Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 3/17 – Contractor Fined for Mishandling Removal of Asbestos at Medford Mobile Home Park While Removing Wildfire Debris; Construction Started on a Tiny Home Village That Will Serve Homeless Community in Grants Pass

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- Partly sunny, with a high near 62. Calm wind becoming south southeast 5 to 9 mph in the afternoon.

ThursdayRain, mainly after 11am. High near 56. South southeast wind 15 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Friday- A chance of rain before 8am, then showers, mainly after 11am. Snow level 2300 feet rising to 3500 feet in the afternoon. High near 52. South southeast wind around 7 mph becoming southwest in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Saturday– A 40 percent chance of showers. Snow level 2300 feet rising to 3200 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 52.

Sunday– A slight chance of showers after 11am. Snow level 2000 feet rising to 3500 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 55.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Coronavirus-update-1-4.jpg

Oregon reports 267 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 22 new deaths

There are 22 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon raising the state’s death toll to 2,346. The Oregon Health Authority reported 267 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 160,050.

Note: Due to a delay in laboratory reporting, OHA received a large quantity of approximately 9,000 negative electronic laboratory results (ELRs) on March 15, 2021. The tests are from Aug. 1, 2020 through March 10, 2021. As a result, daily ELR totals are higher than usual for March 15 and percent positivity is lower than anticipated.

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA cannot provide updates for newly administered first and second doses or cumulative doses administered due to a server outage that affected the ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS) in Oregon and four other jurisdictions. This multi-state outage affected the ability of providers to submit administered vaccine doses, and Oregon’s data totals may be affected in coming days as providers catch up in data entry.

To date, 1,731,755 doses have been delivered to sites reporting to ALERT IIS. Please see the daily media release from March 15 for the last update on vaccination data.

These data are preliminary and subject to change. OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data.

COVID-19 Cases Are Climbing in Oregon Compared to the Nation

Following a surge that exceeded some of the most dire predictions, new cases of COVID-19 are declining in the United States. There were an average of 16.8 new daily cases of the virus for every 100,000 Americans in the past week, down slightly from average of 17.3 new daily cases per 100,000 the week before.

In total, about 29,096,000 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the United States since the first known infection was identified on Jan. 21, 2020.

a close up of a man© Provided by 24/7 Wall St.

Breaking with the national trend, new daily cases are increasing in Oregon. Over the past week, there were an average of 9.9 new daily cases of the coronavirus for every 100,000 people across the state, compared to 6.8 new daily cases per 100,000 people the week prior.

Nationwide, the average number of new daily infections has increased in 21 states, decreased in 22, and remained effectively unchanged in seven over the past week. Of all states, Oregon reported the 11th largest uptick in average new infections per day over the last week.

The current average daily infection rate in Oregon ranks as the eighth lowest of all 50 states.

Since Feb. 28, 2020, when the first coronavirus case was identified in Oregon, about 159,800 state residents tested positive for the virus. Oregon, home to about 1.30% of the U.S. population, accounts for about 0.50% of all known COVID-19 cases nationwide to date. Among all states, Oregon has the fourth fewest cumulative COVID-19 cases on a per capita basis.

Like most other states in the early days of the pandemic, Oregon implemented strict measures to slow the spread of the virus. A temporary stay at home order went into effect across Oregon on March 23, 2020.

Nationwide, there have been 518,702 COVID-19 related deaths to date — and 2,324 of them have been in Oregon. Oregon’s coronavirus death per capita rate currently stands at 55 for every 100,000 people. For context, there have been 159 deaths per 100,000.

All COVID-19 data used in this story is current as of March 15, 2021. Due to inconsistent data reporting, Utah has been excluded from the following ranked list of states.

These are all the counties in Oregon where COVID-19 is slowing (and where it’s still getting worse).

