Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 4/20 – Streets Open as Clean-Up Continues at Medford Fuel Station Fire Site, Oil Runoff From The Fuel Fire Leaked Into Bear Creek And Found Its Way Into The Rogue River

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Rogue Valley Weather

Wind Advisory in effect from April 20, 08:00 AM PDT until April 20, 05:00 PM PDT

Today– Rain, mainly before 2pm, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm after 2pm. Some of the storms could produce small hail and gusty winds. Snow level 3400 feet rising to 5100 feet in the afternoon. High near 55. Breezy, with a light and variable wind becoming south 21 to 26 mph in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Thursday– A chance of showers, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 11am. Some of the storms could produce small hail and gusty winds. Snow level 3300 feet rising to 4100 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 58. South wind 5 to 8 mph becoming north in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Friday– A 30 percent chance of showers after 11am. Snow level 3800 feet rising to 4900 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 59. Calm wind becoming northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Saturday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 66.

Sunday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 70.

Streets Open as Clean-Up Continues at Medford Fuel Station Fire Site

Shortly after 8:00a on 4/20/22, the City of Medford announced an updated for South Central Ave traffic near the Pacific Pride Fuel fire site. Two lanes along South Central Avenue are now open to through traffic. They rightmost lane remains closed along S. Central Ave. to allow clean-up efforts to continue.

Oil cleanup continues after a gas station fire in Medford last week, state officials said.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday that the agency and NEXGEN Logistics had collected and disposed of most of the recoverable oil in and around Bear Creek.

The agency says more than 20,000 gallons of petroleum products – primarily lube oil – were released during the blaze April 12 that spread from the fueling station to adjacent buildings.

EPA spokesman Bill Dunbar told the Mail Tribune the estimate of spilled oil increased to over 20,000 gallons after cleanup crews inspected above-ground tanks containing gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products and determined they were “down more.”

DEQ and NEXGEN don’t have an estimate of how much oil entered Bear Creek through storm water systems and how much the fire consumed. NEXGEN operates the Pacific Pride fuel depot in Medford that burned and is paying for incident response including wildlife rescue and recovery efforts, DEQ said.

Some oiled Canada geese and mallard ducks have been taken in by International Bird Rescue for care, DEQ said. The state Department of Fish & Wildlife urges people not to approach or pick up any oiled wildlife and to instead notify trained experts.

Oil Runoff From The Fuel Fire Leaked Into Bear Creek And Found Its Way Into The Rogue River

The cities of Grants Pass, Gold Hill, and Rogue River shut down their water filtration plant in order to prevent oil from getting into their filtration system.

The Grants Pass water filtration plant closely monitors chemical compounds, such as BTEX. This is a group that includes Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene. These compounds are typically found in fuel and solvents.

“As soon as we started to see a climb in it, our best option was to shut the plant down and prevent a majority of that contaminate from getting into the system at all,” says Smith. He also mentioned Bear Creek has a small contribution to the Rogue River, usually what gets into the creek doesn’t have the biggest effect on the river. He also took into account the distance it takes for the contaminated water from Bear Creek to reach Grants Pass has a high dilution factor.

“Whatever the spike was in Bear Creek – it’s going to be in the river for a longer period of time but at a much lower level,” says Smith.

 Grants Pass Public Works Director Jason Canady says it has not affected the water supply in Grants Pass. “Most of the water providers are monitoring, we’re keeping our eyes open and our instruments online to make sure that we don’t see anything untoward,” says Canady.

He mentions the big part the Rogue Drinking Water Partnership has played in this event. This group consists of cities that source drinking water from the Rogue River. They helped notify these cities of the fire so they were able to take action and protect their drinking water.

Occasional sheens along the creek likely will be seen over the next several weeks to months, officials said.

Josephine County Elude Ends in Jackson County With Van In Ditch and Driver in Custody

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A police chase stretched across two southern Oregon counties Saturday, April 16 with police eventually forcing a renegade van into a ditch.

Sheriff’s deputies from Josephine and Jackson counties along with the Rogue River police officers pursued a white van driven Jason David McMasters, 43 of Grants Pass, for 40 minutes before forcing his vehicle off snowy roads.

The chase started at 9:30 a.m., Saturday with local police pursuing McMaster’s van on Rogue River Highway and Galls Creek Road near Gold Hill, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Police said McMasters refused to stop and pull over and was driving at unsafe speed in wintery conditions. He also rammed into a police car during the pursuit — some of which occurred on dirt and snow-covered roads, according to police.

McMasters allegedly rammed into a police vehicle at one point in the chase. Officers also utility spike strips which flattened the van’s tires.

