60.55 F
Klamath Falls
April 24, 2024

Klamath Basin News, Friday, 3/22 – County Commissioners Proposing Formation of Council of Governments to Better Serve Areas; Bend Man Arrested-Suspected of Killing Mother

The latest and most comprehensive coverage of local News, Sports, Business, and Community News stories in the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM / 102.5FM, The Herald and News, and BasinLife.com, and powered by Mick Insurance, your Local Health and Medicare agents. Call 541-882-6476.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Klamath Basin Weather

Today
A 30% chance of rain, mainly after 5pm. Snow level 5800 feet and rising. High of 54. Overnight, expect rain mixed with snow, snow level 6200 feet lowering to 4200 feet after midnight . Low around 33. Chance of precipitation is 80%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
 
Saturday
A chance of snow showers before noon, then rain and snow showers likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. South southeast wind 10 to 15 mph with higher gusts. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Little or no snow accumulation expected. Rain mixed with snow overnight, low around 31.
Sunday
A slight chance of snow after noon, mixing with rain after 3pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 48. West wind 5 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday
A chance of snow after noon, mixing with rain after 3pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. Chance of precipitation is 40%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Tuesday
A slight chance of snow between noon and 3pm, then a slight chance of rain after 3pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 49.
Wednesday
Rain and snow. Snow level 4500 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 47.
 

See Road Camera Views around the Klamath Basin:

Lake of the Woods
Doak Mtn.

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

Today’s Headlines

In pursuit of more cohesive, effective governing, Klamath County’s Board of Commissioners has proposed the formation of a council of governments for county, which is one of Oregon’s largest in terms of land, with small communities spread throughout its boundaries.

Klamath Tribes leadership and officials representing each of the county’s incorporated cities — Klamath Falls, Chiloquin, Bonanza, Merrill and Malin — were all in attendance.

County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot said the proposed council is intended to create a more cohesive, cooperative countywide team that could tackle the pressing issues throughout the county.

Klamath Tribal Council Vice Chairwoman Gail Hatcher asked how the Tribes fit into the council of governments given the differences in the Tribal process compared to that of a city council.

Klamath Falls City Councilor Mika Blain asked how the council would vote and whether each of the cities and Tribes would have appointed representatives from their bodies.

As the council of governments is still in the planning phase, it will fall to the Tribes and the incorporated cities to return to the next meeting with possible changes to the language in its description.

Over the course of the next few quarterly meetings by the group, leaders will discuss the language and define their parameters, and bring a list of each community’s priorities they hope to address with the council of governments.

Among the top priorities for many communities in Klamath County is finding the means to provide sufficient, equitable law enforcement for all residents, an item which was included on the meeting agenda. Stay tuned.

 
Oregon Tech Environmental Sciences and Klamath Outdoor Science School will collaborate in environmental education.

 On March 8, representatives of Oregon Tech Environmental Sciences and Klamath Outdoor Science School (KOSS) signed an agreement to collaborate on environmental education initiatives in the Klamath Basin.

The collaboration will focus on several key areas, including promoting research-based educational practices, providing professional development opportunities, creating standards-aligned curriculum for K-12 students, and providing quality environmental educational experiences for diverse audiences in the community.

 In 2023, Oregon Tech added a Recreation and Science Ambassador track within its Environmental Sciences program. As part of developing the track, Oregon Tech faculty reached out to KOSS, a nonprofit that provides youth with residential and day outdoor school experiences, to learn how Oregon Tech students could support KOSS programs through teaching, curriculum development, and volunteer work.

 Students currently enrolled in Oregon Tech ENV 466 Environmental Education are revising select curriculum for KOSS to share at one of its outdoor programs.

 For more information about Oregon Tech Environmental Sciences, visit www.oit.edu/environmental-sciences.

 

Mathematics, engineering, science and technology is alive and well at Ponderosa Middle School. A mixture of Ponderosa seventh and eighth grade students impressed Mathematics, Engineering, Science and Technology (MESA) Oregon judges during a competition March 5 at Oregon Tech against students across Klamath County.

The competition, named MESA Oregon Demo Day 2024, was a competition many of the Ponderosa students remembered well from a year ago.

Ponderosa science instructor Elizabeth Neuman has been working with students after school to prepare for the event after bringing back MESA to the middle school last year.

For the second consecutive year, Ponderosa took the honor of top middle school. All Ponderosa MESA students placed in this year’s regional competition.

The team of Jazzlyn Pineda, Audriana Morehouse, Alyson Giese Maeva, Lucy Chase and Azalea Weiser took first place. The recognitions kept coming as Jacob Culp, Lizzie Childress, Lexie Childress and Lilla Perkins earned second place for Ponderosa.

The MESA spirit award went to seventh graders Oliver Case, Alex Brown, Lily Rumsey, Kaden Flowers and Kingston Clark.

