Klamath Basin News, Monday 2/20 – Senators Wyden and Merkley Introduce Legislation to Support Klamath Farmers and Ranchers Drought Initiatives and Protect Fish & Wildlife Habitat in the Basin

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Monday, February 20, 2023 President’s Day

Klamath Basin Weather

Wind Advisory in effect all day Tuesday, February 21, 1:00 AM until 4PM.

Monday, Washington’s Birthday Mostly sunny, with a high near 60. West northwest winds to 10 mph. Overnight, a 30% chance of rain, with the snow level at 5600 ft, low of 28 degrees.

Tuesday A chance of rain and snow before 7am, then a chance of snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 40. Windy conditions of northwest winds around 24 mph, with gusts as high as 37 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible. Overnight a 30% of snow, with a low around 20 degrees. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
Wednesday A 20% chance of snow after 10am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 34.
Thursday A 10% chance of snow after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 34.
Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 40.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 44.

See Road Camera Views

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Hiway 97 at Chemult   
Hiway 140 at  Bly       
Hiway 97 at GreenSprings Dr.            
Hiway 97 at LaPine

Today’s Headlines

While locally Klamath County has not declared a grought yet, Governor Tina Kotek is declaring drought emergencies in Crook and Jefferson counties.

Klamath County leaders are watching the water levels closely along with the Oregon Water Resources Division. But Commissioner Kelley Minty anticipates a declaration will be made in the next few weeks.

A drought declaration helps set a county or a community up to be able to perhaps apply for additional resources, help with the drought response, it will allow us to seek out additional resources to help our citizens respond to drought,.

Once the declaration is made by the county it gets moved up the chain to the governor’s office.

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The upcoming dam removal project has the potential to benefit not only aquatic species but also improve prosperity of agriculture and recreation in the Klamath Basin, according to some sources.

Mark Bronson gave a free presentation on the dam removals for the 2023 Winter Wings Festival. Bronson is the executive director of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), the nonprofit leading the removal of four hydroelectric dams in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Bronson’s talk — “Klamath River Dams are Coming Out!” — noted a number of beneficial outcomes that could breathe new life into more than just the endangered fish species in the region.

Spawn of endemic species such as the C’waam and Koptu, as well as that of salmon, steelhead and lamprey, have dwindled to frighteningly low numbers in recent years due to Ceratonova shasta — a parasitic infection with a “90-plus percent mortality rate” for the fish which inhabit the Klamath River.

Efforts to decrease the presence of this parasite, the Bureau of Reclamation releases a “block of water” from Upper Klamath Lake, performing a flushing flow of waters at the Iron Gate Dam.

Bronson said that, if things go as planned, retaining that water won’t be necessary anymore.

With little in the way of water resources in the Klamath Basin, this additional provision could improve water availability for agricultural and restoration usage. The removal of Klamath River dams will also improve sediment distribution and waterflow. This would greatly improve Upper Klamath Lake water quality, allowing recreational use of water which is frequently too toxic to enter due to dangerous algal blooms.

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said Friday, Feb. 17 they have introduced legislation that would support farmers and ranchers responding to severe drought and restoring fish and wildlife habitat in the Klamath Basin.

Wyden said the farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin have weathered historic drought with significant federal investment and assistance, but the region is in desperate need of additional support. 

The ongoing drought conditions have been devastating for communities in the Klamath Basin, with the Bureau of Reclamation unable to meet the needs of communities in the basin. In 2021 — the worst year on record in 100 years — the Bureau of Reclamation announced for the first time no water would be made available to the farmers. That same year, canals in the area went without water, causing hundreds of households to be without water for drinking, cooking, sanitation or other basic needs. Drought has also hurt severely impacted Tribes in the basin, imperiling culturally important fish and wildlife.

