Klamath Basin News, Monday, 12/19 – Spence Mountain Becomes Official Protected Land with $4.6 million in Federal Funding from U.S Forest Service Forest Legacy Program

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Monday, December 19, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

This Afternoon Mostly cloudy, with a high near 34. Tonight, mostly cloudy, with a low around 14. Light south southeast wind.

Tuesday A 40% chance of snow, mainly after 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 37. Calm wind becoming southeast around 5 mph in the afternoon. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible. Tuesday Night, a 50% chance of snow, mainly before 10pm. Snow level 5000 feet, with a low around 27. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Wednesday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 41. West wind around 6 mph. Wednesday Night, mostly cloudy, with a low around 16.
Thursday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 34. Overnight a chance of snow, mainly before 4am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 23.
Friday A slight chance of snow before 10am. Snow level rising to 5600 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 41.
Saturday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43..
Sunday, Christmas Day Mostly cloudy, with a high near 45 degrees. Drive safely.

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

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US Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program helps secure 7,500 acres for people and wildlife in Southern Oregon

Rising dramatically above Upper Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon, Spence Mountain is home to oak and ponderosa pine woodlands, some of the rarest habitats in the state, and more than 47 miles of biking trails. 

As of this month, it’s protected forever. That’s thanks to the Trust for Public Land, Klamath County, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and $4.6 million in federal funding from the U.S Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, administered through ODF.

“The Forest Legacy Program helps Oregon protect working forests, drinking water sources and habitat for fish and wildlife.” said Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts. “Spence Mountain adds a gem to our network of protected lands, creating expanded public access through hiking and biking trails. This project is a win for communities, the local economy, and conservation.”

Spence Mountain is now publicly owned by Klamath County. Its protection will have major economic and ecological benefits for the community. The 7,500-acre community forest will provide outdoor access for community members and recreationists. It will also preserve habitat for important species and supporting sustainable timber harvest. 

The project received unanimous support from the Klamath County commissioners and U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley for its appropriations from the Forest Legacy Program.

“Oregon’s public lands and forests are iconic and vital in supporting the state’s economy, as well as addressing climate chaos,” said Merkley. “I am pleased to see the economic and environmental benefits this project will bring to the communities in Klamath County by supporting sustainable timber harvesting, providing public recreation such as mountain biking, and preserving habitats for endangered species.”

Spence Mountain is just one example of the impact of the Forest Legacy Program, a federal program funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Program is a partnership between the state of Oregon through the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the U.S. Forest Service. Their aim is to protect forestlands for drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, recreational opportunities, and management strategies that support local economies through sustainable timber harvest. 

In Oregon, the program has helped preserve iconic landscapes like the East Moraine Community Forest in Wallowa County, Arch Cape Community Forest in Clatsop County and Gilchrist State Forest in northern Klamath County. 

“This project couldn’t have achieved the success it did without the expertise and help from state and local partners,” said Glenn Casamassa, regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region. “With those from the Trust for Public Land, Klamath County, Oregon Department of Forestry and many others, we achieved a common goal of supporting and protecting Oregon’s public lands and the communities that depend on them.”

More federal funds coming for forest preservation 

The Forest Legacy Program will get an additional $700 million in funding as part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. With this increased investment, Oregon is poised to be a leader in forest protection in the country. 

“We are at a crucial moment in time to invest in our forests, and the US Forest Legacy program is an important critical tool for increasing the scale and pace of forest protection and conservation in Oregon” said Cal Mukumoto, Oregon’s State Forester. “I’m thrilled to see more money coming to this state to help us keep working forestlands intact.” 

Funds to buy Spence Mountain also came from Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Two Oregon counties are getting new judges this month at the appointment of Governor Kate Brown.

Brown announced she is appointing Stephen Hedlund to the Klamath County Circuit Court to fill a vacancy created by the planned retirement of Judge Daniel Bunch. Brown also appointed Jeremy Markiewicz to the Jackson County Circuit Court to fill a vacancy created by Judge Lorenzo Mejia’s planned retirement and is appointing

The Governor’s Office says Hedlund graduated from Klamath Union High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University and his law degree from Willamette College of Law, then moved back home to Klamath Falls and began his legal career with the Klamath County District Attorney’s office.  He then transitioned into private practice, with a focus on indigent defense work, including criminal and juvenile dependency matters.  He also provides legal representation for public entities and public officials.  

