Rogue Valley News, Tuesday 8/24 – Rare Bumblebee Found In Southern Oregon Gets Endangered Species Listing, Providence and Asante Hospitals Limit Visitors, Fatal Crash on I-5 near Ashland

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather 

Air Quality Alert

Today– Widespread smoke, mainly after 2pm. Sunny, with a high near 85.

Wednesday– Widespread haze between 8am and 11am. Areas of smoke before 8am, then patchy smoke after 11am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 85.
Thursday– Sunny, with a high near 87. Light and variable wind.
Friday– Sunny, with a high near 87.
Saturday– Sunny, with a high near 93.

 Rare Bumblebee Found In Southern Oregon Gets Endangered Species Listing

Franklin's Bumble Bee

A rare species of bumblebee unique to Southern Oregon and parts of Northern California will now be recognized for federal protections under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency revealed on Monday.

The Franklin’s bumblebee is believed to reside across Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine counties in Oregon, as well as Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California. This relatively small range makes it one of the most narrowly distributed bumblebee species in the world.

Wildlife officials believe that that the species may still exist in the region, though the last confirmed sighting occurred back in 2006. The U.S. Forest Service cited the Fender’s blue butterfly as an example of a species that was believed extinct for decades but was spotted again in Oregon during 1989. The species has since started to recover.

“Franklin’s bumblebee is one of the rarest in the world, and it will surely tumble into extinction without Endangered Species Act protections,” Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity says. “This is a good step for these bumblebees, but the federal failure to protect critical habitat will make recovery an uphill battle. There’s just no way to save species like this unique bumblebee without protecting the places they live.”

“The level of public and interagency engagement in the bumblebee survey efforts has been incredible,” said Glenn Casamassa, the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “The primary habitat for this bee in Oregon is on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. While this species has not been detected there since 2006, our employees continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on sampling historic and suitable habitats in order to conserve and recover this species. There’s a collective sense of urgency to protect native pollinators, and this effort highlights not only the strength of our interagency partnerships but also the strength of research and citizen science efforts in Southwest Oregon.”

The Franklin’s bumblebee is believed to nest underground in abandoned rodent burrows and other spaces that allow room for shelter and food storage. One colony was discovered in a residential garage in Medford. The USFWS said that the bees have historically been found at elevations between 540 and 7,800 feet, often finding food among the colder climates of alpine flowering plants.

It is of critical importance that a proper scientific investigation is pursued in order to determine the actual status of Franklin’s bumblebee. If its population has indeed reached a critical level, the species will require extensive protection in order to avoid extinction. — https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/franklins-bumble-bee.shtml

Fatal Crash ‘possibly caused by a wrong-way driver’ closes I-5 near Ashland This Morning

I-5 southbound is closed at Exit 19 Ashland due to a head-on crash “possibly caused by a wrong-way driver,” the Oregon Department of Transportation said Tuesday morning.

<p>Interstate 5 southbound is closed at Exit 19 Ashland due to a head-on crash "possibly caused by a wrong-way driver," the Oregon Department of Transportation said Tueday morning. ODOT said to "expect possible lengthy closure" as Oregon State Police investigate. (TripCheck){/p}
(TripCheck)

Oregon State Police confirmed the crash resulted in at least one death. ODOT said to “expect possible lengthy closure” as Oregon State Police investigate.

“Ashland residents should expect heavier than normal traffic on OR 99 through town until the closure is lifted,” the transportation department cautioned.

Providence and Asante Hospitals Limit Visitors

In Medford, Providence hospitals in Oregon will significantly limit visitors due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spurred by the Delta variant, administrators announced over the weekend. The new visitor policy took effect on Monday, August 23.

There is a shortlist of exceptions to the rule, mostly applying to emergency cases, pediatrics, and birthing. Emergency Department patients are allowed one visitor while in the department only; the Pediatric Emergency Department will allow two visitors; two visitors through about two hours postpartum for Labor and Delivery;
one visitor in the Mother/Baby unit; two visitors for Pediatric inpatients; and a broader exception for people with disabilities.

