Rogue Valley News, Monday 2/22 – Local Innovation Lab Prepares SOU Interns to Lead in Disasters, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Hosted Polar Plunge Event for Special Olympics

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Monday, February 22, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 57. Calm wind.

Tuesday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 52. Light north northwest wind.

Wednesday- Sunny, with a high near 52. Light east northeast wind.

Thursday- A slight chance of rain and snow showers between 10am and 1pm, then a slight chance of rain showers after 1pm. Snow level rising to 3700 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 51. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Friday- A chance of rain and snow showers before 10am, then a chance of rain showers. Snow level 1900 feet rising to 3000 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48.

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Oregon reports 111 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 1 new death

There is one new COVID-19 related death in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,155. The Oregon Health Authority reported 111 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 152,818.

***Note: Due to OHA server error, a large number of electronic lab results (ELR) were not processed yesterday. As a result, today’s case and ELR totals are lower than usual and the total for tomorrow is expected to be higher than usual. The backlog of ELRs is currently being processed.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (3), Clackamas (4), Columbia (9), Coos (9), Curry (3),  Deschutes (11), Douglas (21), Jackson (2), Jefferson (3), Josephine (1), Klamath (1), Lake (1), Lane (13), Lincoln (1), Linn (1), Marion (11), Multnomah (8), Polk (4), Umatilla (1), Washington (3), Yamhill (1).

On Friday, Governor Kate Brown said Oregon has the third-lowest infection rate for COVID-19 in the nation.

During a press conference, Brown said, “Oregonians continue to make smart choices, and the numbers speak for themselves”. Brown said “…while this is great news, we must remain vigilant in the face of the challenges ahead with the new variants”. Brown advised Oregonians to continue to follow safety measures.

Brown was joined by a number of officials from the Oregon Health Authority. She also provided updates on the number of students returning to in-person instruction in schools and vaccination efforts during the recent severe weather in parts of the state.

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 21,202 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 17,894 doses were administered on Feb. 20 and 3,308 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on Feb. 20.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

Oregon has now administered a cumulative total of 802,404 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 924,575 doses of vaccine have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

These data are preliminary and subject to change. OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data, and Oregon’s dashboard has been updated today.

Local Innovation Lab Prepares SOU Interns to Lead in Disasters

The collaborative project of Southern Oregon University and the Humane Leadership Institute is finding student interns and training them as leaders to tackle some of the sticky issues faced by communities and businesses affected by the disasters.

About 30 SOU students from more than 10 separate degree programs are receiving $1,000 stipends to participate as interns ­in the new program this year, and double that number are expected for the 2021-22 academic year. Four of this year’s fall term participants already have paid jobs as a result of their internships.

“Students are learning that humane leadership applies to how they lead themselves as well as how they lead others, and that it applies equally to their personal lives and their professional lives,” said Bret Anderson, SOU’s Economics Department chair and the university’s primary link to the Local Innovation Lab project.

“We are meeting students’ innate desire to contribute to their communities, especially in the wake of the Almeda Fire, while inviting them to apply their skills to impactful work,” he said.

The project grew out of a community conversation that was initiated last April, when it was apparent the COVID-19 pandemic would have deep and long-lasting effects on southern Oregon. Stephen Sloan of the Humane Leadership Institute, a local education think tank, convened a small group of people from Ashland and the Rogue Valley to discuss the emerging problems, needs and opportunities.

Those community conversations eventually grew to include more than two dozen participants, and one of the group’s first actions was to create a 501c3 nonprofit organization – Local Innovation Works – to carry out the first project, the Local Innovation Lab.

Community leaders in the larger group had discussed the need for interns to help businesses, social service agencies and local governments reboot their operations in ways that could help address pandemic-related issues. But the interns would need to be prepared to lead, rather than be led.

