Willamette Valley News, Friday 4/21 – DEQ Responds to Railroad Accident Diesel Spill in Cottage Grove, PeaceHealth Closes Beds At Riverbend And University District Hospitals

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, April 21, 2023

Willamette Valley Weather

DEQ Responds to Railroad Accident Diesel Spill in Cottage Grove

A piece of railroad equipment punctured a tank causing a 12-hundred gallon diesel spill in Cottage Grove on Tuesday.

The train didn’t derail and no waterways are affected. The spill happened near South 6th Avenue and Highway 99 in Cottage Grove, just southwest of Bohemia Park.

Crews will excavate and remove diesel-contaminated soil. The train is operated by Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad which is paying for the clean up. Oregon DEQ is overseeing the operation.

PeaceHealth Closes Beds At Riverbend And University District Hospitals

PeaceHealth executives recently decided to close 30 beds between its Riverbend and University District locations. They also will be canceling or declining renewal of the contracts of 36 traveling nurses. 

With these most recent closures, the total number of beds closed between the two campuses has risen to 87. Now an entire medical unit at Riverbend will be shut down as a result. 

Hospital officials said in a statement, “PeaceHealth, like many health systems across the state, is implementing fair and prudent staffing measures necessary to provide high-quality, affordable care–now, and in the future. Reducing reliance on high-cost temporary workers and strengthening our local recruitment efforts takes time, and we are working to minimize impact to patients while continuing to meet the health needs of our communities.”

Kevin Mealy, a spokesperson for the Oregon Nurses Association, said that with these new changes, continuing to give that care will be difficult.

“That means longer wait times in the hospital waiting room,” Mealy said. “That means longer waits in the ER. That means ambulances which were already bumper to bumper trying to drop off patients and respond to 911 calls, they’re going to be delayed again dropping patients off and getting back out in the community where they need to be.”

For a hospital that is struggling with staffing, relying on travel nurses is not always a sustainable solution.

“They aren’t as invested in the community or its care and so you see a lot of things slip in terms of long term initiatives, in terms of specialty care that has been designed to meet the community’s needs,” Mealy said. “And you also see a loss of the team aspect of health care.”

Nurses had the chance to meet with hospital executives Wednesday afternoon. Mealy called the meeting, “impact bargaining”, where nurses would have the chance to talk about how they would be affected by the changes. It also allows executives the chance to explain their long term plans for the hospital going forward.

This all comes as the hospital is actively negotiating a new labor contract with the nurses association. At this time it is unclear how long the closure will last, or how it will impact the new contract.

Lebanon Firefighters Battle Blaze

The Lebanon Fire District responded to a reported house on fire in the 300 block of Cascade Drive on Thursday evening. When the first arriving ladder truck arrived, they reported heavy smoke showing from the front door and out of the eves. Firefighters quickly went to work and were able to contain the fire to a single unoccupied bedroom. The fire was brought under control and firefighters continued to work, checking the attic area for extension, and conducting searches to make sure all occupants were safely out of the structure. Though the fire was contained to a single bedroom the occupants will be displaced due to the amount of smoke damage throughout the structure. 

No occupants, pets or firefighters were hurt during the event and the fire remains under investigation. The Lebanon firefighters were assisted at the scene by PP&L, Lebanon Police Department and Linn County Sheriff’s office as well as the Albany Fire Department by helping cover the Districts citizens. 

Lebanon Fire District would remind its residents the importance of calling 911 quickly and not to enter a structure that’s on fire to try and extinguish. It only takes seconds for smoke to incapacitate and overcome people. Be safe Lebanon.

Lane County Drug Take Back Event – Creswell Saturday, April 22

Do you have unwanted or expired medications at your home? The Lane County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help you safely dispose of prescription drugs while educating the community about the potential for abuse of medications. 

This is a no-questions-asked prescription drug drop off in effort to prevent the unsafe disposal of prescription medications, and to prevent medications from being stolen or abused. 

