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
Friday, January 27, 2023
Willamette Valley Weather
Oregon Truffle Festival Begins With Truffle Dog Competition This Weekend in Eugene
Truffle-hunting dogs from across the Pacific Northwest will compete this weekend during the return of the North American Truffle Dog Championship, the kick-off event for the Oregon Truffle Festival.
Over two more weekends, with events throughout the Willamette Valley, the Oregon Truffle Festival will celebrate the fungal food with truffle farming workshops, truffle dinners, truffle lectures and a fresh truffle marketplace.
While many of the Oregon Truffle Festival’s culinary events were placed on a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Joriad truffle dog competition continued. This will mark the eighth year of the competition, which takes place Saturday at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene.
The contest – so named because truffles grow in jory soil – awards a plaque and a $500 prize to the top amateur truffle dog, determined by a day-long series of trials. Spectators can watch the dogs in action as they attempt to sniff out truffle oil capsules. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
The festival is the premier event of its kind in the U.S. and will be running through the month of February and into early March. The festival continues with two winery dinners, Feb. 3 at Domaine Willamette in Dayton, and an already-sold-out dinner Feb. 4 at Adelsheim Vineyard in Newberg.
The main truffle events take place Feb. 16-19, starting with a two-day truffle farming workshop at Oregon State University. Both the workshop and the Feb. 18 truffle “homecoming dinner” are sold out, but as of this writing tickets are still available for the truffle dinner at Castor Restaurant in Corvallis on Feb. 17 and the Fresh Truffle Marketplace on Feb. 19.
Shoppers at the daylong marketplace will find fresh truffles, cheese, local wine, craft beers and other artisanal foods. The marketplace will also feature lectures on truffles, cooking demonstrations and a truffle dog exhibition.
Tickets to the marketplace are $25-$35 for general admission, or $40-$50 with a wine tasting.
Other events for the next month include a “Truffles & Bubbles Sparkling Dinner” at Willamette Valley Vineyards, a fresh truffle marketplace in Corvallis, and a weekend of truffle dog training in Banks.
The full list of events and more information and to purchase tickets, visit oregontrufflefestival.org.
Springfield Woman Arrested After Going 110 Mph On Beltline
A 34-year-old Springfield woman was arrested Wednesday morning for driving 110 miles per hour westbound on Randy Papé Beltline, according to Eugene Police.
Police say an officer saw a Hyundai Santa Fe driving at a high speed on the Beltline near the Northwest Expressway. The officer followed the driver, attempting to stop her, police said.
The Hyundai took the Prairie Road exit and turned into the Lane Forest Products’ driveway where the driver was arrested, police said. The driver faces charges for allegedly driving while intoxicated, speeding, and driving uninsured.
Construction To Begin On 12-Story Student Housing Building
Construction is set to start next month for a 12-story apartment building near the University of Oregon.
It’s going up on 13th between Hilyard and Alder Street, less than two blocks away from the UO campus.
Developer CRG says the building will have 302 beds for student housing.Building is scheduled to be finished sometime next year.
Man Arrested After Shots Were Fired At Eugene Police Officers During A Pursuit And Standoff
A man was arrested early Friday morning after shots were fired at Eugene Police officers during a pursuit and standoff that started Thursday night, the Eugene Police Department said in a news release.
At around 11:15 p.m. on Thursday, January 26, a Eugene Police officer stopped a truck with a man and a woman inside on W. 11th Avenue. During the stop, the driver intentionally rammed the officer’s vehicle and fled.
The officer, along with other units, pursued the vehicle. During the pursuit, multiple shots were fired from the suspect vehicle at the officers.
The pursuit ended up in the private driveway of a home in the 29000 block of Fox Hollow Road, where the suspects fled into the home. The home’s residents were able to safely evacuate.
Eugene Police SWAT and EPD Crisis Negotiation Team were activated and arrived on scene around 12:30 a.m.
The suspects refused to exit, so chemical munitions were deployed and during that time, police say, the suspects shot and police outside and there was an exchange of gunfire.
Around 4 a.m., the male suspect surrendered to police and advised the female suspect was in the home suffering from a what appeared to be a medical issue. Despite the danger of a suspect still inside the house, EPD SWAT officers entered to rescue her and they found her in medical distress from a possible drug overdose and rendered medical aid. Eugene Springfield Fire had staged in the area and transported the female to a local hospital for treatment. The female and male suspects were not injured by any police action and no officers were injured.
31-year-old Chet Evan Raymond of Eugene was taken to the Lane County Jail. Charges are pending.
