Willamette Valley News, Wednesday 9/21 – Deputies Serve Search Warrant On Large Illegal Marijuana Manufacturing Operation Near Junction City, Cedar Creek Fire Update

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, September 21, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Deputies Serve Search Warrant On Large Illegal Marijuana Manufacturing Operation Near Junction City

LCSO Case #22-4888 – Search Warrant Served on Illegal Marijuana Operation south of Junction City

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office recently received a tip regarding a large-scale illegal marijuana grow operation south of Junction City.  Lane County Sheriff’s Deputies were granted a warrant to search the involved property in the 30000 blk of Maple Ln. 

Authorities executed the warrant on 09/15/22 and seized approximately 8,000 illegal marijuana plants, 4,822 pounds of dried marijuana, processed concentrated marijuana products known as ‘BHO’ or ‘Butane Honey Oil’, nearly $50,000 in cash and $32,000 in silver.  Authorities also seized a luxury vehicle that was believed to have been purchased using funds from the illegal operation.   

This illegal operation was located directly adjacent to the Willamette River. Included in the operation were numerous unpermitted structures, a swimming pool, and two separate unpermitted wells, all within the flood plain,  which can have negative impacts on the environment when water levels rise. 

A typical marijuana plant uses approximately 1.5 gallons of water per day. A marijuana grow of this size could  be illegally consuming approximately 12,000 gallons of water each day or 1,080,000 gallons over a 90-day period.    

The extent of the environmental impact from this illegal operation remains under investigation by Lane County Code Compliance officials and the Oregon State Watermaster’s Office, who were present during the execution of the search warrant. 

50 year old Kevin John O’Donnell was issued citations in lieu of custody for Unlawful Manufacturing of Cannabinoid / Marijuana Items, and Unlawful Possession of Marijuana.

This investigation was conducted by personnel funded through a grant from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.  In 2018 and again in 2022, the Oregon State Legislature made funds available to local law enforcement agencies for the specific purpose of investigating these large-scale illegal marijuana manufacturing operations, including the health and safety impacts on the community.  These include unsafe, unregulated working conditions, water stolen from the community, trash dumped on public lands, and dangerous chemicals used improperly. Butane Hash Oil (BHO) labs use volatile chemicals that create a significant explosion and fire hazard to anyone in the vicinity. Dangerous wiring and overloaded electrical systems also pose a significant fire risk..

Without this funding, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office would not have the resources needed to investigate and stop these operations, including the resulting serious impact on our environment and communities. 

The Cedar Creek Fire added just a few hundred acres Monday, as cooler, wetter weather aids firefighting efforts.

Aerial view of the western edge of the Cedar Creek Fire
Aerial View – Western Edge of the Fire

Tuesday, the lightning-caused fire is a reported size of 113,637 acres and 11% containment.
Fire officials report “The West Zone of the fire is currently burning with low intensity creeping, and smoldering. Fire spread is occurring in areas with deep, dry litter and heavy fuels. The East Zone is experiencing fire behavior including creeping, smoldering, and single-tree torching.

Fire growth is minimal. Sheltered heat may reemerge after the rain if fuels continue to be dry enough.” Heavy smoke and fog Monday limited visibility for aerial ignitions, which have been a crucial element of the firefighting effort to
reduce fuels between containment lines and the active fire. Mop up operations are along previous firing operations on the western edge of the fire are taking place.

The wetter weather brings with it concerns of rockslide and tree fall safety hazards for fire crews. Dead or fire weakened snags can fall and compromise established firelines. Officials with the U.S. Forest Service say “Firefighters will continue cutting snags and extinguishing hot spots to secure the fire line where previous burning operations occurred.

If the weather clears and conditions allow, crews are poised to take advantage of windows of opportunity for continued burning operations.” Fire officials caution that though the wet weather forecasted in the coming days does slow fire growth, the amount expected is not enough to end fire season.

Traffic Restricted During UO Residence Hall Move-In This Week

Last year’s move in created traffic problems. This year the Campus Planning and Facilities Management has updated its running list of closures and other activities that affect travel, access and planning on campus.

The department broadcasts important campus notifications in a variety of ways to keep the university community informed about building maintenance, emergency management testing, construction and other campus planning and facility projects.

