Willamette Valley News, Thursday 5/19 – Avian Flu Detected At Alton Baker Park in Eugene, Eugene Springfield Fire Conducting Wildfire Exercises

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

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Avian Flu Detected In Geese At Alton Baker Park in Eugene

Officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Department of Agriculture say a new outbreak of avian flu has been detected in Alton Baker Park in Eugene.

Officials said that several Canada goose goslings collected from the park tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. They also suspect this detection to be a sign of a larger outbreak.

Officials said more sick and dead waterfowl have been seen at the park recently and some birds of prey tested positive for the disease on May 10. Officials said these cases are the first detections in wild birds of a new strain of bird flu.

Officials say the only confirmed cases of this strain in domesticated birds were solitary detections in Linn County and Lane County. In both cases, officials say the flocks were culled before further infection.

Despite these outbreaks, officials say this strain of avian flu poses little risk to human health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only known case in humans was a Colorado person involved in the culling of an infected poultry farm there.

The ODFW is still urging caution when dealing with wild birds that may be hosting the disease. They recommend against feeding waterfowl because it congregates birds that are vulnerable to the disease and allows it to spread between birds more easily. Officials also remind domestic flock owners to keep their birds separated from wild birds and bird hunters to always keep clean equipment and thoroughly cook their catches to kill the disease.

The ODFW and ODA ask Oregonians to report possible bird flu incidents to them. If you see a sick or dead wild bird, do not collect or handle them but contact the ODFW at 866-968-2600. If you have poultry that appears sick or has died of neurological or respiratory disease call the ODA at 503-986-4711.

Eugene Springfield Fire Conducting Wildfire Exercises Over The Next Two Weeks

Eugene Springfield Fire conducted wildfire exercises in the Thurston Hills on Wednesday, the first of a half dozen training sessions planned over the next two weeks.

“These exercises provide a hands-on training opportunity and are necessary to familiarize our crews with specific areas of our community,” according to the fire department. “At no point in time will live fire be used. Instead, responding units will simulate fire movement and spread. However, residents will intermittently see fire personnel and engines moving around similar to that of a live fire incident.”

Exercises continue next Monday at Videra Park in Eugene; Tuesday at Wild Iris Natural Area in Eugene; and Wednesday at Willow Creek and Pitchford Avenue in Eugene. Training resumes Friday, June 3, at Summit Avenue and Fairmount Boulevard in Eugene. Those exercises run 9 a.m. to noon.

A sixth session – again in the Thurston Hills of Springfield – begins at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, June 3.

“As summer approaches we know the wildland threat increases. We expect the transition to fire season to occur quickly,” Interim Fire Chief Scott Cockrum said. “Over the next few weeks, we are having our firefighters and incident commanders train in challenging areas with higher than average fuel load conditions, water source problems, and difficult access and evacuation routes. This is a good opportunity to test our plans and refresh our wildland competencies, communications plans, and evacuation procedures.”

Soromundi Lesbian Chorus of Eugene Celebrating 30 Years of Song at the Hult Center on Saturday

Thirty years after its first performance, rehearsals were strong and bags were almost packed for a tour of Northern California in March 2020 when the COVID lockdown froze everyone in place. In May 2021, COVID canceled another performance. More than two years after the canceled tour, Soromundi Lesbian Chorus of Eugene is finally able to honor its heritage in performance. Soromundi Lesbian Chorus of Eugene: 30 Years of Song — Annual Spring Concert is a celebration of the choir’s music and activism — not to mention a chance to sing out positive vibes — after being caught in the pandemic’s web.

“We’re like a true community choir,” says Lisa Hellemn, the choir’s music and artistic director. For starters, she notes that Soromundi holds no auditions. If you come, you sing. Also, Hellemn says the choir itself picks most of the music it will perform, and the result for Saturday is an eclectic mix of songs ranging from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to folk. “It’s our greatest hits,” Hellemn says. Soromundi’s roster is at 70 at this time, and Hellemn predicts that 50 singers will perform — to honor the group’s heritage in music and activism.

Soromundi Lesbian Chorus of Eugene: 30 Years of Song — Annual Spring Concert, with guests the Motet Singers and drummer Claudia Paige, is 7pm Saturday, May 21 at Soreng Theatre at the Hult Center. Tickets are $21 to $25. https://tickets.hultcenter.org/167/168

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/UBTx50Jbs7m

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

Oregon Health Authority is hosting its monthly media availability to give an update on the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, May 18.

Oregon health officials shared an update Wednesday on the state’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. State health officer and state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger highlighted the latest data and the ongoing efforts to keep Oregonians “informed and safe, including through access to vaccines, boosters, and treatments.”

Dr. Sidelinger said the risk of exposure exists in every Oregon community. Health officials said the Omicron variant BA.2 remains highly transmissible and widespread statewide.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, during the last month, daily reported cases more than doubled from a rolling seven-day average of 600 cases a day on April 20 to 1,350 reported on May 16. Hospitalizations have nearly doubled from 110 to 251 COVID-19 positive patients. According to OHSU’s modeling, Oregon’s hospitalization
rate will peak at 321 on June 10.

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November Governor Race Down to Three Women

Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek won the Democratic nomination for Oregon governor Tuesday. She will face the winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary as well as nonaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson in the fall. As a nonaffiliated candidate, Johnson did not need to run in a primary race to make the fall ballot.