“I have heard over and over again that the effort required to bring a student intern up to speed is not worth the benefit of hiring an intern for many organizations,” Anderson said. “This was a gap that we identified pretty clearly. Universities do a great job of (creating) academic foundations for careers and employers do well with on-the-job training for their long-term employees, but the short-term student intern is left in the void.

“Thus, there was a need for a community organization to build a bridge between the academic community and organizations in the community that focused on the students’ own experience of leading themselves and those around them.”

Those who apply to participate in the program as student interns are required to take an SOU course on humane leadership, which emphasizes qualities such as compassion, consideration and encouragement. That course and participation in the internship program satisfy two of the three criteria needed to earn SOU’s digital badge or micro-credential in Values-Based Leadership. The third requirement is completion of any of several elective courses that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, and the wider social context in which entrepreneurship and civic engagement take place.

The Local Innovation Lab, humane leadership course and Values-Based Leadership badge all are open to both enrolled SOU students and community members.

The lab was initially intended to launch with a cohort of interns for winter term, but the wildfires of early September “turned the dial up to 11,” Anderson said. It was instead unveiled as a pilot program with interns lined up after fall term had already begun.

Its organizers wove together the abilities of interns, the assets of donors and investors, and the needs of organizations affected by the pandemic or fires.

The project is clearly working. One intern from SOU’s Financial Mathematics program is helping the city of Phoenix clean up the accounting for its water billings; a Continuing Education student is analyzing data from Medford’s Family Nurturing Center to better map social service outreach efforts to outcomes. Another student is helping create a community investment fund by looking at gaps between local banks’ loan terms and the ability of underserved entrepreneurs to get credit. Yet another is working “her dream job” with the Gordon Elwood Foundation, creating a “visually appealing, accessible online database profiling key funders in the Southern Oregon region.”

Two other interns are working with the nonprofit Remake Talent to create an interactive recovery dashboard using ArcGIS and to present the evolving network of fire relief organizations that provide resources to the Rogue Valley.

“Students get a real-world experience of impact, collaboration and reality,” Anderson said. “They get a sense of the practical utility of their education. They get a break from theory and a deep dive into the challenges of trying to get important things done with other people.”

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Hosted Polar Plunge Event To Support Special Olympics

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office hosted another Polar Plunge fundraiser this past Saturday.

Thousands of people throughout Oregon are jumping into freezing cold water during the month of February in order to raise money for Special Olympics Oregon.

The Southern Oregon Polar Plunge happened Saturday morning at the Jackson Aquatic Center in an outdoor, unheated pool. Participants included local law enforcement agencies, schools, church groups and Special Olympic athletes.

One father jumped with a group from the Church on the Hill. It was both his and his son’s first time participating.

According to JCSO, Deputy Brian Kolkemo spear headed the event and according to the department,  Dep. Jenna Evertt was the highest fund raiser for JCSO.

Others who took the plunge were Dep. Danielle Thurnbauer, Sgt. Melissa DiCostanzo, Corrections Clerk Josh Droullard, his son and son’s friend.

Polar Plunges also took place this month in Portland, Corvallis, Bend and Eugene. Each jumper had to raise at least $50 to participate. Last year, plungers raised over $450,00 for Special Olympics Oregon. Special Olympics Oregon

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

After the Storm; Resources and Guidance for Oregonians
Issued by: Oregon Office of Emergency Management 

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Many Oregonians face new challenges in the aftermath of the recent severe winter ice storm, while first responders, utility workers and state agencies continue to prioritize life-safety in their response efforts. The sun is peeking out in parts of the state and warmer temperatures are melting ice and snow but this leaves many residents with considerable debris and other rubble to clean up, while others still remain without power.
 