A deputy then performed a “pursuit intervention technique”, according to the Josephine sheriff’s office. That entailed the police vehicle nudging the back corner of the van until it veered off the road into an adjacent ditch. McMasters refused to leave the van with police using bean bag projectiles to break the window of the motor vehicle, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

We want to keep you informed about COVID-19 in Oregon. Data are provisional and change frequently. For more information, including COVID-19 data by county, visit our dashboard: http://ow.ly/RnS950IN04k

Screen shot of linked dashboard shows an increase trend in cases and test positivity. Hospitalizations and vaccinations have plateaued. Please visit healthoregon.org/coronavirus for more.

Cases of COVID-19 are once again on the rise in Oregon

As people move away from pandemic restrictions this spring, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Oregon. This leaves many with questions about where we are in the pandemic and just how to behave.

BA.2 is a sub-variant of Omicron. Cases in Oregon have increased by 63% in the last two weeks. And that’s just based on what is reported.

Katie Sharff, Chief of Infectious Disease for Kaiser Permanente Northwest said, “Most individuals who are contracting COVID are now using the rapid tests at home. And those cases are not required to be reported to Public Health.”

The good news, however, is that hospitalization rates are not rising – something that did happen in prior waves of the pandemic. In addition to vaccines and boosters, access to treatment for high-risk people has lowered hospitalizations.

Officials with the Oregon Health Authority are expected to speak today on the latest on the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll update that information as it’s received.

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Oregon Woman Identified As Victim Of ‘Happy Face Killer’ Decades After Her Death

An Oregon mother was identified Tuesday as a victim of “the Happy Face Killer” nearly four decades after her body was found on the side of a California road, authorities said.

Patricia Skiple, believed to be 45, had long been known to detectives only as “Blue Pacheco” after the color of the clothing she was found in, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.

She was identified last week using genetic genealogy, the department said in a statement.

The case is one of many decades-old unsolved crimes that law enforcement agencies are clearing using a technique that combines DNA analysis, genealogical detective work and ancestry databases.

Keith Jesperson confessed to Skiple’s murder in July 2006 and pleaded guilty a year later to felony homicide, the department said.

Dubbed the “Happy Face Killer” for drawings he left on anonymous letters, Jesperson, a long-haul trucker, targeted women, torturing and killing them in the cab of his truck, according to an account from journalist Jack Olsen.

Jesperson admitted to killing seven other women over five years in six states in the 1990s and is serving four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole in Oregon.

According to the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit investigative genetic genealogy group that helped detectives solve the case, Skiple was one of three of Jesperson’s victims who had not been identified.

A trucker found Skiple’s body June 3, 1994, on the side of California State Route 152 near Gilroy, south of San Francisco, the group said on its website. She had been strangled.

In 2019, detectives with the sheriff’s office asked the group for help identifying her body, the department said.

On April 13, Skiple — known as Patsy — was identified as a mother from Colton, Oregon, a rural community southeast of Portland, the sheriff’s office said.

“Although this criminal case was adjudicated, detectives never gave up as they worked diligently throughout this investigation to provide closure for the family of Patricia Skiple,” the department said.

Oregon’s Employment Department (OED) Says That In March Unemployment Rates Declined

Oregon’s Employment Department (OED) says that in March unemployment rates declined in 35 of Oregon’s 36 counties, including Klamath County which also has Oregon’s highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March at 5.3%. 

OED says 15 counties had unemployment rates at or below the statewide rate of 3.8% in
March, while two Southern Oregon counties have the State’s highest unemployment rates from March:  Klamath County’s 5.3% and Curry County’s 5.1%. Wheeler County is Oregon’s lone county with flat unemployment, holding steady at 3.0% in March. 

OED says Benton County registered the State’s lowest unemployment rate in March at 2.9%. OED reports that employment grew at a relatively fast pace in Central Oregon (3.8%) and the Willamette Valley (3.7%) and a slower pace in Eastern Oregon (1.8%), Southern Oregon (1.1%) and along the Coast (0.4%).  It says the five Portland metro
counties had combined job growth of 4.2% from March 2021 to March 2022 for the fastest rate of any region.

In Jackson County it says total payroll employment rose by 380 jobs in March, led by leisure/hospitality and construction, up by 320 and 150 jobs respectively, while retail employment dropped by 250 during the month.  OED says during the past year payroll employment in Jackson County rose by 1,440 jobs for a gain of 1.7%.  

Jackson County has 1,480 jobs less than the March 2020 pre-pandemic total. OED says Josephine County’s total payroll employment grew by 230 jobs in March, also led by leisure/hospitality (110 jobs) and construction (40).  Retail trade added 20 jobs in Josephine County in March.  OED says during the past year Josephine County’s workforce increased by 690 jobs for a 2.6% gain, or 130 jobs below the March 2020 pre-pandemic total.

Legal Marijuana Generated $177.8 Million in Tax Revenue for Oregon

Legalized marijuana generated $3.7 billion in tax revenue in 2021 in U.S. states where recreational use of cannabis is allowed. State governments’ tax revenue haul from legal pot is up 34% from 2020, according to the Marijuana Policy Project which favors legalization.

