s another concerning similarity to 2017.

In 2017, the most famous wildfire was the Eagle Creek blaze, which burned just under 50,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge and was ignited by a teenager tossing a firework off Eagle Creek Trail.

In reality, though, most of the major fires ignited in 2017 were caused by lightning strikes in remote locations. The Miller Complex, Milli Fire, Whitewater Fire and Chetco Bar Fire were all ignited by lightning strikes in hard-to-reach areas that grew quickly on hot temperatures and dry winds.

This summer, there is an above-average chance for more thunderstorms than normal, Wise said. That’s because of what’s projected to be an active monsoon season in the southwest, which typically funnels moisture up to Oregon where it turns into thunderstorms.

“If the thunderstorms hit us with moisture, it can be helpful,” Wise said. “But when they just bring dry lightning, that’s when things get crazy in a hurry. That’s one of our biggest concerns this year, just that we expect an active monsoon season, and then an active thunderstorm season in the Northwest.”

While the recent rain has soaked northwest Oregon, the central, eastern and southern parts of the state remain mired in deep drought. It’s been a wetter spring than normal in Medford, for example, but the area is still about 3 inches below normal precipitation for the year, according to the National Weather Service.

That persistent drought means fuels are still drier than they should be, elevating fire risk. The area where fire danger is the highest continues to be Central Oregon and southeastern Oregon, Wise said.

In general, Wise said, Oregon is in much better shape than a year ago and it could end up being a quiet summer. It’s likely to be a much shorter season than normal, with wet and cool conditions expected into late June at least.

But if the weather turns hot and dry and the lightning arrives, it could be a replay of 2017 in the summer of 2022.

Stricter Groundwater Regulations Could Be Coming For Oregon

Oregon water regulators want to impose stricter rules for drilling new irrigation wells next year to preserve groundwater levels and prevent over-pumping.

A preliminary analysis of available data suggests that little groundwater across the state is available for new allocations, said Ivan Gall, field services division administrator at the state’s Water Resources Department.
The goal is to create a policy that’s “simple and transparent” and also “protective” of groundwater and senior water rights holders, Gall said at the June 16 meeting of the state’s Water Resources Commission, which oversees the department.

The agency plans to hold public outreach workshops about the proposal this summer, following by a “rules advisory committee” to weigh in on potential changes. Under this timeline, the commission could vote to adopt the new
regulations in early 2023.

The agency is on an “ambitious schedule” to revise the rules for permitting new wells, he said. It plans to later deal with other groundwater reforms, such as the rules for deepening existing wells.

WATER RIGHTS IN OREGON – An Introduction to Oregon’s Water Laws https://www.oregon.gov/owrd/WRDPublications1/aquabook.pdf

 Fishing Vessel Catches Fire Off The Coast Of Manzanita

U.S Coast Guard crews responded to a fire on a 42-foot commercial fishing vessel off the coast of Manzanita Beach in Oregon early Saturday morning.

USCG said they received a distress call at around 6:30 a.m., about 2 miles West of Manzanita Beach. One person on board was rescued from the water by a Good Samaritan, transferred to a USCG crew and brought to shore with no medical concerns.

The boat burned down to the waterline and according to USCG, and drifted to about 1 mile West of Nehalem Bay State Park. It continues to smolder as of 2:46 p.m. Responders are continuing to monitor.

Rescued Puppy Mill Dogs Arrive At Oregon Humane Society

The Oregon Humane Society has taken in more than 30 dogs from a suspected puppy mill in California. In all, more than 150 dogs were living in cramped crates, filled with waste.

Many of the dogs need medical attention. They are French bulldogs and other bulldog mix breeds. The Oregon Humane Society says it’ll be several months before the dogs are ready for adoption. They’ll go to foster homes to recover and learn how to be a pet. The dogs will be put up for adoption as they become ready.

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