Help us in the fight against prescription drug addiction and check your medicine cabinet for prescription drugs that are expired or that you no longer use. 

Bring your unwanted, outdated, or expired prescription and over-the-counter medications to the following location for safe disposal: 

Where: Creswell Middle School – 665 W. Oregon Ave., Creswell 

When: Saturday 04/22/23 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

Acceptable items: Prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, drug samples, pet medications, ointments, lotions, and liquid medicines in glass or leak proof containers. 

We are unable to accept: Needles, thermometers, bloody or infectious waste, medications from businesses, hydrogen peroxide, aerosol cans, inhalers, and diabetic meters. 

If you are unable to attend the Drug Take Back Event and you have medications you would like to dispose of, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office has a Drug Drop Box located in our Central Reception lobby in the Lane County Courthouse that is available to accept medications (no appointment necessary) Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, excluding legal holidays. 

Corporal Joseph “JJ” Johnson Celebration of Life – Saturday, April 22nd

The Celebration of Life will be held for Corporal Joseph “JJ” Johnson on Saturday, April 22, at 11:00 A.M., at the Nyssa High School, 824 Adrian Blvd, Nyssa, Oregon. The public is invited to attend.

Seating in the auditorium is limited; the adjacent high school gymnasium will be open with a livestream feed to accommodate an overflow of up to 5,000 people.

Corporal Joseph Johnson was killed in the line of duty on Saturday, April 15 while volunteering his time serving the community of Nyssa.

An emergency vehicle procession from the John J. Easly Memorial Gymnasium (Ontario) to the Nyssa High School will precede the service at 9:00 A.M. The public is invited to watch the procession but asked to observe from safe spaces. The procession route will travel around Treasure Valley Ball Park, west on SW 18th Ave, and south on Hwy 201 to Nyssa High School.

Prior to the emergency vehicle procession, Park Blvd, SW 14th, and SW 11th in Ontario and Adrian Blvd. in Nyssa will be closed to vehicular traffic.

Public parking will be in front of Nyssa Elementary School and the surrounding neighborhood.Law enforcement parking will be at Nyssa High School, Nyssa Middle School, and across the street from the high school in dirt rodeo grounds lot. Nyssa High School’s main parking lot will only be available to emergency vehicles taking part in the procession.

The family requests their privacy be respected and does not wish to provide statements to the media at this time. The Celebration of Life will be livestreamed. Livestream information will be released Friday evening.

If members of the public wish to donate to support the Johnson family, they may do so through the Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation. Donations may be made in person at any US Bank location or online at bit.ly/support-johnson-family. 100% of donations collected by the Foundation during this time will be given to the Johnson family.

All Media inquired should be sent to OSPPIO@OSP.OREGON.GOV

Governor Tina Kotek Marks 100 Days in Office, Urges Legislature to Invest in Housing, Homelessness, Behavioral Health, Education

Oregon state seal in blue and gold

—Governor Tina Kotek today marked her 100th day in office by highlighting the progress made – and the investments that are needed this session – to deliver on her top three priorities: housing and homelessness, mental health and addiction, and early literacy.

“Our 100-day sprint has laid the foundation to improve the lives of all Oregonians,” Governor Kotek said. “We have an abundance of people in our state who are willing to try things they have never done before to solve our greatest challenges, all because they believe in Oregon’s potential.”

Governor Kotek praised the work legislators have done so far to support her executive order declaring a homelessness state of emergency, which aims to keep nearly 9,000 people from becoming homeless, move at least 1,200 people into permanent housing, and add at least 600 more shelter beds by the end of this year.

She called the Housing Emergency Response Package a “down payment on an investment that Oregonians are owed,” highlighted the work the state and local leaders are already doing to deliver specific outcomes and said “more must be done going forward.”

