Rogue Valley News, Tuesday 12/20 – ODOT Warns Freezing Rain Causing Numerous Crashes In SW Oregon, As White City Sheriff’s Deputies Make Graffiti Arrests They Discover Concealed Guns and Drugs

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, December 20, 2022 

Rogue Valley Weather

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY ISSUED: 4:57 AM DEC. 20, 2022 – NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM PST THIS AFTERNOON...

* WHAT...Freezing could create a thin layer of ice.

* WHERE...Valleys of Jackson and Josephine County.

* WHEN...From 10 AM to 1 PM PST Tuesday.

* IMPACTS...Ice will create slippery and hazardous road conditions, which may impact the morning commute. This could also create a slip hazard on walkways.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...The potential for ice development will last until the air temperature warms above freezing. This will take at least until 10 AM, but pockets of cold air may retain any ice beyond then.

* View the hazard area in detail at https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/map/?wfo=mfr

ODOT Warns Freezing Rain Causing Numerous Crashes In SW Oregon

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is cautioning drivers in southwest Oregon to consider staying off the roads Tuesday morning, as freezing rain in the area is causing crashes.

According to ODOT, “there are reports of numerous crashes and spin-outs, even on roadways treated with deicer.  Watch for slick conditions on bridges, overpasses and curves.”

ODOT says to expect winter driving conditions, slow down and give yourself extra time for travel. Go to TripCheck.com for more information.

As White City Sheriff’s Deputies Make Graffiti Arrests They Discover Concealed Guns and Drugs

WHITE CITY, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies made multiple arrests in White City this month that started as graffiti vandalism complaints and ended with arrests for criminal mischief, probation violation, illegal handguns, and drugs. JCSO White City Community Action Team (CAT) arrested four suspects in two separate incidents the week of December 5th. 

The first arrests came Tuesday, December 6 when dispatch received a report of graffiti in progress around 12:50 a.m. on the White City bike path near the 7700 block of Harlan Drive.

The suspects fled the area in a grey sedan and deputies located and intercepted the vehicle on Antelope Road and initiated a traffic stop. Deputies spotted an unsecured pistol on the floorboard behind the passenger seat as well as multiple spray paint cans scattered throughout the passenger compartment. Two of the suspects, Darian Russel Bradd, 18, and Raul Alonzo Avina, 20, both of Central Point, were arrested for second-degree criminal mischief. The third suspect, Andrew Michael Boortz, 22, of Medford, was found to have an illegally concealed handgun on his person as well as Oxycodone. He was charged with two-counts of unlawful carrying or concealing of a firearm, unlawful possession of Oxycodone, and second-degree criminal mischief. 

The next arrest was Thursday, December 8 when a White City JCSO deputy responded to a call for service around 12:15 p.m. on Avenue C and 29th Street. Dispatch received a report of two males posing in front of graffiti and taking pictures with a black handgun. Upon further investigation, the deputy discovered the identity of one of the suspects, a 17-year-old juvenile on probation and under house arrest. JCSO deputies went to his residence and located the juvenile and firearm. The juvenile was arrested for the probation violation and charges of felon in possession of a firearm and unlawfully purchasing a firearm were recommended to the Jackson County District Attorney’s office. The suspect was transported to the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center on the probation detainer. The additional suspect in the photo was identified as a 15-year-old juvenile. 

JCSO strives to improve the livability of White City. If you see any criminal activity involving graffiti vandalism, please call the dispatch non-emergency line at (541) 776-7206.

Series of Earthquakes this Morning in Humboldt County California with the strongest a 6.4 felt by people across South West Oregon

Rogue Valley’s Annual Menorah Lighting Heads to Medford Tonight

The celebration is hosted by the Chabad Jewish Center. A ten-foot menorah was lit to begin the eight-day holiday. Hanukkah is a Jewish festival starting on December 18 until December 26.

