Rogue Valley News, Monday 9/13 – Another Illegal Marijuana Operation in Josephine County, Ashland Police Kill Cougar Outside a Home, More Local Businesses Going Out of Business

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

Monday, September 13, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather 

Air Quality Alert

Today– Widespread haze. Sunny, with a high near 84. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Tuesday– Patchy smoke. Sunny, with a high near 88. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Wednesday– Areas of smoke. Sunny, with a high near 83. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Thursday– Areas of smoke. Sunny, with a high near 82.
Friday– A slight chance of rain after 11am. Areas of smoke. Mostly sunny, with a high near 81.

Search Warrant Served for Another Illegal Marijuana Operation in Josephine County

On Thursday, September 9, 2021, members of Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET) in partnership with Rogue Area Drug Enforcement (Grants Pass DPS, OSP, Josephine County Parole and Probation), Bureau of Land Management and Josephine County Code Enforcement; served search warrants relating to illegal marijuana grow operations in the 6000 block of Caves Highway and 5000 block of Holland Loop Road, outside of Cave Junction, Oregon.

During the execution of the search warrants, 7,600 illegal marijuana and hemp plants were seized and destroyed. Additionally, 5,000 pounds of processed marijuana was seized and destroyed along with 200 pounds of illegal cannabis extract.  Also seized were 19 firearms and approximately $210,000 cash. (Side note: the cash, which is subject to forfeiture, can only be used for training and equipment, not personnel.)

At the Caves Highway location, a large, closed loop cannabis extraction lab was located and seized.  Due to the explosive/flammable nature of these extraction labs, a specialized HAZMAT team responded for the safe removal of 2,000 gallons of solvent and other hazardous materials. 

Barry Greenwalt, 50, was arrested and lodged in the Josephine County Jail for Unlawful Manufacture of a Marijuana Item. 

Mitchell Seguin, 33, was arrested and lodged in the Josephine County Jail for Unlawful Manufacture of a Marijuana Item x2, Unlawful Possession of a Marijuana Item x2, Unlawful Delivery of Marijuana x2 and Unlawful Possession of a Marijuana Extract.  Additionally, 19 subjects were detained due to safety concerns. At the time of this press release, the investigation is ongoing, and no further details are being released.   Josephine Co. Sheriff’s Office

Ashland Police Shoot And Kill Cougar Outside a Resident’s Home

The Ashland Police Department says that it shot and killed a cougar within the Ashland city limits after it settled outside of a home and was showing no fear of humans.

Officers responded Friday morning after an Ashland resident called to report that a friend had gone outside of the home and encountered a cougar “in the garbage cans” outside. The cougar did not run away, which the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife said is normal behavior when cougars see people.

When police arrived, the cougar had settled under the home’s elevated porch. It did not seem perturbed by the presence of the officers and was not scared away when police used sirens. After consulting with ODFW, Ashland Police decided it was time to kill the cougar due to safety concerns.

“The decision to put an animal down is never easy. The City of Ashland appreciates its long-standing partnership with ODFW and the support ODFW brings as difficult decisions such as this are made,” said Tighe O’Meara, Ashland Police Chief.

ODFW’s Steve Niemela, Rogue District Wildlife Biologist, supported the decision. “Cougars normally display fear of humans and are nocturnal animals. With the cougar just feet away from the resident’s friend during daylight and showing no signs of fear and not responding to hazing efforts, human safety was an issue and this was the right decision,” Niemela said.

The cougar was a 60-pound male, ODFW said.

Oregon is home to more than 6,000 cougars, and there are relatively frequent sightings in Jackson County. In 2018, Ashland Police shot at a cougar on the Southern Oregon University campus but did not kill it. Medford Police killed a cougar in 2019 after it was spotted around E Barnett Road and N Riverside Avenue.

Medford Tools To Close After 38 Years In Business

Medford Tools says it has been forced to close its doors after 38 years in business due to the lack of supplies and truck drivers in the industry.

“Because of a lack of merchandise, we’re closing Medford Tools, and it’s not a good thing,” Joe Sewell, the owner of Medford Tools said.

Sewell explained during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, the small business began to feel the effects early on but was able to stay in business because of the backup merchandise the business had stored.

“One of our vendors who we basically order from every 7 to 10 days, would be anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 (worth of merchandise ordered), well we were getting $3,000 (worth of merchandise), and after a while of just getting 1/3 of what you are trying to get, the supply gets less and less,” Sewell said.