Eugene Police thanks local agencies for their mutual aid response, including Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Springfield Police Department and Oregon State Police.
As pursuant to Oregon Law, Lane County’s Interagency Deadly Force Investigation team has responded and assumed primary investigative role for the use of force. Lane County’s IDFIT’s work begins immediately after an incident. The Lane County Deadly Force Plan provides “a framework for a consistent response to an officer’s use of deadly physical force that treats the law enforcement officer fairly, and promotes public confidence in the criminal justice system.”
In Oregon, deadly use of force incidents are conducted by investigators who are independent of the involved agency. This is provided for under Senate Bill 111, which was passed by the 2007 Oregon Legislature. Lane County adopted guidelines under this law in 2008, as did the City of Eugene. Since that time, each and every deadly use of force with Eugene Police Department involvement has been handled by representatives of other law enforcement agencies under IDFIT and referred to the Lane County District Attorney’s Office. This guarantees a separation from the involved agency and greater transparency. The Lane County District Attorney receives and reviews the IDFIT’s findings to determine if there were any crimes committed during the incident and response.
Grants Pass Police Focused on Search for Dangerous Attempted Murder Suspect
BREAKING Thursday Night: Police Are Tracking Attempted Murder Suspect, Found Car — Police are tracking a possible location of attempted murder suspect Benjamin Foster. Police dogs have tracked his scent, and police say they have recovered a suspect car. No further info yet.
—- Police in southern Oregon were searching Thursday for a man accused of torturing a woman he held captive less than two years after he was convicted in Nevada of critically injuring another woman he held captive for two weeks.
Police say he may be driving up I-5 and an APB is posted for all of Oregon to find the suspect.
Police Chief Warren Hensman, of Grants Pass, said that he finds it “extremely troubling” that the felon was able to commit more crimes instead of still being behind bars for the Nevada crimes. The Nevada captivity ended only when the victim managed to escape.
Benjamin Obadiah Foster, 36, is charged in Oregon with attempted murder, kidnapping and assault. Foster tried to kill the victim in Grants Pass while “intentionally torturing” her and secretly confining her “in a place where she was not likely to be found,” Josephine County District Attorney Joshua Eastman wrote in a court document.
“We are laser-focused on capturing this man and bringing him to justice,” Hensman said at a news conference Thursday. “This is an all-hands-on-deck operation.”
In 2019, Foster held his then-girlfriend captive inside a Las Vegas apartment for two weeks. He initially was charged with five felonies, including assault and battery. After reaching a deal with Clark County prosecutors in August 2021, Foster pleaded guilty to one felony count of battery and a misdemeanor count of battery constituting domestic violence.
A judge sentenced him to up to 2.5 years in a Nevada prison, but after the 729 days he had spent in jail awaiting trial were factored into his punishment, Foster was left to serve less than 200 additional days in prison.
According to a Las Vegas police report, Foster’s girlfriend at the time had suffered seven broken ribs, two black eyes and injuries on her wrists and ankles during her two-week captivity. She also told police she was forced to eat lye and choked to the point of unconsciousness.
At the time, court records show Foster was out of custody on a suspended jail sentence in connection with a 2018 case for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. He also was awaiting trial in another case involving domestic violence.
Police in Grants Pass provided photos in a news release of Foster and the Nissan Sentra car he was driving. They said he is believed to be armed and is “considered extremely dangerous.”
“We are using every piece of technology available to locate this man, and I’ll leave it at that,” Hensman said.
On Tuesday, police responded to a home in a residential neighborhood of Grants Pass regarding an assault. Upon arrival, officers found a woman who had been bound and beaten unconscious. She was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Foster fled before officers arrived, police said.
Hensman said he didn’t want to discuss yet how the officers were alerted.
“This is a very serious event, a brutal assault of one of our residents that we take extremely seriously,” the police chief said. “And we will not rest until we capture this individual.”
Hensman said he doesn’t have time now to explore how authorities in Nevada handled Foster’s crimes there. “Whatever happened in the past, we can talk about those situations later,” he said.
Foster is known to be armed and should be considered extremely dangerous. Foster is wanted by the police for Kidnapping, Attempted Murder, and Assault. Anyone seeing Foster or knowing his whereabouts should immediately call 9-1-1
Filing a return, claiming EITC could net $7,742 for some Oregonians
(Salem, OR) – As Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day approaches on Friday, January 27, the Oregon Department of Revenue and the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) are encouraging all workers with income in 2022 to check their Earned Income Tax Credit eligibility.
