Willamette Valley News, Wednesday 12/6 – Fire at Coburg Road Safeway, Weather Updates & Other Local and Statewide News…

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, December 6, 2023

Willamette Valley Weather

Active Weather Alerts – FLOOD WATCH ISSUED: NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

FLOOD ADVISORY ISSUED: 5:18 PM DEC. 5, 2023 – NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
...FLOOD ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 AM PST THURSDAY... * WHAT...Urban and small stream flooding caused by excessive rainfall continues. * WHERE...Much of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon, excluding the high Cascades, mid-Columbia Gorge and Hood River Valley. * WHEN...Until 100 AM PST Thursday. * IMPACTS...Many small streams and creeks will continue running full with minor flooding expected through Wednesday. In addition, minor flooding in low-lying and poor drainage areas will continue. Some low-water crossings may become impassable. Ponding of water in urban or other areas is occurring or is imminent. Areas most likely to see such flooding will be the coast, coast mountains, and the I-5 corridor from Portland northward through the Cowlitz River Valley. 

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS... - At 507 PM PST, Doppler radar and automated rain gauges indicated heavy rain. This will cause urban and small stream flooding. Overflowing poor drainage areas will cause minor flooding in the advisory area. Between 2 and 8 inches of rain have fallen. - Additional rainfall amounts of 1 to 3 inches are expected over the area. This additional rain will result in minor flooding. In addition, areas with poor drainage, such as railroad crossings and underpasses, will quickly see standing water. - http://www.weather.gov/safety/flood
• ODOT: Valley, No. Coast - Water levels have receded enough Wednesday morning to allow traffic through U.S. 101 between Seaside and the junction with U.S. 26. With heavy rain continuing throughout this week, we will continue to monitor the water level there and in other sections of highway in low elevations.
U.S. 101 and OR 6 remain closed due to high water in Tillamook, and local detours are still in place in those areas. If you travel along the Oregon coast, also Watch out for high water that may affect only part of a road or highway, closing lanes in some areas including Lincoln City.
Anywhere you travel in Oregon this week, give yourself extra time for your trip in this stormy weather, and please slow down and watch out for highway crews and emergency responders. More Info Here UPDATE Posted: Wed. 6th, 06:41 AM

                                    Two People Have Died in Oregon
A second person has died in a swollen Oregon waterway after atmospheric rivers have pummeled the Pacific Northwest with two bouts of more than 9 inches of rain.
One man was found dead Tuesday in Bronson Creek in Washington County, Oregon, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said. His body was found “entangled in tree branches within the creek,” the sheriff’s department said. The man’s identity and cause of death have not been released.

On Monday, Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies found the body of a man who was swept away in Johnson Creek in Portland. Investigators have been trying to determine how the man ended up in the fast-moving water.

A landslide during torrential rainfall Tuesday forced the abrupt cancelation of all Amtrak service between Seattle and Portland. Service between the two hubs is suspended until Thursday morning, according to Amtrak.

By late Thursday and Friday, storm activity is forecast to taper off across much of the Northwest – though showers and some high-elevation snow are still possible.
But the break from soggy weather may be short-lived, as another atmospheric river could thrash the region by the early weekend.

The exact strength and overall impact of this potential event should become clearer once this week’s atmospheric river ends Wednesday.

Fire at Coburg Road Safeway

At 7:07pm Tuesday evening Eugene Springfield Fire began receiving 911 calls about a structure Fire at Safeway at 1500 Coburg Rd in Eugene.

When Battalions arrived on the scene they found a fully involved garbage compactor on fire and the store filling with smoke. As other Engines arrived they immediately got hose lines inside and started working on the fire. At 7:29pm they had the fire under control. The fire is still under investigation.

Board of County Commissioners votes to build materials recovery facility for solid waste

The Lane County Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 to begin the process to build an Integrated Materials & Energy Recovery Facility (IMERF) in Goshen. 

The IMERF will be the most technologically advanced waste processing facility in the country and will be designed and built by a local manufacturer, Bulk Handling Systems (BHS). The facility will process residential garbage, commingled recycling, and organic waste to produce marketable recycling commodities and biogas for transportation. The facility is expected to divert over 80,000 tons of material from the County’s landfill annually and expand the life of the landfill for at least 20 years past its current 70-year lifespan. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for our community,” said Public Works Director Dan Hurley. “Not only will this project help us reduce the amount of material that ends up in the landfill, increase the amount we can recycle, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the tune of taking 30,000 cars off the road, it will also create local jobs. We expect the two-year construction period to create 190 jobs and to have 65 ongoing family-wage positions to operate the IMERF after it opens.”

The IMERF will:

  • significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the landfill.
  • divert recyclable materials from waste that would otherwise be landfilled.
  • create local, sustainable economic development and jobs.
  • use proven recycling processing systems.
  • leverage public-private partnerships.
  • construct and operate at an affordable cost to the rate-payer. 

“There are no other sorting facilities like this in Lane County,” said Hurley. “Currently, there is limited processing to extract cardboard and metals locally, but the majority of materials are transported all the way to the Portland area for processing.”

The total expected cost of the project is $150 million. Bulk Handling Systems will pay for $100 million (building and installing the sorting equipment). Lane County will be responsible for the remaining $50 million; however, a $15-million-tax credit will reduce the local cost to $35 million. Additional grants and outside funding may reduce the local cost further. 

Lane County will increase solid waste disposal fees to help fund a portion of the project. For the average residential customer, the total increase in cost related to this facility would be approximately $2.30 per month phased in over a four-year period.

More information is available at www.LaneCountyOR.gov/IMERF

Board of County Commissioners takes stance on Measure 110 reform

The Lane County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to include Measure 110 reform in its legislative priorities and principles ahead of the upcoming state legislative session. 

There are eleven reform items included in the Board’s adopted position, including:

  • Reform rather than repeal.
  • Reclassify Possession of a Controlled Substance from a Class E violation to a Class A misdemeanor and a new Class A misdemeanor for public use of a controlled substance, as long as it is accompanied by improved investment in criminal justice and behavioral healthcare systems to better serve Oregonians. (Simply reintroducing sanctions without other changes and investment will only exacerbate the issues reform is intended to correct.)
  • Support legislation that requires prioritizing funding for expansion of treatment capacity over other existing uses of the funding associated with the Behavioral Health Resource Networks (BHRN) created by Senate Bill 755.
  • Ensure funding eligibility for organizations that solely focus on treatment for justice-involved individuals.
  • Support diversion and sufficient investment and redesign to improve diversion programs.
  • Support statutory requirement that funds continue to be allocated to specialty courts, including drug courts. 
  • Support for better defined peace office, director, and other hold authority needed in statute to limit liability for local government, non-profits, and other contracted service providers.
  • Support legislation creating incentives for successful local implementation of programs such as the Community Corrections Act and others.

The full document is available online. It contains a more detailed analysis and the full text of the Board’s reform priorities. 

The Board of County Commissioners regularly adopts and updates its legislative principles. Those principles help guide County efforts to inform state legislation, as well as help Lane County pursue funding for services provided on behalf of the state. 

UPDATE: LCSO Case #23-6333 — Missing Overdue Subjects possibly in Lowell/Oakridge Area

UPDATE – The Chappells were located by Lane County Sheriff Search and Rescue personnel this afternoon and reunited with family. They had become stuck in the snow on a forest road between Oakridge and Cottage Grove. 
– The Lane County Sheriff’s Office is searching for two people that are possibly lost in the woods in the Oakridge or Lowell areas.  71-year-old Linda Chappell and 65-year-old Don Chappell left their residence in Lowell Sunday afternoon at about 4:00pm.  They are believed to have been headed to an unknown location in the mountains to find snow.  They were expected to return home Sunday evening but have not been heard from since their departure.