Wyden and Merkley’s Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement Support Act would help address the needs of these communities as they work together to realize long-term solutions by:

• Authorizing Interior to enter into an agreement with Bonneville Power Administration to reduce the costs of power for the Irrigation Districts;

• Authorizing Interior to complete physical projects that reduce the risk of fish entrapment, reduce or avoid impacts to fish and habitat caused by diversion of water for irrigation, and projects that restore fish habitat, including those held in trust by the Tribes;

• Helping pay for the costs of operating an irrigation pumping plan in Tulelake;

• Helping pay for the costs of replacing the C Irrigation Canal; and

• Authorizing Interior to take ownership of Keno Dam from Pacificorp, once Pacificorp removes the lower four Klamath Dams.

Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty said in a statement that “Senators Wyden and Merkley have been consistent champions for delivering much-needed federal resources to Klamath County,” Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty. “I am grateful they are continuing to fight for the Basin’s critical needs by taking the additional step of introducing this new legislation that provides a lifeline to local farmers and ranchers devastated by drought as well as resources to protect and recover fish and habitat that are so important to our tribal communities.

Hallie Neupert, a Professor and Department Chair of Oregon Tech’s Management department, has been selected by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) to participate in a two-year Faculty Innovation Fellows program.

The Fellows program selects less than 20 educators worldwide to participate in the experience. In this two-year program, faculty and staff work to design unique projects that enhance the innovation ecosystems at their schools and help students gain vital real-world skills and mindsets to increase campus engagement with innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and design thinking.

The first project Neupert is working on is “Connecting Our I&E Ecosystem Dots,” which she began in December. “Connecting Oregon Tech and the Klamath Falls innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) ecosystem is an important next step in developing a multi-year I&E student experience,” Neupert said. “Improved university-community partnerships heighten a culture of collaboration, support student innovation while creating value for our community, and increase students’ sense of belonging, all of which align with the goals of my department.”

The I&E ecosystem at Oregon Tech began with Catalyze Klamath, an innovation competition that Neupert has steered for 8 years. The ecosystem has since evolved and now includes relationships with the University Economic Development Association and the Lemelson Foundation, 

All Klamath County libraries are closed today, Monday, Feb. 20 in observance of Presidents’ Day.

No materials will be due on a date that the libraries are closed. For more information, call us at 541-882-8894, or see the events calendar at klamathlibrary.org/library-events-calendar.

Medford’s Foothill Road project started Friday. Klamath Basin residents that commonly use Foothill Road when visiting Medford, entering from the east side via Barnett Road and McAndrews, heads up.

The two-mile stretch of Foothill Road in Medford, from Delta Waters to Hillcrest Road will eventually go from two lanes to four. The goal is to ease congestion, make the road safer and provide an alternative to I-5. Last month, Jackson County started its part of the project, north of Delta Waters Road to Dry Creek Road. The city said you should expect delays during construction.

In May, Vial said the ramps from McAndrews to Foothill are expected to be closed, but detours will be available. The $62 million project is expected to last three years.

Parents with students attending a Klamath Falls city school can have their minds put more at ease knowing that ZeroEyes is watching.

ZeroEyes, a human-verified proactive gun detection software that integrates into existing security cameras with a mission to stop mass shootings and gun-related violence, has recently been installed at every school within the Klamath Falls City Schools District.

Developed by a group of former Navy SEALS and technologists, ZeroEyes is the most comprehensive and superior gun detection technology on the market. The AI technology can identify brandished guns and dispatch alerts to safety personnel and local law enforcement as fast as 3-5 seconds from the moment of detection. ZeroEyes’ AI technology is advanced enough that it can even discern if the weapon being detected is an AirSoft, BB or other type of non-lethal gun and can de-escalate the police response accordingly.

Former U.S. Military and law enforcement specialists verify every detection from the in-house ZeroEyes Operation Center to deliver accurate and actionable intelligence on gun-related incidents, including the gunman’s appearance, weapon type and real-time location.

The system also does not receive, record, store or share any personal or biometric data of any kind. ZeroEyes operators receive images only when a gun has been brandished.