May be an image of text that says 'B"H CHANUKAH CELEBRATION PUBLIC MENORAH LIGHTING Ashland Downtown Plaza Sundays, Dec. 18 & 25 4:00pm FREE ADMISSION- LIGHTING A 10 FOOT MENORAH LATKES & DONUTS LIVE MUSIC- GELT COIN DROP Grants Pass Riverside Park Monday, Dec. 19 4:00pm WW.CHABADOFASHLAND.ORG Chabad ofSoutherOregn Medford Vogel Plaza Tuesday, Dec. 20 @ 4:30'

Director of the Chabad Jewish Center, Rabbi Avi Zwievel said with community support, this is one tradition that is brought to the Rogue Valley. “It’s become an annual tradition now,” says Zwievel. “People come and gather from all over the valley to celebrate as we usher in the holiday of Hanukkah.”

The celebration included traditional Hanukkah food, live music, and droppings of chocolate coins for children to pick up. Zwievel said celebrating this tradition, can bring a positive message to others.

Chabad of Ashland began its celebration of Hanukkah on December 18th with the lighting of the menorah, in downtown Ashland. The Ashland Plaza was packed with people celebrating the beginning of Hanukkah.

The celebration ended with the lighting of the ten-foot-tall menorah, at sundown, signaling the start of the eight-day holiday.

We light the menorah every night, symbolizing the importance of light over darkness, freedom over oppression, and that message is so relevant today, we all need that message of hope. We could all be that menorah lighting the candle,” said Avi Zwiebel, Rabbi with the Chabad Jewish Center.

The celebration continued Monday 12/19 with a lighting in Grants Pass’ Riverside Park at 4pm.

Then the lighting will come to Medford’s Vogel Plaza on Tuesday December 20th at 4:30. And to wrap things up, the lighting will return to Ashland’s Plaza on December 25th at 4pm.

Detectives Investigating Shooting in Central Point

JCSO Case 22-7328 — Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) Criminal Investigations Division (CID) detectives are investigating a shooting that occurred Sunday night around 11:22 p.m. near the intersection of Foley Lane and Old Stage Road in rural Central Point. T

There is no one in custody at this time but all parties are cooperating with the investigation. The victim is in stable condition at a local hospital and is recovering. JCSO CID detectives’ investigation is ongoing with assistance from the Jackson County District Attorney’s office. There is no further information available at this time. 

OSP Central Point participating in a Saturation Patrol with Medford PD and Jackson County SO-Jackson County

Holiday Travel is upon us & the Oregon State Police is encouraging safe travel this holiday season. Our Area Commands consider locations, days of the week, and times of day when serious injury/fatal crashes occur around the state while conducting focused Saturation Patrols. 

The Oregon State Police’s Central Point Office, alongside the Medford Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, is participating in a Saturation Patrol on December 23, 2023, between the hours of 12:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M. The coverage area, will be primarily Highway 62 from the Big X intersection (Hwy 62, Hwy 238, Hwy 99), within the city limits of Medford to White City, including the Rogue Valley Expressway and Highway 62B (Crater Lake Highway).        

This joint operation will focus on the enforcement of OSP’s Fatal 5- Speed, Occupant Safety, Lane Usage, Impaired Driving, and Distracted Driving. These categories of traffic violations have been proven to be the primary contributors to serious injury/fatal crashes.

With this and all saturation patrols, our goal is the public’s safety! 

OSP knows our presence will alert drivers to stop the dangerous driving behaviors they might be engaging in.

The Oregon State Police will have extra patrols, continuing through the new year, focusing on the Fatal 5 with a specific emphasis on impaired driving.

Ashland Community Hospital to Close ICU

The Asante Ashland Community Hospital announced its four-bed ICU will be closing by the end of the year.

Historically, the small four-bed ICU hasn’t seen a lot of patients. The Asante board of directors decided to close the department a few months ago, as part of the provider’s efforts to recover from the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic.

“We may have one or two critical care patients a week,” said Dr. Steven Hersch, administrator and vice president of medical affairs at the hospital.

Hersch said the ICU was used more often during the Delta surge of the COVID pandemic, but since then its frequently closed because it hasn’t seen many patients.