He explained that another issue the tool business ran into, was the time it would take vendors to fill each order.Sewell said prior to the pandemic it would take a vendor 10 to 14 days to deliver the merchandise ordered.He said, the delivery process slowly began to increase, and it would take vendors several weeks to months to complete the orders.

“Festool which is a very great woodworking company, they actually have an item today if I ordered it, it’s 68 weeks out, not 6 to 8 weeks, 68 weeks out, that is over a year for that one item,” Sewell said. “It’s anywhere from screwdrivers to saw blades to power tools, the supply is harder and harder to get.”

He said at one time a vendor was able to fill their order, but due to the lack of truck drivers, the business’s merchandise could not be delivered.

Although the business is known for its tool service, the original owner of the small business, Holly Snyder said the business was well known for using its marquee to bring positive messages to residents in the Rogue Valley.

“Of course, when we first started, we thought we would use it for our specials but then we said there’s so much negative in the world today that we thought it would be good to have some uplifting messages,” Snyder said.

Snyder said throughout the three decades in business, the storefront has received thank you cards, calls and people would stop by to thank them for the positive messages.

Now that the business is closing its doors for good, Sewell and Snyder are taking it day by day and selling the remaining merchandise. They said they do not have an official closing date, but once all the supplies are sold, they plan on officially closing. Snyder said anyone interested in leasing the building can contact the business directly.

Both shared their gratitude to their customers throughout the 38 years of business.

Meyer Orchards Going Out of Business after 111 Years

The family-owned pear orchard in Talent will be shutting down operations after 111 years in the Rogue Valley.

Meyer Orchards in Talent states that it’s closing due to rising costs in labor/federal expenses, along with foreign competition keeping the prices of pears low.

It cut down the trees Friday afternoon and already sold some of its land off.

“Things have changed over the last five years, and we haven’t made any money on pears,” Ron Meyer, owner of Meyer Orchards, said. “We just could not sell the pears enough to make a profit and so we decided to do something different,”

The severe drought over the past few years also contributed to the strain on the business. The family began discussing the options of closing, following the Talent Irrigation District’s decision to shut off water in July. Even if the Valley gets enough water next season, the family says the trees would not be able to produce enough fruit due to this year’s drought.

Kirt Meyer, general manager of Meyer Orchards, believes there may not be any pears growing in the Rogue Valley in the near future. “This industry has suffered financially for decades for various reasons,” Kirt wrote in a Facebook post. “The H-2A program is the only way now to get crops picked. It’s very costly, complicated and highly regulated. These types of farms do not get government subsidies… So the financial burden is solely on the farmer.”

Though the business won’t be around, Ron Meyers says he plans on staying at the property and is grateful for the community’s support over the years.

Online Sexual Corruption of a Child Arrest

2021-09/6530/148373/Ernest_Langford.PNG

On 09/09/2021, detectives with the Grants Pass Police Department traveled to Roseburg, Oregon for an investigation related to online corruption of a child.  With the assistance of Roseburg patrol and detectives, Ernest Langford Jr was contacted, interviewed, and later lodged at the Douglas County Jail after Ernest Langford Jr attempted to have sexual contact with two minor females via the internet.  

ARRESTED: Langford Jr, Ernest Dwayne

CHARGES:  Online Sexual Corruption of a Child in the First Degree X2, Luring a Minor x2

This criminal investigation is on-going and anyone with information is encouraged to contact Grants Pass Police Department Detective Yerrick at 541-450-6260.  Grants Pass Dept. of Public Safety

Oregon reports 2,453 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 20 new deaths

There are 20 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,414, the Oregon Health Authority reported Friday evening. Oregon Health Authority reported 2,453 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 296,825.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported are in the following counties: Baker (37), Benton (38), Clackamas (139), Clatsop (7), Columbia (38), Coos (34), Crook (31), Curry (8), Deschutes (199), Douglas (129), Grant (12), Harney (11), Hood River (7), Jackson (156), Jefferson (23), Josephine (77), Klamath (44), Lake (12), Lane (248), Lincoln (42), Linn (173), Malheur (24), Marion (201), Morrow (8), Multnomah (246), Polk (67), Sherman (1), Tillamook (37), Umatilla (89), Union (43), Wallowa (9), Wasco (28), Washington (190) and Yamhill (45).

