Klamath Basin News, Tuesday, 12/20 – ODOT Warns Freezing Rain and Ice Causing Many Crashes in Southern Oregon

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

This Afternoon Snow likely, mainly before 5pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 36. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than a half inch. Tonight, a chance of snow before 11pm, then a slight chance of rain and snow. Snow level rising to 6000 feet after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 25. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Wednesday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 41. Southwest wind 5 to 7 mph. Wednesday Night, mostly cloudy, with a low around 16.
Thursday Cloudy, with a high near 37. Thursday Night, a chance of snow before 11pm, then a chance of rain and snow. Snow level rising to 5100 feet. Cloudy, with a low around 29. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch.
Friday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43. Friday Night, mostly cloudy, with a low around 28.
Saturday A slight chance of rain after 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 45. Saturday Night, a slight chance of rain before 11pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 30.
Sunday, Christmas Day Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. Sunday Night, mostly cloudy, with a low around 29

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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ODOT Warns Freezing Rain Causing Numerous Crashes In Southern Oregon

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is cautioning drivers in southwest Oregon to consider staying off the roads Tuesday morning, as freezing rain and the very icy cold roads in the area are causing crashes and fender benders.

According to ODOT, “there are reports of numerous crashes and spin-outs, even on roadways treated with deicer.  Watch for slick conditions on bridges, overpasses and curves.”

ODOT says to expect winter driving conditions, slow down and give yourself extra time for travel. Slow down and take your time and stay back from the vehicles in front of you. For holiday travelers, be sure and go to TripCheck.com for more information.

Spence Mountain now federally protected land.

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. 

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. 

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 the upcoming holiday season.

All through the 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.

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.

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:  

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 DEQ To Ban Sales Of New Gas-Powered Passenger Cars By 2035

Policymakers for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Monday approved a rule that prohibits the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in Oregon by 2035.

The effort comes as Oregon plans to cut climate-warming emissions by 50% by 2035 and by 90% by 2050. The transportation sector accounts for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

The rule is based on vehicle emission standards California adopted in August. The standards require car manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles — electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles — as part of their total sales, starting with 35% in 2026 and increasing to 100% by 2035.

The rule allows for hybrid vehicle sales, which run primarily on electricity but can run on gas. The rule does not affect cars already on the road and used gas-powered cars will continue to be available for sale within the state.

The new rule also requires manufacturers to increase access to affordable zero-emission vehicles to low-income households and communities of color. It offers incentives to manufacturers to sell electric cars to community car share programs, to produce lower-cost zero-emission cars and to direct used electric cars to dealerships participating in low-income assistance programs.

The new requirements will help Oregon meet its goals, adopted by the Legislature in 2019, of at least 90% of new vehicles sold annually to be zero emission by 2035. Those goals came without consequences, while the newly adopted rule includes penalties to manufacturers for non-compliance.

“By creating a regulatory certainty for manufacturers, EV charging providers and utilities, it sets a clear path forward for the future of zero-emission passenger cars and trucks in Oregon,” said Rachel Sakata, senior air quality planner at the Department of Environmental Quality.

The Environmental Quality Commission received over 700 comments on the rule with 500 in support, Sakata said.

Oregonians who spoke out against the rule during the public comment period cited the expense of electric cars and lack of charging stations.

Environmental Quality Commissioner Greg Addington, who voted against the rule adoption, acknowledged many Oregonians, especially in rural areas, do not support the rule and do not have access to electric vehicle charging.

“There are a lot of people in the state who don’t get where this is going,” Addington said.

Sakata said the new standard will expand the market for new and used zero emission vehicles and bring down prices. She also said the upfront costs are offset by decreased operations and maintenance costs.

Oregon has over 2,000 public and private electric vehicle chargers across the state, with more being built.

Ashland Community Hospital to Close ICU

The Asante Ashland Community Hospital announced its four-bed ICU will be closing by the end of the year.

Historically, the small four-bed ICU hasn’t seen a lot of patients. The Asante board of directors decided to close the department a few months ago, as part of the provider’s efforts to recover from the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic.

“We may have one or two critical care patients a week,” said Dr. Steven Hersch, administrator and vice president of medical affairs at the hospital.

Hersch said the ICU was used more often during the Delta surge of the COVID pandemic, but since then its frequently closed because it hasn’t seen many patients.

“That caused us to have difficulty recruiting and retaining nurses and eliminating contract labor,” Hersch said. “It contributed to a significant operating loss in the ICU.” The ICU was costing Asante $1.5 million dollars annually, Hersch said.