Local Eugene Residents Arrested in Major Drug Bust on I-5

The Eugene Police Street Crimes Unit (SCU) has discovered a large shipment of illegal drugs on the I-5 corridor. The SCU officers, with the help of EPD Special Investigation Unit detectives and other agencies, tracked the vehicle from California to Lane County.

The SCU team, supported by the Community Safety Payroll Tax, stopped the vehicle on Interstate 5 near Cottage Grove. The vehicle’s occupants were identified as Nicholas Anthony Speck, 40, and Jill Marie Souvannakhot, 38, both residents of Eugene. EPD Narcotic Detection K9 Jack detected the presence of illegal drugs in the vehicle.

Officers found approximately 49 pounds of methamphetamine in the vehicle. Speck and Souvannakhot were charged with possession and delivery of a large quantity of methamphetamine and were held at the Lane County Jail.

The SCU, funded by the City of Eugene’s Community Safety Payroll Tax, works with communities to address safety issues. The unit focuses on repeat offenders identified through intelligence-based policing, public tips, and other sources. They actively address city-wide quality-of-life issues, using resources and partners such as community groups, neighborhood associations, and city services.

The SCU is dedicated to addressing immediate safety issues in the community while working on long-term safety initiatives. (source)

Eugene’s Only Hospital and Emergency Room Closed For Good

Friday, December 1st at 7am, Eugene’s University District Hospital Emergency Room closed for good. Oregon’s second largest city now does not have a hospital nor an emergency room.

The transition will mark the official end of services at the main “hospital tower” at University District, which is Eugene’s only hospital. The healthcare organization announced in August that it would phase out services at the facility.

This is critical and marks a big change for emergency medical calls around the Eugene-Springfield area. The closure of Eugene’s PeaceHealth University District Emergency Department means all ambulances will be directed to either McKenzie Willamette or PeaceHealth Riverbend, both in Springfield, miles from the University District Hospital.

PeaceHealth inpatient rehabilitation unit at University District in Eugene will relocate to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield on Dec. 15.

After the closure of the emergency department at University District at 7 a.m. on Dec. 1, the inpatient rehabilitation unit will be the only service remaining at the hospital until the unit moves to RiverBend on Dec. 15. Following the unit’s relocation to RiverBend, the hospital tower at University District will close.

All PeaceHealth Medical Group clinics on the west side of Hilyard Street and the outpatient rehabilitation clinic, plus the inpatient behavioral health unit on the corner of Alder Street and 11th Avenue, will remain open and serving patients.

As Eugene’s Only Hospital and Emergency Room Closes, The Fire Department Says They Plan To Step Up

With the only emergency room in Eugene closing today 12/1/2023, the city’s fire department is trying to strengthen its emergency response.

PeaceHealth is planning to shutter multiple services at its University District location in December, redirecting patients to its hospital at RiverBend in Springfield, located about 5.8 miles away.

At a City Council meeting Monday, Eugene Springfield Fire Chief Mike Caven said this is likely to create a larger burden on first responders. He said patients who could’ve walked into the emergency room in the past may now need to be transported to Springfield by ambulance.

To meet demand, Caven said Eugene Springfield Fire will begin staffing a squad for downtown Eugene and nearby areas this week, with an additional medical unit stationed in the Whiteaker neighborhood.

Caven said the department is also trying to balance the workload of units, and it’s working with community partners on alternatives to hospitalization. He said staff have options in reserve in the event of a crisis.

“If we run out of units, and we need a fire crew to temporarily staff an ambulance to help support capacity…it’s not ideal, but it’s there,” he said.

Currently, the department is waiting to obtain three additional ambulances that have already been funded, which it expects to have in three to four months.

Caven is asking for more money to help meet the department’s new responsibilities. He said the department can be somewhat flexible with expenses at this time, as its budget is funded on a two-year timeline.

“We’re not in crisis mode trying to figure out, ‘How are we going to pay this? How are we going to balance the budget immediately?’” said Caven.

Together with the city of Eugene, Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, is now drafting a bill to request one-time emergency funding from the state Legislature, which is intended to respond to the loss of PeaceHealth services.

City officials say this money could pay for a new ambulance and community response unit for the fire department, while piloting wellness programs meant to reduce the need for emergency services.

A spokesperson for Nathanson said she was unavailable to comment Tuesday, and she is still in discussion around the details of the bill.

To meet demand as soon as possible, Caven said Eugene Springfield Fire will begin staff an additional squad on December 1st with medical gear to triage as the system gets busy, and they also plan to add an additional transport ambulance in the system.

“That’s out initial surge capacity to really see what happens,” Caven said. “How does the community navigate towards their healthcare needs December 1 going forward.”

Caven said Eugene Springfield Fire, however, is still here to make sure calls are answered. But, they are also depending on people to call 9-1-1for emergencies only. (SOURCE)

ALERT: EWEB drop box vandalized and payments stolen

One of the EWEB payment drop boxes located at the former headquarters building (500 E. 4th Ave) was vandalized sometime between Wednesday, Nov. 22 at 9 a.m. and Monday, Nov. 27 at 9 a.m. 

The vandalized payment box was attached to the building next to the front door. A second, drive-up payment box was not affected.

We have no way of knowing what payments, if any, were inside the box.

If you made a payment to the affected box between Wednesday, Nov. 22 at 9 a.m. and Monday, Nov. 27 at 9 a.m. your payment and any personal information on your payment was apparently stolen.  

Please contact your financial institution immediately to place a stop payment on your check and take any other steps advised by them

To confirm your payment was received and credited to your account, please login to your online EWEB account (myaccount.eweb.org) or call EWEB customer service (541-685-7000).

No other forms of payment were affected, and customers who used payment methods other than the drop box attached to the former headquarters building were not harmed. 

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Eugene Police Department.

Lane County’s Deeds and Records Office Moves This Week

The Lane County Deeds & Records Office is relocating from the County’s Public Service Building at 8th and Oak in downtown Eugene to the Elections Office at 10th and Lincoln in Eugene. 

The move will be effective starting on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. The last day for services at the current location will be Friday, December 1. The office will be closed for staff training on Monday, December 4, and the new location will open for service on Tuesday, December 5. 

“Combining the services of the County Clerk’s Office under one roof will help accomplish a couple of things,” said Lane County Clerk Dena Dawson. “It will help us be more efficient in conducting elections since we will no longer need to staff two separate locations. It will also, we hope, make it easier for people to access our services with dedicated parking and an easy to find location.”

The services that will move to the Elections Office (275 W. 10th Avenue, Eugene) are:

  • Real property recording (including deeds, titles or interest to real property located in Lane County)
  • Marriage licenses and ceremonies
  • Domestic partnership declarations
  • Property value appeals

One service of the County Clerk will remain at the Public Service Building: 

  • Public research library for real property records

The research library and its self-serve computer terminals will remain at 125 E. 8th Avenue, Eugene due to the amount of space they require. One staff person will be available to assist with research. 

About the County Clerk’s Office

The County Clerk and her staff are responsible for conducting elections, recording real property, issuing marriage licenses and domestic partnership registrations, and coordinating the Property Values Appeal Board. Services are now located at 275 W. 10th Avenue, Eugene) from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday–Friday. Property records research is available on the ground floor of the Public Service Building at 125 E. 8th Avenue, Eugene. 

St. Vincent De Paul Waives Affordable Housing Application Fees Through End Of 2023

St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) announced on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, that they will be waiving application fees for their affordable housing properties through the remainder of 2023.

The customary application fee of $44 will be waived for low-income residents who are applying to live in SVdP’s affordable housing properties.

