Rogue Valley News, Monday 11/22 – 500,000 Pounds of Illegal Marijuana Seized in White City, Structure Fires in Josephine County

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, November 22, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today– Patchy fog before 7am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy through mid morning, then clearing, with a high near 57. Calm wind.

Tuesday– A chance of rain before 7am, then a slight chance of showers between 7am and 1pm. Snow level 3700 feet. Partly sunny, with a high near 49. Calm wind. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Wednesday– Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 52. Calm wind.
Thanksgiving Day– Mostly sunny, with a high near 57.
Friday– Partly sunny, with a high near 58.

500,000 Pounds of Illegal Marijuana Seized in White City

On November 18, 2021, the Oregon State Police Southwest Region (SWR) Drug Enforcement Section (DES) team served a search warrant in the 1300 block of Antelope Rd. White City, Oregon. The location consisted of 5 industrial-sized warehouses zoned for commercial use.  Over 100 individuals were initially detained, identified, interviewed, and released. Several of the individuals were migrant workers living on-site in subpar living conditions without running water. 

During the operation, which spanned over two days, an epic amount of illegal, processed marijuana and a firearm were seized.  The DES Team’s conservative estimation on the amount of processed marijuana seized was approximately 500,000 lbs., which depending on where it would be exported to, has a conservative street value of somewhere around $500 million.  This is a very involved investigation and will be ongoing for several weeks. OSP will be releasing more information when available. 

The OSP SWR DES team was assisted by the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET) of Josephine County, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Medford Office, the Basin Interagency Narcotics Team (BINET) of Klamath County, the Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) of the Medford Police Department-Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson County Fire District No. 3. — Oregon State Police 

Structure Fire in the Illinois Valley

Illinois Valley Fire District, Grants Pass Fire & Rescue, and AMR responded to a reported structure fire behind the Holiday Inn Motel on Redwood Hwy early Sunday morning.

Arriving unit confirmed the 40×60 building was fully involved with fire.  Fire was contained to the building and brush area surrounding the structure.

 Command was taken from the first arriving officer.  Safety officer and water operations were established and the fire was mitigated with extensive mop up. 

No civilian or fire personnel injuries were reported.  Fire scene was flagged and units were clear. Fire is currently under investigation. — Illinois Valley Fire District

House Fire in Grants Pass

A 2-alarm structure fire mobilized 20 firefighters to the 3300 block of Winona Road early Sunday morning.

Rural Metro Engine 7502 from the North Valley Station, was in the area and arrived on scene to find a large 2-story log home on fire.

Access to the scene, which was initially limited due to a bridge, was accomplished with help from neighbors who led firefighters in on an adjacent BLM road.

During suppression efforts a search of the interior revealed the occupants were not home, despite a vehicle in the driveway.

Cause of the fire remains under investigation. —- Rural Metro Firefighters received assistance at the scene from Grants Pass Fire Rescue, American Medical Response, Jackson County Fire District #1, Evans Valley Fire District No 6, Applegate Valley Fire District, Illinois Valley Fire District and the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office.

Reported Armed Robbery in Medford

Thursday at 9:15 pm, JCSO and Medford Police Department responded to a reported armed robbery on the 2400 block of Finley lane in Medford. It was reported one female and two male suspects came to the property to collect personal items belonging to a former tenant.

The suspects threatened the homeowner and took unknown property before fleeing the scene. Further information will be released later with possible suspect information.

Oregon reports 1,090 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 28 new deaths

There are 28 new COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 4,914. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,090 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 384,062.  

OHA resolves high positivity rate issue

OHA has resolved a technical issue that resulted in a 14% positivity rate for COVID-19 tests being reported Nov. 16. 

Due to server issues on Nov. 15, 3,094 test results were automatically mislabeled, causing them to be counted as positive test results and included in the percent positivity calculation.

These 3,094 test results have now been assigned the appropriate status, and they will be removed from the testing counts and percent positivity on OHA’s data dashboards with today’s data refresh. The agency is now reporting 2,095 positive tests and a 6.2% positivity for Nov. 15.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (13), Benton (17), Clackamas (79), Clatsop (2), Columbia (17), Coos (21), Crook (21), Curry (1), Deschutes (97), Douglas (60), Grant (6), Harney (2), Hood River (11), Jackson (49), Jefferson (21), Josephine (30), Klamath (33), Lake (1), Lane (83), Lincoln (16), Linn (64), Malheur (6), Marion (97), Morrow (6), Multnomah (140), Polk (22), Tillamook (5), Umatilla (23), Union (6), Wasco (3), Washington (111), Wheeler (1), and Yamhill (26).