RANK:STATE:CHANGE IN NEW CASE RATE:AVG. NEW DAILY CASES PER 100,000 PPL LAST WEEK:AVG. NEW DAILY CASES PER 100,000 PPL 2 WEEKS AGO:TOTAL CONFIRMED CASES TO DATE:
1Delaware8.3930.2921.990,614
2Michigan6.622.2415.63673,916
3Minnesota6.3219.6913.37498,218
4New Jersey5.9141.7935.88840,847
5Alabama5.323.7818.48508,229
6Idaho4.0819.1215.04175,657
7Connecticut3.7422.8219.07293,102
8West Virginia3.7316.2312.49135,678
9Nevada3.1314.4911.36299,471
10Oregon3.069.96.84159,788
11Mississippi2.7415.4512.71300,881
12Maryland1.6314.2412.61394,058
13Rhode Island1.5333.8632.33131,487
14Tennessee1.4318.7617.33792,795
15New Hampshire1.2318.4617.2378,813
16Maine1.1613.5912.4247,199
17Wisconsin1.137.526.4569,932
18Missouri0.796.615.82483,748
19Pennsylvania0.6119.4518.84967,598
20Massachusetts0.3420.6220.29602,308
21North Dakota0.2810.9410.66101,001
22Iowa0.2614.6714.4342,933
23Montana0.2413.112.86101,933
24Hawaii0.233.723.4928,305
25Wyoming-0.210.4810.6855,327
26Virginia-0.2415.5515.8595,865
27Ohio-0.2912.9713.26990,340
28South Dakota-0.3113.0513.36101,504
29Alaska-0.3518.9119.2660,651
30Washington-0.479.059.52350,506
31California-0.528.729.243,528,795
32Indiana-0.6211.1711.79672,967
33Kentucky-1.117.8118.91416,610
34Illinois-1.2111.8813.091,210,113
35Colorado-1.2819.5320.82444,390
36New York-1.5134.936.41,734,213
37Louisiana-1.5610.0411.6437,565
38Arkansas-1.581011.58327,060
39Kansas-1.878.6710.54298,218
40North Carolina-1.9615.5617.52886,218
41New Mexico-2.019.8711.88188,488
42Oklahoma-2.3313.1615.48432,793
43Vermont-2.7818.0920.8716,992
44Nebraska-2.8212.6515.48204,758
45South Carolina-3.562124.56534,188
46Florida-4.0621.0125.081,979,634
47Texas-4.9115.7820.692,721,126
48Arizona-6.5212.2418.76833,381
49Georgia-8.7413.3522.11,034,763

ROGUE VALLEY HEADLINES:

Contractor Fined for Mishandling Removal of Asbestos at Medford Mobile Home Park While Removing Wildfire Debris

Oregon environmental regulators are fining a contractor tens of thousands of dollars for mishandling hazardous wildfire debris at a mobile home park.

Florida-based contractor BACH Development faces a penalty of $74,469 for illegally clearing wildfire debris containing asbestos from a mobile home park in south Medford, where people were still living at the time.

The Almeda Fire destroyed much of the Medford Estates in September. People continued living at the 90 remaining homes in November as BACH Development workers cleared debris without an asbestos abatement license.

“Asbestos is a known carcinogen and there is no known safe level of exposure,” says Dylan Darling with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Darling says it’s difficult to determine whether residents should be concerned about their potential exposure to the cancer-causing toxin.

In a press release, Oregon DEQ says BACH Development tried taking the material to a nearby landfill, but it had failed to notify the landfill that it was bringing material containing asbestos.

Medford Estates is operated by Cal-Am Properties. The California-based corporation chose not to participate in the government-funded cleanup, and instead hired BACH Development in November. Neither Cal-Am nor BACH representatives responded to requests for comment.

This is the first asbestos violation the state has issued in relation to last year’s wildfires. BACH has 20 days to appeal its penalty.

While BACH has a valid contractors license within Oregon, it doesn’t have a license to handle asbestos. Oregon DEQ has a list of contractors that do.

Construction Started on a Tiny Home Village That Will Serve Homeless Community in Grants Pass

Rogue Retreat started construction on a tiny home village that will serve the homeless community in Grants Pass. Volunteers started putting up the frame walls for Foundry Village.

Rogue Retreat provides affordable housing/shelter and case management to homeless individuals and families in Jackson and Josephine Counties, Oregon, to teach them the skills they need to live independently.

The site will consist of 17 units and it will provide kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities for 34 people.

Case managers will also be on location to help people find jobs and housing. Project manager Doug Walker says the facility won’t just be for homeless people.