Morehouse, Lizzie Childress, Lexie Childress, Giese Maeva and Pineda were brought back to the same feeling of success after earning first place in the regional competition last year.

 

With Upper Klamath Lake quickly approaching full pool, there are growing concerns about the potential for flood releases at Link River Dam in the coming weeks.

Klamath Project irrigation districts are preparing their systems to move water, which will help mitigate complications downriver with unsafe dam removal worksites.

This water movement includes filling portions of Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges – placing water on wetlands and landscapes that have been void of water for several years.

A decision to begin moving water is anticipated next week after district managers meet with representatives from tribal governments and federal agencies. 

Last fall, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) required districts to leave extra water in Upper Klamath Lake. Throughout winter, Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) and its members have been identifying the potential for a full pool situation, and opportunities that would exist if that were to occur.

For several weeks, KWUA and its member districts have been concerned with the management of water levels in Upper Klamath Lake, given this year’s unique operational considerations. 

 

Along the topic of water, despite widespread concerns about the initial impact of removing the three remaining Klamath River hydroelectric dams, the organization coordinating the removals says the project is moving ahead as expected.

Several groups, especially in Siskiyou County, have expressed fear the removals are creating significant damage to the river’s water quality, have resulted in huge kills of non-native fish and caused deer and other wildlife to die after becoming stuck and unable to escape from extremely muddy areas because of the drawdown of reservoirs.

A statement from the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, which is overseeing removal of the dams, restoring lands exposed by the dam removal to “restore the health of the Klamath River and the communities that depend on it,” explained the ongoing process.

On responding to concerns about the sediment created by the drawdown process and ongoing dam removals, the statement says, “The Klamath River is experiencing a period of poor water quality as sediment is evacuated from the former reservoirs. This short-term impact will be small, relative to the long-term improvements to water quality and fisheries habitat. We expect to see fluctuations in turbidity/suspended sediment levels in the coming weeks and months.”

Copco 2, was removed last year. Happening now are steps aimed at removing the other three dams — John C Boyle, Copco 1 and Iron Gate.

 

Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot had some heavy words to say about the future of the county’s budget Tuesday afternoon.

For the past few weeks, the Board of Klamath County Commissioners has been occupied with a series of budget-related meetings and workshops to create the 2024-25 fiscal year budget by June 30. During the commissioner’s weekly business meeting, DeGroot did not sugarcoat the budget situation.

DeGroot said the revenue Klamath County earns from taxes, goods and/or services remains flat, within an expected range annually, but rising labor costs are beginning to take a toll on the budget.

Degroot said it is the priority of the commissioners to continue to grow and develop the Klamath Basin, thus earning more revenue, but that process is slow moving

Also during the meeting, the board approved three fire preparedness and prevention projects that are ongoing across the county starting with Keno Rural Fire Protection District’s Situation Analyst Program.

The next was approving Klamath County Fire District 1’s five-year mitigation program to establish up to seven fire-wise communities in Klamath County and safely dispose of over two million pounds of hazardous fuels.

The seven target areas will be the Running Y, Sunset Beach, Pine Grove, Shield Crest, Ridgewater, Old Fort and Lynnewood.

 
Eighteen businesses in Klamath Falls will be awarded funds for beautification and building improvement projects through the city’s downtown business grant program.

City council approved the 2024 downtown building and façade improvement grant awards during their regular meeting Monday evening. Councilor Kelsey Mueller Wendt recused herself from the proceedings to avoid conflict of interest.

The 2023-2025 biennium budget for Klamath Falls established a total of $250,000 for the grant program with an additional $10,000 provided by the Klamath Falls Downtown Association.

City Planning Manager Joe Wall said applications for the grant funding this year exceeded years prior with a combined ask of more than $500,000.

Instead of awarding the full amounts requested, city planning staff recommended awarding partial funds to “spread it out” to provide for more local businesses.

Of the 18 recipients, Skyline Brewing received the largest sum in a $40,000 grant.

Instead of awarding the full amounts requested, city planning staff recommended awarding partial funds to “spread it out” to provide for more local businesses.

Of the 18 recipients, Skyline Brewing received the largest sum in a $40,000 grant.

 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday that it has killed 160,000 rainbow trout after a novel parasite was found in the fish raised at three hatcheries, including at Klamath Falls. The detection came after an increase in deaths of trout at Klamath Falls, Rock Creek and Elk River hatcheries.

ODFW’s fish health lab has detected a novel parasite in sick rainbow trout that were raised at Klamath Falls, Rock Creek and Elk River hatcheries. The detection marks the first time this parasite has been associated with disease symptoms in Oregon’s fish.

Late last year, ODFW fish health and hatchery staff noticed increased mortality in several raceways of rainbow trout at the three hatcheries. Staff from ODFW’s fish health lab tested the fish for bacteria and viruses but did not detect any known pathogens. Hatchery staff treated the trout with two rounds of antibiotics and other supportive care but the fish did not respond.