Hedlund serves as the defense attorney in Klamath County’s behavior intervention court and veterans treatment courts, and he is a member of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council.  Since 2016, Hedlund has served as a pro tem judge for the City of Klamath Falls Municipal Court.  He also serves as an arbitrator for the Oregon State Bar Fee Dispute Resolution Program.

The Oregon Department of Transportation, in association with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, awarded the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office grant funds for holiday traffic safety during 2022-23 year totaling $15,000.

Be advised, the grants are being used to increase traffic enforcement with focused patrols for Distracted Driving, Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII), Occupant Protection (Safety Belts), Pedestrian Safety and Speed Enforcement during specified events.

This holiday season, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is partnering with the KCSO to share the message about the dangers of drunk driving. NHTSA and KCSO want all drivers to remember this lifesaving message: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

Drivers will see deputies working together with law enforcement partners beginning Thursday, Dec. 15 through Jan. 1, 2023, to take drunk drivers off the roads.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) related to the death of a federally protected gray wolf in Klamath County.

FWS spokesmen announced Thursday, Dec. 15 that on Oct. 6, a radio-collared male gray wolf known as OR103 was found dead near Upper Klamath Lake.

Anyone with information about this case should call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 503-682-6131 or the Oregon State Police Tip Line at 800-452-7888. Callers may remain anonymous.

OR103 was an adult male wolf that was originally captured after it was injured in a coyote leghold trap in July 2021. After FSW biologists determined he was not seriously injured, he was fitted with a GPS radio collar and released.

The wolf was later found in the Keno area west of Klamath Falls. As a result, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife designated a new Area of Known Wolf Activity, or AKWA, in the Keno management of Klamath County. In making the designation, FWS officials said OR103 originally dispersed into Northern California and resided there until returning to Oregon in July 2022. 

In recent years, gray wolves have been seen in Southern Oregon and far Northern California, most notably the Rogue Pack in areas of Jackson and Klamath counties. This year, the Rogue Pack is blamed for about a dozen deaths of several cattle grazing in the Fort Klamath area

Meanwhile, in a related story, The Rogue Wolf Pack, which travels between Klamath and Jackson counties, has been confirmed as injuring a cow on private land in the Wood River Valley of Klamath County.

According to a press release from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, the injury occurred Nov. 26, when a cow was killed. Information about the injury was not released until Thursday, Dec. 15. Under recently enacted policy ODFW, only very incomplete information is provided with few details.

As stated on the department’s website, “When a livestock owner believes wolves caused the loss or injury of their livestock, ODFW uses an evidence-based investigation process to determine if wolves were involved. The goal is not to determine the livestock animal’s cause of death, as in some cases that could require a veterinary pathologist (e.g., illness, injury, age, poisonous plants).

Bonanza Junior/Senior High Principal Jordan Osborn and Counselor Andy Davis spent Thursday evening shopping, purchasing gifts and food for more than 60 families in their community.

This is the sixth year Osborn and Davis have worked together to provide food boxes and gifts to students and families in their school communities. They started the project in Chiloquin, and continued the holiday tradition when they both began at Bonanza four years ago.

The past few years, Bonanza Schools have worked with Bonanza Cares, a non-profit community organization, that provided for 26 families at the elementary and high schools. Bonanza High’s leadership team, with the help of more than $2,000 in donations, was able to provide clothing, gifts, food, and vouchers to Fred Meyer to an additional 60 Bonanza and Gearhart families.

Students and staff throughout the Klamath County School District this week teamed up with community organizations and each other to make the holidays a bit brighter – and yummier – for their communities. Several schools hosted food drives or coin drives to benefit local food banks and organizations.

On Wednesday, Henley Student Council members put together the gifts for hospice patients and caroled at long-term care facilities in Klamath Falls.

The RIP City Riders of Klamath Falls gave a big gift this week. Or, actually, several hundred gifts.