Many community resources are available, and in true Oregon fashion, others are standing up to assist neighbors as residents emerge after being shut in by the storm. Below are some resources and guidance to help you, your family and fellow Oregonians recover safely:

  • Save 911 for emergencies only: OEM is receiving reports of an increase in 911 calls related to downed power lines and outages where there is not a threat to life-safety. This takes away valuable resources from priority work and lengthens the overall restoration timelines.
  • Check with your local emergency management office: Many hard-hit counties have gathered information and posted online; those without power may be able to address issues by phone.
    • Marion County has posted resources on its website, from debris management (including drop off locations for woody storm debris) to where to find a warming or charging station and how to dispose of spoiled food.
    • Clackamas County has storm resource centers for community members without power to access warming or charging stations and food resources.
  • Homeowner’s insurance: Before submitting a claim, determine if the benefits of filing a claim for the damage outweigh the costs (often called a cost-benefit analysis). Make sure to consider your deductible as part of that analysis. The Oregon Division of Financial regulation has posted Storm Insurance Resources, covering wind, cold, loss of electricity, etc.
  • Fallen tree and debris removal:
    • DO NOT remove trees, branches or debris that are in contact with a powerline. For all powerline related debris removal, contact your utility provider.
    • Do not put propane tanks or cylinders in the garbage or recycling bin.
    • Contact your local hauler to see what and how much extra debris they can take, the best way to bundle it and if extra fees will be charged.

Wherever possible, consider alternatives to debris burning. Other options include:

  • Recycle paper products when possible
  • Dispose of waste at a landfill
  • Compost yard debris and kitchen scrap
  • Rent a chipper and use chips for mulch and compost
  • Cut tree debris for firewood. Don’t need firewood? Check with neighbors or local social service agencies. Low-income seniors and others too frail or disabled to cut their own might appreciate a donation of firewood.

If burning debris is the only option, protect your home and your neighbors’ properties by building the fire correctly, staying with it from start to finish, and making sure it is completely out when done. These key steps apply to any open fire, whether it is a debris pile, a burn barrel, or a backyard campfire. Also:

  • Call before you burn. Burning regulations are not the same in all areas of the state. Check with your local fire agency or air protection authority first to learn if burning is prohibited or if a permit is required.
  • Never use gasoline or other accelerants.
  • Keep your open fire small and manageable. Debris piles should be no bigger than 4 feet tall and 4 feet in diameter. Add debris in small amounts as existing debris is consumed by the fire. Burn barrels with screened lids offer a safer method of burning yard debris.
  • Create a fuel break around the pile: Remove all flammable material and vegetation down to mineral soil within 10 feet of the outer edge of the pile. Make sure there are no tree branches or power lines above and no structures, outbuildings or wood fences nearby. Wet down the surrounding area before and during the burn to prevent spot fires from embers.
  • Always have water and fire tools on site: Have a charged water hose or large bucket of water, and a shovel on hand to quickly extinguish any escaped embers or escaped flames. These tools will also be needed when you are ready to fully extinguish the fire.
  • Extinguish the fire completely: Drown the fire with water, stir the coals, and drown again. Repeat these actions until the fire is completely out.

Many have reached out to OEM to inquire about federal assistance for ice storm cleanup and power outages. While FEMA resources are not currently available, county, tribal and local emergency management offices are assessing and submitting documentation of damages to public infrastructure and that of debris removal which eliminate immediate threats to lives, public health and safety and that are a direct result of the severe weather that occurred Feb. 11-15, 2021. Assessments will be compiled and reviewed to determine if a Major Disaster Declaration is warranted. Questions about damage to public infrastructure and debris removal that meet the above criteria may be directed to the State Public Assistance Officer Julie Slevin at Julie.slevin@state.or.us.
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You can get this document in other languages, large print, braille or a format you prefer. Contact David Cardona, OEM Equity, Inclusion & Language Access Program Manager, at 971-719-1183 or email david.cardona@state.or.us. We accept all relay calls or you can dial 711. Oregon Office of Emergency Management 

U.S. Attorney’s Office Releases First Annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Program Report

Missing and Murdered Native American Women Legislative Report

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon released its first annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) program report today, announced U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams.

