Klamath Basin News, Tuesday, 12/13 – Klamath Water Users Offer Plan To Keep Upper Klamath Lake Filled, Amid Ongoing Drought; Waits To Hear from Bureau of Reclamation

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Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

This Afternoon Mostly sunny, with a high near 31. Overnight, cloudy and very cold with a low around 12.

Wednesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 35. Overnight very cold and clear with a low around 8 degrees.
Thursday Mostly sunny, with a high near 33.
Friday Sunny, with a high near 32.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 32.
Sunday Mostly sunny, with a high near 33.

See Road Camera Views

Lake of the Woods   
Doak Mtn.   
Hiway 97 at Chemult   
Hiway 140 at  Bly       
Hiway 97 at GreenSprings Dr.            
Hiway 97 at LaPine

Today’s Headlines

The Klamath Water Users Association says it’s created a plan to fill Upper Klamath Lake, amid the ongoing drought. The plan is outlined in a letter to the federal government.

It says taking action now would result in a significant reduction in river flows compared to current levels. The KWUA says that means reducing one-third of the current flow. The organization says there are a lot of competing demands on Upper Klamath Lake in the spring and summer months for fish and farms.

KWUA believes that that reduction in river flows can occur, should occur and needs to occur because the impacts to doing otherwise and not filling up upper Klamath Lake are so severe that’s an outcome they can’t afford to repeat.  

The Klamath Bureau of Reclamation is the agency responsible for controlling the rate of releases out of Upper Klamath Lake. Stay tuned.

Fatal Crash on Saturday – HIGHWAY 39- Klamath County

On Saturday, December 10th, 2022, at approximately 6:28 PM, the Oregon State Police responded to a vehicle vs pedestrian collision at the intersection of Hwy 39 and Fargo St, in Klamath County.

The preliminary investigation indicated a white GMC Sierra, operated by Christina Mueller (22), of Klamath Falls, was traveling eastbound in the fast lane when it struck a pedestrian, Jerri Vaughn (53), of Klamath Falls.

Vaughn was wearing a green jacket and jeans, was not in a crosswalk and was struck in the eastbound fast lane. The visibility on the roadway was poor due to it raining and being dark at the time of the collision. Vaughn was pronounced deceased at the scene due to injuries sustained in the crash. 

Highway 39 was open during the investigation with the westbound lanes being reduced to two-way traffic while the eastbound lanes were shut down for approximately 3 hours. 

OSP was assisted by the Klamath County Sheriffs’ Office, Klamath County Fire District 1, and ODOT.

The National Football League signals the start of every game with the National Anthem and quite often the last note is punctuated with the roar of fighter jets streaking overhead in a show of patriotism.

Just to let you know that on Sunday, Dec. 4th, as the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Miami Dolphins for an afternoon game, our own Klamath Falls 173rd Fighter Wing from Kingsley Field here in Kamath Falls lent the roar of four F-15 Eagles to the crowded stadium, flying over the nearly 70-thousand fans to cheers, clapping, and pyrotechnics.

Following the on-field recognition, the group was able to head to the stands where the fans welcomed them with lots of fist-bumps and high-fives as San Francisco outpaced Miami 33-17 to end the game.

The Joint Legislative Emergency Board on Friday, Dec. 9 approved $975,000 for Klamath Community College to invest in a water well drilling rig and well drilling curriculum.

The current shortage of well constructors in Klamath County is anticipated to worsen with increased training requirements becoming effective July 1, 2023. In addition to well drilling curriculum, the program will include welding certification with a focus on pipe-welding and construction jobsite safety training, as well as training on laws regarding water well drilling.

Klamath Community College hopes to launch the program at the beginning of its Winter Term on Jan. 13, 2023.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Lakeview District has hired three new employees, Caroline Gish, Liza Hamilton and Caitlin Emery.

Gish started in November as a planning and environmental specialist for the Klamath Falls Field Office helping to oversee the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2018. Throughout the past four years, Gish has been working as an intern or seasonally for different government agencies. She said she is excited to officially start her career with the BLM in Klamath Falls.

Hamilton has worked for the BLM Lakeview District since 2019 but was promoted to the administrative officer in November. She comes from a Forest Service family who spent time in Ranger Districts in Northern Oregon until 1980 when they moved to Klamath Falls. She received her accounting and industrial systems specialization degree from Oregon Institute of Technology in 1988 where she was a member of the Oregon Tech women’s basketball team. She began her federal career on a 20-person fire crew on the Lowell Ranger District. Hamilton said she looks forward to continuing her service to the BLM and the local community.