As a chapter, the Riders collected $5,500 to purchase toys for the Toys for Tots drive. The money came from sponsors including Wal-Mart, Ed Staub & Sons, Avangrid, Black Bear Diner and the chapter members.

On Thursday, Dec. 15, the Riders went shopping at Wal-Mart where they spent the entire amount on toys. They then donated the toys at the distribution site for Toys for Tots.

Four recreational places, one access pass.  That option is available at the start of the year for four area federal sites.

Lava Beds National Monument, Crater Lake National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area have an agreement today to honor each other’s annual access passes starting January 1, 2023.

Over the weekend,  the group of federal sites said, “Due to overwhelming public support, Lava Beds National Monument, in conjunction with Crater Lake National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, will be implementing an agreement to honor each other’s annual passes beginning January 1, 2023.”

This move allows visitors to access all four parks with a single annual pass from one of the four parks, offering visitors the convenience of unlimited entry for one year with a single valid park pass to access these four National Park Service sites.

The group aligned their parks’ annual passes’ costs to be the same as the current Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic, and Whiskeytown annual park pass cost ($55), resulting in a $10 increase to the current $45 Lava Beds pass.

The Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA) has announced they will be hosting their 2nd Annual Economic Summit.

This special event takes place on January 9th, 2023 at the Ross Ragland Theater, from 8:30-11:30AM. Admission is $10 at the door, giving attendees access to the full program, in addition to coffee and other refreshments.

This year’s Economic Summit consists of several presentations from various experts from throughout the state and region, as well offers attendees a chance to participate in a Q&A session with a panel of community stakeholders representing different industries and interests within Klamath County. Panelists and presenters will be discussing important topics related to local healthcare, education, energy, finance, agriculture, real estate, and more throughout the day.

Commissioner Kelley Minty has been working with KCEDA to develop a compelling program that would explore several aspects of the county’s economy. Minty spoke about the return of the event, saying, “Having an event like this helps our community be more informed on the state of the economy and gives people an opportunity to share their thoughts about where it is headed. I think it is really valuable for the area’s stakeholders to come together and ‘touch base’ during the summit, because it reinforces a spirit of collaboration locally.” KCEDA CEO,

Randy Cox, added to Minty’s comments, stating, “There is economic momentum going on in the Klamath County. I believe it is important to talk about our economy with the community, and the summit provides an excellent opportunity to keep people informed on a wide range of relevant topics impacting our region.”

Cox will also be providing a presentation at the event, detailing KCEDA’s work over the past year and discussing active development projects the organization is presently involved with. The Economic Summit for 2023 is sponsored by the following businesses: Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union, Coldwell Banker Holman Premier Realty, Avista Utilities, Gathering Grounds, and Molatore, Scroggin, Peterson & Co.

As the 77th annual United Way Community Campaign approaches raising 70% of its $507,000 goal, the search for a new executive director to replace its current director, Leroy Cabral, continues.

Campaign officials hope to announce positive results at United Way’s annual meeting of the board of directors and supporters, scheduled for Jan. 24, 2023.

Efforts to hire a new executive director are gearing up, according to search committee Chairperson Janet Thede.

The position is now open and applicants are encouraged to send their resume and cover letter to the United Way at uwkb@unitedwayoftheklamathbasin.org or to its office located at 136 N. Third St. in Klamath Falls, OR 97601. A job description of the position is available by contacting United Way.

This week at the Ross Ragland Theater

At the Ragland on WednesdayCelebrate the end of the year at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21 at the Ross Ragland Theater with world renowned jazz musician Gunhild Carling.

Carling is a Swedish jazz star. She plays multiple instruments, sings and tap dances. She performs all over the world and has more than 50 million views in YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. Carling plays several instruments such as trombone, trumpet, recorder, bagpipe, harmonica, drums and piano. Additionally, she juggles and dances tap, and has toured around Europe since a very early age together with her family.

To Carling, jazz performance isn’t just the music she plays, it’s her lifestyle. Carling has traveled all over the world and has performed and led several of her own bands.

Join the Ross Ragland Theater as Carling serenades us into the new year. Carling’s sublime showmanship shines in a show you don’t want to miss.

This show is sponsored by the Running Y Resort and Discover Klamath.