“Anybody that’s on that edge of either becoming homeless or close to homelessness, maybe living in a garage,” Walker said. “Our housing crisis is so bad right now that that people that have decent jobs are living in garages.”

Foundry Village will be modeled after Hope Village in Medford. Rogue Retreat is targeting this August to finish construction.

Executive director Chad McComas visited the site Tuesday afternoon. “This community has been so good to us and so anxious for something to happen,” McComas said. “This is a miracle behind me, it really is.”

Walker says their overall budget is $580,000, and they’re about $150,000 short.

“We definitely need to raise more money and we’re going to need more volunteers,” Walker said.

If you’re interested in volunteering or donating, you can find more information here. https://www.rogueretreat.com/

Job Opportunity: Summer Temporary Help – Grants Pass

Job Opportunity Apply Online

Are you looking for temporary seasonal work for this summer?  If so, apply with the City of Grants Pass.

Applications are being accepted for our 2021 Summer Temporary Help positions.  We have opportunities available in the following City Divisions:  Parks, Property Management, Streets, Water Distribution, Water Filtration and Wastewater Collection.  

NOTE:  Some positions will involve the operation of a motor vehicle and will require incumbents to be 18 years of age and possess a valid driver’s license.  Positions not requiring a driver’s license, the minimum hiring age is 16.

Apply HereJob Opportunity Postinghttps://www.grantspassoregon.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=2161

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Covid-19 Led To Cleaner Air Around The World, But Not In Oregon Due to Wildfires

Oregon replaces state fire marshal; wildfire death toll grows to 22 on West  Coast - ABC News

A new global air pollution report for 2020 highlights the profound effect the Labor Day wildfires had in Oregon.

“Because of devastating wildfires, during September 2020 numerous U.S. cities constituted a remarkable 77 of 100 of the world’s most polluted cities for PM2.5 by monthly average,” the report by the Swiss air-monitoring company IQAir said. “These were located in California (35), Oregon (35) and Washington (7).”

As a result, most Oregon cities in 2020 saw big annual average increases in PM2.5 — the fine particles that can be absorbed into the bloodstream — even as pandemic shutdowns brought improved air quality to much of the world.

In Portland, PM2.5, measured in micrograms per cubic meter of air, rose from an annual average of 8.1 in 2019 to 11.2 in 2020, a 38% increase.

Eugene fared worse, going from 8.8 to 14, a 59% increase. It was worse yet in Southern Oregon, where PM2.5 rose 82% in Medford, to 15.8, and in Central Oregon, where Bend suffered a 134% increase, from 5.8 in 2019 to 13.6 in 2020.

At the same time, IQAir reported that 84% of the countries monitored had improved air quality, “largely due to global measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.” It highlighted improvements in several major cities, including Beijing (down 11%), Chicago (down 13%), Delhi (down 15%), London (down 16%), Paris (down 17%) and Seoul (down 16%).

Despite the improvement in Delhi, it remained the most polluted capital city, with average PM2.5 of 84.1 micrograms per cubic meter, seven and half times even the elevated average for Portland in 2020.

Oregon Adds 13,900 Jobs in February

Oregon’s unemployment rate edged down to 6.1% in February, from 6.2% in January. After dropping rapidly during May through November of last year, Oregon’s unemployment rate declined at a slower pace in recent months. During the past 10 months the pace of recovery in the national unemployment rate has mirrored Oregon’s experience. The U.S. unemployment rate also declined by a tenth of a percentage point last month, to 6.2% in February, from 6.3% in January.

Nonfarm payroll employment rose 13,900 jobs in February, following a gain of 7,000, as revised, in January. Nearly all of the jobs gained in February were in leisure and hospitality (+11,100 jobs), where some fitness centers and restaurants hired back workers following closures or curtailments due to COVID-19 restrictions or cautions. Only two other major industries added a substantial number of jobs in February: transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+1,200 jobs) and wholesale trade (+800). Only one major industry —  professional and business services, which cut 900 jobs in February —  performed substantially below its normal seasonal trend.

In February, Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment totaled 1,819,100, a drop of 153,900 jobs, or 7.8% from the pre-recession peak one year ago in February 2020. Oregon’s employment dropped to a low of 1,687,500 by April. Since then, Oregon has recovered 131,600 jobs, or 46% of the jobs lost between February and April 2020.