COVID-19 booster doses authorized for people 18 and older in Oregon

If you have not yet chosen to get vaccinated against COVID-19, now is the time.

Everyone age 18 and older is now eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose. COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free. Today, the Oregon Health Authority authorized pharmacies, health clinics and other vaccine providers in the state to begin administering boosters. The state’s orders follow actions by the federal government and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Panel to authorize expanded booster eligibility.

“Every adult who wants a booster can now get one and that is quite simply the extra layer of protection that we need,” said Rachael Banks, Public Health Director, Oregon Health Authority.

Booster doses help people maintain strong immunity to disease longer. The first vaccine series builds up the immune system to make the antibodies needed to fight the disease. Over time, the immune response weakens. A booster dose stimulates the initial response and tends to result in higher antibody levels that help people maintain their immunity longer.

While booster doses are available to everyone age 18 and older, they are strongly recommended for people older than 50, people age 18 and older who live in long-term care facilities and anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Vaccinated people are eligible for a booster 6 months after they completed their initial series if they received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or 2 months after they received their Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“The more people that choose to get vaccinated, the safer our communities will be for all of us,” said Banks. “This review and subsequent approval of booster doses helps to loosen COVID-19’s grip on our communities and it will ultimately save more lives.”

Read our fast facts or visit our boosters and third doses webpage for more information. View a video clip of Director Banks’ full statement here. Read more on Oregon Vaccine News.

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Oregon Launches Hotel-To-Housing Program to Provide Temporary Shelter

Since 2020, with the outbreak of COVID-19 and a deadly wildfire season that claimed over 4,000 homes in Oregon alone, the homelessness crisis on the West Coast has deepened.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual homeless report, Oregon ranked third in the nation among states with the highest percentage of unsheltered people last year. 

In response to the housing crisis, Oregon has launched a statewide program that uses motels as shelters to meet the immediate needs of people who are unhoused for a variety of reasons, from those who are chronically in need of shelter to those who lost their homes due to wildfires or the pandemic.

Maria Hernandez Lopez lives in a one-bedroom motel unit in Forest Grove, Oregon, with her mother and three grandchildren. The motel has been functioning as a COVID respite shelter for displaced Latinx people since May of this year.

“It was kind of hard losing your job, and then I had COVID, and one of my grandkids had COVID,” Lopez said. “So it made it even harder to get back to the work.”

Lopez said she lost her job in construction and, once she couldn’t afford the rent, lost her house. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing mandates, traditional shelters weren’t an option for Lopez and her family.

We have not been able to house people in a congregate setting as we used to before,” said Maria Caballero Rubio, executive director of Centro Cultural, which serves the Latinx community in Washington County. “We had to find a way.”

Rubio’s group purchased the Forest Grove motel for $2.2 million using money from Project Turnkey, a statewide initiative that helps local organizations purchase motels for the unhoused.

“Hotels and motels were empty because of the pandemic and not receiving any revenue,” said Nan Roman, CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which has published case studies on the hotels-to-housing model.

Oregon granted Project Turnkey nearly $75 million to acquire 19 under-used motels across 13 counties. It joins California and Vermont, which have similar statewide programs that launched in 2020. 

“It really is a significant opportunity because we can add a lot of units to the stock, affordably and quickly,” Roman said.

In seven months, Project Turnkey says it increased Oregon’s shelter capacity by 20%. The cost of buying a motel works out to around $87,000 per room, including small renovations. That’s less than half of what it costs to build a new affordable housing apartment.

“We’re meeting the immediate need, but we’re also helping communities be better prepared for future disasters,” said Megan Loeb, program officer of Project Turnkey.

Most of the Project Turnkey properties will be converted into transitional or permanent housing, including services for different types of residents, from veterans to those recovering from substance abuse.

OSP responds to crash on Highway 6 near Banks involving a school bus in Washington County

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On November 19, 2021, at approximately 9:29 A.M., Oregon State Police responded to the report of a collision between a trailer being pulled by a Ford F550 and a school bus on Highway 6 near milepost 35, west of Banks.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a red 1999 Ford F550 truck pulling an unloaded flatbed trailer, operated by Frank Rich (64) of OTIS, was traveling westbound on Hwy 6 near milepost 35 when the trailer began to fishtail uncontrollably and detached from the coupling.

After separating from the truck, the trailer collided with the driver-side rear axle of the school bus.

The school bus was from the Nestucca School District and was eastbound on Hwy 6 on a school field trip to Portland. The school bus was operated by Steven Parks (51) of  Cloverdale. The school bus began to rotate and went into the eastbound ditch and came to rest against the embankment wall blocking both lanes of Highway 6.  