To determine what was causing the fish to get sick, ODFW began working with Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Microbiology. They identified an unknown parasite within the blood vessels, gills, and kidney tissue of the affected trout. Preliminary genetic testing places this parasite as a Myxidium species in the class Myxozoa which includes over 2,400 parasitic organisms.

This parasite has a two-host life cycle. It first infects an invertebrate host such as an aquatic worm, then moves into the water where it infects fish, then leaves the fish to infect a worm again. Sometimes these parasites are associated with disease in the fish.

 

One of winter’s most popular tourist events, ranger-guided snowshoe walks, are on again at Crater Lake National Park.

Park spokesmen said the walks will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays through Sunday, April 28, and on weekdays from Monday, March 25, through Friday, March 29. Snowshoes will be provided free of charge and no previous snowshoeing experience is necessary.

The walks will start at 1 p.m. and last 2 hours. Participants will cover 1 to 2 miles of moderate-to-strenuous terrain. Routes vary, but the walks typically begin at Rim Village and explore the forests and meadows along and near Crater Lake’s rim.

Crater Lake National Park is one of the snowiest inhabited places in America, receiving an average of 42 feet of snow per year. Snowshoeing with a ranger is a fun way to experience this winter wonderland, especially this winter because the park has been deluged with heavy snow.

Space on each tour is limited so advance reservations are required. For more information and to sign up, call the park’s visitor information line at 541-594-3100.

 

Wyden’s Klamath Falls Town Hall is Saturday

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is on the roa in Oregon this week in Klamath, Lake, Harney, Grant and Wheeler counties from March 23-25.

“I promised to hold open-to-all town halls every year in every county so every Oregonian has the face-to-face opportunity to ask me questions, offer opinions and share ideas,” Wyden said. “There is no substitute for those direct conversations in the true spirit of the ‘Oregon Way’ focusing on solutions, and I am very eager to hear from Oregonians in rural communities on this upcoming swing through these five counties.”

  • Klamath County, 5 pm, Saturday, March 23, Oregon Institute of Technology, Mt. Mazama Conference Room, 2nd Floor of the College Union, 3201 Campus Dr, Klamath Falls
  • Lake County, 12 pm, Sunday, March 24,  Lake County Courthouse, Memorial Hall, 513 Center St, Lakeview
  • Harney County, 4 pm, Sunday, March 24,  Harney Chamber of Commerce Community Room, 484 N Broadway, Burns
  • Grant County, 9:30 am Monday March 25 Grant County Regional Airport, 720 Airport Road, John Day
  • Wheeler County, 2 pm Monday, March 25,  Mitchell School, 340 SE High St, Mitchell

 

Klamath Trails Alliance Has Big Plans for Spring and Summer

Plans for a busy spring and summer are in full swing for mountain biking and hiking areas that are part of the ever-expanding Klamath Trails Alliance trails network.

The KTA’s most visible project in upcoming months will be the expansion of the two Spence Mountain trailheads, one off Highway 140, 145 miles west of Klamath Falls by Doak Mountain, and the second at Shoalwater Bay.

Thanks to a $240,000 American Rescue Plan (ARPA) grant from Klamath County, both trailheads will be doubled from their current sizes. The Highway 140 site will add 25 sites while the Shoalwater Bay location will add another 55. In addition, both will have new vault toilets.

Weather permitting, construction is scheduled to begin this spring. Both trailheads will remain open during the construction but trail users are asked to “steer clear of the construction area for your safety.” The construction is expected to be finished before the Spence Mountain Run on June 1 and the Spence Mountain Mayhem bike event on June 8.

More trail work is again planned on Spence Mountain, which currently has 51 miles of professionally built mountain biking and hiking trails. Following last year’s extension of the popular Queen of the Lake Trail, which offers spectacular views of Upper Klamath Lake, the eastern end of the Queen will be connected to the North Star Trail. Other trail work includes starting construction of the Eagle Ridge Trail and finishing the Chinquapin Trail.

The trail work will be done by Dirt Mechanics and Tera Velo Consulting, the two contractors that have designed and built the ever-expanding network of Spence Mountain trails. This year’s work will add four miles to Spence’s existing trails network.

Along with Spence Mountain, KTA works with the city of Klamath Falls in building and maintaining multi-use trails in Moore Park and with the Forest Service on the Rye Spur, High Lakes and Brown Mountain trails.  https://www.facebook.com/KlamathTrailsAlliance

 

Do you have a project idea for Give Back Day?

Healthy Klamath is hosting a community Give Back day on Saturday April 27th. We would like to identify 10 community projects and are hoping to to get hundreds of community members to volunteer in service projects to improve our community. If you have a community project idea, let us know!
Send us an email (bluezonesproject@healthyklamath.org), direct message or comment below.
 

 

It’s almost time to spring into the wondrous world of science with Klamath Outdoor Science School.