“That caused us to have difficulty recruiting and retaining nurses and eliminating contract labor,” Hersch said. “It contributed to a significant operating loss in the ICU.” The ICU was costing Asante $1.5 million dollars annually, Hersch said.

Because only one or two patients may come to the ICU in a week, the nurses haven’t gotten as much real-world experience as the hospital would like. All of the nurses will be relocated to other roles at Asante, Hersh said.

“They may help us by taking on other roles in the hospital,” Hersch said. “We may have and continue to have critical care outreach nurses – these are critical care trained nurses – who help support the staff on the med surge ward, in the emergency room, in the recovery area in providing extra resources.”

The emergency department in Ashland will remain open, and Hersch says if a patient is in need of critical care they already have plans to transfer them to Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford or Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass.

“The intensive care doctors in those units have been helping us via telehealth take care of our ICU patients,” he said. “And we would end up transferring our sickest of sick ICU patients to those facilities for their in-person intensive unit care.”

Hersch said the nurses at those hospitals have more consistent experience in taking care of critical patients. The last day for the Ashland ICU is officially December 31st, but Hersch says it could close earlier than that if there are no patients.

Oregon DEQ To Ban Sales Of New Gas-Powered Passenger Cars By 2035

Policymakers for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Monday approved a rule that prohibits the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in Oregon by 2035.

The effort comes as Oregon plans to cut climate-warming emissions by 50% by 2035 and by 90% by 2050. The transportation sector accounts for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

The rule is based on vehicle emission standards California adopted in August. The standards require car manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles — electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles — as part of their total sales, starting with 35% in 2026 and increasing to 100% by 2035.

The rule allows for hybrid vehicle sales, which run primarily on electricity but can run on gas. The rule does not affect cars already on the road and used gas-powered cars will continue to be available for sale within the state.

The new rule also requires manufacturers to increase access to affordable zero-emission vehicles to low-income households and communities of color. It offers incentives to manufacturers to sell electric cars to community car share programs, to produce lower-cost zero-emission cars and to direct used electric cars to dealerships participating in low-income assistance programs.

The new requirements will help Oregon meet its goals, adopted by the Legislature in 2019, of at least 90% of new vehicles sold annually to be zero emission by 2035. Those goals came without consequences, while the newly adopted rule includes penalties to manufacturers for non-compliance.

“By creating a regulatory certainty for manufacturers, EV charging providers and utilities, it sets a clear path forward for the future of zero-emission passenger cars and trucks in Oregon,” said Rachel Sakata, senior air quality planner at the Department of Environmental Quality.

The Environmental Quality Commission received over 700 comments on the rule with 500 in support, Sakata said.

Oregonians who spoke out against the rule during the public comment period cited the expense of electric cars and lack of charging stations.

Environmental Quality Commissioner Greg Addington, who voted against the rule adoption, acknowledged many Oregonians, especially in rural areas, do not support the rule and do not have access to electric vehicle charging.

“There are a lot of people in the state who don’t get where this is going,” Addington said.

Sakata said the new standard will expand the market for new and used zero emission vehicles and bring down prices. She also said the upfront costs are offset by decreased operations and maintenance costs.

Oregon has over 2,000 public and private electric vehicle chargers across the state, with more being built.

ODOT reopens westbound I-84. Eastbound still closed after fatal crash east of Corbett

UPDATE 9:15 a.m. Westbound lanes of I-84 have reopened. Eastbound lanes remain closed for crash investigation and clean up.

A crash has blocked all eastbound lanes of I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge near Corbett.Image courtesy of Corbett Fire

Winter weather in the Columbia River Gorge has created icy road conditions and caused a fatal crash on Interstate 84 near Corbett early Tuesday.

The Oregon Department of Transportation closed the freeway to all travel between Hood River and Troutdale at about 5:30 a.m. The Corbett Fire Department reported a multi-vehicle crash including several semis blocking the interstate at milepost 23. Icy conditions were reported. Multnomah County deputies are investigating a fatal crash near Dalton Point that involved multiple vehicles and semi-trucks. Other crashes were reported east of Corbett. The road may be closed for several hours.