Tickets are $29 for adults, $26 for seniors and military, $19 for students, $10 for youths 12 and younger and $35 for Vegas Box Seats.  Go to the theater’s website at www.ragland.org to purchase tickets or learn more.

Chiloquin’s Emma Friedman last month earned the title as the champion of the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s Quiz Challenge Nationals.

The title for Friedman, 15, the daughter of Jacky and Ned Friedman, came a year after she placed second overall. The University of Findlay’s James L. Child, Jr. English Equestrian Center in Findlay, Ohio, hosted the competition.

Friedman said she felt the pressure to improve and bring her best effort forward this year after last year’s second-place finish. According to an interview with USHJA, because she knew where she needed to improve, Friedman said she took extra time to make flashcards, listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos on areas that needed improving to prepare for Nationals. Her extra study efforts paid off, as she received the highest practicum score of 99.5 out of 100.

As the winner of HQC Nationals, Friedman received a Charles Owen helmet, a SmartPak gift card, an internship with Spy Coast Farm in Lexington, Ky., and a $2,000 training and education grant from the USHJA Foundation.

Staff at the Ella Redkey Pool here in Klamath Falls say they are very excited and with good reason: The fundraising efforts for a pool upgrade are just $4,000 away from the goal of $150,000.

The Ella Redkey pool is going to get its first upgrade in more than two decades. Not since 1999 when the water slide was put in has the local pool staff planned a remodel this massive.

Funded completely by grants and private donations, Ella Redkey’s Capital Campaign began in October 2021. The fundraiser was launched to help finance improvements to the pool area such as a much-needed ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) walkway to allow greater access for all patrons to the pool and bathhouse.

The remodel plan includes enlarging the current plaza and creating a walkway from the new pavilion to the pool deck. Improvements to the locker rooms also are part of the plan as is a replacement of the existing water slide.

So far, $95,000 has been raised through grants and $51,000 has come from donations by individuals and local businesses. The Klamath Falls City Council has committed to match the Capital Campaign’s goal of $150,000.

Donations can be made directly to the Capital Campaign at the Ella Redkey by cash, check or credit/debit card. 

If the holiday season has sparked your inner Santa Claus, and you’re itching to give back to those in need, then pack up your sack of gifts to drop off at our very own local North Pole: the Toys for Tots Foundation.

Applications for roughly 1,500 families signed up to receive donated toys in Klamath County. According to former Director JoAnn Moorer-Roberts, those families equate to an estimated 4,500 children, depending on the number of kids in each home.

At this time, Toys for Tots is asking the community for donations appropriate for teenagers, including items such as board games and outdoor activities.

The Klamath program hopes to give each child at least two gifts this year. With the deadline approaching quickly — this Friday, Dec. 16 — Moorer-Roberts and other program volunteers are concerned they might not make the cut. Toys for Tots has received 6,000 toys in total, just over half of its overall goal of 10,000.

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.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon Department of Emergency Management Warning

Enjoy the holidays safely with fire prevention:

🕯️ Keep candles 12 inches away from other objects.

🕯️ Use a sturdy candle holder that won’t tip over.

🕯️ Don’t leave burning candles unattended. Blow them out before leaving or going to bed.

🕯️ Consider using flameless, battery-operated candles.

Two Elderly Pedestrians Killed in Crash On Hwy 99 In Grants Pass

On Friday, December 16, 2022, at approximately 6:33 P.M., the Oregon State Police responded to a vehicle versus pedestrian crash on HWY 99, near milepost 1.75, in Josephine County.

The preliminary investigation indicated two pedestrians, Deverne Jacobsen (91) and Gwen Jacobsen (85) of Grants Pass were crossing Hwy 99 to attend a Christmas Party when they were stuck by a Toyota Tacoma traveling northbound on Hwy 99.

Both pedestrians died as a result of injuries from the collision. The driver of the truck did not stop and fled the scene. The vehicle operator, Skylar Fucci (25) of Grants Pass, was contacted at approximately 9:15 P.M. and cooperated with the investigators.  

Fucci was arrested lodged in the Josephine County Jail for two counts of Felony Hit and Run.  The investigation is on-going and additional charges may be applied at a later time.

