Oregon News, Wednesday, Aug. 14 – East Evans Fire Update

News from around the State of Oregon from Rogue Valley Magazine

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Today’s Oregon News Headlines…

ROGUE RIVER, Ore. – Investigators say a wildfire that burned 155 acres was started by an explosion in an illegal marijuana extraction laboratory.  One man is in jail on charges related to drug manufacturing and arson, while detectives continue their investigation.  

On Friday, August 2, local dispatch received a 911 call reporting a wildfire in the 18700-block of East Evans Creek Road.  The fire, later dubbed the East Evans Fire, quickly spread, leading to the evacuation of nearby residences and the closure of a section of East Evans Creek Road. 

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies arriving at the scene learned the fire began in a makeshift structure that housed a post extraction operation, commonly known as a “butane honey oil” (BHO) laboratory.  The process generally involves the use of flammable solvents to extract oils from marijuana plants, creating a concentrated form of the drug.  Detectives with the Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) arrived to assume the investigation while JCSO deputies assisted with evacuating nearby homes and traffic control. 

That afternoon, deputies arrested Michael A. Cashmareck, 24, of Pennsylvania, and lodged him in jail.  Cashmareck was later indicted by a grand jury on one count of unlawful manufacture of cannabis and two counts of arson incident to manufacture of cannabinoid extract in the first degree. 

IMET detectives learned the property is not legally permitted as a grow site.  Detectives continue to investigate the case, including the possible involvement of additional suspects.  Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the IMET tip line at (541) 618-1847.

IMET is a task force consisting of personnel from JCSO, the Medford Police Department, and the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.  Detectives were further assisted by investigators from the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal.  

With the warmer, drier weather yesterday, there were several flare-ups during the day and overnight inside of the perimeter of the Ward Fire, where residual hot spots ignited drying grass and brush.

According to Mitch Williams, Field Night Operations Flare-ups such as these are common with the current weather conditions and are a vivid reminder that work on this fire is not yet finished.Conditions also gave rise to a couple of new fires ignited by the last storm in areas close to the Ward fire yesterday. These fires were quickly controlled by Initial Attack crews. Firefighters spent much of the last 24 hours continuing to secure firelines and mop up along the perimeter of the burned area.

Crews will concentrate on meticulously checking for and extinguishing hot spots, flagging areas of concern, and meeting mop up standards, which vary from a minimum of 200 feet from the hard black (areas where there is no fuel) to 300 feet in incompletely burned and areas of higher fuel concentrations. With a front coming through Thursday morning, this work is critically important. “The biggest variable on fire behavior is weather,” says Chris Cline, Incident Commander. “The fuels and the slope stay constant.” Cline also noted the importance of continued vigilance on the fireline; “The job that we are doing today affects what happens on the fire tomorrow.”

Governor Kate Brown  has signed a bill requiring eggs produced by commercial farms to eventually be cage-free.

Yesterday she approved the new law mandating all eggs produced or sold in Oregon must come from cage-free hens by 2024. The measure signed Monday applies to commercial farms with 3,000 or more chickens. The state requirements will apply to about 4 million birds. Oregon joins a handful of other states with similar laws including California, Washington and Massachusetts.

Vikki Breese-Iverson, a Prineville real estate agent and Republican activist, was sworn in as the House District 55 representative at the state Capitol Tuesday.

Breese-Iverson was selected Thursday to replace former Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, who resigned July 1 to take an appointment as a circuit court judge for Cook and Jefferson counties. House District 55 encompasses Crook county and portions of Deschutes, Jackson, Klamath and Lake counties.

According to a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission removal of the four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River is expected to cost just under $434 million and could happen by 2022.

Regulators are now considering whether to transfer the dams’ operating license from PacifiCorp to KRRC before the project can move forward. A general contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. of Fairfield, Calif., is already on board and working on a plan for razing the dams.

But first, KRRC must answer questions from a six-member independent board of consultants appointed by the feds to prove they have the money, insurance and contingency for such a large proposal. By restoring a more free-flowing river, the parties hope to improve spawning and survival of fish species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry (left), Sen. Jeff Merkley (right)

Senator Jeff Merkley was in Klamath Falls Monday, touring facilities aimed at rearing and releasing the short-nose and Lost River suckers both federally listed as endangered species.

Merkley helped secure $3.5 million for ongoing recovery efforts at the Gone Fishing sucker-rearing facility. Merkley toured the facility with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials for the first time Monday, and spoke of wanting to cut through any red tape to build more ponds, enough to hold 60,000 fish.

