The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Willamette Valley Weather
Today– Mostly sunny, with a high near 59. Light and variable wind becoming west northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Thursday– Patchy fog between 8am and 9am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 60. Light north northwest wind becoming north 5 to 10 mph in the morning.
Friday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 60. Light and variable wind.
Saturday– Partly sunny, with a high near 62.
Sunday– Rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 60.
Fatal Crash on Hwy 58
Highway 58 was closed in both directions after a fatal crash early Wednesday morning near Black Canyon Campground.
The crash happened about 8 miles west of Oakridge just after 1 a.m. and involved a sedan and a semi-truck, according to an Oregon State Police trooper on scene. The driver of the sedan died in the crash.
The sedan was eastbound when the female driver drifted into oncoming traffic and was in a head-on collision with the westbound semi-truck, the OSP trooper said. The driver of the semi-truck was not injured and was cooperating with the investigation into the crash. One lane of the highway opened up about two hours after the crash.
Hospital Workers Still on Strike
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49 said the workers will be on strike until 7 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 7. Members will be on the strike line outside the hospital from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
The union includes hundreds of frontline healthcare workers including housekeepers, certified nursing assistants, MRI technicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and more.
“I am out here to advocate for my patients and to vocalize for them and their safety and unite along with my coworkers in going on strike against McKenzie-Willamette, and their unfair practice that they’ve been doing against their workers,” said Rachael Gordon, a certified nursing assistant.
McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center said Friday it will implement its contingency operations plan that will limit some services during the strike.
Eugene Man Arrested for Kidnapping
A Eugene man was arrested after a kidnapping incident in Eugene on Monday. Police said John David Winder, 50, had been watching television with a 60-year-old man when he pointed a gun at the man and threatened to kill him. Winder allegedly held the victim at gunpoint for about 30 minutes.
Officers responded to the apartment on the 1400 block of Bailey Hill Road at about 7 p.m. and tried to get Winder to put down his gun and come out, police said. The man reportedly refused the dispatcher’s requests but later told authorities he had disassembled the gun and would come outside.
Winder was taken into custody, and officers went inside the apartment and found the victim on a couch. The man was not hurt.
Police said officers found the gun, which had been separated from the magazine, but it had a round in the chamber.
Winder faces charges of unlawful use of a weapon and first-degree kidnapping.
Domestic Violence Incident Leads to One Person Being Shot in Marcola
On 10/05/21 at approximately 4:21pm the Lane County Sheriff’s Office received the report of a domestic dispute resulting on one person being shot in the 40000 blk of Log Creek Rd. north of Marcola. Deputies along with Troopers from the Oregon State Police responded.
Upon their arrival authorities located 42 year old Jesse Yoakum with a gunshot wound to his shoulder. A 35 year old female was also contacted inside of the residence. Investigation revealed that Yoakum had strangled the female and attempted to hit her with a bat. She armed herself with a handgun and shot the male one time, striking him in the shoulder.
Yoakum was transported to an area hospital for treatment and is now in custody for charges including Strangulation, Menacing and Assault IV. Lane Co. Sheriff’s Office LCSO# 21-5658
Oregon reports 1,650 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 44 new deaths
There are 44 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,867. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,650 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 336,598.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (10), Benton (14), Clackamas (119), Clatsop (8), Columbia (17), Coos (30), Crook (55), Curry (11), Deschutes (100), Douglas (68), Grant (2), Harney (16), Hood River (7), Jackson (81), Jefferson (5), Josephine (7), Klamath (113), Lake (19), Lane (132), Lincoln (8), Linn (71), Malheur (70), Marion (154), Morrow (7), Multnomah (126), Polk (49), Sherman (3), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (110), Union (10), Wallowa (2), Wasco (28), Washington (131), Wheeler (3) and Yamhill (61).