“This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state. And this will be an election unlike any of us have ever seen,” Kotek said in her victory speech Tuesday night.

Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan won the GOP gubernatorial primary, maintaining a lead over former Oregon Republican Party Chair Bob Tiernan as more ballots were counted Wednesday.

Drazan said Tiernan called her Wednesday afternoon and conceded, which was confirmed by his campaign.

Incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, can’t run again due to term limits.

While Oregon hasn’t seen a GOP governor in 35 years, political experts say Republicans have an opening amid widespread discontent in the state and a possible split in votes between Kotek, a progressive, and Johnson, a former Democratic state senator.

“I think this is the best shot they’ve had in quite a few years,” Christopher McKnight Nichols, an associate professor of history at Oregon State University, said of the GOP party’s chances in November.

In the blue Pacific Northwest state, Republican voters account for about 25% of the state’s total number of registered voters. Democrats and nonaffiliated voters each amount to 34%. Which gubernatorial candidate collects nonaffiliated votes and support from undecided Democrats and Republicans will play a major factor in the November election.

“For Johnson to win she’s going to need to get Independents, Republicans and people who weren’t the low turnout Democrat voters in the primaries — so sort of lukewarm or not as observant regular voting Democrats,” Nichols said.

The only nonaffiliated governor in Oregon’s history was Julius L. Meier from 1931 to 1935.

“The biggest change Oregon can make this year is putting the people back in charge with an independent governor loyal only to Oregonians, not the political extremes,” Johnson tweeted.

The former lawmaker, whose time in the Legislature overlapped with Kotek’s, described the Democratic gubernatorial nominee as “more Kate Brown than Kate Brown” — a common comparison by opponents of Kotek, in hopes of associating her with the current governor’s historically low approval ratings.

Kotek, who wielded the House speaker’s gavel for a record nine years as the Democratic Party increased its power and pushed ambitious progressive agendas, has called Johnson a conservative.

The Portland-based Kotek, beat her biggest Democratic challenger — Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read — by a comfortable margin Tuesday night. But as someone who held power during a tumultuous time in Oregon, Kotek must convince voters she can improve the state while avoiding blame for its problems.

“I think it’s important to remember that all the Democrats in this race share a similar vision for what we want the state to be,” Kotek said in her victory speech. “We’re all going to work together to make sure we win. That a Democrat — that I win in November, because frankly there is just too much at stake.”

$3 Billion Kicker Predicted For 2024 As Oregon State Revenues Soar

Oregon economists said Wednesday that state revenues grew far more rapidly than expected over the past three months, which means taxpayers could be in line for a record kicker.

Oregon economists say state revenues grew far more rapidly than expected over the past three months, which means taxpayers could be in line for a record kicker. The forecast also showed lawmakers will likely have hundreds of millions of additional dollars to spend in future budget cycles.

The explosive growth of revenues this year has been “nothing short of shocking,” state economist Mark McMullen told Oregon lawmakers.

“We’re going to do our best to explain how we could possibly be this stupid to make this kind of forecast error,” he told the joint meeting of the House and Senate Revenue Committees.

The miscalculation means billions more money coming in the door than previously thought. But it could also trigger a $3 billion rebate known as the kicker, which would offset much of the gains. The kicker rebate sends money back to taxpayers if revenues exceed projections by more than 2%.

The kicker won’t be finalized until next year, and McMullen said the current boom cycle could very easily be over by then.

The topsy-turvy nature of world events made economists’ job even harder than usual, said. Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene.

“It’s a really tough order to try to meet this 2% target,” she said. “It’s just very difficult.”

That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner.

“I can’t even imagine how challenging it must have been with everything that’s come before this state, before this nation, and before the world,” he said.

Oregon’s political leaders urged caution, given the turbulent nature of the economy.

“Even with revenue growth, it is still important that we proceed with caution and plan for the future,” said Gov. Kate Brown in a press release.

“As of now, we have extra money, but our economists are predicting an economic downturn soon,” said Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, who leads the Senate Republican caucus. “We must budget wisely for the future.”

State economists noted that due to inflation, increased income tax revenues don’t necessarily mean Oregonians are better off.

“In the last 12 months, inflation-adjusted wages in Oregon are down three percent,” said Josh Lehner. “People are getting raises, but the average Oregonian’s purchasing power is lower today than it was a year ago.”

House Speaker Dan Rayfield, a Corvallis Democrat, was one of several legislators who noted that.

“Thanks to years of prudent budget management, Oregon has historic reserves and is in a great position to maintain services in future budget cycles,” said Rayfield. “And while many of our highest earners continue to do well, I recognize the continued challenges many Oregonians face because of ongoing inflation and believe we need to address the growing wealth divide.”

Medical Helicopter Crashes In Christmas Valley

Just before 5:30 PM on Wednesday, an Airlink medical transport helicopter was attempting to land at the airfield in Christmas Valley in Lake County when it crashed. The helicopter was flying in to retrieve a patient.

Lake County Deputy Sheriff Daniel Tague, said four people were on board when the helicopter crashed; they were taken to a hospital. The patient they were retrieving was not on board.

A viewer reached out with a photo from the scene and told NewsWatch 12 that it was windy when the crash occurred.

“There were some erratic winds. It was windy and there were some wind gusts,” Tague said, but could not confirm if the wind was a factor, noting that the FAA and NTSB would be conducting an investigation.

The four passengers were flown to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend. Their condition is unknown.

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