“Eliminating all application fees will help reduce a barrier for many of our neighbors who need affordable housing the most, during this season when it is needed most,” says SVdP Property Management Director Ben Abbe.

Housing through SVdP operates on a waitlist basis, with staff evaluating the lists quarterly on the first business days of March, June, September and December. SVdP recommends those who are searching for affordable housing to explore more information and current waitlist options here: https://www.svdp.us/svdp-waives-housing-application-fees-through-2023/ https://www.svdp.us/homepage/affordable-housing/housing-waitlists-through-svdp-property-management/#waitlist

SVdP says applying for SVdp waitlists is always free, wait times vary.

[I]n some cases applicants will be on a waitlist for 6-18 months before they are contacted to schedule an appointment to apply for open housing. Only then, when an individual’s name comes up on the SVdP waitlist to apply for housing, are they typically charged an application fee to cover administrative costs.

“We hope that putting a pause on this fee will provide a small bit of relief for some of our neighbors during this time of year that is joyous for most, but creates an added financial strain for many,” Abbe says. “We know that every dollar needs to stretch even further than it normallydoes for families struggling to work their way out of poverty, as they do their best to build a special holiday season for their loved ones.”

SVdP’s next quarterly evaluation will happen and further waitlist openings will be made available, on Dec. 1, 2023.

Eugene Police Department Collecting Hoodies For High Schoolers

 Embrace the season of giving by donating hoodies to high school-aged kids! As temperatures drop, let’s wrap our community in warmth and kindness. Clean out those closets and drop off your gently used or new hoodies at our designated collection points.

May be a doodle of text that says 'DECEMBER 1st-31st HOODIES FOR … ATOHECHODE We're collecting cozy hoodies for high school-aged kids in need. Your donation can bring comfort and confidence during the chilly months ahead. us in providing layer of warmth and support to help these students face the winter with smile. Together, we can make meaningful impact-o hoodie at time. Drop your donations at one of the following locations: 300 Country Club Road 960 Olive Street WWW.EUGENEPOLICE.COM POLICE'

For those who prefer a convenient option, consider donating gift cards that will be used to purchase hoodies. Send your gift cards to the Eugene Police Department: Community Engagement Supervisor, Cherie Nelson300 Country Club Rd. Eugene, OR 97401Your contribution will ensure teenagers stay snug and stylish this winter. Let’s come together to make a difference—one hoodie at a time!

Waste Wise Lane County: Holiday leftover recipe contest gets cooking

As the holiday season kicks off, Waste Wise Lane County—a part of the Lane County Waste Management Division—again encourages county residents to do the holidays differently this year with the launch of its second “Simplify the Holidays” campaign.

Last year marked the first iteration of the campaign, which is produced by the Center for Biological Diversity and has again been adopted by Waste Wise Lane County. “Simplify the Holidays” encourages residents and businesses to reimagine how they view and participate in the holiday season to inspire joy while curbing waste. The campaign includes earth-friendly gift ideas and will run through December 31.

However, this year’s campaign includes a twist: a holiday leftovers recipe contest. 

“Maybe it’s Uncle John’s famous Christmas Ham Sliders or Aunt Lucia’s delectable Thanksgiving Turkey Tamales,” said Waste Wise Lane County Outreach Coordinator Daniel Hiestand. “How does your family use holiday leftovers? We want to collect your recipes and share them with our community to inspire folks to reduce food waste and save money.”

Recipes submitted during the campaign will be published on the Waste Wise Lane County food waste prevention website, eatsmartwasteless.tips. Those who share recipes will be automatically entered into a prize drawing, with contest winners announced on January 3.

Prizes include Lion & Owl and BRING gift certificates, free enrollment in Oregon State University Extension Master Food Preserver workshops, and a collection of sustainable products from Main Street Market.

“Waste Wise Lane County is laser-focused on helping empower residents and businesses with food waste reduction tools,” Hiestand said. “Between 30 to 40 percent of all food produced is never eaten, so preventing wasted food is one of the most powerful things we can do to address the climate crisis. Eating what you have is a critical part of that. We hope this contest shows leftovers can be quite delicious with a little creativity while saving money.”

Follow the campaign on Waste Wise Lane County’s social media pages @WasteWiseLaneCounty on Facebook and Instagram. To submit a recipe, use this online form (https://bit.ly/LeftoverForm).

About Waste Wise Lane County – Waste Wise Lane County— a part of the Lane County Waste Management Division—empowers residents, schools, and businesses with education, tools, and resources that can be used to reduce waste, conserve resources, and live more sustainably. For more information, visit lanecountyor.gov/wastewise.

About Simplify the Holidays – Simplify the Holidays is an award-winning program of the Center for Biological Diversity. Simplify the Holidays seeks to empower individuals and families to be more conscious of the impacts of holiday traditions and, in doing so, reconnect with meaningful and lasting celebrations. Learn more at simplifytheholidays.org

Eugene Saturday Market’s Holiday Market

The Eugene Saturday Market’s Holiday Market returned to the Lane Events Center this weekend and will be open every weekend until December 24th.

May be an image of text that says 'Holiday Market 2023 Holiday Market Activities Sat. Dec. 2nd Battle Lands Play Into to L.A.R.P., 3-6pm Sun. Dec. 3rd Cornhole Competition, 3-6pm Sat. Dec. 9th Fiber Arts Craft Circle, 3-6pm Sun. Dec. 10th Tell Your Story: Zine Making Workshop, 3-6pm Sat. Dec. 16th Thrill the World Flash Mob Class, 4:30-5pm Sun. Dec. 17th Belly Dance Class, 3-6pm Fri. Dec. 22nd Bird Seed Ornament Workshop, 3-6pm Sat. Dec. 23rd Snowflake Contest, 3-6pm Sun. Dec. 24th- Christmas Carol by Man of Words, 12-2pm'

Visit indoors from 10am until 6pm (10am until 4pm on Dec. 24th) and explore two halls filled with handmade treasures made by local artisans, delicious food, and live performances. As always, admission and parking are free!

MORE INFO: https://www.facebook.com/eugenesaturdaymarket/https://www.holidaymarket.org/

Operation Winter Survival Supply Stockpile Drive Need Ongoing

Lane County Health & Human Services, in partnership with the First Christian Church of Eugene’s Helping Hearts program and White Bird, today announced the launch of Operation Winter Survival Stockpile. The operation is an effort to create a stockpile through donations of clothing and other supplies that will help those in our community experiencing homelessness better brave the elements. 

“Having access to the severe weather stockpile is an indispensable resource for service providers in our county,” said White Bird Clinic Nest Program Interim Coordinator, Theresa Bordreau. “Having both hot and cold weather supplies, fills a much-needed gap for survival gear that are often in short supply. For any community member looking for ways you can support the most vulnerable in our community, I would encourage you to look at donating to this very important resource. It has been of great value to our clients here at the White Bird Clinic.” 

Items can be dropped off on weekdays between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. or by appointment. Items can also be purchased on Amazon and sent to First Christian Church at 166 Oak St. Eugene, OR, 97402. 

The Operation’s Amazon Wish List can be found at:  https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2XR33GS1ULV8Z?ref_=wl_share

Distribution of items will be prioritized to homeless outreach providers such as CAHOOTS that come into direct contact with individuals who are unhoused and unsheltered.

Preferred donation items include:

  • Clothing such as rain ponchos, wool socks, thermal underwear, gloves, beanies and footwear
  • Items like tents, blankets, hand warmers, tarps, gift cards, and laundry cards
  • Tools such as flashlights, batteries, and other survival supplies

For more information on Operation Winter Survival Stockpile, please contact Maria Cortez at ia.Cortez@lanecountyor.gov“>Maria.Cortez@lanecountyor.gov

Eugene, Springfield and Lane County leaf pickup

For more information about Eugene’s leaf collection and delivery services, go to www.eugene-or.gov/leaf or call Eugene Public Works Maintenance at 541-682-4800.