Specifically, the Governor is urging the Legislature to approve at least another $1.3 billion before this session is over: $1 billion in bonding to build and preserve more affordable housing, and at least $300 million in general funds to continue work on housing and homelessness.

Oregonians also need a stronger, more accessible behavioral health system. Governor Kotek reiterated her commitment to disrupt the harmful and expensive homelessness-jail-hospital pipeline, decrease preventable deaths related to a person’s substance use or mental health issue, and stabilize and support the behavioral health workforce.

On education, the Governor highlighted the progress on the Early Literacy Success Initiative outlined in House Bill 3198. The bill has bipartisan support to develop students’ reading and writing skills, with funding going to schools, community-based organizations, and Tribes to do this work. While her recommended budget targeted $120 million for this investment, today she said that Oregon’s early literacy rates are “intolerable,” and $120 million is the minimum that the state should invest this session.

Governor Kotek also spotlighted the direct conversations she is having with Oregonians across the state. She is visiting all 36 counties in Oregon during her first year in office as part of her One Oregon Listening Tour. She has visited six counties so far: Yamhill, Douglas, Columbia, Benton, Lincoln, and Polk.

“I’ve met with families in Yoncalla, educators in Vernonia and students in Philomath who are determined to build success in their communities,” she said. “I’ve heard from behavioral health providers in Newport and housing providers in Dallas who are dedicated to helping their most vulnerable neighbors in their time of greatest need.

“I take these stories home with me to Salem, to enrich and refine our shared vision for the Oregon we know is possible.”

You can read her full remarks here. (https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=87937)

OHA’s virtual monthly COVID-19 media briefing Thursday

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Health Authority hosted a Zoom media briefing – Thursday, April 20 – to provide its monthly COVID-19 update.

Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA, will give an update on COVID-19 and the state’s response to the pandemic.

ODOT employee injured in work zone crash on U.S. 395 near Stanfield

Stanfield work zone crash

STANFIELD, OR — An ODOT employee was injured in a work zone Tuesday afternoon when a minivan crashed into the excavator he was unloading. The ODOT worker was transported to Good Sheppard Hospital where he was treated for minor cuts and scrapes and released a short time later. The minivan was towed from the scene.

The crash took place shortly after 1 p.m. on U.S. 395-A at milepost 9.8, north of Stanfield. At the time of the crash, the worker’s trailer truck, loaded with an excavator, was parked on the shoulder. The worker was unloading the excavator, preparing to do sign work, when a minivan traveling south hit the excavator.

Oregon State Police, ODOT and other emergency responders assisted at the crash site.

The crash is a harsh reminder for drivers to slow down, move over, and be extra vigilant around work zones. This week, April 17-21, is National Work Zone Awareness Week.

To keep work zones safer for everyone, drivers must:
Pay attention and focus on the road. Driver inattention is a major factor in work-zone crashes. 
Obey speed signs. Speed limits may be reduced to keep you and workers safe by giving drivers more time to react.  
Move over. Work zone traffic lanes often are narrow, without shoulders or emergency lanes. Workers need room.
Plan ahead. Give yourself enough time for your trip—including possible work zone delays. Before you start, call 511 or visit TripCheck.com for the latest road conditions and work-zone information across Oregon. 
Remember that fines double in all Oregon work zones, whether workers and signs are present or not. Please…when you see a work zone:  Move over. Slow down. And keep everyone safe.

Detectives Discover Rural Jacksonville Homicide Suspect’s Vehicle, Suspect Still Not Located

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. The suspect is still on-the-run. He is considered armed and dangerous, do not approach, instead call 911. JCSO deputies will continue extra patrols and presence in the area.

Earlier today, investigators discovered the suspect’s vehicle near the crime scene next to the Applegate dam. JCSO SWAT and K9 teams responded and searched the vehicle and area, but the suspect was not located. If you have any information on Michael Wayne Ray’s whereabouts call ECSO Dispatch at (541) 776-7206.