Former Portland Area Non-Profit Director Pleads Guilty to Stealing Covid Relief Funds

PORTLAND, Ore.—A former Portland area non-profit director pleaded guilty today for stealing more than $320,000 in federal funds intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Theodore Johnson, 62, a Portland resident, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud.

According to court documents, in February 2017, Johnson incorporated and began serving as the director of operations for Ten Penny International Housing Foundation, an Oregon-based non-profit organization. After Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to American employers suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns, Johnson saw an opportunity to fraudulently obtain government funds on Ten Penny’s behalf.

In early March 2021, Johnson submitted his first of three Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications, falsely claiming Ten Penny employed 16 people and had an average monthly payroll of more than $57,000. To support his application, Johnson submitted fraudulent tax documents and created an electronic counterfeit IRS stamp to make it appear as though a form had been received by the IRS. Based on these false claims, Northeast Bank issued a PPP loan worth more than $143,000 to Ten Penny.

Two months later, in May 2021, Johnson submitted two more fraudulent PPP loan applications. In these applications, he again falsely claimed Ten Penny employed 16 people and had an average monthly payroll of at least $50,000. Johnson further falsely claimed to have used the entirety of his first PPP loan for eligible expenses. As a result, Central Willamette Credit Union issued Johnson a second PPP loan worth more than $130,000.

In addition to his three fraudulent PPP loan applications, Johnson submitted a fraudulent Oregon Cares Fund application on behalf of Ten Penny and received an additional $34,975.

On October 31, 2022, Johnson was charged by criminal information with one count of bank fraud.

Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five years’ supervised release. He will be sentenced on March 16, 2023, before U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon.

As part of his plea agreement, Johnson has agreed to pay more than $321,000 in restitution to Northeast Bank, Central Willamette Credit Union, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Oregon Department of Administrative Services.

This case was investigated by the SBA Office of Inspector General and U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). It is being prosecuted by Meredith D.M. Bateman, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Study Finds Lots Of Whales And Marine Life In Offshore Wind Farm Zones Along West Coast

The federal government has commissioned Oregon State University to look into the possible impacts of offshore wind farms on marine wildlife. In the first year of this four-year project, the researchers spotted sizable numbers of seabirds and whales — including the largest animal on Earth — in the Oregon and Northern California areas that could one day host floating wind farms.

The OSU researchers are taking to the sea, to the air and listening underwater to document which seabirds, whales and dolphins forage in and around the parcels put up for lease by the Interior Department for offshore wind farm development.

“The (continental) shelf and the slope have high abundance and high density of marine mammals and seabirds,” reported OSU Marine Mammal Institute director Lisa Ballance after the first two of seven planned research cruises were in the books.

“There are quite a lot of large whales out there, quite a number,” said Ballance, who serves as principal investigator on the project. “Humpbacks are quite abundant. Increasingly, blue whales are quite abundant. We also see a whale that is less familiar to most people called a sei whale. It looks a lot like a blue whale, not quite as big but a very large animal.”

Blue whales, sei whales, as well as some sub-populations of humpbacks are federally-listed as endangered. The Pacific Northwest’s critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales also travel along the outer coast seasonally.

The array of seabirds spotted by the researchers included threatened marbled murrelets along with impressive long-distance travelers such as black-footed albatrosses and Laysan albatrosses. Ballance reserved special admiration for the abundant sooty shearwaters, a seasonal visitor to Pacific Northwest waters that migrate all the way from breeding colonies near New Zealand.

Ballance said her team needs to do a lot more analysis before she would consider making any statements about whether anchoring massive floating wind turbines amid this maritime abundance would create problems.

A spokeswoman for German multinational energy company RWE Renewables, the winning bidder for one of the Northern California offshore leases, said it was still very early in the site development process. For that reason, the company declined Monday to comment on the initial wildlife survey results.

Early on, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management identified the risk of whale entanglements in floating platform moorings and cabling as a concern. The agency contracted with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create a computer simulation of whale interactions with different wind farm configurations, the results of which have not yet been published.