For more information about leaf pickup in Springfield, visit www.springfield-or.gov/leafpickup, call 541-525-2658 or email ogram@springfield-or.gov“>leafpickupprogram@springfield-or.gov

State officials plan to boost naloxone availability in Oregon schools

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has announced plans to offer free opioid overdose reversal kits to middle and high schools throughout the state.

The effort is an expansion of the Save Lives Oregon (SLO) Initiative’s Harm Reduction Clearinghouse Project.

The SLO Harm Reduction Clearinghouse began during COVID and has provided naloxone and other harm reduction supplies at no cost to agencies around the state that directly engage with people at highest risk of substance use related overdose, infections, and injuries.

The expansion of the Harm Reduction Clearinghouse Project to support schools to access naloxone was made possible through one-time funding from the Oregon’s Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Board.

The Oregon Department of Education last week notified school district leaders about the availability of naloxone for schools, registration opened Nov. 29 and as of today 505 total schools, colleges, and universities have requested to receive reversal kits.

The intent is to help school districts increase access to overdose reversal kits within their schools for use in the event of an opioid overdose emergency at or near a school campus.

“The opioid epidemic and overdose crisis impacts every community in Oregon. While overdose events on school property are rare, our school communities should be prepared to respond to an overdose medical emergency,” said Ebony Clarke, OHA’s director of behavioral health.

Every middle and high school is eligible to receive up to three opioid overdose reversal kits. The kits contain a wall mounted naloxone box, instructions, emergency medical supplies, and eight doses of the opioid antagonist, naloxone nasal spray.

Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, can restore breathing while waiting for emergency medical services to arrive.  Access to naloxone is necessary for school staff to respond to an opioid overdose on or near a school campus.  

Eligible schools must serve students seventh grade or higher. The program is open to all public, private, charter schools, colleges and universities or tribal communities located in Oregon.

For more information, including the link to the online application, please visit the SLO website.

The SLO Clearinghouse has provided no-cost supplies to more than 280 organizations and agencies across Oregon and Tribal communities, including harm reduction organizations, local public health and behavioral health agencies, law enforcement, first responders, community health clinics, substance use disorder facilities and hospital-based programs.

The Harm Reduction Clearinghouse has distributed more than 335,500 doses of naloxone to agencies that directly distribute naloxone to people at risk of opioid overdose since 2022, according to OHA estimates.

OHCS announces Homeowner Assistance Fund application portal to close on December 20
Oregon Housing and Community Services – 12/05/23 11:56 AM

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) is closing the Oregon Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) program to most new applicants to avoid overcommitting funds. The application portal will close at noon PST Dec. 20. Homeowners who are in active foreclosure may still be able to apply through a housing counselor.  

“We’re encouraging homeowners who are at imminent risk of housing displacement, socially disadvantaged individuals as defined by U.S. Treasury, or anyone who meets one of the additional eligibility criteria listed on the HAF website to apply for HAF assistance before noon Dec. 20,” said Ryan Vanden Brink, assistant director of Homeowner Assistance Programs. “Although we are accepting new applications, there may not be enough funds for everyone who applies as the program winds down.”  

Existing applicants can continue to log on to the HAF portal to check the status of their application or scheduled payments.   

OHCS planned its HAF program to operate as a safety net for the most at-risk homeowners who have no viable workout option, so those homeowners will receive priority processing. If funds still remain after the portal closes and applications are processed, HAF intake partners will be able to submit new applications on behalf of homeowners in a judicial foreclosure action or in nonjudicial foreclosure with a scheduled sale date. These applicants may need to complete intake paperwork and foreclosure prevention counseling before working with a counselor. Funding may not be available for all these new applications.  

In addition to Oregon’s foreclosure moratorium and increased mortgage forbearance and default workout options, HAF has helped Oregon maintain a historically low foreclosure rate during and since the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping many in their homes. According to August 2023 Corelogic data, there were 1,016 residential foreclosures in Oregon, which reflects a 0.16% foreclosure rate, compared to a 20-year average 1.03% foreclosure rate. 

As of Dec. 4, OHCS has approved 1,745 applications, totaling about $46.9 million of the $72 million available to homeowners when the program launched. Over $35 million in approved funds have already been paid with an average award of about $27,000. OHCS is reviewing or monitoring another 859 applications that, if approved, are projected to total $23.2 million in assistance. The agency projects $1.9 million remains. OHCS is currently working with homeowners, housing counselors, and mortgage servicers to postpone and prevent hundreds of foreclosures for applicants. Visit the HAF Dashboard for more detailed information. 

Free help is available  – Homeowners who have fallen behind or are at risk of missing a payment on their mortgage can continue to get free help from certified housing counselors around the state to learn about options to keep their homes, such as modifications or adding deferred payments to the end of a mortgage. Housing counselors are knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated professionals who can help homeowners communicate with their mortgage servicers.  

Search the full list of free certified housing counselors by county. Homeowners should be aware that some housing counseling agencies take longer due to high volume and remote working policies.  

In addition to connecting with a certified housing counselor, Oregon homeowners should directly contact their mortgage servicers and lenders to see what types of mortgage assistance and foreclosure prevention programs are available. Homeowners who communicate with their lenders and servicers have some additional protections and usually have more time to figure out their options.  

Avoiding fraud  – The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services recommends being extremely cautious with offers to help from unauthorized companies or people. Homeowners are urged not to provide financial or personal information unless they verify the company or person’s licensing status. It does not cost anything to apply for the HAF program or meet with an Oregon housing counselor.  

There are several common warning signs homeowners should watch out for that may indicate a scam. If a homeowner suspects they’re being contacted by a scammer, they can report it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Oregon Department of Justice, or the U.S. Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General.  

To verify a lender’s license, visit the Division of Financial Regulation’s license page and compare it with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS) license number. This number must be included on all advertising materials and should be easy to find. To verify a housing counseling agency’s status with the state, make sure they are listed on the OHCS website.   

Lawyer For Accused Klamath Falls Kidnapper Negasi Zuberi Wants Case Dismissed

A lawyer for accused multi-state kidnapper Negasi Zuberi says a key piece of evidence was destroyed in the case — the alleged makeshift cinderblock cell in Zuberi’s Klamath Falls garage where prosecutors say he locked a woman inside after abducting her from Seattle.

“The government allowed a very important piece of evidence to be destroyed,” attorney Michael P. Bertholf wrote to the court.

According to the Oregonian, a lawyer for accused multi-state kidnapper Negasi Zuberi says a key piece of evidence was destroyed in the case — the alleged makeshift cinderblock cell inZuberi’s Klamath Falls garage where prosecutors say he locked a woman inside after abducting her from Seattle.

“The government allowed a very important piece of evidence to be destroyed,” attorney Michael P. Bertholf wrote to the court.

Bertholf told a federal judge Monday that he will file a motion to dismiss the case for the alleged destruction of evidence.

“This ‘cell’ was destroyed prior to any member of Defendant’s legal team being allowed to examine it,” he said. “Counsel anticipates seeking expert advice on the integrity of such a structure based on the only available evidence of the makeshift ‘cell,’ namely minimal photographs.”

The government will offer testimony to connect Zuberi to the cell’s construction, Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Brassell said in court papers, but he did not directly respond to Bertholf’s allegation.

Zuberi, 29, was arrested in Reno, Nevada, on July 16, a day after the alleged kidnapping. He is accused of taking the woman from Seattle after posing as an undercover police officer, driving her 450 miles to Klamath Falls, sexually assaulting her on the trip, and then locking her in a cell in the garage of his rental home in Klamath Falls, according to the FBI.