Newest COVID-19 modeling report projects decrease in daily cases and hospitalizations

Today, OHA released its latest COVID-19 forecast, showing a projected decline in daily cases and hospitalizations through late September.

According to the report, the effective reproduction rate — the expected number of secondary cases that a single case generates — was estimated at .88 on Aug. 25, projecting a decline in the estimated growth of new cases and hospitalizations over last week’s modeling scenario.

At that level of transmission, the report estimates 490 cases per 100,000 people, or an average of 1,460 daily cases and 80 hospitalizations for the two-week period between Sept.15 and Sept. 28.

The modeling report labeled that projection “optimistic” because the projection was based on the lowest point of transmission.

The report proposed an alternative scenario factoring in assumptions around the impacts of reopening schools and many public events scheduled during the month of September. In that scenario, new cases are estimated at 635 per 100,000 people, or an average of 1,910 cases and 107 hospitalizations over the same period.

Vaccinations remain the most effective tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19. Oregonians are also encouraged to wear masks when in indoor public spaces and when outdoors among crowds.

State and local officials say it’s too early to tell exactly what impact President Biden’s mandate for COVID-19 vaccinations will have on cities and businesses.

Last week, the president said all businesses with 100 employees or more must require their employees be fully vaccinated or tested weekly.  Officials with the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Kate Brown’s office say they’re still studying the order.

Portland Police Bureau officials say more than 75 percent of the force is fully vaccinated and at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office, at least 72 percent of employees have been vaccinated. Numbers are much lower in other parts of the state and some Klamath County Firefighters have filed a class-action lawsuit against Brown.

Six Oregon workers subject to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates are asking a federal judge to require Oregon to carve out an exception for people like them who have acquired some degree of natural immunity after they got sick with the virus.

They contend in a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Eugene that the state must more narrowly tailor its school employee, healthcare worker and state government employee vaccination mandates to exempt workers who already have some immunity against the virus because they contracted and recovered from it.

The workers say in their lawsuit that the state vaccination rules, which Gov. Brown adopted last month, force workers like them “who have robust natural immunity, to choose between their health, their personal autonomy, and their careers.” To the employees, getting vaccinated “would involve more risks than benefits” and they are “exceedingly unlikely” to pass the virus to others, they wrote.

Some local companies are coming out in support of President Joe Biden’s new vaccination guidance for businesses, while other business owners say they are wary of its impact on an already struggling workforce. The president said the new vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees is an important step in the fight against COVID-19.

The mandate requires weekly COVID testing for unvaccinated employees. The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA) says it is not as straight forward as it sounds, adding that it could potentially be a few weeks until we find out how it will really work.

ORLA also says this could create and even more difficult hiring issue than business owners are already dealing with amid the pandemic. The association’s president, Jason Brandt, says that while they support vaccination, this one-size-fits-all approach needs to be flushed out.

The Cougar Peak Fire, which was discovered on Sept. 7, has grown to 83,339 acres, burning about 15 miles northwest of Lakeview on the Fremont-Winema National Forest. The cause of the fire is under investigation. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management and the Incident Commander have identified areas for
evacuations in the fire area. After a light rain in the morning, firefighters anticipated fire spread would be minimal Friday, due to the moderate weather.

As the temperatures ease back into seasonal norms, fire behavior will likely increase over the weekend, according to a news release from the fire incident command. Area residents and visitors are reminded that Public Use Restrictions are still in effect on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, as well as fire restrictions in effect on neighboring landscapes. 

Fire Investigators Seek Information on Human-Caused Wildfires in Lake County

Fire investigators in Lake County are seeking information on wildfire starts in the area.

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Oregon State Police (OSP), U.S. Forest Service and Lake County Sheriff’s Office are investigating wildfire causes, including the Cougar Peak Fire.

This fire season has seen an increase in human-caused fire starts. To help with the investigations, the OSP has a phone line for area residents and visitors to call in with information that could help.

If you have information regarding a human-caused wildfire in Lake County, please call 1-800-442-0776 or OSP and reference Trooper Mike Hansen and OSP Case Number SP21-257103. Oregon State Police

Isolated lightning with scattered precipitation in northeast Washington. Clouds covered western Washington bringing light precipitation. The rest of the geographic area saw scattered clouds. Gusty winds through Kittitas Valley, Columbia Gorge, and southeastern Oregon. Relative humidities in the teens in southeastern Oregon. Overnight humidity recoveries were good across the geographic area. Temperatures were 70-80 degrees, 60’s along the coastline and through western Washington. Large fires saw increasing activity as fuels dried out, but growth remained low.