There was a total of 6 adults, including the driver and 31 students on the bus.  Seven people were transported by medics to various hospitals with minor injures and as a precaution.

The driver of the Ford F550 was issued a citation for the operation of an unsafe vehicle. He did not have the correct coupling system for the trailer.

The Oregon State Police was assisted by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Forest Grove Fire, and the Oregon Department of Transportation.  Oregon State Police 

Klamath Falls Pedestrian Struck and Killed

A Klamath Falls man died Saturday morning after he was struck on south 6 th street. Dennis Reeder, 70, was standing or walking in the roadway about 6:20 a.m. near Hope Street when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Hector Miranda Cruz, 35, of Klamath Falls.

Reeder died at the scene, according to Oregon State Police. OSP was assisted by Klamath County Fire District 1 and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The Klamath County District Attorney’s office has released more details about a shooting near Chiloquin last weekend that took the lives of two people and left two more seriously injured.

Officers from the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, Klamath Falls Police, and Oregon State Police responded to reports of a shooting in the 900-block of Bronco Lane north of Chiloquin on the evening of November 14. After securing the area, the DA’s office said that officers entered the home on the property to find two people dead and two more suffering from gunshot wounds.

The two dead were 18-year-old Tianna Reynolds and 35-year-old Brian Reynolds, while 37-year-old Tina Smith and 25-year-old Andrew Reynolds comprised the wounded. Tina Smith was rushed to St. Charles in Bend for her severe injuries, while Andrew Reynolds was being treated at Sky Lakes Medical Center.

Officers arrested 35-year-old Andrew Noe a short distance from the scene of the shooting. He’s since been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, unlawful use of a weapon, and recklessly
endangering another.

Noe made his first appearance in Klamath County court on Monday. His next court appearance is scheduled for November 22. Court documents show that the DA’s office moved for Noe to be shackled with ankle and wrist restraints while in the courtroom, supported in a declaration by the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, because of his criminal history and “apparent mental or cognitive problems” suggesting that he could hurt someone or pose a flight risk.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission is approving two new rules that will reduce vehicle pollution.

The new “Clean Trucks Rule” requires manufacturers of medium and heavy-duty vehicles, like large pickups, buses, and tractor-trailer rigs to sell a certain percentage of zero emissions electric vehicles starting in 2025.

California has a similar rule. Another rule tightens emission standards from large trucks and also takes effect in 2025. Transportation accounts for approximately 40-percent of statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

Oregon State Parks To Spend $50 Million On Park Improvements

New campsites at Silver Falls, riverside cabins at Champoeg and a visitor center at Kam Wah Chung are all on tap, as the Oregon’s state parks are set for a $50 million upgrade over the next two years.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department on Thursday released a list of upcoming projects that are slated to begin in May 2022 and March 2023, utilizing money from a bond that was approved by the state Legislature earlier this year.

The list includes additional camping at some of Oregon’s busiest state parks, as well as new visitor centers, restrooms, parking lots and general maintenance upgrades that have been a long time coming.

Cape Lookout Campground

Campers walk through the campground at Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon coast.

The apothecary at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site is filled with things left just as they were when the historic Chinese medical clinic, general store and community center were closed.

The project at Silver Falls State Park is expected to be one of the most expensive, estimated to cost $8 million to $10 million. Park officials have proposed a new North Falls Complex on the north side of the park that would include a new campground, visitor center, trailhead and parking lot.

A proposed project at Cape Lookout State Park is the other big-ticket item, also projected to cost $8 million to $10 million, which would relocate the A and B camping loops to higher ground, where they would be safe from the eroding coastline. Crews would also need to build new roads and facilities for the relocated campsites, and remove existing buildings that are currently being lost to erosion.

Additional camping is also being proposed at Champoeg State Heritage Area, which will get a new camping loop and riverside cabins; Milo McIver State park, where a new loop will be added to the campground; and Nehalem Bay State Park, which will see a new cabin loop and additional tent sites.

In addition to Silver Falls, two parks will get new visitors centers, with work slated to begin in 2022: Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, home of a historic Chinese medical clinic and community center in eastern Oregon, and Smith Rock State Park, a popular rock climbing and hiking destination north of Bend.

“The Legislature’s incredibly generous act allows us to make significant and much needed upgrades to facilities and infrastructure, as well as modernize and expand some campgrounds,” Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said in a news release. “This support for the park system’s future is especially meaningful as we commemorate our centennial in 2022 and our commitment to provide world-class park experiences.”

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