Emery grew up in Oklahoma. Before starting her federal career, she served in the U.S. Air Force. After leaving the military, Emery wanted to continue serving but in a different way. She became the program support assistant for the Veterans Affairs in the Salt Lake City Regional Office before moving to Lakeview and joining the BLM Lakeview District as the management and program analyst.

Traveling the area… When snow starts falling and ice starts forming, you know one thing for sure: your tires better be ready. Even the best, new tires can be no match for thick snow and slick, ice-covered roads. Your tires can lose traction in these road conditions.

That’s when you need to consider your options to improve your traction during hazardous winter weather. During and after a winter storm, crews in affected areas work around the clock to monitor changing weather conditions and treat roads. City snow plow crews are working diligently to maintain safe roadways for our citizens but cannot cinder every driveway. There are many options if you have to travel in winter weather:

  • carry chains or use traction tires
  • increase stopping distances when snow and ice are present
  • utilize the State’s Trip Check site to see liv updates of road conditions and closures, as well as web cams giving travelers a glimpse at current conditions and traffic.

Neighborhoods can improve road safety by utilizing snow melt/ice melt or sand at entrances to their driveways as well as use of other traction controls. 

City of Klamath Falls Streets Division thanks our citizens for your patience and extreme caution when driving in winter weather. 

For Snow Plan and Snow Plow priorities, visit the City’s website at:  WINTER WEATHER INFORMATION

The Klamath Falls Lions club will be selling See’s Candy for the Christmas Holidays as a fundraiser for its sight and hearing projects.

See’s candy will be available at Turn Thom, Point S Tires next to Bi-Mart from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

According to a press release, the Klamath County Lions clubs conducted vision screening for more than 4,000 students in Klamath County this past fall.

Lions also provide glasses for students and others in need, the press release states.

Oregon Tech faculty are partnering with Oregon Tech Library’s Open Educational Resources (OER) program to reduce student costs associated with textbook materials, and throughout the past three years have saved Oregon Tech students $1,216,866 in textbook costs.

According to University Librarian John Schoppert, OER are freely accessible, high-quality coursework materials made accessible to students to alleviate the high costs of mainstream publisher textbooks. OER describes openly licensed materials and resources for any user to use, remix, reuse, repurpose and redistribute.

OER are available at no cost to the student and, in general, no monetary cost to the faculty for adopting, adapting or creating an open resource, but it can take time to redesign a course to adopt new materials. To address this, the Oregon Tech Library’s OER program provides grants to faculty who wish to adopt or create high-quality, openly licensed materials for their courses.

The process also allows for sharing of knowledge as faculty modify materials for their courses, adopt materials to the course needs, or enhance materials with text, images, or videos to support different learning styles.

Around the state of Oregon

The Oregon Health Authority and some doctors are telling people, including children, to wear masks again indoors during the Christmas holiday season citing recent rises in COVID-19, influenza and RSV cases.

The state’s top epidemiologist announced that week that the COVID-19 pandemic “is not over” and some doctors are instructing Oregonians to keep children away from “crowded indoor places” including stores and parties as Christmas and other holidays approach.

The state health agency and some Oregon physicians are making a renewed push for wearing masks. They point to increased hospital visits related to the three viruses.

Other doctors also joined Dean Sidelinger, M.D., OHA’s health officer and state epidemiologist, pushing for renewed indoor mask wearing. He called the current situation at Oregon hospitals “extremely serious.” OHA said gatherings should be postponed or nixed “if your family includes young children, older adults or individuals with underlying conditions.”

Oregon Part Of $10-Billion Opioid Financial Settlements With CVS And Walgreens

Oregon Attorney General Rosenblum, along with other AG colleagues across the country, announced a national agreement totaling $10.7 billion with CVS and Walgreens for the pharmacies’ conduct in fueling the opioid epidemic.

Walgreens operates the second-largest pharmacy store chain in the United States, behind CVS. Under the agreements, CVS will pay $5 billion and Walgreens will pay $5.7 billion, totaling $10.7 billion.  A certain number of states will need to sign onto the agreements for the full amount to be distributed.

“Pharmacies were a key link in the supply chain that contributed to the greatest drug-induced public health crisis in modern America. This may seem like a lot of money-and it is- but compared to the harm caused by America’s largest pharmacy chains, it barely scratches the surface,” said Rosenblum.

This now makes three settlements with a national pharmacy chain in the last month; A $3 billion settlement with Walmart was announced in November. In the Walmart settlement, all states have until the end of 2022 to join, which Oregon has recently done.  