Coos Forest Protective Association ends fire season Oct. 6 in Coos and Curry counties
The Coos Forest Protective Association is declaring an end to their local fire season and dropping industrial fire precaution restrictions starting Wednesday, Oct. 6. The Association provides fire protection on private and state forestland in Curry and Coos counties.
Oct. 6 is the same day that the Douglas Forest Protective Association based in Roseburg ends fire season for lands it protects in Douglas County.
Recent rains in both districts have reduced fire danger to low as have shorter day lengths and cooler temperatures. District officials caution that people should still exercise care when planning any outdoor burning as fires can escape control even outside of fire season.
Although fire danger levels have dropped around most of western Oregon, fire season remains in effect in the Southwest Oregon ODF district covering Josephine and Jackson counties, and in districts east of the Cascades pending further improvement in their local fire-risk conditions.
Tuesday was officially the last day of the Western Oregon fire season.
This area includes the West Oregon, Western Lane, and South Cascade districts of the Oregon Department of Forestry. They cover Lane, Benton, Lincoln, and Polk counties and the southern part of Linn and Yamhill counties.
With the end of fire season, industrial fire precautions and restrictions ended on October 5.
The North Cascade and Northwest Oregon districts, which includes the Portland metro, ended their fire season back on October 1.
District officials say recent rain has helped suppress the fire danger, though people are still encouraged to be careful when burning anything outdoors. Wildfires can still happen outside of fire season.
Much of Eastern Oregon is still in fire season.
Oregon Still Processing Rent Assistance Applications but Most Renters Still Waiting for Aid
Oregon has made a significant effort in tackling a massive rent assistance backlog over the last month. Hopefully enough to persuade the federal government that the state should keep its funding for the program, and perhaps receive more.
But some Oregon counties that received rent assistance directly from the federal government still lag expectations. Those counties may have to return a portion of their funding, even as thousands of renters still report that they need the funds to stave off evictions.
And despite the state’s progress, renters who have applied for help could lose their eviction protections before the money arrives.
Oregon received $204 million from the federal government for its latest rent assistance program. It had paid out or allocated about 71% of those funds as of Sept. 30 when factoring in administrative costs, according to the state. Roughly, 37% of the available money has actually reached landlords on behalf of renters.
Based on new guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury released Monday, that should be enough for the state to retain the entirety of its funding. The Treasury Department said states, counties and cities that had not paid out at least 30% of their federal funds and allocated at least 65% of their money by Sept. 30, when factoring in administrative costs, could be forced to return funding.
States that had allocated at least 65% of their funds by Sept. 30 can begin requesting more money from the federal government this month — something Oregon plans to do.
Oregon has already been granted another $156 million from the federal government for a new round of rent assistance this fall. Margaret Salazar, executive director for Oregon Housing and Community Services, the state agency overseeing the rent assistance programs, said that money could be gone within the next month and a half if the state continues to see the same rate of applications that it has seen in recent weeks.
“The program funds are rapidly depleting,” Salazar said. “If we continue to see 1,000 to 2,000 new applications each week, funds will be fully requested in 3-6 weeks.”
Oregon has struggled to get rent assistance dollars out the door since it opened applications for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program in May due to issues with a new state software program and unprecedented demand. But the state has been working with its local partners and an outside vendor, Public Partnerships LLC, to speed up the processing of applications in recent weeks. Those efforts seem to be working.
Only seven states in the country had allocated or paid out a larger percentage of their federal rent assistance dollars than Oregon as of Oct. 4, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s a massive improvement from just two and a half weeks ago when Oregon ranked 26th in the country based on the percentage of rent assistance money it had allocated.
But while Oregon’s recent rental assistance push should prevent it from losing federal funding, some counties that received federal rent assistance funds have been much slower at getting money out the door.
Marion County received $10.4 million from the federal government this spring to distribute to renters. The county hadn’t paid out any of those funds as of Aug. 31, according to U.S. Treasury.