A sunny, but mild day is in store for most of the region today. Low clouds over the west side should dissipate through the day. A thermal trough along the southern Oregon coast will draw north to northeast winds into the area, accentuating warming and drying. Elsewhere, general winds should be light.

Temperatures will remain seasonable over the next few days, with relative humidities dropping back into the teens for southwestern and eastern Oregon. Another weak cold front arrives Wednesday with light rain for western Washington and a breezy winds on the east slopes of the Cascades, strongest where aligned with terrain. A stronger system brings a good chance for widespread precipitation over the coming weekend.

The potential for new significant fires will remain at or below normal levels through the week. Gusty winds, combined with low relative humidity could lead to elevated fire behavior in southwestern Oregon today.

Air Quality Advisories

Jackson, Klamath, and Lake counties are expected to be under an air quality advisory until at least Monday afternoon. To the east, Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Malheur, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties could be under the advisory until at least Saturday morning. The eastern portions of Douglas, Lane, Linn, and Marion counties may also continue through Monday afternoon, depending on nearby fire activity.

According to DEQ, pollutants in smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose, aggravate heart and lung diseases and aggravate other serious health conditions. Limit outdoor activities and keep children indoors if it is smoky. Consult a doctor and follow medical advice if you have a heart or lung condition. Health officials advise people to refill inhalers and air out homes and businesses when smoke levels improve to moderate or healthy (yellow or green on the Air Quality Index).

https://keeporegongreen.org/prevent-wildfires/

InciWeb has INFO on the larger fires still burning 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/


Funding Announced For Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake and Tsunami Preparedness

Oregon’s congressional Democrats announced federal funding to help Oregon prepare for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami.

Earthquakes, Landslides, and Tsunamis: Mapping Geohazards in the Cascadia  Subduction Zone
https://www.usgs.gov/center-news/earthquakes-landslides-and-tsunamis-mapping-geohazards-cascadia-subduction-zone?qt-news_science_products=1#qt-news_science_products

The funds are being allocated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s FY2021 Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program. Oregon will receive $388,463 to support the development of a comprehensive logistics and supply chain management plan in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. The grants are highly competitive. Oregon is one of 15 state and local governments to be selected among 22 eligible applications.

“If a major earthquake hits along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, thousands could be killed and Oregon would suffer billions in economic damages,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which has jurisdiction over FEMA. “This funding will allow the state to better prepare for a major earthquake and tsunami and develop a strategy to support supply chain management in the event of disaster.”

“The alarm that scientists are sounding about a potentially devastating earthquake hitting our state at some point demands a response that includes robust preparation to protect Oregonians and our communities,” Sen. Ron Wyden said. “I’m gratified that Oregon is receiving these FEMA funds to help with that needed preparation for a major quake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone that could also touch off a destructive tsunami slamming the coast.”

“Oregon’s preparedness for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake is critical to the stability of our infrastructure and the safety of our communities,” Sen. Ron Merkley said. “I am pleased that this FEMA grant will go toward a comprehensive plan to protect Oregonians across the state, and ensure that we have the resources to manage any potential disaster and its aftermath.”

“The pandemic, the wildfires, and the extreme weather events over the last year prove the value of being as prepared as possible for catastrophic events,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “We must be ready for a potential Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and related tsunami, so I’m grateful that Oregon was selected to receive this significant funding to help plan and prepare for a natural disaster that could strike at any time.”

Oregon’s greatest threat of earthquakes and tsunamis is from the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Stretching from northern California up into British Columbia, the Cascadia Subduction Zone “slips” roughly every 300 years causing major earthquakes. The last known major earthquake was in 1700 and evidence suggests it was a magnitude 8.7 to a 9.2.

Experts agree that Oregon is due for another major earthquake. Some forecasts suggest there is a ten to twenty percent chance of a magnitude 9 quake on the CSZ in the next fifty years, while others predict a twenty-five to forty percent chance of a major quake on the south end of the CSZ in the next fifty years.

The project receiving funding will focus primarily on the threats and vulnerabilities associated with a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami, and the associated needs of socially vulnerable communities. Key federal, state, local, and tribal partners will be involved in project implementation.