According to USFWS fish biologist Zach Tiemann four to eight more rearing ponds are to be built on site if possible this year which would raise the capacity at Gone Fishing from 10,000 to 60,000 suckers in the hope to reverse a downward trend in the population in the lake since the 1990s.

The first year, the facility had seven man-made ponds to rear juveniles. The plan is to roughly triple that capacity with new ponds.In addition Fish and Wildlife officials also led Merkley and Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry on a boat tour of the newest recovery effort: floating netted pens on Upper Klamath Lake. The pens contain 900 fish from 1 ½ to 2 years old reared at the Gone Fishing facility, which can swim freely and feed in a natural habitat while they acclimate to the lake.

Odell Lake Recreational use health advisory lifted August 14

Water monitoring has confirmed that the level of cyanotoxins (harmful algae toxins) in Odell Lake are below recreational guideline values for human exposure. However, officials advise recreational visitors to be alert to signs of cyanobacterial (harmful algae) blooms, because blooms can develop and disappear on any lake through the season.

Only a fraction of Oregon’s lakes and streams are monitored for cyanobacterial blooms.

People and especially small children and pets should avoid recreating in areas where the water is foamy, scummy, thick like paint, pea-green, blue-green or brownish red in color, if a thick mat of blue-green algae is visible in the water, or bright green cells are suspended in the water. If you see these signs avoid activities that cause you to swallow water or inhale droplets, such as swimming or high-speed water activities.

It’s possible cyanotoxins can still exist in clear water. For health information or to report an illness, contact the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) at 971-673-0482.

EUGENE, Ore.—Michael James Friesen, 33, of Prineville, Oregon, was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for conspiracy to transfer and unlawful possession of a machine gun.

According to court documents, between May and June 2018, Friesen agreed to broker the sale of a Guide Lamp, Model M3A1, .45 ACP caliber machine gun for co-defendant John Widener Jordan, 38, also of Prineville. Between May 30 and June 5, Friesen discussed the sale price of the firearm with an undercover agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) posing as a potential purchaser. Friesen confirmed for the agent that he had seen the firearm function as a machine gun.

On June 6, Friesen met the undercover agent in a motel room in Prineville. Shortly thereafter, Jordan brought the firearm to the motel room and completed the transaction in exchange for $3,000 in cash. Jordan in turn paid Friesen for arranging the sale.  On April 24, 2019, Friesen pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to transfer and unlawful possession of a machine gun. Jordan is awaiting a jury trial scheduled to begin on October 16, 2019.

Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace Update

(Salem) – For people not getting health insurance benefits at work, sorting through choices and subsidy programs can be tough.

A network of certified community groups and licensed insurance agents can help Oregonians tackle this task, and their assistance is free for the consumer. The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace awards grants to community groups and insurance agents to support their services. 

For the 2019-20 period, the Marketplace has granted more than $800,000 in funding to nine community groups and 33 insurance agencies. The awardees will use the grants to publicize the upcoming health insurance open enrollment period, and to help Oregonians enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov and other programs. 

For most people who buy their own health insurance, open enrollment is the only time of year to sign up for a health plan or switch plans. Open enrollment for 2020 coverage will run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

“If you don’t deal with premiums, financial assistance, deductibles, and co-pays every day, you might not want to sift through all that information alone, under a deadline,” said Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “An agent or partner in your community can help you understand the options and enroll in coverage.”

Grantees were judged on multiple criteria, including their demonstrated ties to community networks, ability to reach underserved populations, and capacity to serve consumers whether they are eligible for HealthCare.gov plans or other programs, such as the Oregon Health Plan or Medicare. 

The nonprofit groups – called community partners – receiving a total of $474,522 in grants in the Southern Oregon region are:
•    APANO Communities United Fund, Portland
•    Benton County Health Services, Corvallis
•    Cascade AIDS Project, Portland
•    Interface Network, Salem
•    IRCO, Portland
•    Latino Community Association, Bend
•    Northeast Oregon Network (NENO), La Grande
•    Project Access NOW, Portland
•    Rinehart Clinic, Wheeler