“It is important to note that a federal offshore wind lease only grants a company the exclusive right to submit plans to BOEM for activities on their lease. It does not grant approval for the construction of an offshore wind facility,” BOEM public affairs officer John Romero said in an email Saturday.

Earlier this month, the federal treasury reaped $757 million from auctioning leases to five patches of ocean off Morro Bay and Humboldt County, California. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management tentatively plans to auction two more leases off of Coos Bay and Brookings, Oregon, sometime in the second half of 2023. The lease areas begin around 14 miles off the coastline and extend to 46 to 65 miles offshore. This means the wind farms should be out of sight from shore on all but the clearest days.

121922TB_Oregon-offshore-wind-lease-zones.jpg
Expanses of ocean near Coos Bay (navy blue) and Brookings (sky blue) are the federal government’s
top candidates for Oregon offshore wind energy leases. Bureau Of Ocean Energy Management

The OSU study is just one of more than a dozen commissioned by federal agencies to scope out the environmental, economic and social changes that large-scale renewable energy development might bring to the Pacific Coast. The objective, as laid out by the U.S. Department of Energy last year, is to “inform offshore wind siting, permitting and help protect wildlife and fisheries as offshore wind deployment increases.”

The $2 million grant to the OSU-led team piggybacks on other projects already underway by the university’s Marine Mammal Institute and with outside collaborators. In addition to visual surveys from research ships, one scientist is regularly tagging along with Coast Guard helicopter crews to survey from the air. Ballance said the project will also incorporate two years worth of undersea hydrophone recordings now deployed, satellite tracking tags attached to a small number of blue whales and another prong to collect flight height info on seabirds to assess the likelihood of collisions with turbine blades.

Even though wind leasing is well underway, the final report and maps produced by the OSU researchers are not due to be delivered until mid-2026. But a permitting timeline provided by BOEM suggests the Oregon and California floating offshore wind farms will undergo an extraordinarily long review process. The agency said site assessment and surveys could take five to six years. Further technical and formal environmental reviews, public comment, plus construction and operations permitting adds another two to four years.

That permitting timeline aligns with RWE Renewables’ estimate that its California floating wind farm will begin operations by the mid-2030s.

The continental shelf along the Pacific Northwest coast drops away too fast to fix wind turbine towers to the seafloor, as is done along the U.S. East Coast and in northern Europe. That means the Biden administration and state goals to achieve significant volumes of clean electricity generation from offshore wind in the next decade will need to rely on floating turbines that are still undergoing refinement. Even though building offshore will be more expensive and complicated, it attracts energy companies because of the ability to capture stronger and more consistent winds with bigger turbine blades than are typically available on land.

There are only four utility-scale floating wind farms in operation worldwide at present — in Portugal, Scotland and Norway. None of those projects are in waters as deep as contemplated off Oregon. The proposed lease areas off of Coos Bay, Gold Beach and Brookings are 400 feet deep at their shallowest and the water depths easily exceed 1,000 feet as you move further offshore.

Oregon Department of Emergency Management Warning

Enjoy the holidays safely with fire prevention:

🕯️ Keep candles 12 inches away from other objects.

🕯️ Use a sturdy candle holder that won’t tip over.

🕯️ Don’t leave burning candles unattended. Blow them out before leaving or going to bed.

🕯️ Consider using flameless, battery-operated candles.

Medical Examiner Seeks Public Help to Identify Woman Found In Portland

The Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office is asking for the public’s help identifying the body of a woman who died Nov. 28 in Portland.

The Medical Examiner describes the woman as white, between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. They say she also was about 5′4″ tall, weighing 139 pounds. She had medium to long brown hair with brown eyes.

The woman also had pierced ears, with scars on both forearms and the following tattoos:

  • Right wrist: Faith Hope Love
  • Left wrist: Amirah
  • Right Shoulder: Black and red butterfly

Anyone with information about the woman is asked to call the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office at (503) 988-0055 and reference case number #MU-221128-812.

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