The report is the first of its kind produced by a U.S. Attorney’s Office since the Justice Department launched a new national strategy to address missing and murdered Native Americans in November 2019.

“For generations, American Indians and Alaskan Natives have suffered from disproportionately high levels of violence. Tragically, this is not a crisis of the past; it’s a crisis of the present,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “In this report, we look back and forward, summarizing what is known about missing and murdered Indigenous people in Oregon and outlining our plans and goals for the year ahead. While we won’t solve this problem overnight, our office is working closely with Oregon law enforcement partners, other U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and the U.S. Department of Justice to end endemic violence in Indian Country.”

The District of Oregon report provides tribal communities, law enforcement and the public with an overview of current MMIP cases connected to Oregon and the U.S. Attorney Office MMIP strategy for 2021. As outlined in the report, an initial analysis of available MMIP data conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicates there are eleven missing and eight murdered Indigenous persons connected to Oregon.

In 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will conduct formal tribal consultations with Oregon’s nine tribal governments to discuss MMIP issues, develop MMIP community response plans, create a District of Oregon MMIP Working Group, further develop data surrounding Oregon MMIP cases, and increase collaboration among all involved entities who interact with MMIP cases.

MMIP is an important and sensitive issue to tribal communities. Addressing MMIP in Indian Country is particularly challenging due to jurisdictional issues, lack of coordination and inadequate resources. However, for the first time in U.S. history, a national federal strategy—formalized by legislationexecutive order, and departmental directive—is in place to address MMIP issues.

If you or someone you know have information about missing or murdered Indigenous people in Oregon, please contact the FBI Portland Field Office by calling (503) 224-4181 or by visiting tips.fbi.gov. If you have questions about the U.S. Attorney’s Office MMIP program, please contact MMIP program coordinator Cedar Wilkie Gillette by emailing .Wilkie.Gillette@usdoj.gov“>Cedar.Wilkie.Gillette@usdoj.gov or by calling (503) 727-1000. U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of Oregon

Oregon National Guard Delivers Supplies as Power Restoration from Storm Continues

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has called on the National Guard to go door-to-door in areas hardest hit by last weekend’s ice storm to make sure residents have enough food and water.

Members of the Oregon National Guard delivered supplies to people without power as problems lingered from an ice storm the wreaked havoc on the electrical grid, and a utility official said some communities may not see power for another week.

Almost 39,000 customers remained without power on Sunday, after Portland General Electric said it had restored power to more than 14,000 customers on Saturday. The utility said more than 400 crews were at work trying to restore power to remaining homes and businesses.

Guard members delivered emergency supplies including water and batteries to about 50 residents in Clackamas County, local authorities said.

The utility said more than 400 crews were at work trying to restore power to remaining homes and businesses. The worst ice storm in 40 years knocked out power to more than 350,000 residents at its peak and killed five people, including four who died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to stay warm. It could take as long as seven days to fully restore power, said Portland General Electric spokeswoman Elizabeth Lattanner. Some customers have experienced multiple outages, she said.

2 Earthquakes Strike off the Coast of Oregon Saturday

Two earthquakes strike minutes apart on the Oregon Coast; no Tsunami threat  | News | kptv.com

Two earthquakes struck off the coast of Oregon just minutes apart Saturday afternoon. 

The first one was a 5.1 magnitude quake that occurred northwest of Bandon just after 1 p.m. Then, a 4.9 magnitude earthquake struck minutes later, according to the United States Geological Survey. 

There was no tsunami threat, according to NOAA and USGS. 

Starting in March, Oregon will bring online an early earthquake warning system, known as Shake Alert. The app will give people a warning a few minutes or seconds ahead of an earthquake. The system is already operating in California on Bay Area public transportation.

Oregon GOP Changes Leadership

A conservative state senator from Myrtle Creek is the new chair of the Oregon Republican Party, following an event Saturday in which Republicans overhauled their top party leadership.