In Oregon, legal pot sales generated $177.8 million in tax revenue in 2021, according to MPP. That is up from $158.3 million in tax money from marijuana sales in 2020 and $115.9 million in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic.

Oregon legalized recreational pot in 2016. Cannabis is taxed at 20% rate in Oregon with a 17% state levy and 3% local tax. That is compared to a 37% marijuana tax in Washington state along with a 6.5% sales levy. California has a 15% state marijuana excise taxes along with additional levies on plants, leaves, flowers and cultivation, according to the Tax Foundation.

State and local recreational marijuana levies in California can total as much as 45%. High state tax rates and regulations continue to help sustain black market and illegal marijuana sales and illegal grows which continue to dot the landscape in southern Oregon and northern California.

Former Coos Bay Police Officer Sentenced To 63 Years In Prison For Child Sex Abuse

A former Coos Bay police officer was sentenced to more than 63 years in prison after being convicted of multiple charges related to sexually abusing a child.

Terry Scott Rogers, 52, of Coos Bay, was sentenced to prison on Monday after a jury convicted him April 8, of 18 felonies and two misdemeanors.

He is not eligible for early release from prison. Rogers was a police officer for the Coos Bay Police Department for 22 years prior to being indicted and placed on administrative leave. During Monday’s sentencing he was also ordered to pay a fine of $40,000, which will go to the victim in the case.

The charges against him included first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree sex abuse, luring a minor, second-degree unlawful penetration and third-degree sex abuse. Rogers was sentenced in Coos County Circuit Court to a total of 63 years and six months in prison.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) Is Renewing A Push To Increase Taxes On The Richest Americans

On Tax Day, Monday, the Oregon Democrat joined the advocacy group Americans for Tax Fairness to promote his proposed “Billionaires Income Tax.” Wyden says, “The tax code is unfairly tilted to benefit billionaires. And, as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m pushing throughout the year to balance the tax system so it’s fair to everybody.”

According to Americans for Tax Fairness 740 billionaires got 70% richer during the two-year pandemic and much of that isn’t taxed due to loopholes in the current system. Wyden says his plan would tax the wealth earned from
investments, like stocks and loans, not just salary – a loophole he calls “Buy, Borrow and Die.”

The Senator says, “If they just paid a Capital Gains rate – because this is about evading Capital Gains Taxes – the country would raise more than $550 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. That’ll do a lot to help schools and infrastructure.”

Wyden went on to say he wants people to be successful but wants to stop the current practice allowing the richest Americans to make even more money without paying what he calls “their fair share.”

AAA Says Gas Prices Steady As Marketplace Demand Rises

Oregon’s American Automobile Association (AAA) says gasoline prices are generally steady, though consumer demand and crude oil prices are rising. It says a lowering of gas prices has slowed as crude oil prices moved above $100 per barrel while U.S. demand for gasoline increases. 

AAA says Russia’s war in Ukraine and concerns for less Russian oil on the global market are putting upward pressure on gas prices, and “For the week, the national average for regular holds steady at $4.10 a gallon. The Oregon average ticks up a penny to $4.68.”

AAA notes the national and Oregon averages are both lower than their record high gasoline-per-gallon prices set last month when the national average peaked at $4.331 and Oregon’s average peaked at $4.739 on March 11.

AAA says Oregon is one of 25 states and the District of Columbia with higher gasoline prices now than a week ago, and California’s $5.70/gallon makes it the most expensive gas state in the nation as one of three states with an average more than $5 a gallon. 

AAA shows that the cheapest gas in the nation is in Georgia ($3.71) and Arkansas ($3.72). AAA notes that while Oregon’s gasoline price is more than a week ago, Oregon is one of 42 states and the District of Columbia with lower prices now than a month ago.  It says the national average is 16 cents less and the Oregon average is four cents less than a month ago.

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Grants Pass Missing Person

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The Grants Pass Police Department is seeking assistance from the public in locating 30 year old Noah Baker.  Baker was despondent after an argument and left his residence in Grants Pass driving a silver Ford Fiesta with Oregon Plate 671MUR.  

Baker is described as a white male adult, 5’09”, 170 lbs, brown hair and blue eyes and was last seen wearing black sweats, black shirt, black shoes and a black hat.  

If anyone knows of his whereabouts or sees Baker, please call your local law enforcement agency or the Grants Pass Police at 541-450-6260. Reference case #2022-14203 Grants Pass Police Department 

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Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Asks for Public’s Help in Search For Trucker Suspect

The first real clue to come in on all the missing person cases in the area. Help Klamath Falls Oregon Sheriff Office ID this trucker. He was the last to see this woman alive and could be the key to not only solving this woman’s disappearance but a number of the hundred other women missing in PNW. IF you have any information, please call (541) 883-5130

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Have-You-Seen-Me-Southern-Oregons-Missing-People-161249961222839/posts/

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