The woman escaped after a couple of hours in the cell, ripping apart a metal screen door on the cell, sneaking out of a small space in the screen, running from the home, and flagging down a motorist for help, according to the FBI and Klamath Falls police.

Thousands of Oregon Drivers May Soon Be Able To Get Their Driver’s Licenses Again After Governor Tina Kotek Announced She Plans To Forgive Uncollected Traffic Fines and Fees Standing In The Way

Governor Tina Kotek issued an executive order Tuesday that forgives unpaid traffic fees and court fines for about 10,000 people so they can get their driver’s license reinstated.

 (Release from the Office of the Governor) Governor Tina Kotek has issued new remission orders forgiving unpaid traffic fines and fees to include individuals who were inadvertently omitted in the previous 2022 remissions orders.

Governor Kotek’s new remission orders remove existing fines for more than 10,000 additional Oregonians who should have been included in the 2022 remission orders. These Oregonians now have their fines and fees forgiven and have the opportunity to restore their licenses.

“Debt-based driver’s license suspensions disproportionately impact rural and low-income Oregonians,” Governor Kotek said. “For families who are already struggling to make ends meet, these orders seek to remove one more barrier to financial stability.”

Prior to the 2020 passage of House Bill 4210, driver’s licenses could be suspended if a person was unable to pay the fine they received because of a minor traffic violation. The new law prohibited most license suspensions for nonpayment of traffic fines going forward, but individuals with debt-based license suspensions already on their record could not reinstate their driver’s licenses.

In December 2022, former Governor Kate Brown remitted the fines and fees associated with years-old traffic violations imposed on Oregonians who were unable to pay their fines or did not appear in court to remedy their fines, thus causing the suspension of their driver’s licenses. The initial orders impacted approximately 7,000 people.

Over the last year, Oregon’s Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division (DMV) discovered that not all individuals who met the criteria in the original 2022 remission orders were included in the released lists.

Governor Kotek’s orders do not alter the original criteria from the 2022 remission orders. Her orders instead ensure that those who met the original criteria are identified. The remission orders forgive fines and fees related only to traffic violations. The orders do not forgive fines and fees related to traffic crimes, such as misdemeanors and felonies, or public safety-related sanctions, like other criminal convictions. Much of the debt forgiven by the Governor’s remission orders has remained unpaid for three or more years and, as a result, is considered uncollectible.

Governor Kotek’s remission orders, including the list of cases, may be found here. A compiled list of names from all three orders can be found here, and an FAQ is located here.

The 2022 remissions orders, including the list of cases, may be found here.

Oregonians can go to the DMV’s Fine Remittance – Do I Qualify? web page to learn if their name is on one of the remission orders and how to reinstate their driving privileges.

——– Kotek said in the statement that “debt-based license suspensions” disproportionately harm rural and low income Oregonians by creating financial hurdles that are hard to overcome.

“For families who are already struggling to make ends meet, these orders seek to remove one more barrier to financial stability,” she wrote.

The state Legislature passed House Bill 4210 in 2020, which prohibited license suspensions for nonpayment of traffic fines. The measure was not retroactive, however, and did not help those who currently had their license suspended.

Kotek’s predecessor, Gov. Kate Brown, later forgave unpaid court fines and fees for about 7,000 people who weren’t helped by the new law. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles discovered that not everyone who was eligible was helped under Brown’s order, so Kotek’s executive order captures those who were unintentionally left out the first time around.

The remission for the fines and fees do not apply to people who have fees related to traffic crimes or owe compensatory fines to victims. They only apply to traffic fines, such as unpaid parking tickets.

“License suspension plunges already low-income people further into a spiral of debt which it is extremely difficult to escape,” said Sybil Hebb, with the Oregon Law Center.

The majority of the fines and fees forgiven are considered uncollectible debt, according to a press release from the governor’s office. Most of the debt has not been paid for three or more years. The order forgives about $6 million worth of fines from circuit court cases in Oregon. It’s unknown how much was remitted from Oregon municipal and justice courts.

After Brown issued her remission orders, the Oregon Law Center created a video explaining what remission orders do and how to get your driver’s license back if you’re eligible. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles also has a webpage explaining how to apply for debt forgiveness. (source)

Oregon Retail Sales Decline

Oregon shoppers got more thrifty this year, reversing a post-pandemic trend and perhaps suggesting a subdued holiday shopping season in the weeks ahead.

Oregon retail sales have been in decline for much of this year, the first drops since the spring of 2020. Retail sales were down as much as 3.1% last summer, according to the most recent data from the number crunchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. (Nationally, sales were down about 1%.)

That’s a big turnaround from the prior two years, when Oregon retail sales surged at an annual rate above 10%. Oregon’s numbers closely parallel national trends, reflecting an increase in disposable income from federal stimulus payments and the economic boom that set in as COVID-19 waned.

Fewer people are working in Oregon stores, too. Retail employment was down 1.1% in October compared to year earlier, according to the latest numbers from the Oregon Employment Department.

Retail is one of the few categories of Oregon job still below its pre-pandemic level. The employment department says there were 2,100 fewer retail workers in the state in October than there were before the pandemic hit.

It’s too soon to know how the holiday season will turn out for Oregon stores this fall. But there are early signs consumers nationally are growing more cautious, weary from two years of rising prices. Many have spent down savings, and they’re beginning to carry more credit card debt – at higher interest rates.

Marshal Cohen, chief retail adviser for the shopping analytics and forecasting firm Circana, said consumers seem to be holding out for better deals this year. He called Black Friday a disappointment for big retailers.

“Lots was missing, but mostly a sense of urgency,” Cohen wrote last week. He said consumers aren’t worried that retailers will run out of coveted products and seemed unimpressed with the deals stores are offering. They’ve concluded the biggest discounts are online.

Shopping over Thanksgiving weekend was “sluggish” nationally, according to Ted Rossman, retail analyst for the personal finance website Bankrate.

“I’m getting the sense that consumers are in a frugal mood this holiday season,” Rossman wrote in a report last week. He said he expects holiday sales will be flat compared to 2022 once you factor in rising prices.

“Honestly, sales figures that show retailers treading water is about as good as one could reasonably expect in the current economic climate,” Rossman wrote. (SOURCE)

Oregon Lawmakers Consider Changes To Drug Decriminalization

Lawmakers in Salem are due to hold a hearing Monday on the future of Measure 110 — the 2020 voter-approved law that decriminalized small amounts of drugs for personal use.

This is the third hearing — the last this year — of a special interim committee formed to address addiction and community safety.

Drug use and addiction are expected to be a major focus of next year’s five-week legislative session, which begins in February.

Lawmakers are under pressure from big business and political players to change the law or face ballot initiatives to put proposed changes before voters. At the committee’s first meeting in October, lawmakers heard that Oregon has not met addiction treatment needs for years, and some criticized drug decriminalization as a “fundamental failure.”

At a second hearing last month, law enforcement officials testified that fentanyl has been a “deal changer” affecting many aspects of their work. Monday’s speakers are expected to discuss treatment approaches and interventions. Two hours are scheduled for public testimony.

Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort Suspends Operations Due to Safety Concerns

Just a day after celebrating its opening, Mt. Bachelor ski resort abruptly shuts down operations due to safety concerns. Flooding, heavy rain, and dangerous road conditions led to this decision. The resort aims to resume operations by Wednesday, following daily assessments of the conditions.

Klamath Falls has been named 44th in the Top 50 best places to travel globally by Travel Lemming, a U.S.-based online travel guide that is read by more than 10 million travelers.