In addition, each of these agreements will need sign-on by Oregon’s counties and cities to maximize the amount of money the state will receive.  Oregon stands to receive up to $173,150,000 over time as a result of the settlements with CVS ($65,430,000) Walgreens ($70,860,000) and Walmart ($36,860,000).

“Too many have died and too many families are broken by virtue of – plain and simple – corporate greed, and that includes pharmacies. Americans place their trust in their pharmacy, and certainly do not expect it to cause them harm,” added AG Rosenblum.  “I appreciate that 100 percent of Oregon’s counties and cities signed onto our previous settlements with Johnson & Johnson and the three major opioid distributors. I hope they will sign onto these settlements, as well, in order to maximize how much Oregon can receive.”

In addition to the financial settlement, CVS and Walgreens have agreed to court-ordered injunctive relief that requires the pharmacies to monitor, report, and share data about suspicious activity related to opioid prescriptions. This court-ordered injunctive relief will help ensure a crisis like this does not happen again.

The terms of these agreements will now go to the states for their review. Each state will have until the end of 2022 to join, after which the Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS agreements will go to local governments around the country for sign-on during the first quarter of 2023. A sufficient percentage of states and local governments must join the settlements for them to go into effect.

Most of Walmart’s amount will be paid during the first year; CVS’s payments will be spread over 10 years; Walgreens’ payments will be spread over 15 years. If there is sufficient sign-on, payments will begin during the second half of 2023.

Additional information on the previous settlement with Johnson & Johnson and the three largest distributors of opioids is online at https://www.doj.state.or.us/oregon-department-of-justice/office-of-the-attorney-general/spotlight-opioid-abuse/.

Kotek Announces 36-County Tour And Framework For First Year As Governor

Gov.-elect Tina Kotek is already at work with plans to visit all 36 Oregon counties over the next year in an effort to build trust in the state government, she announced during an annual business gathering Monday.

Kotek was the keynote speaker at the Oregon Business Plan’s Leadership Summit, which has drawn hundreds of business leaders, elected officials and lobbyists to Portland for the past 20 years.

She laid out her plans for her first year in office, which she said will encompass three overarching goals.

First, she aims to build trust across Oregon. That includes meeting with Oregonians in their communities, with a statewide tour she’ll start with trips to Yamhill and Douglas counties before her Jan. 9 inauguration, as well as her pledge to meet every two weeks with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler as the state’s largest city addresses homelessness.

That goal also includes fulfilling campaign promises to address Oregon’s twin housing and homelessness crises, lack of mental health and addiction providers and flailing schools, as standardized tests show Oregon students falling far below their national average in math and reading.

“Despite challenges, Oregonians don’t back down when things get hard,” Kotek said. “We dig in, we think outside the box when times get hard.”

Second, Kotek said she’ll focus on increasing accountability and oversight in state government, taking a customer service approach to public service. She said she’ll deliver a list of expectations to each state agency when she takes office in January.

After her speech, Kotek told reporters she’s “possibly” considering replacing the heads of two troubled Oregon agencies: Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Education Department, and David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department.

Gill has been blamed for long school closures that contributed to learning loss. Gerstenfeld, who was elevated in 2020 after outgoing Gov. Kate Brown fired the previous employment director over the state’s botched pandemic unemployment response, has presided over an agency that is still struggling to make pandemic-related payments and has been slow to organize a paid-leave program that’s supposed to start next year.

The head of the Oregon Health Authority, Patrick Allen, will step down as Kotek takes office, as will Steve Allen, the agency’s behavioral health director. Kotek pledged during her campaign to replace both Allens, who are not related.

She said her focus on accountability will include changing how her team thinks of success. In the state Capitol, where Kotek served as a representative since 2006 and as speaker of the House for nearly a decade, she said it was too easy to declare victory once a vote was over or a bill signed into law without keeping sight on the end goal.

“The real victory doesn’t come until that working mom enrolls her kid in an affordable child care program,” she said. “Success doesn’t come until that veteran who’s been living on the street moves into permanent housing. And we certainly won’t claim success until that student who’s been struggling to read knows the satisfaction of reading her first book.”

Finally, Kotek said she’ll encourage new and more robust partnerships between state and local governments and between the public and private sector. That includes continued work on housing and homelessness, child care and infrastructure, she said.

And it includes making sure Oregon receives a substantial chunk of the $280 billion in available federal funding from the CHIPS and Science Act for semiconductor manufacturing and technological research passed in July. Brown and a task force that includes business leaders and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, are working on a plan for the Legislature including a new tax credit and other business incentives.