Original Release:

Detectives Investigating Rural Jacksonville Homicide, Suspect On-the-Run

JCSO Case 23-2239

APPLEGATE, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) detectives are on-scene of a homicide that occurred early this morning in rural Jacksonville. ECSO dispatch received a call at 2:26 a.m. for a shooting at a residence in the 14000 block of Upper Applegate Road. JCSO deputies responded, discovered the scene was a homicide, and notified Criminal Investigations Division (CID) detectives and Medical Examiners. A primary suspect has been identified and is on-the-run. The victim identification is pending next-of-kin notification.

The suspect, Michael Wayne Ray, 64, of Jacksonville, is described as a white male with blue eyes and grey hair, 5’9” tall, weighing 190 lbs. (pictured here).  He is considered armed and dangerous. If you see the suspect, do not approach, instead call 911 immediately.  

This case is active and ongoing with detectives following additional leads. Oregon State Police (OSP) and Medford Police Department (MPD) detectives are assisting as part of a Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit (MADIU) call out. There is no further information available for release.

This is a Press Release from last year in July with the same suspect being arrested and lodged for a time in Jackson County Jail.

$3.5 Million Secured for Restoration Science on the Oregon Coast

Wasson Creek, a 525-acre basin in the South Slough watershed of Coos County, Oregon, is poised to be a globally important classroom for wetland and forest restoration science

National Estuarine Research Reserve System

South Slough Reserve, Coos Bay, OR – South Slough Reserve announced today they have secured $3.5 million to launch a living laboratory as part of an existing national network of place-based research, education, and training.

The Wasson Creek Restoration ProjectEditSignEditSign is a ridgetop-to-estuary restoration effort within the nearly 7,000 acre South Slough Reserve that aims to improve habitat for coho salmon, lamprey, and marbled murrelet. Restoring an entire watershed that already has decades of baseline data provides unique value to the scientific community.

“In envisioning this project, the South Slough Reserve team looked even beyond restoration,” explained Vicki Walker, director of Oregon Department of State Lands. “They challenged themselves to make an impact in the field of restoration science, to lift up the local community, and to honor the cultural resources of the Wasson Creek Watershed.”

Due to the project’s national significance, the majority of funding is coming from the National Estuarine Research Reserves Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Fund. However, additional national, state and tribal partners are providing important funding, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Coos Basin Coho Partnership, and Coquille Indian Tribe Community Fund.

“People have been living, working, learning and recreating in this valley since time immemorial,” explains Reserve Stewardship Coordinator Dr. Alice Yeates, “this project initiates the next chapter in the relationship between humans and the Wasson watershed.”

The project will include wetland, stream, and forest restoration as well as enhancing public access. While volunteer efforts and projects assisted by the U.S. Coast Guard are already underway, the official project start date is set for May 2023. Restoration science is a multi-year process, however, the Reserve hopes to complete the living laboratory by May 2026 and learn for many years to come.

Partners for this project include Coos Watershed Association; Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians; Coquille Indian Tribe; Bureau of Land Management; Institute for Applied Ecology; Oregon State University, OSU Extension; Oregon Department of Forestry; Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and U.S. Forest Service.

For more information on this project please visit: www.oregon.gov/dsl/SS. Would you like to get involved? Please contact Dr. Alice Yeates, Reserve Stewardship Coordinator. Email: Alice.Yeates@dsl.oregon.gov. Phone: 541-888-8270 ext. 314.

ABOUT SOUTH SLOUGH RESERVE: South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is a protected natural area and center for coastal education, research, stewardship, and training. Located along the Coos Estuary on the south coast of Oregon, South Slough Reserve manages and studies nearly 7,000 acres of wetlands, forests, and riparian areas. 

Designated in 1974 as the first unit of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, South Slough Reserve is a leader in improving understanding of estuaries and coastal watersheds. The Reserve is managed in partnership by the Oregon Department of State Lands and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


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