The latest notifications include:


MORE INFO: https://housing.uoregon.edu/movein

OHA announced that Measure 110 is ready to fully launch across the state, with Oregon once again leading the nation by forging ahead with an innovative, community-driven approach to drug treatment and recovery services.

Measure 110 is now fully ready to launch in Oregon, with funding for service networks in every county. One each Behavioral Health Resource Network is up and running, they'll: Provide consistent and coordinated services to every community across Oregon; eliminate barriers to access by offering services that're available to all regardless of income or health coverage; offer services tailored to address people's needs, no matter where they are in their journey to recovery. Stay tuned for more info.

Through Measure 110, we’re building a new, better coordinated, locally driven system, backed with resources to make treatment and other supports available for more people.This change greatly improves access to drug treatment services that have been proven to help people in their journeys to recovery. From overdose prevention services to peer support and mentoring, to treatment and supportive housing, Measure 110 makes care more accessible to more people by removing barriers and meeting people where they are. To learn more, read our news release: http://ow.ly/lyGA50KOAB3

Oregon Supreme Court Declined To Hear Appeal In Long-Running $1 Billion Lawsuit Over Timber Revenue

The Oregon Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from 13 counties in a long-running $1 billion lawsuit over timber revenue and what constitutes “the greatest permanent value” when it comes to forest management.

The denial ends a six-year legal battle over logging practices on 700,000 acres and is a victory for the state Department of Forestry and environmental groups. The decision leaves in place a lower court ruling saying that Oregon can manage forests for a range of values that include recreation, water quality and wildlife habitat — not just logging revenue.

“It’s the end of the road for what has been a false narrative for far too long … that it’s the public forestland’s obligation to provide the bulk of the revenues for local communities,” says Ralph Bloemers, who represented fishing and conservation groups in the case.

The counties gave forestland to the state decades ago and Oregon manages the land and funnels timber revenue to the counties.

But 13 counties took Oregon to court, alleging the state was not maximizing logging on the forests. A Linn County jury found in the counties’ favor in 2019 and awarded more than $1 billion in damages, but an appeals court struck down the verdict earlier this year.

A representative for the counties called the high court’s inaction “disappointing.”

“The underlying issue of forest practices on public lands is left unresolved,” Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist said in a statement.

Linn is one of several Oregon counties and special taxing districts that receive a cut of logging profits from forestland they gave to the state in the 1930s and 1940s. Oregon agreed to manage those lands, which were mostly burned and logged over at the time of donation, “so as to secure the greatest permanent value of those lands to the state.”

Oregon has sent millions of dollars to the counties over the years, bolstering local budgets. But 13 counties took the state to court, saying “greatest permanent value” meant managing forests for maximum timber revenue.

The Oregon Department of Justice, which represented the state government in the case, issued a written statement Friday calling the Supreme Court’s decision a “victory for Oregon’s environment and for sound forest management in general.”

“Our forests serve a range of environmental, recreational, and economic purposes,” the statement reads. “By allowing what we argued was the correct decision of the Court of Appeals to stand, we have a swifter resolution and finality after a 6-year dispute.”

Shooting at Manzanita Rest Area North of Merlin

On Tuesday, September 20, 2022, at 4:17 PM, law enforcement officers from the Oregon State Police and the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call reporting shots fired within the Northbound Manzanita Rest Area on I-5, just north of the Merlin Rd. Exit. The 911 caller further reported a female had been shot.

Upon arrival, Troopers and Deputies were confronted by the male suspect, which resulted in an officer-involved shooting. The involved Troopers and Deputies have been placed on administrative leave per Senate Bill 111 protocols. 

The incident is being investigated by the Grants Pass Police Department, assisted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Medford Police Department, and the Oregon State Police Forensic Laboratory. The investigation will be referred to the Josephine County District Attorney’s Office for review upon completion.

This is an active investigation, and no further information will be released at this time. The Northbound Manzanita Rest Area remains closed for the investigation, but there is no further threat to the public. Grants Pass Police Department 

Local Instagram Blackmail “Sextortion” Cases Increasing


The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET) joint inter-agency task force is investigating seven local cases of blackmail “sextortion” involving juvenile males on Instagram. The scammer poses as a young woman who befriends the victim, starts a chat-based dialogue, shares pornography they claim is them, and requests a sexually explicit image of the victim. Once that image is shared, the suspect threatens to send it to the victim’s friends and followers on Instagram unless money is wired to their account.