ZeroEyes is deployed across more than 30 states including commercial properties, hospitals, casinos, military bases and K-12 school districts with the Klamath Falls City Schools District being the first in the Pacific Northwest to integrate the technology.

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 Klamath Film, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes filmmaking in the Klamath Basin, is now accepting film submissions for the annual Klamath Independent Film Festival (KIFF) through June 1 via FilmFreeway.

The festival, scheduled to take place Sept. 22-24 at the Ross Ragland Theater in Klamath Falls and simultaneously presented via livestream and on-demand, is entering its 11th year. Dubbed “the premiere Oregon-centric film festival,” KIFF is the only film festival that exclusively showcases independent films made-in-Oregon or by Oregon resident filmmakers, along with submissions from bordering California counties Siskiyou and Modoc.

Festival submissions are split into six categories based on geographic location as northern or southern Oregon, designated as either feature films (40 minutes or longer), shorts (under 40 minutes), and Kindergarten-College student films. Student films should be no longer than 15 minutes.

As with 2022’s festival, prize money totaling $5,000 will be divided among the six categories. Any film completed by Jan. 1, 2022 or later and is made predominantly in Oregon or by an Oregon resident filmmaker is eligible to submit for consideration. Film selections for KIFF will be announced in mid-July. Continuing a popular tradition, award-winning films from the six categories will receive a one-of-a-kind art piece trophy custom carved by the Southern Cascade Woodcrafters Guild along with a cash prize.

Sponsors, volunteers, and film screeners are being sought to help present the film festival. If interested, contact info@klamathfilm.org. For more information about the Klamath Independent Film Festival visit www.klamathfilm.org.

Young people between ages 15 and 18 can apply for summer jobs with the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) at Lava Beds National Monument.

YCC is a summer employment program for young men and women who “work and learn together by participating in conservation work on public lands.” Planned work projects include trail maintenance, exotic weed control, native plant care, landscape restoration and cave clean-up. Conservation education is incorporated into the YCC program, which is designed to “introduce participants to the natural and cultural history of the local area, highlight the mission of the National Park Service, and involve field trips to surrounding sites.”

The program is scheduled to begin Monday, June 19, and run for eight weeks to Friday, Aug. 11. Applications are due by April 1. Up to eight YCC crew members for the summer will be selected during a random drawing of applications April 15. Initial preference will be given to local applicants from the nearby communities of Tulelake, Newell and Tionesta areas of far northern California and Merrill and Malin in Oregon. Successful candidates will earn $16 an hour.

Program Coordinator David Hays said applicants must be in very good physical condition, noting, “This work can be fun, even adventurous, but it can also be strenuous and is performed in hot, rugged, dirty environments. If regular exercise is not already part of an applicant’s lifestyle, they are strongly discouraged from applying.”

Applications for the YCC program may be emailed to David_Hays@nps.gov or mailed to the Lava Beds YCC Program, Attn: David Hays, P.O. Box 1240, Tulelake, CA 96134, and must be received no later than April 1. Interested applicants may also call Hays at 530-667-8103.

Klamath County Fairgrounds 3531 South 6th St. Exhibit Hall 1

Sky Lakes is bringing back the Living Well Community Health Fair! Join us at the Living Well Community Health Fair for free health screenings and exhibits from Sky Lakes Medical Center and our community partners for all ages. These preventative health screenings will be available to the public for free:

  • Cholesterol screening (recommended 8-12 hour fast)
  • Blood glucose screening (recommended 8-12 hour fast)
  • Blood pressure check

For more information, go to https://www.skylakes.org/healthfair/

Around the state of Oregon

Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputies Uncover Stolen Vehicle Ring, Arrests Made

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) Patrol deputies uncovered a stolen vehicle ring in Rural Rogue River yesterday morning.