KOSS summer camps are held in the scenic Sun Pass State Forest near Fort Klamath, offering youth and families “jam-packed weekend adventures,” a news release from the program said.

Registration for the annual summer camp excursions is now open, and registration fees are offered at a discounted rate for those who sign up before May 1.

June 17-20: ages 8 through 13 are the dates for the Artists and Scientists camp takes a dualistic perspective look at the world around us. Campers will explore local ecosystems, create works of art inspired by their findings and learn from local professionals in both the artistic and scientific fields.

June 28-30: ages 7 through 9,  this discovery-filled weekend offers young campers all basics of a good old fashioned summer camp. Kids will stay in yurts on site and learn about local plants and animals as they make new friends and explore the wilderness in Kimball Park.

Early registration fee: $295 per camper.

Finally, May 25-27 and July 5-7: children ages 3-6 with accompanying adult(s) will enjoy a holiday weekend introductory camp with the KOSS Family Camp experience. This camp is designed specifically for the littler tikes and the adults who care for them.

Campers will cook and sing around campfires and learn about the woods and wildlife.

Each child can bring between one and three adults along for the fun.

 

                  Coming to Ross Ragland Theater!

The prehistoric age is going futuristic for an upcoming show at the Ross
Ragland Theater, April 4th

Lightwire Theater is presenting DINO-LIGHT. It’s a glow-in-the-dark story of
adventure, self-discovery, and of course dinosaurs. The show itself
combines dance and puppetry as well as some cool light displays.
Artistic director for Lightwire Theater, Ian Carney, said, “The technology is
called electroluminescent wire or EL wire or L wire for short. It is a
phosphorus-based wire, so a copper wire with phosphorus sprayed on it
and a gel coating, PVC coating basically around it. That’s what gives us its
different colors.”
Lightwire Theater will be in Klamath Falls on April 4 and the show starts at
6:00pm. It is only in town for one day so make sure to buy your tickets at
the Ross Ragland Theater website.


The Missoula Children’s Theatre Spring Break Theater Camp Presents

Jack and the Beanstalk

Dates: Monday-Friday, March 25-29; 8:30am – 1:00pm
Performances: Saturday, March 30 at 3pm & 5:30pm

The Missoula Children’s Theatre presents JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, an original adaptation of the classic children’s story. What happens when a young boy plants Wonder Beans in his own backyard? For Jack, it is the beginning of a great adventure. With a little help from P.T. Wonder and a Giant, Jack learns a valuable lesson about true happiness. This musical production also features a host of other characters, including the Elegant Harp, Jill, Mother, Milky White, the Farmers, the Merchants, the Circus Performers and the Wonder Beans.

There are three age groups for the Spring Break Camp with opportunities for students from Kindergarten to age 18!

Cost: $175, multi-student discount available; scholarships available

Group 1: Kinder – age 7 have the opportunity to be part of the production on stage! They will audition on Monday and begin rehearsals that day! (16 spots available)

Group 2: Ages 8 – 8th grade have the opportunity to be part of the production on stage! They will audition on Monday and begin rehearsals that day! (44 spots available)

Group 3: Ages 12-18 have the opportunity to be an assitant director for the show! Have the experience of helping backstage and to learn from MCT’s director team! (4 spots available)

 LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ROSS RAGLAND SPRING CAMPS HERE!

 

Each week, BasinLife.com and KFLS News 1450AM & 102.5FM feature a pet of the Week ready for adoption from the Klamath Animal Shelter.

George

If you are interested in adopting, the shelter is located at 4240 Washburn Way, Monday through Friday from 12:00 – 4:00.  Walk throughs are available, pet meet and greets are by appointment, you can reach the shelter at 541-884-PETS (541-884-7387)

View all adoptable pets anytime online at www.klamathanimalshelter.org

 

 

Just for reading our news, click to enter to win Free Movie Tickets from BasinLife.com and Wynne Broadcasting. 
  Click here!

 

 

 

Oregon had the sixth-largest weekly jump in gas prices across the country.

The Oregon average increased 15 cents to $4.10 a gallon. The national average jumped a dime to $3.49. Prices are increasing, because of refinery maintenance and the switch to more expensive summer blends of fuel that produce less pollution.

The price of crude oil is also up, because of drone attacks on Russian oil refineries. Russia is one of the world’s major oil producers and the attacks are causing prices to rise as the supply might be threatened.

 

A Bend man was arrested Wednesday night, suspected of killing his mother, Bend Police said Thursday.

Joshua Lawrence Smith, 40, was booked on suspicion of second-degree murder, police said.

Officers reportedly responded to a domestic disturbance at the Legacy Landing Apartments near St. Charles Medical Center. Police say that when officers arrived, they found Janice Marie Smith, 59, critically injured.

Officers attempted CPR, but Janice Smith died at the scene.

Joshua Smith was taken into custody at the scene. After being taken to the Bend Police Department and then St. Charles, he was booked into the Deschutes County Jail, police said.