The Department of Revenue and ODHS are working with other state agencies and community partners to encourage taxpayers to learn more about this credit and find out if they’re eligible. Many Oregonians miss out because they simply don’t know about it, especially those that aren’t required to file taxes.
The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal and state tax credit for people making less than $59,187 in 2022. Families may be eligible for a maximum refundable credit of $6935 on their federal tax return, and a maximum Oregon Earned Income Credit of $807 on their state tax return. Certain taxpayers without children may also be eligible for these credits.
Individuals may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, even if they are not required to file. To receive the refundable credits, however, they must file a federal and state tax return.
Basic qualifications for EITC include:
- All filing statuses are eligible, but some have specific requirements that must be met in order to qualify.
- You, your spouse, or any qualifying child must have a Social Security number to claim the federal credit.
- Your earned income in 2022 must be below certain limits based on your number of qualifying dependents.
- You may be eligible even if you do not have a qualifying child.
Taxpayers can use the IRS EITC Assistant to check their eligibility further. The assistant is available in English and Spanish.
Many of the basic qualifications for the Federal EITC are the same as those for the Oregon EIC, but Oregon also allows taxpayers who use an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) to file their taxes, or have a qualifying child with an ITIN, to claim the Oregon EIC. If you have an ITIN, claim the Oregon EIC using schedule OR-EIC-ITIN.
Taxpayers can visit the Earned Income Credit page of the Revenue website for more information on the Oregon EIC, as well as more information about their eligibility
Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day is a nationwide effort to increase awareness about the Earned Income Tax Credit and free tax preparation sites. There are volunteer organizations, such as CASH Oregon and AARP, that can help you file your taxes for free or at a reduced cost. CASH Oregon provides free or low-cost, in-person and virtual tax preparation services throughout Oregon. For more information, visit www.cashoregon.org.
People can also dial 2-1-1 or visit the Oregon Department of Revenue website to find free tax return preparation sites by using our interactive map. For more information on the EITC, visit https://www.eitc.irs.gov/. For questions about Oregon taxes, call the Department of Revenue at 503-378-4988.
To get tax forms, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments, visit www.oregon.gov/dor or email email@example.com. You also can call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish) or 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon. For TTY (hearing- or speech-impaired), we accept all relay calls.
February is the last month that the federal government will allow Oregon to issue pandemic emergency food benefits. SNAP households will continue to receive their regular SNAP benefits after February.
Since April 2020, most people in Oregon who receive food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have also received extra emergency food benefits each month on their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. These emergency food benefits were provided to help people who receive SNAP get enough healthy food for themselves and their families during the COVID-19 emergency.
February will be the final month that the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) is allowed to provide these emergency food benefits. March 2023 will be the first month since April 2020 that most people on SNAP in Oregon will only receive their regular SNAP food benefits.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have had the opportunity to provide these emergency food benefits to most SNAP households in Oregon,” said ODHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht. “We know that many rely on these additional emergency food benefits to get enough healthy food for themselves and their families. As Oregon continues to be impacted by COVID-19, we know that without these emergency food benefits some in Oregon may experience hardship and hunger. We encourage them to contact our partners at 211, Oregon Food Bank and their local Community Action Agency for support during this difficult time.”
Oregonians who receive SNAP are encouraged to prepare for this change in the food benefits they receive.
Find out what your regular SNAP benefit amount is. Knowing your regular SNAP benefit can help you budget. You can check how much your regular benefits are by accessing your EBT account online at www.ebtEDGE.com or by logging into your ONE account at Benefits.oregon.gov.
Governor Kotek Asks Lawmakers To Support $130 Million Package To Reduce Homelessness
Governor Kotek released preliminary details of her “urgent request” to lawmakers to spend $130 million to help get at least 1,200 unsheltered Oregonians off the street this year.
While declaring the homelessness issue an emergency during her inaugural speech Jan. 9, Kotek made the request of lawmakers. The next day she held a news conference, signed three executive orders around the housing and homelessness crises, one of which formally declared a state of emergency, and again said she wanted lawmakers to invest $130 million to help get people off the streets.
Of that $130 million investment, Kotek said Thursday she wants $54.4 million to go to rehousing the 1,200 people by funding prepaid rental assistance, block leasing at least 600 vacant homes, have landlord guarantees and incentives, as well as other rehousing services.
There are at least 11,000 households that are considered unsheltered in the state. And in Multnomah County alone, there are more than 3,000 people considered unsheltered, according to the latest Point in Time Survey.
Additionally, the governor wants $33.6 million to go toward keeping nearly 9,000 households from experiencing homelessness, and she wants to spend $23.8 million to add 600 low-barrier shelter beds and hire more housing navigators.