In all cases, visitors must be at least 16 years old, must wear a mask fully covering their nose and mouth, and must remain in the patient’s room unless entering or exiting the medical center.

Asante announced a near-identical list of restrictions on their visitor policy last week, likewise beginning Monday. Asante’s policy also allows two visitors for patients receiving end-of-life care.

“Masks are required inside all Asante buildings,” the healthcare provider said in a statement on Friday. “These measures will help keep our patients and staff safe. Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time.”

Rogue Retreat Receives $150K From People’s Bank For Medford Housing Renovations

Rogue Retreat received $150,000 this week from the People’s Bank of Commerce Foundation, funds that will go toward the organization’s ongoing efforts to transform a Medford motel into housing for vulnerable members of the community.

Rogue Retreat took over the Redwood Inn on N Riverside Drive in March with the help of Oregon’s “Project Turnkey” initiative. According to the organization, they’ll put the funds toward renovations on five of the eventual 47 rooms in the building, starting as housing for people displaced by the Almeda Fire, and eventually becoming transitional housing for the homeless once Almeda survivors are re-homed.

“We can’t thank People’s Bank of Commerce Foundation enough for their amazing generosity. Their desire to help the Rogue Valley rebuild from these fires shows what a business can do to help the greater community. We are honored to partner with People’s Bank of Commerce Foundation to remodel five rooms which will serve our community for many years to come,” said Chad McComas, Rogue Retreat Executive Director.

When the Project Turnkey site is complete, it will have 43 apartments for housing people displaced by the Almeda Fire and four apartments for those in need of skilled nursing care. Rogue Retreat said that renovations remain underway, with 18 suites currently in use and another 14 under construction.

“People’s Bank of Commerce Foundation is very pleased to partner with such an exceptional organization in providing relief for the fire survivors. These 43 apartments will make a significant impact in the ability of those future tenants to continue to recover from the fire and rebuild their lives, right here in the Rogue Valley,” said Julia Beattie, Committee Chair of People’s Bank of Commerce Foundation.

After Rogue Retreat received the Project Turnkey grant to buy the Redwood Inn, it also received a $450,000 grant from the City of Medford toward renovating units, accompanied by a grant from Providence for the recuperative care component.

Oregon reports 4,701 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 24 new deaths

There are 24 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,036. The Oregon Health Authority reported 4,701 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 257,644.

The 4,701 cases reported today include new infections recorded by counties for the 3-day period between Friday, Aug. 20, and Sunday, Aug. 22.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (29), Benton (61), Clackamas (366), Clatsop (19), Columbia (80), Coos (66), Crook (19), Curry (61), Deschutes (365), Douglas (398), Gilliam (5), Grant (10), Harney (14), Hood River (14), Jackson (308), Jefferson (34), Josephine (234), Klamath (71), Lane (659), Lincoln (41), Linn (186), Malheur (24), Marion (195), Morrow (29), Multnomah (582), Polk (113), Tillamook (49) Umatilla (69), Union (78), Wallowa (16), Wasco (23), Washington (401), Yamhill (82).

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Firefighter Dies While Working On Gales Fire

A firefighter died in an accident Monday while working on the Gales Fire in the Middle Fork Complex, according to the Lane County Sheriff’s Office.

Bryan Cutchen, Oakridge city administrator and acting fire chief, said the death is suspected to have been caused by a tree falling on the firefighter. Cutchen said the victim was a young man.

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release and Facebook post Monday night that deputies along with partners from numerous other agencies were on scene investigating. Authorities were also working to notify the man’s family, according to the agency. No other injuries were reported.

The man was working on the eastern edge of the Gales Fire at the time of the incident, according to Larry Nickey, deputy incident commander liaison for Pacific Northwest Team 13.

“We don’t have any information we can release right now because of the investigation,” Nickey said on Monday afternoon.

The Gales Fire is within the Middle Fork Complex of fires that started in the Willamette National Forest the week of July 26. More than 500 personnel are working at the complex. The fires are about 9 miles north of Oakridge. They have burned about 24 square miles and have prompted evacuations.

Wildfires have burned over 603,132 acres across Oregon and Washington.