Kotek said she supports the broad strokes of that plan, which she has heard could cost between $200 million and $300 million. She’s waiting to see specific dollar amounts, she said. “We have to be aggressive if we’re going to get part of what’s coming from the federal government,” Kotek said.

Wyden told attendees the Legislature needed to work quickly to make sure Oregon receives its share of  the semiconductor funding. Oregon has long been a leader in the semiconductor industry, with 15% of the nation’s semiconductor workforce here. But other states, including New York and Texas, are trying to take the lead, Wyden warned. “The days are over where we take a back seat to any of them,” he said. “We’re going to out-compete all of them in the days ahead.”

Housing, one of Kotek’s top priorities, will also be a top focus for the Legislature, said House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, and Rep. Dick Anderson, R-Lincoln City.

“We’re 110,000 houses short,” Rayfield said. “That’s unacceptable. We need to make stuff work.”

He promised legislation and funding to help build more houses. Anderson, the former mayor of Lincoln City, said the focus will be on so-called workforce housing, for people who earn between 80% and 120% of the median income in an area. That cohort typically includes police officers, hospital employees, city workers and other professionals who are typically considered to be part of the middle class.

Those workers often make too much to qualify for subsidized housing but not enough to spend 30% of their income or less on market-rate rent or mortgage payments. Employers in the public and private sectors have anecdotally reported struggling to recruit and retain employees because of housing costs.

“We for decades have talked about the housing crisis in Oregon,” Anderson said. “We’ve done things about it, but we’ve not treated it as a real crisis, a real emergency.”

Environmental and industry groups are urging Gov.-elect Tina Kotek to increase staff and budgets to tackle water, wildfire, agriculture, climate and energy concerns in the years ahead.

About 240 people joined a video call hosted Friday by Kotek’s transition team intended to help the incoming governor prepare her first natural resources budget to present to the state Legislature Feb. 1.

The budget will cover needs for 14 state agencies for the next biennium, including the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Water Resources Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Forestry.

The requests for more money for natural resources programs come as legislative budget analysts warned legislators may need to cut spending. Budget documents released this week show a nearly $560 million gap between the money available to spend and the $30.7 billion it would take to continue funding programs at the same rates as the 2021-23 budget.

Right now, Oregon ranks at the bottom for mental and behavioral health access. But change could be on the horizon in the near future.

New legislation kicking in at the start of next year is expected to help the state turn a corner and get more people access to mental health services.

Many people have struggled to get critical mental health care in Oregon, simply because there are not enough mental healthcare workers to treat them. The legislation going into effect aims at addressing the workforce shortage by improving wages.

House Bill 5202 offers staff who care for Medicaid and Oregon Health Plan patients a permanent 30% increase in rates and pay codes in the new year. The federal government recently approved this increase. The bill also ensures ongoing funding for behavioral health in Oregon.

“The mental and behavioral health crisis is affecting every community in Oregon. If we haven’t been personally impacted, we all know someone who has,” said Representative Tawna Sanchez (D-North and Northeast Portland), Co-Chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee. “Paying providers what they deserve is a major step in the right direction and I look forward to ensuring we continue these efforts to expand access to care.”

Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland) chairs the house interim committee on behavioral health. He says this change is helping local mental health centers go from paying therapists $45,000 to $60,000 per year.

“This is a really big deal,” said Nosse. “Ideally, we finally start to get people better pay and then make it attractive to do this work. They stick with the job — and then when people start calling 311, we’ve got people that we can deploy, people who are trained and then we’ll have spaces and places for those folks to go.”

With 1.3 million Oregonians on Medicaid, leaders hope this change will help turn a new leaf on a long, underfunded issue.

“Portlanders and residents of Multnomah County and other parts of the state that are experiencing people dealing with mental health challenges will start to see some progress,” Nosse said.

The House Bill appropriates more than $42 million of state money to better fund mental and behavioral health every year — which will be matched by $100 million in federal funding annually.

Leaders of OHA think Oregonians will start seeing benefits from this investment within the next year. However, it’s unknown when the state will be able to get out of crisis mode regarding mental health.

Oregon Will Shift How It Measures Student Poverty Levels As Universal Free Lunch Takes Hold In Schools

The growing movement to provide free school lunches for all students — a concept that gained momentum during the pandemic — has left Oregon policymakers with a conundrum.

On the one hand, the idea has staying power, and support from powerful allies who say it can make a meaningful dent in food insecurity rates. In 2018-2019, about 25% of Oregon schools gave free meals to all students, regardless of their ability to pay.