JCSO deputies located the vehicles at a former marijuana grow in the 18500 block of East Evans Creek Road while investigating an open stolen vehicle case. Deputies arrested a suspect on the property, Gerald Andrew Fath, 37, of Rogue River, for six counts of possession of a stolen vehicle, two counts of felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of body armor, and possession of a prohibited firearm (silencer). -JCSO Case 23-0953

On the property, JCSO deputies discovered four stolen automobiles and two stolen motorcycles. Deputies contacted Fath at the location and executed a search warrant of his trailer locating two firearms, a suppressor, and body armor. Deputies arrested the suspect and lodged him in the Jackson County Jail. This case is open and ongoing with deputies following additional leads. There is no further information available at this time.

MADGE Detectives Arrest Leaders of Drug Trafficking Organization in Jackson County

Following a two-year drug investigation, on January 24, 2023, MADGE and IMET Detectives began serving search warrants on Jerret Hooey and his co-conspirators

In five days’ time MADGE and IMET Detectives, with the assistance of Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Deputies, Oregon State Police and the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement (RADE) team, Grants Pass Police, Homeland Security Investigations, and Medford Police Detectives served over 24 search warrants at various locations within Jackson County.

In total, Detectives seized over $165,000 in U.S. currency, 86 firearms, over 1 ½ pounds of cocaine, over ¼ pound of methamphetamine, over ¼ pound of fentanyl, and over 90 pounds of marijuana and/or marijuana extracts. 

Four males believed to be main suspects in this case were arrested and lodged at the Jackson County Jail:

  • Jerret Hooey, age 34
  • Jesus Ledesma, age 35
  • Nicolas Carrillo-Ortiz, age 38
  • Lucas Palomarez, age 27

The subjects involved were arrested for Unlawful Delivery of Cocaine, Unlawful Manufacturing of Cocaine, and Unlawful Possession of Cocaine among other charges.

An additional 20 subjects were contacted and/or arrested in conjunction with the drug trafficking organization. 

MADGE Detectives have been investigating Jerret Hooey and his drug trafficking organization (DTO) since February 2020 for selling large amounts of cocaine in Jackson County.  In November of 2022, MADGE Detectives began monitoring Hooey’s phone calls via a Title III wire intercept.  During the investigation, Detectives began monitoring two additional phone lines in connection with the case. 

Through the investigation, MADGE Detectives were able to confirm the cocaine was being distributed from the Mexico border at the ports in California and Texas.  The source of these drugs were confirmed to be the Mexican Cartel. The drugs were transported from Tijuana, Mexico and Juarez, Mexico to Oregon where they were distributed. 

Detectives with MADGE continue to investigate leads from this case in an attempt to arrest and prosecute individuals involved with this cocaine drug trafficking organization.   If you have any information regarding subjects involved in this case, please contact Detective Schwab with MADGE at 541-292-6035 or 541-774-2231.

Oregon Legislature Is Considering A Bill That Would Create The Nation’s Most Comprehensive Law Against Paramilitary Activity

With headlines such as “An armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge”, “Over 100 straight days of racial justice protests that turned downtown Portland into a battleground”, “a violent breach of the state Capitol”, “clashes between gun-toting right-wingers and leftist militants”, Oregon has experienced the sixth-highest number of extremist incidents in the nation in recent years. This, despite being 27th in population, according to an Oregon Secretary of State report.

Now, the state Legislature is considering a bill that, experts say, would create the nation’s most comprehensive law against paramilitary activity.

It would provide citizens and the state attorney general with civil remedies in court if armed members of a private paramilitary group interfere with, or intimidate, another person who is engaging in an activity they have a legal right to do, such as voting. A court could block paramilitary members from pursuing an activity if the state attorney general believed it would be illegal conduct.

All 50 states prohibit private paramilitary organizations and/or paramilitary activity, but no other law creates civil remedies, said Mary McCord, an expert on terrorism and domestic extremism who helped craft the bill. The Oregon bill is also unique because it would allow people injured by private, unauthorized paramilitary activity to sue, she said.