Under the governor’s plan, money would also be spent on supporting Oregon tribes, ensuring equitable outcomes, supporting local sanitation services and coordinating emergency response through the Office of Emergency Management and Oregon Housing and Community Services.
“I am urging the legislature to take up this investment package as quickly as possible,” Kotek said in a news release breaking down how she wants the money spent. “Unsheltered Oregonians need relief now, and our local communities need the support to provide the relief.”
In her news release, Kotek said she had had conservations with legislative leaders.
Ashley Kuenzi, spokesperson for Senate Republicans, said in an email Thursday that Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, had a “productive conversation earlier last week” with the governor.
“We had a great conversation, focused mainly around housing,” Knopp said during a news conference earlier this week in which Senate Republicans rolled out their legislative agenda. “We had a great exchange of ideas. She’s putting together her housing agenda and asked for names to serve on her Housing Advisory Council. I gave her some. I mean, so, you know, that’s what cooperation, bipartisanship looks like, and we hope that that continues.”
Kuenzi said Senate Republicans are awaiting to see more details on the plan and if it will include investments other than in the major urban areas like Portland, Eugene and Bend. She cited the coast, as an example.
The governor’s office did not respond Thursday to emailed questions that aimed to get more details around Kotek’s vision on what specific organizations would receive money or how and where it would be distributed.
A spokesperson for House Republicans said she would not have a statement about Kotek’s investment request until Friday.
Senate President Rob Wagner, a Democrat from Lake Oswego, said in a statement that homelessness and affordable housing are the most urgent issues facing the state.
“We appreciate that the governor came into office with a clear vision and a plan for action,” he said. “The Senate is ready to match her urgency. We are moving quickly to chart a path forward that takes into account Governor Kotek’s proposal and the expertise and priorities of this governing body to deliver immediate results for the people of Oregon.”
House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, said House Democrats agree that “swift action must be taken” and that lawmakers are reviewing the plan.
“Our first reaction is that there is a lot of alignment on values and general approaches between the Governor’s ask and what we have been vetting for our housing investments package. We look forward to partnering with the Governor,” he said.
Kotek’s ask for the $130 million investment is just part of a broader budget plan on the housing and homelessness crises that lawmakers are expected to deal with during this year’s legislative session. She said she will release her budget Feb. 1.
As part of Kotek’s executive orders, she wants the state to build 36,000 new homes a year over the next 10 years to alleviate the state’s housing shortage. She also directed state agencies to prioritize reducing homelessness.
Scott Kerman, executive director of Portland’s Blanchet House, said repurposing vacant buildings for housing and preventing homelessness will help his nonprofit function.
“Anything that we can do to, at least sort of keep the status quo in terms of the number of the unhoused, is going to help our agency and agencies all over the state who are helping people that are unhoused,” he said.
Kotek’s breakdown of her plan:
Prevent vulnerable households from becoming homeless – $33.6 million to prevent 8,750 households from becoming homeless by funding rent assistance and other eviction prevention services.
Add shelter beds and housing navigators – $23.8 million to add 600 low-barrier shelter beds statewide and hire more housing navigators to ensure unsheltered Oregonians can get connected to the shelter and services they need.
Rehouse unsheltered households – $54.4 million to rehouse at least 1,200 unsheltered households by funding prepaid rental assistance, block leasing at least 600 vacant homes, landlord guarantees and incentives, and other re-housing services.
Support Oregon Tribes – $5 million to support emergency response directly to the nine sovereign tribes in the State of Oregon.
Ensure equitable outcomes – $5 million to increase capacity for culturally responsive organizations to support equitable outcomes of the homelessness state of emergency.
Support local sanitation services – $2 million to support local communities for sanitation services.
Coordinate emergency response – $1.8 million to support the emergency response being coordinated by the Office of Emergency Management and Oregon Housing and Community Services.
Government Report Finds Oregon Has Failed To Address Its Water Security Crisis
Across Oregon, the future of water quality and quantity is in jeopardy, according to a state report.
The 70-page advisory report ✎ EditSignreleased Thursday is a call to action for Governor Tina Kotek, the state Legislature and state agencies, according to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. She said they all need to agree about water conservation priorities, roles and responsibilities.
“We need a damn water plan,” she said at a news conference Thursday. “Far too many families lack access to clean water today, and many communities in Oregon are at high risk of becoming water insecure in the very near future. So I’ll say it again, this is a crisis.”