The Oregon Department of Transportation counted 518 deaths on Oregon roads through November, a 5.5% drop from the 548 killed during the same period in 2021. But of those killed in traffic so far this year, 111 were pedestrians, surpassing the 90 killed through the entirety of 2021. Another 13 were cyclists.

Driver Suspected of Felony DUII Arrested in Grants Pass After Numerous Hit and Runs

Thursday morning at 10:29 am, the Grants Pass Police Department began receiving calls regarding an erratic driver and numerous hit and runs.

The vehicle was captured on city cameras as it drove the wrong way on NE 6th Street, passing the Police Station, before its involvement in its first crash, hitting two vehicles. The vehicle fled the scene shortly after the crash and struck a Pacific Power guideline on NE Evelyn Avenue. Once again, the vehicle fled the scene onto SE 8th Street, driving through the Grants Pass High School zone, and finally stopped on NE 8th Street just north of NE A Street. No citizens received injuries from the crashes.

The driver of the vehicle, Aaron J. Smock, 47 years old, was arrested by a Grants Pass Detective and Police Officers for suspicion of Drunk Driving. The investigation revealed Smock had been drinking at the Wonder Bur Lounge and Café prior to getting into his car to drive. Smock was transported to the Three Rivers Medical Center for his injuries, where he attempted to flee from officers. Later, while in the care of the hospital, Smock again fled on foot and was subsequently arrested by officers when they located him on Grandview Avenue near SE Independence Drive.

Aaron Smock was lodged at the Josephine County Jail for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants, three counts of Failing to Leave Notice at the Scene of an Accident, Reckless Driving, Third Degree Escape, and Driving with a Suspended License.

As always, and especially during the Holiday Season when vehicle traffic is heavy, and road conditions can be severe, we encourage drivers to find alternative transportation when consuming alcohol or other intoxicating substances. We also encourage all citizens to be extra aware of the driving habits of others on the roadway, to drive defensively, and to call 9-1-1 when spotting suspected drunk drivers. The Grants Pass Police Department wishes everyone a SAFE and Happy Holiday.

Leaking Semi-Truck Leaves Miles Of Red Dye On I-205 And I-84 From Happy Valley To Troutdale

A semi-truck driver left miles of soluble red dye on Interstate 205 and Interstate 84, from Happy Valley to Troutdale through Portland, on Saturday after the liquid cargo sprung a leak on the road, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said.

The driver, 40-year-old Junior Jean, told deputies that he stopped to check the leak but his company, which the sheriff’s office did not identify in its press release, told him to keep driving to his destination in Troutdale.

Jean said the dye is used for coloring mulch and would wash off with water, the sheriff’s office said. Officers cited Jean for operating a vehicle with a leaking load, third-degree criminal mischief and reckless driving.

Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of the leaking truck trailer near Northwest Marine Drive and Eastwind Drive around 7:30 p.m.

Jean allegedly drove north on Interstate 205 from Southeast Sunnyside Road, then took Interstate 84 east and exited at Northeast Marine Drive, the sheriff’s office said. The Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon State Police also responded.

The sheriff’s office said motorists who drove on splattered roads between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday should check their cars for stains. The dye should wash off, but if it doesn’t, vehicle owners can contact the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office at webmaster@msco.us and provide their full name, phone number, vehicle make and model and a picture of the damage.

Survey Finds More Than A Million Acres With Dead Fir Trees In Oregon

The Pacific Northwest Region Aerial Survey is cataloging tree decline. Photo: Daniel DePinte/USFS

Climate change, droughts, invasive insects and other factors have had an impact on Oregon’s vast forests for years, but recent research reveals a proliferating issue.

Environmental journalism nonprofit Columbia Insight first reported on the data collection effort from the Oregon Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service, which found that 1.1 million acres of fir trees in Oregon had died off in 2022 alone.

“This survey is actually one of the longest running in the nation of its kind,” Christine Buhl, Forest Entomologist at ODF says “It’s a forest health survey that we fly over the entire state of Oregon that’s forested to collect data on insects, diseases, abiotic stressors that are damaging or killing trees.”

According to Buhl, forest health is almost always impacted by several, complex factors, rather than one singular cause.