Insurance agents – called partner agents – receiving a total of $332,000 in grants are:
•    Aaron Burns Insurance, Eugene
•    Abel Insurance, Newport, Florence, Coos Bay and Gold Beach
•    Bancorp Insurance, La Pine
•    Boone Insurance Associates, Eugene
•    Cascade Insurance Center, Bend
•    Chehalem Insurance, Newberg
•    Country Insurance, Sisters
•    FG Insurance, Portland, Forest Grove
•    Gordon Wood Insurance, Roseburg
•    Grace Insurance, Portland
•    Hagan Hamilton, McMinnville, Newberg, Junction City, Sheridan
•    HE Cross Company, Portland
•    Health Insurance Place, Grants Pass
•    Health Plans in Oregon, Portland, Beaverton
•    Healthwise Insurance, Portland, Beaverton
•    Healthy, Wealthy & Wise, Tualatin, Tigard
•    High Desert Insurance, Bend
•    Hillock Insurance Agency, Enterprise
•    Hudson Insurance, Tillamook
•    iCover Oregon, Albany
•    Insurance Lounge, Medford, Grants Pass, Portland
•    Insurance Marketplace, Medford
•    Klamath Financial Group, Klamath Falls 
•    Linda Dugan Insurance, Astoria
•    Matthew Woodbridge, Salem and Woodburn
•    Pacific View Financial, Salem
•    Pfaff-Karren Insurance, Independence, Monmouth 
•    Premier NW Insurance, Oregon City, Salem, Sandy
•    RJS & Associates, Philomath, Corvallis
•    Strategic Planning and Insurance, Hood River, The Dalles
•    Tomlin Benefit Planning, Eugene
•    Valley Insurance, LaGrande
•    WHA Insurance Agency, Wilsonville 

To make an appointment with a partner or agent, go to OregonHealthCare.gov/gethelp or call 855-268-3767.

iQor in Klamath Falls, has announced that it’s call center operations will close permanently, Aug. 30, putting 300 people out of work at the site.

Robert Constantine  iQor Vice President of Marketing said leadership teams have worked hard to secure another client in Klamath Falls but despite our best efforts, factors outside of our control will not permit us to maintain our operations in Klamath Falls.”

Most of the iQor jobs pay minimum wage. The company declined to say how much its annual payroll is. Employees will be paid regular wages through the date of their separation and will receive severance pay if they stay on until the layoff takes effect.  iQor had a contract with a vendor until the start of the summer. With that contract ending there is no new vendor available that needs the call center, though iQor had been negotiating with one early in the summer and was confident it would be awarded a contract however those efforts were unsuccessful.

The Trump administration moved yesterday to weaken how it applies the 45-year-old Endangered Species Act, ordering changes that critics said will speed the loss of animals and plants.

Under the enforcement changes, officials for the first time will be able to publicly attach a cost to saving an animal or plant. Blanket protections for creatures newly listed as threatened will be removed.

While the nearly half-century-old act has been overwhelmingly successful in saving animals and plants that are listed as endangered, battles over some of the listings have been years long and legendary. Locally they have pitted northern spotted owls, lost river and short nose suckers and other creatures against industries, local opponents and others in court and political fights. Republican lawmakers have pushed for years to change the law itself. One of Monday’s changes includes allowing the federal government to raise in the decision-making process the possible economic cost of listing a species.

Oregon gas prices have fallen 3.3 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.10 a gallon today.

Gas prices in Oregon are 10.7 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest station in Oregon is priced at $2.69 a gallon today while the most expensive is $3.79 a gallon. As comparison the cheapest price in the entire country today stands at $1.82 a gallon while the most expensive is $5.49 a gallon.

On Monday the Trump administration announced a new rule that could make it harder for some immigrants who rely on certain government benefit programs to obtain lawful permanent residency if they are found to be a “public charge.”

The new public charge rule expands the list of benefits that the federal government would consider to determine whether an individual is considered a public charge. Benefits that would be considered not only include cash-assistance programs (including Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and Medicaid-funded long-term care, but also nutrition assistance, housing assistance, and many other types of Medicaid for adults. However, the rule does exempt some categories of Medicaid eligibility and participation in other health programs.

The Oregon Health Authority is the state agency responsible for protecting the health of all 4 million people living in Oregon. As part of our role, we want to inform state residents about the impact of the rule on programs that provide health coverage and health-related benefits in Oregon. Under the new rule:

  • Immigrant adults who receive some forms of Medicaid coverage would have their enrollment considered (among other factors) by the federal government to determine whether they are (or might become) a public charge. If an immigrant is deemed a public charge, he or she could be denied lawful permanent residency.
  • The public charge rule does not apply to some federal and state programs such as:
    • Medicaid for children under 21 and pregnant women (including 60 days postpartum).
    • Emergency Medicaid (CAWEM).
    • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
    • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program.
    • Medicaid-covered special education services funded by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
    • Commercial health insurance premium subsidies offered through Oregon’s Health Insurance Marketplace.
    • School-based health services.
    • Oregon’s Cover All Kids Program.
    • Most services offered by Oregon’s Reproductive Health Program.