Oregon’s water issues affect hundreds of thousands of people. About 40% of the state is currently in a severe drought. In central, southern and eastern Oregon, the drought has been the longest, and overuse and contaminated water are pronounced, the report found. The situation is expected to get worse.
Oregonians on both sides of the Cascades should be concerned, Fagan said.
“The findings in this audit report are truly shocking,” she said. “It’s only going to get worse with ongoing risks such as climate change, growing populations and aging infrastructure.”
The office’s Audits Division had been hoping to investigate how state agencies were handling water issues in 2021, following years of drought, a news release said. But without a lead agency in charge of water regulations and oversight that proved difficult. The report advises the state Legislature and the governor’s office to do something about the uncoordinated regulatory environment and the lack of a statewide water conservation plan.
Oregon’s primary water issues include persistent drought due to climate change and depletion and contamination of ground and surface water from industrial and agricultural use, according to the report. The audit found that Oregon agencies are not well prepared to address these issues and that regulation and action is fragmented among agencies, with too many gaps.
The Water Resources Department, Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority are involved in water planning, regulation and safety. The report found all of them lack sustained funding and staff to carry out the work needed, and that they are not effectively coordinating their efforts.
Unlike many other states, Oregon lacks a central natural resources department or a formal interagency system to identify and solve water issues or guide water policy, the auditors found.
There is no formal board or committee tasked with overseeing water governance in the state.
“Oregon’s natural resource agencies lack the breadth of knowledge, capacity, and authority to take on such an enormous task,” the auditors wrote.
The lack of coordination has further complicated data collection and data integrity among the agencies and local stakeholders, auditors found, and it has left agencies competing with one another for limited state funding.
“Having multiple separate agencies responsible for isolated pieces of water management complicates efforts to coordinate across agency lines,” they wrote.
Auditors called for more state and local collaboration, more money for water-related staff at the departments of environmental quality, water and health, and sustained funding for water initiatives. They also called on the departments and state leaders to work with local groups and inform residents about water issues, especially in areas where drinking water is unsafe.
An appendix to the report contains dozens of pages of testimony from residents of Boardman in Morrow County who cannot drink the water from their household wells due to nitrate contamination from agriculture, industrial dairies and wastewater from industrial food processors and the Port of Morrow. Despite a voluntary groundwater committee of state and local stakeholders meeting for the past 30 years to drum up solutions to the water contamination in the area, it’s gotten worse.
The audit did not explore the efficacy of local groundwater management committees. The appendix also contained testimony from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, detailing concerns over the preservation of water rights and their water security, and a lack of collaboration with the state on shared water issues.
The auditors called on Kotek and the Legislature to make tribes equal partners in state and regional water decision-making.
Auditors did not recommend giving one agency the responsibility for water security or call for the Water Resources Department, which has the most responsibility for planning and was found to be the most lacking in ensuring Oregon’s water security, to be wrapped into a different natural resources agency with more regulatory authority.
Over $1 billion has been invested in watershed health and enhancement in Oregon over the past 30 years, according to the report. The state first attempted to create an integrated water plan in 1955, when the Legislature created the State Water Resources Board. The Board took a basin-by-basin approach to identifying and solving water needs, but never developed an overarching strategy to guide its work across all of Oregon’s water basins.
Decisions have been made by individual agencies and local governments that have failed to effectively coordinate with one another, auditors found. In the 1980s and 1990s, the state gave localities more power over their own water governance, creating voluntary committees and watershed boards that were supposed to initiate their own actions. A growing number of endangered and threatened fish species redirected regulatory authority over watersheds to state agencies, but other aspects of water management like drinking water quality and quantity went mostly unaddressed, the report found.
In 2003, a Joint Legislative Task Force on Water Supply and Conservation recommended the state develop a long-term water supply plan. In a report, the group said: “Despite basin planning efforts dating back to the mid-1950s, the state does not have a comprehensive plan to ensure it can meet the water needs of streamflow dependent resources and a growing economy and population.”
By 2012, the Water Resources Department created an Integrated Water Resources Strategy that was updated again in 2017. It laid out a list of ways for the state to improve the water situation, but didn’t fully fund the actions and the department lacked the authority and staff to fully carry out initiatives.
In 2018 at the directive of former-Gov. Kate Brown, state agencies began developing a new plan called the 100-Year Water Vision , and in 2021, the Legislature passed a $538 million package to carry out the first round of actions based on the plan, largely to invest in water infrastructure and basin-level projects and planning. But, the auditors found, the Water Vision has mostly repeated the work of the earlier plan, the Integrated Water Resources Strategy, offering the same suggestions for improvement without adding sustained funding or staff, the audit found.