The article calls Klamath Falls an “uncrowded gateway to Crater Lake National Park,” and says that its “numerous hiking trails lead to lakes, mountain summits and stunning waterfalls (are) a key feature of southwest Oregon.”

It cites seeing the Klamath Falls Rapids, hiking the Link Trail, and zipping on the Crater Lake Zipline as a few things that visitors shouldn’t miss while in the area.

County Commissioner Kelley Minty says, “It’s encouraging to see others recognize what we all know — Klamath County has so much to offer our citizens as well as visitors. I hope others feel as proud as I do of our community.”

Other American cities making the list were: Memphis, Tenn., ranked 5th; Kodiak, Alaska, ranked 8th; Eureka Springs, Ark., ranked 10th; Quincy, Mass., ranked 21st; Jacksonville, Fla., ranked 29th; and Steamboat Springs, Colo., ranked 41st. https://travellemming.com/best-places-to-travel-2024/

Bureau Of Land Management Addresses Dying Douglas Fir Across Southwestern Oregon

More Douglas fir have died in southern Oregon in the last four years than the last four decades, according to an article in the Journal of Forestryi Bureau of Land Management leaders want your feedback on the best strategy for how to respond to increasing tree mortality. The BLM is concerned about public safety along roadways, increased fire risk, changes in wildlife habitat, and economic impacts to local communities.

“Our top priority is to decrease risk to our local communities,” said Elizabeth Burghard, BLM Medford District Manager. “We are very concerned about the impacts of Douglas fir mortality on safe and effective wildland firefighting. We need the public’s help to decide where and how to take the most effective action.”

The BLM is proposing to remove dead and dying trees in strategic areas to improve community safety; assist with evacuations during wildfire events; provide access for emergency services; and provide firefighters safe and effective means to engage fire when it occurs.

BLM foresters hope to remove these dead and dying trees while the timber still has commercial value.

“By taking action now, we can sell the trees before they decay,” said Burghard. “The trees can pay their way out of the forest.”

“If we wait too long, these necessary treatments will come at a much higher cost to taxpayers,” she continued.

The BLM Medford District anticipates that the environmental analysis will cover an estimated 5,000 acres of commercial salvage, non-merchantable removal, and activity fuel treatments. Implementation of the work could happen using timber sales, stewardship contracts, and/or other service contracts to remove dead and dying material and associated activity fuels and begin in late 2024.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. https://www.blm.gov/press-release/bureau-land-management-addresses-dying-douglas-fir-across-southwestern-oregon

Umpqua Bank Launches Warm Hearts Winter Drive, Mobilizes Associates across Oregon to Support Neighbors in Need

Local residents can help support nearly 30 Aide Organizations across Oregon this holiday season

― Umpqua Bank announced the launch of its Warm Hearts Winter Drive, an associate-driven campaign to support individuals and families who struggle with access to housing and other basic resources. As part of the drive, associates and local branches in Oregon will help mobilize their respective communities to raise money and collect winter clothing for 28 shelters and aide organizations serving Oregonians experiencing homelessness. 

Umpqua’s Warm Hearts Winter drive continues a community-impact commitment of the former Columbia Bank, which merged with Umpqua earlier this year. The campaign was started in 2015 as a way for bank associates to partner with customers and members of their community to raise funds and other resources for local shelters and nonprofits providing support for families without a home. More than $2 million in contributions has been raised since its inception. This year’s drive expands to support more than 100 organizations in communities across the combined bank’s footprint in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. 

“As a newly combined bank, Umpqua is committed to mobilizing our greater resources and the collective power and passion of our associates to make a difference in our local communities,” said Umpqua Bank Chief Marketing Officer David Moore Devine. “Access to adequate shelter and clothing continues to be a major challenge for many of our neighbors, and our Warm Hearts campaign empowers associates, along with members of our communities, to support local families in need. Simply donating a few dollars, a new coat or other quality clothing items can help ensure that more of our neighbors are cared for in the months ahead.”

How to Support the Warm Hearts Winter Drive — The Warm Hearts Winter Drive accepts cash donations in addition to new winter clothes. Contributions can be made at www.WarmHeartsWinterDrive.com. Financial contributions and new clothing items can also be donated at local Umpqua Bank branches.

Associates and local branches across Umpqua’s footprint are actively engaged in securing financial contributions and warm clothing from customers and community members. One hundred percent of the clothing and funds collected will be donated directly to local shelters and aide organizations. 

All designated contributions stay in the community where they were raised and directly support local organizations.

Participating Organizations in Oregon:

Bethlehem InnBend
The Shepherd’s HouseBend
Oregon Coast Community ActionCoos Bay
Community Outreach, Inc.Corvallis
Eugene MissionEugene
St. Vincent De Paul Lane CountyEugene
My Father’s House: A Community ShelterGresham
Martha’s House of HermistonHermiston
Community Action Hillsboro Family ShelterHillsboro
Gorge Ecumenical Ministries Hood River
Klamath & Lake Community Action ServicesKlamath Falls
Community Connection of Northeast Oregon, Inc.La Grande
Union County Shelter from the StormLa Grande
Family Promise of Lincoln CountyLincoln City
Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Rogue ValleyMedford
Northwest Housing AlternativesMilwaukie
LOVE, Inc. | Newberg/Yamhill County Gospel MissionNewberg
Grace Wins HavenNewport
Samaritan House, Inc.Newport
Community in ActionOntario
Neighbor to Neighbor Pendelton (N2N)Pendleton 
Portland Rescue MissionPortland
United Community Action Network Douglas & Josephine CountiesRoseburg
Catholic Community Services of the Mid-Willamette ValleySalem
Union Gospel Mission of SalemSalem
Helping Hands Reentry Outreach CenterSeaside
St. Vincent De Paul: Warming PlaceThe Dalles
Tillamook County Community Action Resource Enterprises, Inc. Tillamook


For more information on the list of benefiting organizations in each county, or to make a cash or new clothing donation, please visit WarmHeartsWinterDrive.com. Those interested in supporting the Warm Hearts campaign may also email community@umpquabank.com for more information.

About Umpqua Bank
Umpqua Bank is a subsidiary of Columbia Banking System Inc., (Nasdaq: COLB) and a premier regional bank in the western U.S., with offices in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. With over $50 billion of assets, Umpqua combines the resources, sophistication and expertise of a national bank with a commitment to deliver personalized service at scale. The bank consistently ranks as one of America’s Best Banks (ranked by Forbes) and supports consumers and businesses through a full suite of services, including retail and commercial banking; Small Business Administration lending; institutional and corporate banking; equipment leasing; and wealth management. The bank’s corporate headquarters are located in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Learn more at umpquabank.com.

Demand for food aid spikes in past year as many Oregonians struggle with hunger 

After the pandemic ended, the demand for food  continued to increase in Oregon, with the need for  millions more pounds of produce, pasta and other staples at meal sites and food pantries.

Farmworker Francisca Aparicio washes lettuce in July 2023 as part of an Oregon Food Bank ambassador program that helps diverse communities across the state. (Oregon Food Bank)

Before the pandemic, about 860,000 people annually visited the food bank’s partners in Oregon and southwest Washington, said Morgan Dewey, a spokesperson for the nonprofit food bank. This year, the food bank is on track to serve more than 1 million people, Dewey said.

“We’re just continuing to try to keep up with how much food folks are needing on the ground,” Dewey said.

Get help — The Oregon Food Bank, state agencies and other organizations, including pantries and churches, provide food for hungry Oregonians. For help:

The needs have increased as extra pandemic-related food benefits from the government have stopped. During the pandemic, most families received 70% more in their monthly allotment of federal food aid, called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. The extra aid ended in March, with the average household allotment falling from $450 a month to about $300. The state also paid out the last of the pandemic-related extra food benefits for low-income families with young children in October.