Chad Ball, a policy analyst in the Marion County Board of Commissioners Office, said the county believed it would be able to use the state software system for the county program, but that didn’t end up being possible. Ultimately, the county hired an outside vendor to administer its program, which delayed the program until Aug. 1.
As of Sept. 29, Marion County had received requests for a total of $1.4 million in rent assistance and had paid out or allocated $574,800, Ball said. That would constitute about 6% of the funds allocated by the federal government, when factoring in administrative costs – nowhere close to the 65% benchmark set by U.S. Treasury.
While the state and counties try to get rent assistance money out the door, some renters are already suffering the effects of the slow rollout of rent assistance programs.
State lawmakers approved a stopgap measure this spring protecting renters from eviction for 60 days after they apply for rent assistance and notify their landlords. Multnomah County extended the window to 90 days, as did Washington County for unincorporated communities.
Eviction filings have increased significantly since Oregon’s moratorium on evictions expired at the end of June. There were 361 eviction filings for nonpayment across the state in July, 463 in August and 473 in September, according to the Oregon Law Center. Those numbers don’t include renters who vacate their homes before their landlords can take them to court.
Becky Straus, an attorney for the Oregon Law Center, told lawmakers Monday that the nonprofit is starting to now see more eviction filings in cases where renters have lost their eviction protections. She said she recently was able to work with the state to get a client’s rent assistance application expedited after the client lost her 60-day protection but said other renters may not be as lucky.
Even with improvements in processing speeds at the state level, Salazar told lawmakers Monday that it could take 10 to 13 weeks before the state no longer has rent assistance applications in its system that have been sitting for longer than 60 days.
Alison McIntosh, policy director for the Oregon Housing Alliance, which advocates for renters, said that backlog is putting thousands of renters at risk of losing their homes. If the state can’t act more quickly to process those applications, McIntosh said lawmakers or Gov. Kate Brown need to step in to extend eviction protections.
“All of the work we have done throughout the pandemic to maintain housing stability is worthless if we cannot protect people’s housing stability while they wait for rent assistance and instead leave renting families out in the cold,” McIntosh said.
Oregon’s Counties Worry Covid Vaccine Mandate Will Cause Staffing Shortages
Fearing the state’s vaccination deadline will cause teachers, health care workers and first responders to quit in droves, cities and counties are declaring emergencies. State officials say they can’t step in to help unless local governments are overwhelmed.
Rural counties that fear first responders will quit in bulk ahead of a mid-October vaccine mandate need to come up with their own solutions instead of relying on the state, according to state officials.
Several rural counties have already declared emergencies based on their conclusion that firefighters, paramedics, teachers and health care workers will resign by Oct. 18 instead of getting vaccinated for COVID-19.
The state Office of Emergency Management maintains that cities and counties are responsible under law to provide emergency services for their citizens, and the state should only step in when local governments are overwhelmed. Spokeswoman Chris Crabb wrote in an email that the office will evaluate requests for help from local governments, but they should try first to solve their own problems.
“We expect divisions of local government to maintain their statutory responsibilities, initiate continuity of operations plans that address staffing shortfalls and the prioritization of critical services, and leverage resources available through mutual aid and the private sector before elevating requests for assistance to the state,” Crabb wrote.
If cities or counties become overwhelmed, they’ll reach out to the agency’s Oregon Emergency Response System to request state or federal assistance, she said. The agency prioritizes requests related to saving lives.
Gov. Kate Brown already deployed hundreds of Oregon National Guard members to assist hospitals with COVID-19 surges in the late summer, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be on hand to assist with any staffing shortages caused by vaccine mandates.
Charles Boyle, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said in an emailed statement that Brown’s mandate responds to a public health crisis and that outbreaks are already disrupting the workforce. The vaccine requirements aim to ensure as many Oregonians as possible are vaccinated, he said.
“If critical first responders are quarantined or hospitalized for COVID-19, who will be left to respond to emergencies in rural communities?” Boyle asked.