Because only one or two patients may come to the ICU in a week, the nurses haven’t gotten as much real-world experience as the hospital would like. All of the nurses will be relocated to other roles at Asante, Hersh said.

“They may help us by taking on other roles in the hospital,” Hersch said. “We may have and continue to have critical care outreach nurses – these are critical care trained nurses – who help support the staff on the med surge ward, in the emergency room, in the recovery area in providing extra resources.”

The emergency department in Ashland will remain open, and Hersch says if a patient is in need of critical care they already have plans to transfer them to Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford or Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass.

“The intensive care doctors in those units have been helping us via telehealth take care of our ICU patients,” he said. “And we would end up transferring our sickest of sick ICU patients to those facilities for their in-person intensive unit care.”

Hersch said the nurses at those hospitals have more consistent experience in taking care of critical patients. The last day for the Ashland ICU is officially December 31st, but Hersch says it could close earlier than that if there are no patients.

ODOT reopens westbound I-84. Eastbound still closed after fatal crash east of Corbett

UPDATE 9:15 a.m. Westbound lanes of I-84 have reopened. Eastbound lanes remain closed for crash investigation and clean up.

A crash has blocked all eastbound lanes of I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge near Corbett.Image courtesy of Corbett Fire

Winter weather in the Columbia River Gorge has created icy road conditions and caused a fatal crash on Interstate 84 near Corbett early Tuesday.

The Oregon Department of Transportation closed the freeway to all travel between Hood River and Troutdale at about 5:30 a.m. The Corbett Fire Department reported a multi-vehicle crash including several semis blocking the interstate at milepost 23. Icy conditions were reported. Multnomah County deputies are investigating a fatal crash near Dalton Point that involved multiple vehicles and semi-trucks. Other crashes were reported east of Corbett. The road may be closed for several hours.

Former Portland Area Non-Profit Director Pleads Guilty to Stealing Covid Relief Funds

PORTLAND, Ore.—A former Portland area non-profit director pleaded guilty today for stealing more than $320,000 in federal funds intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Theodore Johnson, 62, a Portland resident, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud.

According to court documents, in February 2017, Johnson incorporated and began serving as the director of operations for Ten Penny International Housing Foundation, an Oregon-based non-profit organization. After Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to American employers suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns, Johnson saw an opportunity to fraudulently obtain government funds on Ten Penny’s behalf.

In early March 2021, Johnson submitted his first of three Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications, falsely claiming Ten Penny employed 16 people and had an average monthly payroll of more than $57,000. To support his application, Johnson submitted fraudulent tax documents and created an electronic counterfeit IRS stamp to make it appear as though a form had been received by the IRS. Based on these false claims, Northeast Bank issued a PPP loan worth more than $143,000 to Ten Penny.

Two months later, in May 2021, Johnson submitted two more fraudulent PPP loan applications. In these applications, he again falsely claimed Ten Penny employed 16 people and had an average monthly payroll of at least $50,000. Johnson further falsely claimed to have used the entirety of his first PPP loan for eligible expenses. As a result, Central Willamette Credit Union issued Johnson a second PPP loan worth more than $130,000.

In addition to his three fraudulent PPP loan applications, Johnson submitted a fraudulent Oregon Cares Fund application on behalf of Ten Penny and received an additional $34,975.

On October 31, 2022, Johnson was charged by criminal information with one count of bank fraud.

Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five years’ supervised release. He will be sentenced on March 16, 2023, before U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon.

As part of his plea agreement, Johnson has agreed to pay more than $321,000 in restitution to Northeast Bank, Central Willamette Credit Union, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Oregon Department of Administrative Services.

This case was investigated by the SBA Office of Inspector General and U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). It is being prosecuted by Meredith D.M. Bateman, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Series of Earthquakes this Morning in Humboldt County California with the strongest a 6.4 felt by people across South West Oregon

Study Finds Lots Of Whales And Marine Life In Offshore Wind Farm Zones Along West Coast

The federal government has commissioned Oregon State University to look into the possible impacts of offshore wind farms on marine wildlife. In the first year of this four-year project, the researchers spotted sizable numbers of seabirds and whales — including the largest animal on Earth — in the Oregon and Northern California areas that could one day host floating wind farms.

The OSU researchers are taking to the sea, to the air and listening underwater to document which seabirds, whales and dolphins forage in and around the parcels put up for lease by the Interior Department for offshore wind farm development.