“Those supports – when they ended it – really, really put folks in a dire situation,” Dewey said.

The food bank has five warehouses throughout the state that deliver to 21 regional food banks and more than 1,400 other points, including meal sites, delivery programs and pantries. Those sites are critical for rural and frontier areas in Oregon with food insecurity that are not near a large regional pantry, Dewey said.

The operation puts out fresh produce and dairy products, with an eye toward offering nutritional food that aligns with the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of Oregonians. 

For the long-term, it’s important to look for ways to address the economic circumstances driving hunger, Dewey said. Those can include unaffordable housing and a lack of access to health care.

“We can serve everyone who is standing in line for a meal or standing in line to get a grocery bag full of food,” Dewey said. “We can serve all those people today, but hunger still won’t go away tomorrow.” (SOURCE)

Eagle Point Woman Sentenced to 13 Years in Federal Prison for Taking Sexually Explicit Photos of a Child and Distributing Them Online

MEDFORD, Ore.—An Eagle Point, Oregon woman was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison today for taking sexually explicit photos of an 8-year-old child and sending them to multiple individuals she met online.

Kayla Dee Lester, 31, was sentenced to 156 months in federal prison and 20 years’ supervised release.

According to court documents, in 2020, Lester took sexually explicit photos of an 8-year-old child and distributed them to multiple individuals online using Whisper, a social media application that allows users to post and share photo and video messages anonymously. When interviewed by police, Lester admitted to using Whisper and other social media applications to meet people and solicit child pornography. She further admitted to sending the images she took of the 8-year-old child to others in hopes they would send her child pornography in return.

On September 17, 2020, a federal grand jury in Medford returned a three-count indictment charging Lester with using a minor to produce visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct, and distributing and possessing child pornography. On May 10, 2023, Lester pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography.

On July 6, 2023, while awaiting sentencing, Lester was arrested for possessing an internet-connected cell phone in violation of her release conditions. Her cell phone was found to contain nude images of herself and other adults who she was chatting with online as well as chats between Lester and others wherein she described sexually abusing her 8-year-old victim. A forensic search later conducted on her phone revealed 44 videos of child pornography. On July 10, 2023, Lester’s pretrial release was revoked.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force. It was prosecuted by Judith R. Harper, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Anyone who has information about the physical or online exploitation of children are encouraged to contact HSI at (866) 347-2423 or submit a tip online at report.cybertip.org.

Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor. It is important to remember child sexual abuse material depicts actual crimes being committed against children. Not only do these images and videos document the victims’ exploitation and abuse, but when shared across the internet, they re-victimize and re-traumatize the child victims each time their abuse is viewed. To learn more, please visit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at www.missingkids.org.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

Created in January 2007, the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force provides cybercrime investigations and digital evidence forensic analysis for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in Southern Oregon. Member agencies include the Medford Police Department, Oregon State Police, the Jackson County Sheriff and District Attorney’s Offices, and HSI.

Suspects in string of Salem area armed robberies arrested, guns seized

Salem, Ore. — Two suspects in a string of armed robberies in the Salem area were arrested yesterday, December 4, without incident in an interagency operation by the Salem Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) with assistance from Oregon State Police (OSP).

Over a three-week period beginning on November 17, a series of armed robberies occurred at six businesses. In each incident, the suspects brandished guns at employees and demanded money. Four of the robberies occurred in the Salem city limits and two robberies were committed at locations outside the city boundaries and within MCSO jurisdiction. 

Detectives from the Salem Police Violent Crimes Unit worked with MCSO investigators to identify the suspects. And in a coordinated effort on Monday, Salem Police, MCSO and OSP SWAT teams served simultaneous search warrants at three different locations in Salem which resulted in the arrest of Nestor Gabriel Hernandez-Juarez, age 19 of Salem, and a 17-year-old juvenile. As a result of the warrant service, detectives located evidence connected to the crimes to include three handguns, two which were used in the commission of the robberies. 

Hernandez-Juarez was lodged at the Marion County Jail and is due to be arraigned at the Marion County Circuit Court Annex today on the following charges:

  • Robbery, first degree, four counts
  • Unlawful use of a weapon, four counts
  • Menacing, four counts

The juvenile was lodged at the Marion County Juvenile Department on the following allegations:

  • Robbery, first degree, six counts
  • Unlawful use of a weapon, six counts
  • Menacing, six counts

The Salem Police Department does not identify minors involved in criminal investigations. 

No further information is available for release as the case remains under investigation.

Get $5 off annual Oregon State Park parking permit in December

Give the gift of the outdoors and save this season with the Oregon State Parks 12-month parking permit sale during the month of December.

The permit hangtag once again features whimsical designs from Portland artist El Tran. Holiday shoppers can buy the annual parking permits for only $25, which is a $5 savings starting Dec. 1 and running through Dec. 31. The permit is good for 12 months starting in the month of purchase.

Purchasing permits is easy. Buy them online at the Oregon State Parks store (use the drop down menu to pick your favorite design). Parking permits are also sold at some state park friends’ group stores and select local businesses throughout the state. For a complete list of vendors, visit stateparks.oregon.gov.

Parking costs $5 a day at 25 Oregon state parks unless you have a 12- or 24-month parking permit or a same-day camping receipt. The 24-month pass is $50 and is also available at store.oregonstateparks.org. The permits are transferable from vehicle to vehicle.

Alert for Respiratory Illness Effecting Oregon Dogs

Veterinary laboratories in several states are investigating an unusual respiratory illness in dogs and encouraging people to take basic precautions to keep their pets healthy as veterinarians try to pin down what’s making the animals sick.

Oregon, Colorado and New Hampshire are among the states that have seen cases of the illness, which has caused lasting respiratory disease and pneumonia and does not respond to antibiotics.

Symptoms of respiratory illness in dogs include coughing, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge and lethargy. Some cases of the pneunomia progress quickly, making dogs very sick within 24 to 36 hours.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has documented more than 200 cases of the disease since mid-August. It has encouraged pet owners to contact their vet if their dog is sick and told state veterinarians to report cases as soon as possible. The agency is working with state researchers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory to find out what is causing the illnesses.

Dogs have died, said Kurt Williams, director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University. But without a clear way to define the disease or test for it, he said it’s hard to put a number on how many died from a severe form of the infection.

Williams had a simple message for dog owners: “Don’t panic.” He also said dog owners should make sure that their pets are up to date on vaccines, including those that protect against various respiratory illnesses.

Labs across the country have been sharing their findings as they try to pinpoint the culprit.

David Needle, senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has been investigating the mysterious disease for almost a year.

His lab and colleagues at the university’s Hubbard Center for Genome Research have looked at samples from dogs in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and more will be coming from Oregon, Colorado and possibly other states.

He said his team has not seen a large increase in dogs dying from the illness but still encouraged pet owners to “decrease contact with other dogs.” (SOURCE)

Silver Falls State Park hosts Winter Festival Dec. 9 and 10

Enjoy guided nature hikes, seasonal crafts and educational activities at the Silver Falls State Park Winter Festival 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10. 

Visitors will have a chance to learn about the park in winter including the changing landscapes and habitats for resident and migratory birds and animals. 

Activities include guided walks and talks; building bird nest boxes; making bird feeders and paper bird crafts; creating wreaths and decorating gingerbread and sugar cookies.