In the current school year, that’s jumped to more than 50%. More Oregon school districts have moved to make school lunch free for everyone, which has made it trickier to identify students living in poverty for data purposes.

But that change has also made it increasingly difficult both to pinpoint what percentage of students in a given district are living at the poverty level, and to precisely target the money and services intended to help them. That group of students typically has lower test scores than their peers, misses more school days and is less likely to graduate from high school.

“Universal access makes it so we have no picture of poverty,” said Scott Nine, an assistant superintendent in the Oregon Department of Education’s Office of Education Innovation and Improvement. “Every state in the country is grappling with this same issue.”

In the pre-pandemic era, eligibility for free and reduced lunch was the metric used to designate which students should be considered economically disadvantaged. The metric was already imperfect because not everyone who is eligible for free lunch signs up for it, especially at the high school level, when it can carry a social stigma. But if everyone is eligible for free school lunch, the imperfect metric becomes unusable.

On Thursday, the seven members of the state Board of Education voted to adopt a new definition, which will take effect in the 2023-2024 school year. From then on, students who are considered “economically disadvantaged” by the state will be those whose families received food stamps or other federal assistance during the school year, are in the foster care system, are houseless and/or are migrants.

75-Year-Old Man Dead in Fight at the Wonder Bur Lounge in Grants Pass

Grants Pass Police Department has released information:

On Thursday, December 1st, Grants Pass Police responded to the Wonder Bur Lounge & Café regarding a fight between multiple subjects inside the establishment.

Upon arrival, Officers learned an off-duty bartender, Todd A. Heckers, 40 years old, had been in a fight with three men ages 75, 75, and 63.

One of the 75-year-old men sustained serious injuries, including broken ribs and a laceration above the eye. The other 75-year-old was transported to the Three Rivers Medical Center by ambulance with critical injuries, where he later died.

Heckers fled the scene prior to the officers’ arrival. The fight was captured on surveillance video.

Grants Pass Police Detectives investigated the assault and arrested Todd Heckers on Friday, December 9th. Heckers was lodged at the Josephine County Jail for Manslaughter in the First degree and Assault in the Second Degree.

Anyone who witnessed the fight is asked to contact Detective Shaw at 541-450-6260 and reference case #22-52393. Grants Pass Police Department

Medical Examiner Says Body Of Woman Found In Portland Remains Unidentified

The Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office is asking for the public’s help identifying the body of a woman who died Nov. 28 in Portland.

The Medical Examiner describes the woman as white, between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. They say she also was about 5′4″ tall, weighing 139 pounds. She had medium to long brown hair with brown eyes.

The woman also had pierced ears, with scars on both forearms and the following tattoos:

  • Right wrist: Faith Hope Love
  • Left wrist: Amirah
  • Right Shoulder: Black and red butterfly

Anyone with information about the woman is asked to call the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office at (503) 988-0055 and reference case number #MU-221128-812.

Mt. Ashland Ski Area Is Officially Open

Mt. Ashland Ski Area is finally open for the season of snowboarding and skiing after experiencing a slight weather delay. And they’ve added a new attraction for people who want to learn how to ski or snowboard.

The new addition is called the magic carpet and can be located at the learning center. The brand-new magic carpet is used to teach people how to ski and snowboard. The learning center is open every day the resort is open.

There are also new rentals and a new general manager that will be leading the staff on the mountain soon.

“We got a new manager that will be joining us on the 21st of December, his name is Andrew Gast, we’re really excited to get him on the mountain to start this next chapter,” said Curt Burrill, the President of the Board of Directors for the nonprofit. “We got new snowboarding equipment in our rental fleet this year, and we got new kid skies.”

Recreational Ocean and Bay Crabbing Reopens From Cape Blanco to California Border

The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has reopened all recreational crabbing from Cape Blanco to the California border.

A release said two consecutive tests show domoic acid levels are under the closure threshold.

However, all recreational crabbing from Cap Blanco to eight miles north of Winchester Bay remains closed with elevated domoic acid levels.

ODFW said recreational bay clam and mussel harvesting also remain open along the entire Oregon coast. Razor clamming is still closed coastwide.

ODA tests for shellfish toxins twice per month, as tides and weather permit. Reopening an area closed for biotoxins requires two consecutive tests with results below the closure limit.

The release said it is recommended that recreational crab harvesters always eviscerate crab before cooking. This includes removing and discarding the viscera, internal organs and gills.

For more information, call ODA’s shellfish biotoxin safety hotline at 800-448-2474. Contact ODFW for recreational license requirements, permits, rules and limits: https://www.dfw.state.or.us/

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