Today, 9/13 Is the Last Chance for Voters to Suggest How Oregon Should Draw Congressional Districts

The state’s population increase over the past decade means Oregon gets a sixth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. State lawmakers now must draw the maps that determine where those congressional districts lie since the location of the districts determines how blue or red those districts are.

New boundaries will determine legislative districts and how many of Oregon’s six congressional seats will belong to each party. You can check this more info here: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-2022-maps/oregon/plan_a/

Maybe you have a better plan. The deadline to submit written testimony to the Legislature is 8:30 pm Monday, Sept. 13. Just email Oregon.Redistricting@Oregonlegislature.gov. (You can also sign up for a time slot to offer verbal testimony on Zoom during two virtual sessions tomorrow. Presumably, you can hold up maps to the Zoom camera.)

On Sept. 20, lawmakers from both parties will try to reach a compromise in a special redistricting session, focused both on congressional districts and state legislative districts.

Fatal Crash on Hwy 30-Clatsop County 

On Friday, September 10th, 2021 at about 8:20am, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to the report of a two-vehicle crash on Hwy 30 near milepost 94. 

Preliminary investigation revealed that a Honda Civic passenger car, operated by Debra Livingston (67), of Astoria, was travelling eastbound on Hwy 30 when she lost control of her vehicle, went into the westbound lane, and struck a westbound Toyota Tacoma, operated by Robert Tikkala (57), of Astoria. 

Livingston suffered significant injuries and was transported Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria where she was pronounced deceased. Tikkala was transported to Columbia Memorial Hospital with injuries.

Hwy 30 was closed for 2 hours following the crash.  OSP was assisted by the Knappa Fire, Astoria Fire and ODOT. 

Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division is requesting Public Assistance with a Poaching case of a Spike Elk in Lincoln County

The Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division is seeking the public’s assistance to identify the person(s) responsible for the unlawful taking and wasting of spike elk in the Logsden area in Lincoln County. 

Poached Spike Elk Lincoln County

On August 16, 2021, the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division was notified of a deceased spike elk that had been shot with a firearm, gutted, and left to waste.  The initial investigation determined the animal had been shot sometime between August 12 and August 15.  The carcass was located on Fall Creek Road, northeast of the intersection of Fall Creek Road and Big Rock Creek Road, in a clear-cut area. 

This area is heavily traveled, and other hunters are believed to have been in the area during this time frame. If you have any information regarding this incident, please contact the OSP TIP Hotline: 1-800-452-7888 or *OSP (677) or TIP E-Mail: TIP@state.or.us reference case # SP21233495.

** Report Wildlife and Habitat Law Violators** 

The Oregon Hunters Association TIP reward offers preference points or cash rewards for information leading to an arrest or issuance of a citation for the unlawful take/possession or waste of Bighorn Sheep, Rocky Mountain Goat, Moose, Elk, Deer, Antelope, Bear, Cougar, Wolf, Upland Birds, Waterfowl, Furbearers, Game Fish and Shellfish.  Cash rewards can also be awarded for turning in people who destroy habitat, illegally obtain licenses/tags, and for the unlawful lending/borrowing of big game tags.

Portland Names New Pedestrian Bridge After Simpson Character

Fans of the popular animated TV series, The Simpsons, will love the name of Portland’s newest pedestrian bridge.

The city of Portland, Oregon has named a new bridge after "Simpsons" character Ned Flanders.

City officials announced the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 405 in Northwest Portland will be named the Ned Flanders Crossing, after one of the long-running series’ most iconic characters.  

The city described Flanders as a “beloved cartoon optimist, left-hander, beleaguered friend of Homer Simpson, and avatar of neighborliness,” in an announcement on Thursday, revealing the plaque on the city’s recently completed pedestrian and bicycle bridge.

The plaque shows Ned Flanders, smiling and waving, with his catchphrase “”Hi-Diddly-ho, neighborinos!” etched in.

You can see more info about the bridge on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ned_Flanders_Crossing

Portland is the home city of Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who embraced the idea of the new bridge’s name, the city said. The city has many unofficial streets and locations named after Simpsons characters.

 “It’s a wonderful day for our city,” said Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “Naming this new bridge after Ned Flanders shows that Portland can build great things and have fun too. Thank you to Matt Groening and his team for embracing this idea.”

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