No other details were immediately released and police say the investigation is ongoing.

 

Six men across Oregon have been arrested for using the internet to have sex with local children. 

According to a news release from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the six men were arrested as part of a month-long undercover operation from the Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET).

In the operation, undercover officers posed as minors over the internet and waited for the suspects to ask for sex, the release said. 

“Even after the acknowledgement of the child’s age, suspects sent sexually explicit messages, photos and detailed requests of sexual activites they wanted to perform with the undercover officer posing as a child,” the release said

The six men were from White City, Central Point, Medford, Tigard, Milwaukie and Redmond, the release said. 

 

A Medford man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a fatal shooting from 2022. That’s according to the RV Times which says on Friday, 27-year-old Shawn Robert Lee Conte pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of 29-year-old Christopher Andrew Postlethwait.

On September 8th, 2022 Medford police officers responded to a report of gunshots on the 200 block of Lincoln Street, where they found Postlethwait in the street suffering from a gunshot wound. Police say they took him to the hospital where he later died.

Conte was originally charged with second-degree murder at the time of his arrest, which could have sentenced him to 25 years to life.

 
Sixteen local organizations will be celebrated at the Ashland Hills Hotel for the Southern Oregon Human Trafficking Disruptors Summit on Friday and Saturday.

The summit highlights the work the organizations do to stop human trafficking, child exploitation and agriculture trafficking.

The summit is open to the public and the people behind the event encourage people to attend. In addition to celebrating the organizations, speakers will be educating Southern Oregonians on what human trafficking looks like in the community and how to spot it.

Ride My Road, a fundraising organization that has raised over $400,000 for survivor-led initiatives across the country since 2016. Locally, the organization offers an online education called Disruptors University to help people understand what trafficking looks like.

Two-day tickets will be available at the door for $125. The tickets will include access to speakers and lunch from the Ashland Hills Hotel on both days. 

 

On Monday, March 18, 2024, at 11:45 p.m., Oregon State Police responded to a two-vehicle crash on Hwy-97, near milepost 47, in Sherman County.

The preliminary investigation indicated a northbound Volkswagen Beetle, operated by Jayden Matthew Smith (23) of Prineville, crossed into the southbound lane for unknown reasons and struck a Volvo commercial motor vehicle and trailer, operated by Kashmir Singh (36) of Tacoma (WA), head-on. The collision caused both vehicles to catch fire and become fully engulfed.

The operator of the Volkswagen (Smith) was declared deceased at the scene.

The operator of the Volvo (CMV) was not injured.

The highway was impacted for approximately 6.5 hours during the on-scene investigation.

 

An Oregon man was sentenced to federal prison this week for distributing fentanyl that caused the overdose death of a Portland teenager.

Tanner Welsh, 21, was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release.

According to court documents, on November 10, 2022, officers from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) responded to a fatal overdose of a 17-year-old teenager. Investigating officers located several small blue pills near the teenager’s body they believed were counterfeit Oxycodone pills containing fentanyl. An autopsy later confirmed the teenager died from fentanyl poisoning.

Further investigation revealed that the teenager had exchanged several text messages with Welsh shortly before overdosing in response to an online ad Welsh posted offering the sale of controlled substances. Investigators also learned that Welsh had personally traveled to the teenager’s house to deliver the fentanyl pills.

On January 24, 2024, special agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) located and arrested Welsh who admitted selling fentanyl and Xanax pills to the deceased teenager.

 
If you’re getting ready to travel for spring break, expect some company.

According to AAA Oregon, the top destination in the Beaver state is Bend.  Some of the other top regional destinations for spring break include Portland, Seattle, Eugene and Redding.

The agency said they’re also seeing a 28% increase in cruise bookings compared to this time last year.

Oregonians are getting out of town, and some are even getting out of the country.

Hotels bookings are up 37% and international flight bookings are up 20%.  European cities are some of the most popular as well like Cabo San Lucas and Cancun, which are relatively easy to get to here from Oregon.

Unfortunately, Oregon is seeing ‘March Madness’ for gas prices.

The current average for a regular gallon of gas is $4.12, up almost 20 cents from just a week ago.

Prices are going up because of refinery maintenance, summer blend fuel and Russian involvement in a geo-political conflict, as one of the world’s major oil producers.

AAA said 2024 is shaping up to be the busiest year of travel yet.

 

More people receiving unemployment benefits in Oregon are learning how to use the new Frances Online system.

The number of weekly claims increased this month with more people receiving unemployment benefits in Oregon as learning how to use the new Frances Online system.

The number of weekly claims increased from 81 percent to 87 percent. But, people who can’t get the new system to work for them have been frustrated with long wait times at the call center. About a third of calls wait over an hour, and in some cases several hours. The Employment Department recommends using online self-help tools, videos and FAQs to get answers. The call center is funded by the federal government, and the funding doesn’t allow for enough call-takers. The Oregon Legislature passed a bill to spend state money on the problem. It’s waiting for the Governor’s signature and would take several months to hire and train new workers.