Brown’s orders covered health care workers, school staff and state employees, and the Oregon Health Authority interpreted the mandate as likely not applying to city police officers or county sheriff’s deputies. While police officers may have medical training, providing medical care likely isn’t a fundamental part of their job and therefore the mandate doesn’t apply, the agency determined.
State troopers, however, are state employees and subject to a vaccine mandate. Nearly three dozen officers are now suing Brown over the vaccine mandate, with court arguments set to begin in early October.
Oregon State Police Capt. Stephanie Bigman, an agency spokeswoman, said the agency would rely on its Emergency Operations Plan to deal with any large loss of troopers. She declined to share a copy of that plan without a public records request that typically would take several weeks to process.
Oregon and Nevada Tribes Urge Judge Again to Block Lithium Mine at Oregon Border
Tribal lawyers are asking a U.S. judge in Nevada to reconsider an earlier refusal to block digging at a proposed lithium mine near the Oregon line where they say newly uncovered evidence proves it was the sacred site of a massacre of dozens of Native Americans in 1865.
The new motion filed in federal court in Reno includes an 1865 newspaper report and two eyewitness accounts of how at least 31 Paiute men, women and children were “murdered by federal soldiers” at Thacker Pass.
The accounts were in an autobiography first published in 1929 by a well-known American labor organizer, Bill Haywood. One was from a cavalry volunteer who participated in the slaughter and the other by a tribal member who survived it.
Nevada Lithium Corp.’s construction is set to begin early next year at what would be the largest lithium mine in the nation and the biggest open pit lithium mine in the world.
Lithium is a key component in electric vehicle batteries. Demand for the mineral is expected to triple over the next five years.
The only significant lithium mine now operating in the U.S. is in Nevada. Another planned halfway between Reno and Las Vegas by Ioneer Ltd. also faces legal challenges from environmentalists fighting to protect a rare desert wildflower that the Fish and Wildlife Service formally proposed last week to be listed as an endangered species.
Judge Miranda Du says she will hold a full evidentiary hearing on the merits of the case before any construction begins about 230 miles northeast of Reno.
But in recent months she has denied requests by environmentalists and tribes to prevent the Bureau of Land Management in the meantime from digging trenches for an archaeological survey that Lithium Nevada must complete before moving forward.
The tribes maintain 1,000 cultural resources and 57 properties there are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. They say the bureau has failed to meet federal requirements it formally consult with the tribes on a government-to-government basis about the preparation of a historical properties plan.
The tribes said in the Friday court filing that the new evidence warrants a fresh review after Du ruled Sept. 6 the government field notes dating to 1868 that they submitted in their earlier plea for injunctive relief “do not show a massacre happened within the project area.”
Lawyers for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Burns Paiute Tribe of Oregon stated:
“The proximity of the Indian Lodgings in the project area, combined with the intervening plaintiffs’ oral histories describing how Paiute people, being hunted by the US Cavalry, hid in Thacker Pass, and especially the new accounts of the massacre make it very likely that the Sept. 12, 1865 massacre happened, at least partially, within the project area.”
The Owyhee Avalanche article cited in the Sept. 30, 1865, edition under the headline “Indian Fight in Queen River Valley” says a Capt. Payne and Lt. Littlefield of the 1st Nevada Cavalry had camped with 19 volunteers along Willow Creek in the area near Thacker Pass.
“A charge was ordered and each officer and man went for scalps, and fought the scattering devils over several miles of ground for three hours, in which time all were killed that could be found,” the story said.
The article said the troops located 31 dead, noting “more must have been kill (sic) and died from their wounds, as a strict search was not made and the extent of the battlefield so great.”
Haywood wrote in “The Autobiography of Big Bill Haywood” that he was told the Paiutes, including “squaws and little children” had been sleeping in “wickiups” — small huts also referred to as wigwams — and were “shot down before they came to their senses.”
Oregon Missing Persons