Nine of the active blazes are in Oregon, while 17 are in Washington. A majority of the fires were sparked by lightning, while a few remain under investigation.

The Ford Corkscrew fire in central Washington has prompted mandatory evacuations northwest of Spokane and damaged 20 buildings. The fire has burnt 15,000 acres since Aug. It was 14% contained as of Friday.

The wildfires still burning in Oregon are nowhere as large as the Bootleg fire, which reached 100% containment after burning for more than a month. It was the third-largest fire in Oregon since 1900, scorching over 400,000 acres and destroying more than 160 homes.

Another day of below seasonal temperatures with improved humidifies on the west side and dry conditions on the east side. There were breezy winds in the Cascade gaps, but most other areas were relatively calm. The northern two thirds of Washington had mostly cloudy skies and light scattered precipitation fell in northwest Washington.

Wildfire smoke blanketed southern Oregon. An inversion this morning resulted in poor humidity recoveries in the mid elevations in the Oregon Cascades and in eastern Oregon. The moderated conditions limited growth on existing large fires.

Temperatures will warm some today, bringing the region to near seasonal normal conditions. As a series of upper-level troughs continue to pass through, near normal temperatures and relative humidities will persist through the week. General winds will be a little breezy in central Oregon this afternoon. A stronger marine push tomorrow will boost breezes through Cascade gaps in the afternoon and bring some light rain mainly over the Cascades and Olympics.

Precipitation chances will retreat to the northern Cascades Thursday, then shift to northeastern Washington Friday. Gap breezes will pick up a bit more Thursday and Friday afternoons, then calm for the weekend. Models still show some differences in details, but it appears an upper level ridge will move across the region over the weekend for a brief warming spell.

Diminished fire danger coupled with seasonable temperature and humidity will keep the potential for new significant fires at or below seasonal normal through the week.

Here are links to be able to see updated info on the larger fires in Oregon:

This public lands link is super helpful to check before you head outdoors. The Keep Oregon Green website carries ODF’s public use restrictions. Click the link for up-to-date information:

https://keeporegongreen.org/current-conditions/

Update: Procession Announced for the Memorial Service for Oregon State Police Sergeant John Burright

John Burright

Governor orders flags lowered to half-staff to honor fallen Oregon State Police Sgt. John Burright

The public is invited to view a procession and memorial service for Oregon State Police (OSP) Sgt. John Burright on Wednesday. He died in May after a 20-year battle with severe injuries after being hit by a car. On Sept. 4, 2001, a vehicle hit Sgt. Burright while he was helping a family in a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of Interstate 5.

Trooper Maria Mignano and Albany Police Department Officer Jason Hoerauf died. The accident left Sgt. Burright with debilitating and career-ending injuries, and he died on May 4, 2021.

The procession on Aug. 25 will start at 10:20 a.m. at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Albany. It will pass the Oregon State Police Albany Patrol Office, where Sgt. Burright spent most of his career. The procession will continue north on Interstate 5 to the Salem Armory for the memorial service.

Drivers should be prepared for road closures and long delays along the procession route, which includes I-5 between Albany and Salem. OSP encourages anyone planning to drive along the procession route between 10 a.m.-12 p.m. to find an alternative route.

Conservative Activists Try To Overturn New Oregon Election Laws

Two new laws aimed at expanding voter access in Oregon are under fire from a conservative group that argues the changes will make state elections less secure.

People affiliated with the group Oregonians for Fair Elections have filed referendum petitions that, if successful, would ask voters to approve or reject the new laws next year. To do that, they’d need to collect 74,680 valid signatures in opposition to each bill by Sept. 24, a tight timeline that could be hard to meet as the state struggles with a resurgence of COVID-19.

The first, House Bill 2681, ensured that voters cannot be labeled “inactive” — and so ineligible to automatically receive a ballot — for the sole reason of not voting. It’s an extension of other steps Oregon has taken in recent years.
In 2017, then-Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican, announced the state would no longer label voters “inactive” if they had not voted for five consecutive years.