 

While the state of Oregon is plagued with major problems, Gov. Tina Kotek this week urged her new advisory council on artificial intelligence to weigh the risks and rewards of the next frontier in technology.

The State Government Artificial Intelligence Advisory Council, created by an executive order, is charged with mapping out the role of AI in state government. It met for the first time on Tuesday and is tasked with giving Kotek’s office guidelines for the use of AI by September. The recommendations are to include ways for the state to use the technology in an equitable and transparent way.

AI is a powerful tool that can quickly do tasks like transcribing audio or analyzing and scanning documents, saving hours of labor. But AI relies upon manmade algorithms, and human error and biases can creep in without safeguards. For example, AI relies upon facial recognition technology to scan and locate criminals, but the technology is imperfect and raises privacy concerns.

Kotek talked to the group via a video connection, and then picked up the phone to call in after her audio failed, telling the group, “Let’s go old school.”

For example, Kotek said, AI can potentially help the state streamline its work and free up government staffers to work directly with the public and enhance customer service.

AI also has risks, Kotek said, stressing the need to avoid systemic inequities or racism with faulty algorithms. The American Civil Liberties Union and others have raised concerns that the automated systems in AI can lead to racism, making it more difficult for people to obtain housing or jobs with systems that screen for specific word choices in applications and even voice tones in video interviews.

 

In February, Oregon’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment rose by 4,400 jobs, following a revised loss of 5,700 jobs in January.

February’s gains were largest in professional and business services (+1,000 jobs) and in health care and social assistance (+900 jobs). Five other major industries each expanded by between 600 and 700 jobs. Manufacturing (-600 jobs) was the only major industry with a substantial number of job cuts in February. 

 Health care and social assistance continued its robust expansion, employing 292,300 jobs in February, which was a gain of 25,900 jobs in the past 24 months. Nursing and residential care facilities and social assistance both grew by 8% in the past 12 months.

 Over the most recent 12 months, jobs edged lower. Oregon’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment dropped by 1,900 jobs, or -0.1%, between February 2023 and February 2024. The private sector cut 11,300 jobs, or -0.7%, over the most recent 12-month period. Job losses in four major industries stood out, each down by between 3,400 and 9,300 jobs. These industries are informationprofessional and business servicesmanufacturing; and retail trade. Four other major industries had smaller losses, between 500 and 1,900 jobs. In contrast, health care and social assistance was up 13,800 jobs, or 5.0%, while government was up 9,400 jobs, or 3.1%, in the 12 months through February.

 While Oregon’s job growth has been close to flat in the 12 months ending in February, with a decline of 0.1%, U.S. jobs grew by 1.8% with gains in every month of that period. 

 Oregon’s unemployment rate was 4.2% in February and 4.1% in January. It has remained in a historically low range between 3.4% and 4.2% for more than two years, back to October 2021. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.9% in February and 3.7% in January.

 

Nike co-founder Phil Knight recently pumped $2 million into a political action committee aimed at electing Republicans to the Oregon Legislature.

The contribution, made in February, was only the third $2 million contribution to an Oregon political campaign or committee since fall 2019 – and all three of those were made by Knight, the richest person in Oregon.

His latest gift, made to the Bring Balance to Salem PAC and first reported by Oregon Capital Chronicle, brings the committee’s cash on hand to nearly $5.1 million.

In 2022, the committee spent $5 million, $2 million of it from Knight, including for targeted voter outreach and get-out-the-vote efforts. That year, Republicans gained two seats in the 60-member House and one in the 30-member Senate. The wins were just enough to end the Democrats’ super majorities in each chamber.

 

Oregon’s K-12 public schools will receive a record $74.2 million from the Common School Fund in 2024, state officials announced today. 

Every one of Oregon’s 197 public school districts receives money from the Common School Fund every year. How much each district receives depends on the number of students served. 

The average 2024 distribution is approximately $376,000. Astoria School District will receive about $230,000. Bend La-Pine Schools will receive $2.3 million. Klamath Falls City Schools will receive nearly $344,000. See how much every Oregon school district will receive from the Common School Fund in 2024.  

 

294,000 Kids will Receive Food Assistance this Summer

Oregon’s legislature has secured participation in the federal Summer EBT program for this summer and beyond, benefiting 294,000 children and families with an extra $40 per month for groceries during the summer months. This initiative supports kids who rely on free school meals during the school year but don’t have this critical support during the summer.

Oregon joins 37 states, five territories and three tribal nations in implementing this program, which previously reduced child hunger by one third among participating families during its pilot. While some families will automatically receive the benefit, others will need to apply. We will share information on the application process when available.