“The primary thing we think of damaging these trees is climate change that is causing ongoing hot drought,” she said. “And it’s not only that it’s really hot and really dry, but either long duration droughts — they’re happening frequently — and the timing of them is very important as well. Early in the season when trees are waking up and need a lot of moisture, it’s really dry out there.”

The entomologist listed other primary causes such as root diseases that break down trees’ root systems, and the invasive Balsam Woolly Adelgid insect that continues to stress trees. After the trees are already hindered by these primary agents, secondary agents like the fir engraver beetle can cause the trees to die-off.

These factors have been reported by entomologists for a long time, but ODF hasn’t seen fir tree mortality of this magnitude since the agency was founded in 1911.

“In our history of collecting data, I believe that we have not detected 1 million acres of true fir mortality ever,” Buhl said. “However, we have had peaks in mortality across the landscape in Oregon of combined tree species from multiple agents that have been comparable to some of our worst wildfire seasons.”

USFS and ODF’s latest Forest Health Highlights in Oregon review did say that the heat dome of 2021 was novel, and could have lasting effects on the state’s forests. It may be too late to reverse those effects, but Buhl says strategies like thinning defective trees or planting tree species in their preferred habitat could help.

“On the other hand, there’s not a lot we can do on the larger scale with climate change. We’re reaching the point where there’s not really much we can do to turn back and we just need to try and slow the progress of climate change,” Buhl said.

Oregon Department of Emergency Management Warning

Enjoy the holidays safely with fire prevention:

🕯️ Keep candles 12 inches away from other objects.

🕯️ Use a sturdy candle holder that won’t tip over.

🕯️ Don’t leave burning candles unattended. Blow them out before leaving or going to bed.

🕯️ Consider using flameless, battery-operated candles.

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Six new electronic message signs on northbound Interstate 5 will help keep travelers informed on changing conditions and help regulate speeds on the highest summit on the Interstate 5 corridor.

The signs are located between the Oregon-California border and Ashland, and will be live by January 1, 2023.

Three of the six new signs can show drivers a legally-enforceable lower speed limit. Computers will automatically adjust speed limits displayed on the electronic, black-on-white speed signs based on weather and pavement conditions on the summit. The computers gather information from sensors that can measure factors like road surface traction, humidity, air temperature and visibility. 

When conditions improve, speed limits will be automatically raised again.

The variable speed limit signs are regulatory, meaning Oregon State Police can ticket drivers for going over the displayed speed limit. The new electronic signs will replace the existing static speed limit signs, to avoid confusion.

In addition to the three variable speed signs, there are two dynamic “curve warning” signs. They show drivers their speed as they approach two sharp curves near the Mt Ashland exit and a railroad trestle. The electronic curve warming signs are similar to ones on I-5 at the Myrtle Creek curves.

The sixth new sign, a variable electronic message sign at the summit, will be used to update drivers on conditions or hazards ahead. They’ll also help inform ODOT staff and emergency responders about such incidents.

Travelers can also use tripcheck.com for the latest road conditions.

Oregon Attorney General Announces Nearly $700-Million Monsanto Settlement For PCB Contamination

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (AG) announced today the Monsanto Company will pay Oregon a $698-million lump sum for polychlorinated biphenyls contamination (PCBs).  She says the historic $698-million dollar settlement involves polluting Oregon with PCBs for more than 90 years.

The AG Office says Monsanto was the only manufacturer, seller, and distributor of PCBs which are toxic compounds formerly used in coolants, electrical equipment such as fluorescent lighting fixtures, and other devices, as well as hydraulic oils, paint, caulking and copier paper.

Rosenblum said the Monsanto case was the kind of lawsuit Oregon’s AG office should make to protect Oregonians.  She noted that one of the AG staff even came out of retirement to help handle the matter with the AG’s office.

“This is a huge win for our state,” said Rosenblum, adding, “PCBs are still present throughout Oregon — especially in our landfills and riverbeds — and they are exceedingly difficult to remove, because they ‘bioaccumulate’ in fish and wildlife. Cleaning up our state from this horrific environmental degradation will be as costly and time-consuming as it sounds, but this settlement means we now will have resources to help tackle this problem.”