Richardson increased that window to 10 years and subsequently announced he wanted to end the practice of labeling voters inactive because they had not voted. Voters can still be labeled “inactive” for other reasons, including not responding when their ballot has been challenged.

Increased Emergency SNAP Benefits Continue in September

Need to know

SNAP Office - Snap Servives Eugene

Most Oregonians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will receive emergency allotments in September. 

The federal government has approved emergency allotments every month since March 2020. This gives SNAP recipients additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In September, approximately 402,000 SNAP households will receive approximately $65 million in extra food benefits in addition to their regular SNAP benefits.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide emergency benefits to most SNAP households in Oregon,” said Dan Haun, director of the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Self-Sufficiency Program. “We also know that many Oregonians are still struggling to meet their basic needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we encourage them to contact our partners at 211 and the Oregon Food Bank for support during this difficult time.”

Emergency allotments will be available on Sept. 11 for current SNAP households. New SNAP households will receive the emergency allotments Sept. 30 or Oct. 2.

SNAP recipients do not have to take any action to receive these supplemental benefits as they will be issued directly on their EBT cards. 

More information about emergency allotments is available at https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/ASSISTANCE/FOOD-BENEFITS/Pages/About-SNAP.aspx.

Questions about your SNAP benefits should be directed to the ONE Customer Service Center at 1-800-699-9075.

If you are a SNAP household and your income or the number of people in your household has changed, it could impact your benefits. It is important to make sure ODHS has the most up-to-date information.

You can report any changes to your income or household in many ways: 

  • Online at: ONE.Oregon.gov
  • By mail at: ONE Customer Service Center, PO Box 14015, Salem, OR 97309
  • By fax at: 503-378-5628
  • By phone at: 1-800-699-9075 or TTY 711

Resources to help meet basic needs

Administered by ODHS, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1 million eligible, low-income families and individuals in Oregon, including many older adults and people with disabilities. Oregonians in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP, child care, cash assistance and Medicaid. Learn more at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits. For local resources in your area, such as food or shelter, please call 2-1-1 or reach out to the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) at 1-855-ORE-ADRC or 1-855-673-2372.Oregon Department of Human Services 

OSU Study Finds Tree Rings in Oregon Show Evidence Of A Historic 1700 Quake And Tsunami

The earthquake that struck the west coast of North America on January 26, 1700, is said to be the greatest ever recorded in the “lower 48” states of the United States. A team of experts discovered evidence of this “megathrust” in old trees in Oregon during their research.

The earthquake that struck the Cascadia Subduction Zone in January 1700 was a major one. With a magnitude of 9.0, it not only wreaked havoc and generated landslides in various regions, but it also triggered a tsunami that crossed the Pacific and wreaked havoc on Japan’s Pacific coast.

According to a news release from Oregon State University (OSU), evidence of this historic event has been found in the trees in Washington, so a team of researchers set out to see whether they could find similar evidence in the trees in Oregon.

The researchers gathered core samples of 38 Douglas fir stands that predate the 1700 earthquake in Mike Miller Park in South Beach for the study, which was just published in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences.

According to OSU, one of the study’s authors, Robert Dziak of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, said that the majority of the trees date back to 1670, with one dating back to 1650.

The area would have been overwhelmed by up to 10 meters of water during the tsunami, according to “new and revised” simulations. When researchers compared the growth rates of the samples to those of Douglas firs not in the tsunami inundation zone, they discovered that the trees in the tsunami inundation zone had “significantly reduced” growth rates in 1700.

The researchers also compared the South Beach Douglas-fir tree-ring data to two other Douglas-fir datasets from the Oregon Coast Range and western Cascade Mountains, which would have experienced similar climate conditions but not tsunami inundation, in order to better detect tree growth anomalies near 1700 CE. “When compared to these control sites, tree growth in South Beach is much lower in 1700 CE, reaffirming that Douglas-fir growth in South Beach is abnormally low for the region.”

In an OSU news release, Dziak stated, “The tsunami looks to be the event that most affected the trees’ growth that year.”

The researchers speculated that the shaking of the ground, as well as the presence of seawater, may have contributed to the decline in growth. Brief News from Washington Newsday.

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