Opponents say the law would infringe on the rights to freely associate and bear arms.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dacia Grayber, a Democrat from suburban Portland, said the proposed reforms “would make it harder for private paramilitaries to operate with impunity throughout Oregon, regardless of their ideology.”

But dozens of conservative Oregonians, in written testimony, have expressed suspicion that the Democrat-controlled Legislature aims to pass a bill restricting the right to assemble and that the legislation would target right-wing armed groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, but not black-clad anarchists who have vandalized downtown Portland and battled police.

“This bill would clearly put restrictions on who could gather in a group and for what reasons they chose to,” wrote Matthew Holman, a resident of Coos Bay, a town on Oregon’s southwest coast.

The pioneering measure raises a host of issues, which lawmakers tried to parse in a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week:

If residents are afraid to go to a park with their children while an armed militia group is present, could they later sue the group? What constitutes a paramilitary group? What is defined as being armed?

Oregon Department of Justice attorney Carson Whitehead said the proposed law would not sanction a person for openly carrying firearms, which is constitutionally permissible. But if a paramilitary group went to a park knowing their presence would be intimidating, anyone afraid of also going to the park could sue for damages, Whitehead said.

“This particular bill is not directed at individuals open-carrying. This is directed at armed, coordinated paramilitary activity,” added McCord, who is the executive director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

On the other side of the country in Vermont, a bill making it a crime to operate a paramilitary training camp got final approval from the state Senate on Friday. The measure, which senators earlier approved by a 29-1 vote, also allows state prosecutors to seek an injunction to close such a facility.

“This bill gives the state the authority it needs to protect Vermonters from fringe actors looking to create civil disorder,” said state Sen. Philip Baruth, a Democrat, and Progressive from Burlington.

Baruth introduced the measure in response to a firearms training facility built without permits in the town of Pawlet. Neighbors frequently complained about gunfire coming from the Slate Ridge facility, calling it a menace. Baruth’s bill now goes to the Vermont House. Under the proposed Oregon law, a paramilitary group could range from ones that wear uniforms and insignia, like the Three Percenters, to a handful of people who act in a coordinated way with a command structure to engage in violence, McCord said.

Rep. Rick Lewis, a Republican from Silverton, asked pointedly during the committee hearing whether rocks and frozen water bottles, which Portland police said had been thrown at them during demonstrations in 2021, would fall under the proposed law.

A frozen water bottle and rocks could cause serious injury or death, so they would be considered dangerous weapons under Oregon law, responded Kimberly McCullough, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s legislative director.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, whose jurisdiction encompasses Portland, testified in favor of the bill, expressing frustration that police often can’t single out violent actors lurking among peaceful protesters.

“Our current inability to get upstream of this violence before it starts leaves us vulnerable to organized criminal elements who enter into a protest environment with the express intention of escalating the situation into an assault or arson or a riot,” Schmidt said.

McCord, the terrorism expert, said the measure would mark a milestone in the U.S., where the FBI has warned of a rapidly growing threat of homegrown violent extremism.

“This bill as amended would be the most comprehensive statute to address unauthorized paramilitary activity that threatens civil rights,” she said.

The tactic of enabling private residents to file lawsuits against paramilitary groups may be a novel one, but it has been used in other areas.

Environmental groups, for example, can sue businesses accused of violating federal pollution permits. In Texas, a 2021 law authorizes lawsuits against anyone who performs or aids in an abortion. In Missouri, a law allows citizens to sue local law enforcement officers who enforce federal gun laws. But the Oregon bill differs from these laws because only people who are injured by unlawful paramilitary activity could sue, McCord said. The Oregon bill also opens a path for a government enforcement mechanism, since it allows the state attorney general to seek a court injunction to prevent a planned paramilitary activity, she said.

Whether the bill will pass is unclear. It needs a simple majority in both the House and Senate to go to Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek for her approval or veto. Kotek’s spokesperson, Elisabeth Shepard, said the governor generally doesn’t comment on pending legislation.

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