In the comments the Oregon Health Authority submitted to the federal government on the proposed rule in December 2018, the agency wrote:

We know that health coverage contributes to healthier pregnancies, births, and childhood outcomes. When people have health coverage, they are better able to work, go to school and contribute in other ways to their local economy. Employers benefit from a healthier workforce, insurance costs are lower, and there is less absenteeism. When people have health coverage there are reduced emergency department visits and hospitalizations as well as reduced uncompensated care. Ultimately fewer people turn to social services and draw on the safety net. When people have health coverage, they are healthier, on average, than people who lack health coverage, and communities are healthier too …

Health care is not a cash assistance benefit. Good health is the foundation for thriving, economically independent people, families and communities. This proposal punishes immigrants for taking responsibility for their health, the health of their loved ones and their neighbors by seeking health care. It fails to acknowledge that in a growing majority of states (like Oregon), which have expanded Medicaid, a high percentage of Medicaid members work, earn income and support themselves without public assistance. It stigmatizes Medicaid and CHIP as public assistance programs, instead of promoting them of as a vital cornerstone of a strong health care system.

As a result, this proposal is in direct conflict with our agency’s mission which is to help people and communities achieve optimum physical, mental and social well-being and improve access to quality, affordable health care.

The new rule will be posted in the Federal Register on August 14 and is scheduled to take effect October 15, 2019. The rule is not retroactive.

The Oregon Health Authority encourages anyone who has questions about how the federal public charge rule may affect them or members of their family to seek counsel from a qualified immigration attorney. A list of attorneys can be found at the Oregon Immigration Resourcehttps://oregonimmigrationresource.org/.

Amtrak Enhances Share Fares Deal Offering Discount for Up to Six Travelers

Amtrak announced its new and improved Share Fares deal, offering up to 45% off Amtrak travel. Inspiring customers to travel together with friends and loved ones, Amtrak now offers discounts for up to six passengers as part of its Share Fares deal. The deal was previously available for four passengers and provided up to a 35% discount.

The Share Fares discount is valid for purchase on August 12 for travel after August 14 and requires a reservation two days in advance. The more the merrier on Amtrak with customers saving up to 45% on tickets when traveling with up to six companions.

“Recognizing the desire to get more out of every experience, we’ve given our customers the opportunity to travel together and save,” said Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson. “Now with the ability to bring even more friends and loved ones along, customers can share both the ride, and savings while skipping traffic, tolls and parking.”

Share Fares is valid for travel on the Amtrak Northeast Regional and on the national network on some of the most popular trains, including the California ZephyrCapitol LimitedCity of New OrleansCardinalEmpire BuilderSouthwest ChiefTexas EagleCoast StarlightLake Shore LimitedPalmettoSilver StarSilver MeteorAuto Train and Crescent. Discount is not valid on Acela.

Share Fares is available with promo code V291. The fare structure:

·         Customer one – full price

·         Customer two – 15%

·         Customer three – 60%

·         Customer four – 70%

·         Customer five – 70%

·         Customer six – 70%

The offer is available for up to six customers traveling together on the same itinerary and is available at Amtrak.com. Reservations are required a minimum of two days prior to travel. This offer is not valid on the 7000-8999 Thruways. The companion and full fare passenger must travel together on the same itinerary and have tickets issues together. This offer is valid for coach seats only; no upgrades allowed. This offer is not combinable with any other discount offer. Sale prices are not available at all times and on all routes. This offer is also subject to any restrictions, blackouts and refund rules that apply to the type of fare purchased, a 25 percent cancellation fee may apply.

About Amtrak®

Amtrak offers a more comfortable and convenient travel experience with free Wi-Fi on most trains, plenty of leg room and no middle seat. With our state and commuter partners, we move people, the economy and the nation forward, carrying more than 30 million Amtrak customers for each of the past seven years. Amtrak operates more than 300 trains daily, connecting more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces, and reaches 400 additional destinations via connecting bus routes. Book travel, check train status, access your eTicket and more through an Amtrak app. Learn more at Amtrak.com.

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