The Oregon Republican Party is under fire after electing an outspoken populist senator as the new chair of the state GOP, despite concerns over his links to far-right extremist groups and his role encouraging activists to storm the state capitol building in December.

According to multiple Republican sources, state Sen. Dallas Heard handily won the job, beating three-term chair and Adair Village Mayor Bill Currier.

Heard, 35, is just one in a slate of current and former Republican senators who now have a central role in steering the party’s course. Former Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., now a Josephine County commissioner, won a contested race for vice chair. And state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, will serve as party treasurer.

A third sitting state senator, Chuck Thomsen of Hood River, was unsuccessful in his bid to serve as the party’s secretary. He was defeated by incumbent secretary Becky Mitts, who also serves as chief of staff to state Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican from Polk County.

“It’s just kind of taking the party in a little different direction, a different type of leadership,” Baerstchiger said Sunday. “No criticism really of the prior leadership. … It wasn’t like there was some kind of coup.”

The in-person election of top party officials was held Saturday at a VFW hall in Salem. Photos sent to OPB from a person who reported attending the event showed a hall packed with people in close quarters, none of them wearing face masks.

The leadership swap comes at a time the Oregon GOP has gained national attention for passing a resolution claiming the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was a “false flag” operation by leftist forces — a conspiracy theory that has been debunked in the weeks since the incident.

The statement was denounced by all 23 Republicans in the state House of Representatives. Two Republican senators representing swing districts, Thomsen and Bend-based Sen. Tim Knopp, also took exception to the statement. Knute Buehler, 2018 Republican nominee for governor, changed his party registration to nonaffiliated following the incident.

Baertschiger was less critical. “I didn’t really see an upside to that, even though there’s a lot of questions about the Jan. 6 Capitol incident,” he said. “It’s going to take a while for the facts to get out. They’re starting to come out. I think it’s gonna be a mixed bag.”

The state GOP has also been criticized in recent years for expending resources running two unsuccessful recall campaigns against Gov. Kate Brown, while at the same time failing to recruit competitive candidates for some statewide offices. Democrats currently control every executive office in the state and hold supermajorities in the House and Senate, allowing them to pass any bill without Republican support.

It was unclear Sunday how Heard and others might seek to alter that trajectory. Heard in recent months has repeatedly garnered attention for his strident stance against state rules requiring masks and shuttering businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19.

When the Legislature met in special session on Dec. 21, Heard tore off his face mask in protest on the Senate floor, and he accused Democratic legislators and the governor of a “campaign against the people and the children of God.”

On Jan. 6, the same day as the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Heard addressed supporters of then-President Trump at an “Occupy the Capitol” rally in Salem.

“I’m just kind of at a loss for words as I look at this Capitol building that is yours, the people’s, and is currently being occupied by a group of elitists,” Heard told the crowd. “Sadly I’m not sure that it’s all Democrats that are the elitists, frankly. I am a Republican, but I’m an American first and there are some Republicans that need to go.”

Later Heard told the cheering crowd: “Don’t let any of these punks from that stone temple over there ever tell you they are better than any of you. Trust me. I work with these fools. None of them are half as good as any of you.”

Baertschiger said Sunday he expected the new party leadership to improve its messaging and organization. He said that discussions for mounting a leadership challenge in the party began when he was still in the Senate.

“I think there’s a lot of tremendous people that want to get involved with the Republican Party,” he said. “We’ve seen that with the registration and we’ve seen it with the bipartisan support from both recalls. If there was ever a time to organize a little better than we have in the past, it’s probably now.”

It’s not unheard of for sitting state lawmakers to lead the state party. More often, though, elected legislators and party leadership remain distinct from one another and former lawmakers like Baertschiger pursue the chairship. Baertschiger said Sunday that Heard had a “burning desire” for the party’s top spot.