Monsanto is owned by Bayer AG, a massive German pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, which paid more than $60-billion for Monsanto in 2018.  Creve Coeur (St. Louis), Missouri-based Monsanto’s best known product is Roundup, and its herbicide work is the source of other lawsuits.

Today’s settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Rosenblum against Monsanto in 2018 alleging Monsanto was aware as early as 1937 of the highly toxic nature of PCBs and, “Even with that knowledge, Oregon asserted, Monsanto continued to produce and promote the compounds for decades — until they were finally banned in 1977.”  Oregon’s lawsuit asked for damages for harm to Oregon from PCB contamination as well as clean-up costs.

The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ), which AG Rosenblum leads, will work with the Legislature, the Governor and state agencies to put the funds to use for statewide remediation and clean-up.

Oregon Coast To Hold ‘Whale Watch Week’ In Person Again For The First Time Since 2019

Oregon State Parks will host Whale Watch Week in person along the Oregon Coast Dec. 28 – Jan. 1. — Previous Whale Watching events were canceled during the pandemic since 2019.

Every year thousands of Gray whales migrate south through Oregon’s waters at the end of December, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) invites visitors to the coast to see their journey.

Trained volunteers will be stationed at most of the 17 sites to help visitors spot whales, share information and answer questions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. The sites are some of the best places to watch for whales on the Oregon Coast.

“We really enjoy getting folks out to the coast for Whale Watch Week,” OPRD Park Ranger Peter McBride said. “It’s something that Oregon State Parks has been doing for more than 40 years now, and we’re really glad to be able to bring it back in person,” he said.

A map of volunteer-staffed sites is available online on the official event webpage: https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=thingstodo.dsp_whaleWatching

An estimated 19,000 Gray whales are expected to swim past Oregon’s shores over the next several weeks as part of their annual migration south to the warm calving lagoons near Baja, Mexico. The end of December is the peak time for their migration; roughly 30 whales pass by per hour.

The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Visitors to the center can enjoy interactive whale exhibits and take in the panoramic ocean views. Binoculars are provided. Rangers from Oregon State Parks will also be on hand to answer questions about the whales.

All Whale Watch Week visitors are encouraged to dress for the weather, to bring binoculars and to follow beach safety guidelines such as remaining out of fenced areas, knowing the tide schedule and keeping an eye on the surf at all times. Go to https://visittheoregoncoast.com/beach-safety/ for a list of safety tips.

For more information about coast parks and campgrounds, visit http://oregonstateparks.org

AAA Holiday Travel Forecast: Expect Busy Roads and Crowded Airports

AAA projects 112.7 million Americans (33.8% of the population) will travel for the Christmas and New Year holidays. This is up 3.3% from 2021 and closing in on pre-pandemic numbers.

About 1.6 million Oregonians will pack their sleighs for a holiday trip. 2022 is expected to be the third-busiest year for holiday travel since AAA began tracking in 2000, only trailing 2019 and 2018.

While about 90% of travelers will drive to their holiday destinations, air travel is seeing a jump this year, up 14% compared to 2021. The holiday travel period is defined as Friday, December. 23 through Monday, January 2.

“With Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Sundays, many are taking long weekends to celebrate the holidays. And with hybrid work schedules, we’re seeing more flexibility with the days people are traveling because they can work remotely at their destinations,” says Doreen Loofburrow, senior vice president of travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho.

“Despite roller-coaster gas prices and a bumpy year for flights, people are ready to wrap up the year with a holiday trip. This will be one of the busiest times for holiday travel in the last two decades. Travelers should expect busy roads and crowded airports this holiday season,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho.

Peak traffic expected Dec. 23, 27, 28 and Jan. 2 — Travelers can expect the busiest roads on Dec. 23, 27 and 28 and on Jan. 2. Delays will be the longest in the afternoons and evenings, especially in urban areas, as travelers mix with commuters. Some metro areas across the U.S. could see more than double the delays versus typical drive times, and larger urban areas could experience three times the normal delays.

“Knowing the busiest drive times can help you avoid the stress of being stuck in stop-and-go traffic,” says Dodds.

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