“The (continental) shelf and the slope have high abundance and high density of marine mammals and seabirds,” reported OSU Marine Mammal Institute director Lisa Ballance after the first two of seven planned research cruises were in the books.

“There are quite a lot of large whales out there, quite a number,” said Ballance, who serves as principal investigator on the project. “Humpbacks are quite abundant. Increasingly, blue whales are quite abundant. We also see a whale that is less familiar to most people called a sei whale. It looks a lot like a blue whale, not quite as big but a very large animal.”

Blue whales, sei whales, as well as some sub-populations of humpbacks are federally-listed as endangered. The Pacific Northwest’s critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales also travel along the outer coast seasonally.

The array of seabirds spotted by the researchers included threatened marbled murrelets along with impressive long-distance travelers such as black-footed albatrosses and Laysan albatrosses. Ballance reserved special admiration for the abundant sooty shearwaters, a seasonal visitor to Pacific Northwest waters that migrate all the way from breeding colonies near New Zealand.

Ballance said her team needs to do a lot more analysis before she would consider making any statements about whether anchoring massive floating wind turbines amid this maritime abundance would create problems.

A spokeswoman for German multinational energy company RWE Renewables, the winning bidder for one of the Northern California offshore leases, said it was still very early in the site development process. For that reason, the company declined Monday to comment on the initial wildlife survey results.

Early on, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management identified the risk of whale entanglements in floating platform moorings and cabling as a concern. The agency contracted with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create a computer simulation of whale interactions with different wind farm configurations, the results of which have not yet been published.

“It is important to note that a federal offshore wind lease only grants a company the exclusive right to submit plans to BOEM for activities on their lease. It does not grant approval for the construction of an offshore wind facility,” BOEM public affairs officer John Romero said in an email Saturday.

Earlier this month, the federal treasury reaped $757 million from auctioning leases to five patches of ocean off Morro Bay and Humboldt County, California. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management tentatively plans to auction two more leases off of Coos Bay and Brookings, Oregon, sometime in the second half of 2023. The lease areas begin around 14 miles off the coastline and extend to 46 to 65 miles offshore. This means the wind farms should be out of sight from shore on all but the clearest days.

Expanses of ocean near Coos Bay (navy blue) and Brookings (sky blue) are the federal government’s
top candidates for Oregon offshore wind energy leases. Bureau Of Ocean Energy Management

The OSU study is just one of more than a dozen commissioned by federal agencies to scope out the environmental, economic and social changes that large-scale renewable energy development might bring to the Pacific Coast. The objective, as laid out by the U.S. Department of Energy last year, is to “inform offshore wind siting, permitting and help protect wildlife and fisheries as offshore wind deployment increases.”

The $2 million grant to the OSU-led team piggybacks on other projects already underway by the university’s Marine Mammal Institute and with outside collaborators. In addition to visual surveys from research ships, one scientist is regularly tagging along with Coast Guard helicopter crews to survey from the air. Ballance said the project will also incorporate two years worth of undersea hydrophone recordings now deployed, satellite tracking tags attached to a small number of blue whales and another prong to collect flight height info on seabirds to assess the likelihood of collisions with turbine blades.

Even though wind leasing is well underway, the final report and maps produced by the OSU researchers are not due to be delivered until mid-2026. But a permitting timeline provided by BOEM suggests the Oregon and California floating offshore wind farms will undergo an extraordinarily long review process. The agency said site assessment and surveys could take five to six years. Further technical and formal environmental reviews, public comment, plus construction and operations permitting adds another two to four years.

That permitting timeline aligns with RWE Renewables’ estimate that its California floating wind farm will begin operations by the mid-2030s.

The continental shelf along the Pacific Northwest coast drops away too fast to fix wind turbine towers to the seafloor, as is done along the U.S. East Coast and in northern Europe. That means the Biden administration and state goals to achieve significant volumes of clean electricity generation from offshore wind in the next decade will need to rely on floating turbines that are still undergoing refinement. Even though building offshore will be more expensive and complicated, it attracts energy companies because of the ability to capture stronger and more consistent winds with bigger turbine blades than are typically available on land.

There are only four utility-scale floating wind farms in operation worldwide at present — in Portugal, Scotland and Norway. None of those projects are in waters as deep as contemplated off Oregon. The proposed lease areas off of Coos Bay, Gold Beach and Brookings are 400 feet deep at their shallowest and the water depths easily exceed 1,000 feet as you move further offshore.

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.

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.

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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