SOCET is investigating these seven “sextortion” cases with adolescent male victims from throughout Southern and Central Oregon. In at least two of the instances the victim has wired money to the suspect, and later been asked for more. Often, the suspect will have multiple accounts they use to threaten the child if they block them. In a few of the instances, the suspects have sent a screen shot of the victim to other friends and followers on their Instagram account.

Nationwide, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are tracking thousands of these blackmail schemes. This scam has even led to suicide and suicide attempts for victims. Investigators have tracked this particular scam to suspects overseas and are working with foreign authorities to prosecute them for their crimes. Past “sextortion” blackmail scams usually targeted juvenile females with coercion and threats to create more sexually explicit images of themselves. This particular scam is targeting young males on Instagram.

To make sure your child does not become a victim, parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing on social media. Make sure your child’s social media accounts are private and do not reveal personal information to the public. If your child becomes a victim of “sextortion” immediately block and report the offending account. Report any contacts to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at https://report.cybertip.org/

SOCET is a joint inter-agency task force that started in June of 2020 to combat child exploitation and human trafficking. The task force consists of investigators from Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Grants Pass Police Department, FBI, and HSI; as well as prosecutors from our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in Jackson and Josephine County. Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office 

Klamath Falls Theft and Forgery Ring Busted

On September 19, 2022, Basin Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (BINET), the Klamath Falls Police Department, the Oregon State Police, and the Klamath County Parole and Probation Department served a search warrant on Gatewood Drive in Klamath Falls. 

Several individuals were arrested during the investigation, including the ringleader Benjamin Sorenson, age 40.  Thousands of dollars worth of forged receipts were seized along with a loaded handgun and a dealer amount of methamphetamine. 

A stolen moped was also recovered and returned to its owner. 

BINET’s investigation into the drug-related forgery ring detailed that Mr. Sorenson was creating tens of thousands of dollars worth of forged store receipts from local stores in Klamath Falls for a fee. 

These stores included Home Depot, Fred Meyer, Diamond Home Improvement, Wal-Mart, Auto Zone, and possibly more.  Local offenders would pay Mr. Sorenson to make these forged receipts and then go to the listed store and walk out with hundreds, and often thousands of dollars worth of items.  If the suspect stealing the items was checked by store employees, they would show the fairly authentic-looking receipt and walk away with the stolen merchandise.

Mr. Sorenson was lodged in the Klamath County Jail on charges of:

  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm
  • Felony Possession of Methamphetamine
  • Theft I
  • Forgery I
  • Criminal Possession of a Forgery Device
  • Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle
  • Probation Violation

BINET served a search warrant previously on Mr. Sorenson’s residence in February 2022, resulting in the seizure of dealer amounts of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and multiple firearms.  Mr. Sorenson was released from jail shortly after that incident and those charges are still proceeding through the Klamath County District Attorney’s Office.      

Anyone with information regarding organized theft rings associated with the distribution of dangerous drugs within Klamath County is encouraged to call the Klamath Falls Police Department Anonymous Tip Line at (541) 883-5334 or the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at (541) 850-5380.

The national and Oregon averages have fallen for 14 weeks in a row and are at their cheapest prices since early March.

Lower crude oil prices, lackluster demand for gas in the U.S., and the switch to winter blend fuel are the major drivers of lower pump prices. For the week, the national average for regular slips three cents to $3.67 a gallon. The Oregon average loses four cents to $4.64.

The national average reached its record high of $5.016 on June 14 while the Oregon average reached its record high of $5.548 on June 15. Both averages have been steadily declining since then.

“The switch to less expensive winter blend gasoline is putting a bit more downward pressure on pump prices this month; however, some factors have the potential to push prices higher, including the ongoing war in Ukraine, refinery maintenance, and the possibility of a hurricane that impacts oil and gas infrastructure, refining and transportation,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Although AAA expects gas prices to continue to decline during the fall months, it’s possible we could see prices rise briefly at times.”

Most of the country is now using less expensive winter blend gasoline, so modest pump price reductions have occurred. On September 15, many refiners switch from summer-blend gasoline to winter-blend. The summer-blend gas has a lower Reid vapor pressure, meaning it doesn’t evaporate as easily and is more environmentally friendly during the hot summer months. In California, this switch occurs on November 1.