The legislature passed a pathway for Oregon to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program, an exciting addition to the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This option enables individuals facing difficulties in meal preparation, including seniors and those experiencing houselessness, to use SNAP benefits to buy prepared food at select retailers. Oregon Food Bank eagerly anticipates playing a role in implementing this program. (SOURCE)

 

Cherry blossoms illuminated at State Capitol State Park March 16-April 6

Salem, OR—Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will host “Yozakura,” night viewing of the Akebono cherry blossoms, March 16 through April 6 in the North Mall at State Capitol State Park.

Parks staff will illuminate the cherry blossoms with Japanese lanterns and lights nightly 6-9 p.m. Visitors may bring blankets, camping chairs or an evening picnic to enjoy under the canopy of the illuminated trees.
The lanterns and lights create a striking and beautiful scene inside the park at night.

The Focal Point Photography Club of Dallas will be in the park March 23 at 7 p.m. to help photographers capture the perfect shot of the illuminated blossoms. SamaZama, a koto and cello duo, will perform in the park March 30 at 7 p.m. The duo will also perform March 16 as part of the Cherry Blossom Day,https://oregoncapitol.com/event/cherry-blossom-day… , sponsored by the Oregon State Capitol Foundation and the City of Salem.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will livestream the cherry blossoms on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@OregonParks beginning March 16 during the day and evening through April 6.

Park staff ask that tree limbs and blossoms are left as is so everyone can view them throughout the bloom. Alcohol is not allowed in State Capitol State Park (without permits) and the park closes at 10 p.m.

For more information on events at the Capitol, call Visitor Services at 503-986-1388 or visit the events page, https://oregoncapitol.com/events/ .

 

It’s Spring Whale Watch Week returns to the Oregon coast for spring break 2024

OREGON COAST, Oregon— Oregon State Parks will host Spring Whale Watch Week along the Oregon Coast Saturday, March 23 through Sunday, March 31.

Trained Oregon State Park volunteers will be stationed at 15 sites along the Oregon Coast to help visitors spot whales and their calves and answer questions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily March 23-31. The sites are some of the best places to watch for whales on the Oregon Coast. 

The spring event is three days longer than last year and might include better odds of seeing gray whales on their journey home from the calving lagoons in Mexico in light of today’s announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

NOAA announced the end of an Unusual Mortality Event, a significant die-off of the gray whale population, that had affected the marine mammals since 2019.

“The latest counts indicate that the gray whale population has likely turned the corner and is beginning to recover. It’s a perfect time for people to see them as they swim north with new calves to feed,” said Michael Milstein, public affairs officer with NOAA Fisheries.

Researchers counted about 412 calves last year, which was almost double the number from the year before. That helped signal an end to the Unusual Mortality Event and a likely turnaround in numbers as the species begins to rebound.

An estimated 14,500 gray whales are expected to swim past Oregon’s shores from late winter through June as part of their annual migration back to Alaska.

“Spring is a great time for whale watching because the gray whales are usually closer to shore on their return trip, typically around a mile or so out, and the weather can be better for viewing. But don’t forget your rain gear just in case,” said Park Ranger Peter McBride.

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

The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay will be open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 23-31. 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 oregonstateparks.org.

Visitors are encouraged to share their photos and videos from Spring Whale Watch on social media using #OregonStateParks and #ORWhaleWatch24.

 

Respect nesting areas to protect threatened snowy plover March 15 – Sept. 15

OREGON COAST, OR – The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and Siuslaw National Forest remind visitors that it is plover nesting season on the Oregon coast March 15 to Sept. 15 ­— visitors can help recovery efforts for the threatened western snowy plover by observing recreation restrictions in designated plover areas.

Sensitive plover nesting areas will be roped off or identified by signs with rules and limits, such as staying on the wet sand, to help protect the small shorebirds and their exposed nests during this crucial period.
Recreation restrictions occur in designated plover management areas: stretches of beach along the coastline where plovers nest or might nest. These areas combined make up about 40 miles of Oregon’s 362 miles of shoreline.

Seasonal recreation restrictions have helped protect these small birds that nest on open sand. Nests, and especially chicks, are well-camouflaged. During the nesting season, human disturbances can flush adult plovers away from their nests as they attempt to defend their young. Left alone too long, or too often, eggs or chicks can die from exposure, predators or people.

Reminders for recreation on designated plover beaches March 15-Sept. 15:

*The following are not permitted: dogs (even on a leash), driving a vehicle, riding a bicycle, camping, burning wood, flying kites or operating drones.

*Foot and equestrian traffic is permitted below the high-tide line on wet, packed sand.

*Respect signs and barriers to protect nesting habitat.

“We’re making great strides in reversing the decline of this species,” said Cindy Burns, Siuslaw National Forest wildlife biologist. “But it takes all of us, so we urge people to do their part to understand nesting season rules and to share the beach this spring and summer.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed western snowy plovers as a threatened species in 1993, when officials counted only 45 breeding adults. The numbers of breeding adults have steadily increased since then due to ongoing efforts. Officials counted 433 during the breeding season survey in 2023.