Oregon Bill Proposes Big Shift in Criminal Justice System

A bill in the Oregon Legislature proposes major reforms to the state’s criminal justice system. House Bill 2002 is a sweeping measure that would scale back the system’s reach, from limiting what offenses send a person to jail, to reforming mandatory minimum sentences, to reducing the number of people on parole.

Shannon Wight, deputy director of the Partnership for Safety and Justice, one of the groups that requested the bill, said the changes are needed. “Those are the part of the bill that actually kind of shrink the system, limit its impact because we know it’s grown too big,” Wight contended. “It’s become like the mental health default, the addiction default.”

Wight pointed out the bill came together in the wake of George Floyd’s death. She emphasized it would save money to be reinvested in things like culturally-specific services. Other groups involved in the effort include the Latino Network, Coalition of Communities of Color, and Red Lodge Transition Services. House Bill 2002 has a public hearing scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee Thursday.

Morgan Godvin, a commissioner on the Oregon Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission, spent time in Oregon jails and a federal prison for her opioid use disorder. She said her personal experience opened her eyes because she saw many women churned through the system, being released and re-arrested again and again.

“It was making them less safe,” Godvin argued. “Jail was destabilizing their lives. They were losing their housing, they were losing their job, and then being released back into the exact same circumstances from which they came.”

Godvin helped craft the bill’s parole piece. She stressed the current program negatively incentivizes people, relying on sending them back to jail. The bill would allow for tele-reporting to supervisors and limit the complexities of parole.

Wight added reforming mandatory minimum sentences is important because it unties the hands of judges. She noted, nonetheless, people who commit crimes need to be held accountable.

“Part of what we’re saying with these reforms is, let’s go back to a system that allows judges to look at the individual circumstances of those crimes and make decisions that are based on what accountability makes sense for that person and for that victim,” Wight concluded.

The bill would also increase funding for community-based victim services.

State Rep Hernandez Resigns

Embattled state Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, has resigned, rather than face the possibility this week of becoming the first person ever expelled from the Oregon Legislature, OPB reported Sunday evening.

“Today I tendered my resignation so my colleagues may focus on serving Oregonians and so I can move forward with my life and focus on my health and family,” Hernandez said in a brief statement sent to OPB on Sunday evening.

Earlier this weekend, a judge rejected Hernandez’s legal effort to stop the vote on his expulsion, OPB said.

Embattled state Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, has resigned, rather than face the possibility this week of becoming the first person ever expelled from the Oregon Legislature, OPB reported Sunday evening.

“Today I tendered my resignation so my colleagues may focus on serving Oregonians and so I can move forward with my life and focus on my health and family,” Hernandez said in a brief statement sent to OPB on Sunday evening.

Earlier this weekend, a judge rejected Hernandez’s legal effort to stop the vote on his expulsion, OPB said.

At Least One Dead after Fishing Boat Capsized Near Tillamook Bay

At least one of four crew members pulled from a capsized fishing boat on Saturday has died, according to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

A 38-foot fishing boat capsized at about 4:40 p.m. at the Tillamook Bay bar entrance, just a few miles south of Rockaway Beach. A representative for the Coast Guard said within about half an hour, rescue crews were able to retrieve all four people who were on board.

Two of the four people were unresponsive when they were pulled from the water. All four of them were taken to a hospital. The USCG confirmed Sunday one had been declared dead soon after the rescue. Another was flown to a hospital in Portland for more care.

The Coast Guard said its personnel was watching the vessel from a tower, at the fishing crew’s request, as their boat crossed the bar to return to port. Then the Coast Guard dispatched rescue crews from a station in Garibaldi when the boat overturned.

“We had crews get on scene immediately via two small boats. And then we had a coast guard helicopter launch from Astoria,” described Steve Strohmaier with USCG. “I know there were some restrictions on the bar crossing at that time, which is probably why the crew was concerned about the crossing.”

Those restrictions were on recreational boats, not commercial vessels. The Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Coast Guard with rescue efforts. 

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