Even as overall economic activity hasn’t recovered fully, some industries reached record high employment in February. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities is up 5,300 jobs, or 7.2%, over the year. Professional and technical services hit a fresh record high for the first time in over a year as it added 600 jobs since February 2020, a gain of 0.6%. Architectural and engineering services expanded the fastest of the published industries in this category, adding 700 jobs, or 4.0%.

Next Press Releases – The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the February county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, Mar. 30, and the next statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for March on Tuesday, Apr. 13.

The PDF version of the news release can be found at QualityInfo.org/press-release. To obtain the data in other formats such as in Excel, visit QualityInfo.org, then within the top banner, select Economic Data, then choose LAUS or CES. To request the press release as a Word document, contact the person shown at the top of this press release.

To file a claim for unemployment benefits or get more information about unemployment programs, visit unemployment.oregon.gov.

Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services. Oregon Employment Department

Oregon Lottery – 2021 Winning $1 Million Raffle Number

Winning $1 Million Top Prize Number: 171474

Oregon Lottery Raffle logo

Prizes for the St. Patrick’s Day Raffle include:

  • One $1 million top prize
  • 300 prizes of $500
  • 1,500 prizes of $100

To check the winning Raffle numbers for all 1,801 prizes, players can use the Lottery’s smart phone app, go to www.oregonlottery.org or visit a participating Oregon Lottery retail location.

The $500 and $100 prize winners can claim their prizes at any Oregon Lottery retail location. In addition, players can claim their prize by mail – visit oregonlottery.org/about/claim-prizes for instructions. The $1 million Raffle prize winner will need to make an appointment to come to the Oregon Lottery office in Salem. They can call 503-540-1000 for assistance.

As always, players should be certain to sign the back of their tickets.

The Raffle offers the best odds of any Oregon Lottery game of winning $1 million – 1 in 250,000. Overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 138.8. The Oregon Lottery’s Raffle game went on sale with 250,000 tickets available and all tickets were sold.

Since the Oregon Lottery began selling tickets on April 25, 1985, it has earned more than $13 billion for economic development, public education, state parks and watershed enhancements, Veteran Services, and Outdoor School. For more information on the Oregon Lottery visit www.oregonlottery.orgOregon Lottery

Detroit Lake Dam Deemed ‘At Risk’ of Failing in Large Earthquake

Home - Detroit Lake Marina

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that a large earthquake — which is expected to occur again in the Pacific Northwest sooner or later — could cause the spillway gates of a dam in Oregon to buckle, resulting “in a potentially catastrophic flood.”

The Corps said late Monday that it would try to minimize the danger by reducing the maximum height of the lake by five feet starting in April. Hundreds of thousands of people, including those in Salem, Oregon’s capital, live downstream from the Detroit Dam, whose construction in the 1950s created the narrow, nine-mile-long Detroit Lake.

The move comes as Oregon and the wider Pacific Northwest are coming to grips with “the big one” that experts say is coming. Earthquakes in the Cascadia subduction zone, which extends from the ocean off Northern California to Canada’s Vancouver Island, have an average magnitude of around 9.0, making them among the world’s biggest.

A quake in that zone has a 37% probability of happening off Oregon’s coast in the next 50 years, according to Chris Goldfinger, an Oregon State University professor and earthquake geologist.

Just last week, an earthquake early-warning system was launched in Oregon, operated by the U.S. Geological Survey. As in California, the system sends alerts to smartphones. Washington state is expected to join the ShakeAlert system, which operates on an array of seismic sensors, in May.

“When a Cascadia event happens, the critical seconds of notice ShakeAlert warnings provide will save lives and reduce damage to important lifeline systems,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said last week, when the system was launched.

Lawmakers are also trying to prepare Oregon for a major earthquake.

In the Legislature, House Bill 3083 mandates that contracts for public works must adhere to seismic safety standards and seismic rehabilitation standards in constructing or renovating public buildings or critical infrastructure in earthquake-prone areas. A House committee has an April 1 work session scheduled for the bill.

Lindsay Baker, an assistant director of the Oregon Department of Transportation, raised concerns about the bill, saying “there is simply not sufficient funding to fully armor the entire transportation system in a reasonable timeframe.”