“We appreciate visitors’ support in keeping these shorebirds safe in the combined 40 miles of protected area along the coast. We invite visitors to enjoy permitted recreation in those areas or to recreate without seasonal restrictions on the hundreds of miles of beaches not designated as plover nesting areas,” said Laurel Hillmann, ocean shore specialist for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

More information on the snowy plover, including detailed maps of nesting sites, can be found on the Oregon State Parks website https://www.oregon.gov/oprd/pcb/pages/pcb-plovers…. and on the Siuslaw National Forest website https://t.ly/AKPAN

Visitors to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area can review Off-highway Vehicle (OHV) maps at its website to identify unrestricted recreation areas and information on riding motor vehicles on the sand: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/siuslaw/recreation…

New plover activity — The increase in plover numbers may result in nesting occurring in new or historical nesting sites. For example, visitors to Sand Lake Recreation Area may see small roped off areas near the lake’s inlet to protect active nests, and may encounter plovers on the beach. Beachgoers are encouraged to protect these birds by restricting recreation activities to wet sand areas, avoiding roped off nesting areas, packing all trash out and keeping dogs on leash.

Background on plover protections — Several land managers oversee beach activity for plover protection, primarily the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).

Habitat loss from invasive plants — as well as human disturbances, including litter and discarded food scraps that attract predators — have contributed to the birds’ decline. The Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative, http://www.saveoregondunes.org/ , is working with land managers on a restoration strategy and to raise public awareness about the need to restore the dunes ecosystem for western snowy plovers, rare plants and animals and the unique recreation opportunities offered here.

 

Oregon to Honor Fallen Law Enforcement Officers May 7th, 2024

Every year, the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honors the state’s law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This year’s ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 7 at 1 p.m. at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.

The annual event commemorates the more than 190 fallen officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the state of Oregon since the 1860s. This includes law enforcement, corrections, and parole and probation officers from city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is proud to host the ceremony in partnership with the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, and various statewide law enforcement associations.

 

SOLVE invites volunteers to register for their annual Earth Day celebration: The Oregon Spring Cleanup

SOLVE Oregon Spring Cleanup at Cannon Beach 2023

Portland, Ore., March 12, 2024 – From April 13 to April 22, families, community members, neighborhood associations, and environmental enthusiasts are invited to engage in a signature event in SOLVE’s annual calendar: The Oregon Spring Cleanup, presented by Portland General ElectricRegistration for this environmentally conscious event series is now open.

Participants are invited to join SOLVE, event leaders, and partners from across the Pacific Northwest in a collective celebration of Earth Day. The SOLVE calendar showcases a variety of events throughout Oregon and SW Washington between April 13 and April 22, with the majority of events culminating on April 20. Diverse initiatives address specific environmental needs with opportunities ranging from beach cleanups to neighborhood and city litter pickups. Further activities include restoring natural habitats through native tree and shrub plantings, weed pulls, and mulching projects. Each project contributes to the enhancement of our shared surroundings.

With a variety of projects already online, the Oregon Spring Cleanup invites enthusiastic volunteers to contribute to a cleaner, greener, and brighter planet. Interested individuals can browse the map of projects to find events near them, learn about each opportunityand sign up for a meaningful contribution to the environment. Participating in the Oregon Spring Cleanup provides an excellent opportunity to bond with family members, coworkers, and neighbors, while collectively contributing to preserving some of Oregon’s most stunning locations.

As SOLVE anticipates another successful event, valued partner Portland General Electric, shares their commitment to the cause: ” PGE proudly supports SOLVE’s efforts to make our communities cleaner and greener. In 2023, our employees and their families volunteered with SOLVE for more than 220 hours. We’re excited to join community members again this Earth Day to help improve our beautiful state.” said Kristen Sheeran, Senior Director of Policy Planning and Sustainability, Portland General Electric.

For those inspired to host an event, SOLVE is still accepting new volunteer-led projects. The sooner projects are submitted, the faster SOLVE can care for the rest. Event leaders receive full support, including free supplies, access to project funding, disposal assistance, and help with volunteer recruitment

For more information, please visit solveoregon.org/oregon-spring and be part of the collective effort to create a cleaner, greener planet.

Along with Portland General Electric, other event sponsors include Clean Water Services, AAA Oregon/Idaho, Fred Meyer, Metro, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, KOIN, The Standard, Swire Coca-Cola, Holman, Demarini-Wilson, Trimet, and PepsiCo.

About SOLVE – SOLVE is a statewide non-profit organization that brings people together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship. Since 1969, the organization has grown from a small, grassroots group to a national model for volunteer action. Today, SOLVE mobilizes and trains tens of thousands of volunteers of all ages across Oregon and Southwest Washington to clean and restore our neighborhoods and natural areas and to build a legacy of stewardship for our state. Visit solveoregon.org for more information. 

 

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