Crude oil prices have tumbled from recent highs due to fears of economic slowdowns elsewhere around the globe. Crude reached a recent high of $122.11 per barrel on June 8, and ranged from about $94 to $110 per barrel in July. In August, crude prices ranged between about $86 and $97. So far in September, crude prices have been between about $81 and $89 per barrel.

Crude prices rose dramatically leading up to and in the first few months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is one of the world’s top oil producers and its involvement in a war causes market volatility, and sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and other western nations resulted in tighter global oil supplies. Oil supplies were already tight around the world as demand for oil increased as pandemic restrictions eased. A year ago, crude was around $70 per barrel compared to $84 today.

Crude oil is the main ingredient in gasoline and diesel, so pump prices are impacted by crude prices on the global markets. On average, about 53% of what we pay for in a gallon of gasoline is for the price of crude oil, 12% is refining, 21% distribution and marketing, and 15% are taxes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Demand for gasoline in the U.S. decreased from 8.73 million b/d to 8.49 million b/d last week. Thisis lower than last year at this time when demand was at 8.89 million b/d. Total domestic gasoline stocks declined by 1.8 million bbl to 213 million bbl., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Although gasoline demand has decreased, fluctuating oil prices have led to smaller pump price decreases. If oil prices spike, the national average will likely reverse as pump prices increase.

Oregon Department of Forestry celebrates conclusion of statewide plantings of Hiroshima peace trees

More than 50 of these saplings grown from the seed of trees that survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima have now found homes in Oregon.

SALEM, Ore. — A four-year-long campaign to plant saplings grown from the seeds of trees that survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima finishes Sept. 21 with a celebration at the Oregon Department of Forestry’s headquarters in Salem. That date was chosen because it is the International Day of Peace as declared by the United Nations General Assembly back in 1981.

Representatives from 45 organizations that planted a total of 51 peace trees in 35 communities around the state have been invited to the ceremony. Also attending will be a number of Japanese-American organizations.

Oregon State Forester Cal Mukumoto, whose ancestry is Japanese-American, will welcome guests and thank them for making Oregon the home to one of the densest concentrations of Hiroshima peace trees outside Japan. 

Guest of honor will be Hideko Tamura-Snider from Medford. She was 10 years old living in Hiroshima when the city was flattened by the first of two atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan in August 1945. Buried in the ruins of her grandmother’s home, Hideko was able to free herself and survived the firestorm that later engulfed the city. Her mother and other relatives were killed by the blast. 

Hideko moved to the United States, eventually settling in Oregon where she wrote two books about her experiences. She founded the One Sunny Day Initiative to promote peace and nuclear disarmament around the world. At her urging, arborist Mike Oxendine in Ashland obtained seeds of survivor trees from the Green Legacy Hiroshima organization. Its volunteers collect and send the seeds around the world as ambassadors of peace. 

After Oxendine germinated the seeds, Oregon Community Trees and the Oregon Department of Forestry collaborated in finding homes for the trees. Communities large and small from all parts of the state responded enthusiastically. Today the trees can be found from the coast to La Grande, and from Hood River to Klamath Falls. The 51st tree was planted in Gresham just on Sept. 19. 

As part of Wednesday’s ceremonies, ODF will be dedicating the ginkgo peace tree planted on its campus back in April 2020. COVID restrictions at that time prevented large public gatherings so the dedication was postponed to Sept. 21 of this year to coincide with International Day of Peace.

“These peace trees not only convey a message of peace from the residents of Hiroshima, they are also symbols of survival and resilience in the face of unimaginable destruction,” said State Forester Mukumoto. “Seeing them putting down roots in the good soil of Oregon and reaching for the sky gives me hope that people in our state – like the survivors in Hiroshima – can not only endure harsh times but can share with others the hard-won wisdom from having persevered through them.“ Oregon Dept. of Forestry

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This is just a small compilation of missing women and their pictures in the area. There are of course women missing all over Oregon and men and children missing too. We don’t mean to dismiss that, however, there is an inordinate amount of women who go missing each week and there could possibly be a connection with an anomaly or two here and there. Sadly most of them never get any attention. Family and friends must keep any information going and lead investigations so that they aren’t just forgotten. 

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