In 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a seismic-hazard analysis for Detroit Dam, and found the risk to be higher than Corps officials previously thought.

“Structural analysis has shown a possibility of the spillway gates buckling under the force of a full reservoir during a large earthquake,” the Corps said in its statement. “Risk is high enough to warrant immediate actions.”

A breach would send a surge of water shooting down the Santiam Canyon, which was devastated by a wildfire last summer, and onto where it opens up on the eastern edge of the Willamette Valley.

“Because Detroit Dam is located upstream of many communities including the state capital of Salem, Oregon, there is potential for devastating flooding to affect large portions of the narrow North Santiam River canyon and urban areas,” the Corps said in its draft environmental assessment.

Lowering the maximum level is a temporary solution to mitigate the risks and will have little impact, the Corps said. The lake is used for recreation, and most of the boat ramps would be unusable for up to a month.

The Corps said it continues to evaluate the seismic performance of the spillway and other components of the dam to determine if long-term modifications or changes to operations will be necessary. That includes the potential for major reconstruction to address seismic risk.

Oregon Transportation Commission allots $65 million to Improve Freight Mobility and Relieve Congestion

Oregon Highway 140
The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to use $65 million in funding for projects such as auxiliary and passing lanes, truck climbing lanes, freight improvements, intelligent transportation systems and other technology. (Courtesy: ODOT)

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on March 15 announced its approval of an Enhance Highway Discretionary Program that will address congestion and freight mobility issues on state highways, a move the commission says will impact the state’s trade-based economy.

OTC has set aside $65 million in funding for projects that will improve the functionality of the state’s highways, such as auxiliary lanes and passing lanes, truck climbing lanes, freight improvements, intelligent transportation systems and other technology, and more.

While projects will be focused on congestion relief and improving freight mobility, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will factor in safety, equity, climate and multimodal accessibility as it selects projects.

ODOT will engage area commissions on transportation and metropolitan planning organizations to get input on priority projects. These groups will be asked to provide feedback on the proposed projects before bringing the final list before the OTC for approval in the draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

The OTC plans to distribute project across the state, with a minimum of 30% of the total funding going to rural areas.

Once the OTC approves the basic outlines of the program, ODOT will begin gathering potential projects later this year.

Major Fire at Ethanol Fuel Facility in Cornelius

Emergency crews and law enforcement were responding to a major fire at an ethanol fuel facility in Cornelius, Ore., Tuesday.

The Cornelius Fire Department posted a photo of the fire, located on North 4th Avenue, and thick black smoke to Twitter. In addition, the department issued a separate tweet of a map of the surrounding area. 

About 50 homes have been evacuated as well as a nearby Walmart. Those evacuated are urged to go to Forest Grove High School for assistance. 

In a tweet at 5:39 p.m., firefighters said the incident was a three-alarm fire, and that crews were formulating a plan to attack the flames as safely as possible. “This will be a long duration event and expect delays on local roadways,” the department added. 

Investigators said one of the ethanol fuel storage tanks exploded at Summit Natural Energy. First responders had to withdraw due to subsequent explosions. A Cornelius Fire Department spokesperson said that because crews were unable to attack the fire, it spread to nearby buildings. Crews were reportedly letting it burn, while waiting for a foam truck to arrive from Portland International Airport. 

Natural gas to 4th Avenue has been turned off to assist with safe operations and a temporary flight restriction has been put in place for 1 nautical mile around the incident and up to 5,000 feet. Individuals who own drones are urged not to use them.

Hillsboro Police noted Southwest TV Highway is closed going into Cornelius, citing “an active fire involving fuel tanks.” Police said the highway will remain closed until the situation can be made safe. As of 5 p.m., there was no estimated time for when the roadway will be reopened. 

The Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue said that the Cornelius Fire Department is being assisted by the Oregon State Fire Marshall hazmat team. 

Also assisting is the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, who are urging people to avoid the area. North Adair between North 10th Avenue and North Yew Street is also closed.

There have been no immediate reports of injuries or missing people, but a search of the area is planned once the fire is brought under control. Metro West Ambulance is on stanby with 4 ambulances and command personnel to provide medical care as needed. The cause of the initial explosion will be investigated when it is safe to do so.

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