Schedule of Activities:

  • Make a wreath at the Evergreen Picnic Shelter (South Falls day-use area)
  • Build a bird nest box at the Creekside Shelter (South Falls day-use are)
  • Make a bird feeder or paper bird craft in the Stone Kitchen Shelter (South Falls day-use area)
  • Attend a short educational talk or guided walk at the South Falls Theater (South Falls day-use area unless otherwise noted)
    • 11 a.m.: Winter Hibernators Walk (45-minute walk at Smith Creek Village)
    • 12 p.m.: Mushroom ID hike (1-hour hike)
    • 1 p.m.: Winter Tree ID hike (1-hour hike)
    • 2 p.m.: Learn to Love a Lichen (20-minute talk)
    • 3 p.m.: Winter birds of Silver Falls (20-minute talk)
  • Visit a discovery table near South Falls to learn about the waterfalls in winter or learn about the winter solstice (South Falls day-use area)
  • Decorate a cookie, make a paper bird craft or learn about winter animal tracks (Smith Creek Village, 1.5 miles from the South Falls day-use area)
  • Earn a commemorative Silver Falls ornament from taking part in at least five of the above activities

All activities are free, but a day-use parking permit is required. Permits cost $5 per day; annual permits, normally $30, are on sale for $25 in the month of December and are available at the park. For more information, visit the event page on our calendar at stateparks.oregon.gov or call 503-874-0201.

Enjoy Evening Hours at the Museum with the December return of Winter Nights!

BEND, OR — Days are shorter, and the air is colder… winter is coming! Every Thursday in December, the High Desert Museum will host fun and festive Winter Nights events — offering participants a break from their busy work weeks with unique evenings out. 

For Winter Nights the Museum will remain open until 7:30 pm with seasonal themes as well as a chance to experience new exhibitions and engaging activities for all ages. In addition, the Museum presently has two new exhibitions — Wolves: Photography by Ronan Donovan and Endangered in the High Desert — and will open a third one on Saturday, December 9, Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species: From the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation.

For this year’s Winter Nights:

  • December 7: Welcome to Winter — The first Winter Nights event will feature speedy rounds of Museum trivia! Several rounds will be played, and prizes will be won. Alongside trivia, Museum visitors may enjoy fun beverage tastings from local vendors and a dinner or a treat at the Rimrock Café. Silver Sage Trading will also be open, offering holiday discounts to all and complementary gift wrapping. Cookie decorating and storytelling for kids will also be happening all evening long.
  • December 14: College Night– Students with college identification will receive free admission! For this Winter Nights event the Museum encourages all visitors to come dressed in their best vintage snow-wear. The evening will feature speedy rounds of Museum bingo, more regional beverage tastings, cookie decorating and storytelling. Silver Sage Trading – with holiday discounts and gift wrapping – and the Rimrock Café will also be open throughout the evening.
  • December 21: Exploring Endangered Species– Bring the family to explore the Museum’s newest exhibits, Wolves: Photography by Ronan DonovanEndangered in the High Desert and Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species. Like the previous nights, there will be beverage tastings alongside an exhibit-themed scavenger hunt that ends with an art project. Plus, there are sugar cookies to decorate, discounts to be had at Silver Sage Trading and delicious food to eat at the Rimrock Café. All ages are sure to enjoy this evening!
  • December 28: By the Fireside – This will be an exciting opportunity to get the entire family out of the house… in pajamas! During the final Winter Nights of the season the Museum will host a pajama party with family portraits, cozy stories, sugar cookie decorating and more delicious craft beverage tastings. 

With up to nine new exhibits opening at the High Desert Museum each year, there is always something new for visitors to explore. October, November and December were no exception, with one new exhibition opening each month. The first, Wolves: Photography by Ronan Donovan, opened on October 21. This stunning exhibition, created by the National Geographic Society and the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, features Donovan’s images and videos of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and on Ellesmere Island in the high Canadian Artic. Since 2014, the National Geographic Explorer and photographer has examined the relationship between wild wolves and humans to better understand the animals, our shared history and what drives the persistent human-wolf conflict. To learn more, visit: highdesertmuseum.org/wolves.

Winter Nights visitors can also explore the original exhibit Endangered in the High Desert, which recently opened on November 11. With vibrant colors and engaging photography, this exhibition is meant to ignite conversations about species in the region that are either facing or recovering from the threat of extinction. To learn more, visit: highdesertmuseum.org/endangered-high-desert.

The Museum’s final exhibition opening in 2023, Andy Warhol’s: Endangered Species: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, makes its debut at the Museum on Saturday, December 9. The exhibition will showcase the pop art icon’s complete Endangered Species series (1983), as well as select works from Warhol’s Skull series, Vanishing Animals series and one of Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe works. To learn more, visit: highdesertmuseum.org/warhol.

All three of these exhibitions are key components of the Museum’s yearlong recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

Admission for Winter Nights is $10 general admission and $6 for ages 3-12. Ages 2 and under and Museum members are free. Visitors who arrive earlier in the day may stay for Winter Nights without paying additional admission. The outdoor exhibits are closed during Winter Nights. Regular winter hours are 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Learn more at highdesertmuseum.org/winter-nights.

ABOUT THE MUSEUM: The HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and the natural world to convey the wonder of North America’s High Desert. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit highdesertmuseum.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Visitors can book same-day online reservations statewide starting in 2024

SALEM, Ore— Visitors hoping to camp last minute will soon have the chance to view and book same-day campsite openings online statewide starting Jan. 1, 2024. 

Campsite at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park

Previously, most sites required booking 24 hours or more in advance of arrival when reserving online. Same-day online reservations started as a pilot project at two coastal parks and expanded last summer to all 17 coastal state park campgrounds. 

“Same-day reservations at the coast gave those traveling the peace of mind that there was a place ready for them when they arrived,” said Coastal Region Director Dennis Comfort.

When the program expands statewide, it will include a total of 40 park campgrounds across Oregon. Some parks switch tent and RV campsites to first-come-first served during the winter and those sites will start offering same-day online reservations in the spring. Visitors can check park webpages for seasonal information on specific parks at https://stateparks.oregon.gov/

Eleven campgrounds will remain first-come-first served year-round: Jackson F. Kimball, Goose Lake, Bates, Cascara, Catherine Creek, Hilgard Junction, Jasper Point (except for the cabin), Minam, Red Bridge, Smith Rock and Ukiah-Dale.

The goal of same-day online reservations is to offer campers the flexibility to travel last minute when sites are available while giving them the security of knowing they have a site when they arrive. Same-day online reservations also have the potential to give park staff more time to offer interpretive opportunities, improve park facilities and increase time interacting with visitors.   

“The transition to same-day reservations at Nehalem Bay State Park was nearly seamless and has been generally well received by guests,” said Park Manager Ben Cox.

Starting Jan. 1, 2024:

  • Tent and RV campers can make a same-day online reservation up until 11:59 p.m. on the day they arrive by visiting https://oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com. Yurt and cabin reservations must be made before 6 p.m. the day of arrival due to the staffing required to assist with keys or codes. 
  • All visitors can make reservations by calling (800) 452-5687 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 
  • Visitors can also make same-day online reservations at parks statewide using mobile devices where they have cell reception or where Oregon State Parks’ free, limited Wi-Fi is available. Wi-Fi is provided at most parks for reservations only and is not guaranteed to be available 24/7. Signs at the park have login information. Since internet connectivity varies by park, it’s best to reserve campsites before arrival.
  • Visitors can still pay with cash or checks at the park by finding a ranger or following posted instructions, which could include using self-registration envelopes only if instructed to do so. Ranger availability is limited depending on time and location.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) will waive the $8 reservation fee for all same-day reservations. 

If you have any questions about the new option, please contact the information center at k.info@oregon.gov“>park.info@oregon.gov. For more information about the option, please visit our online FAQs.

PART 2Newsweek Podcast Focusing on The Disappearance of Fauna Frey From Lane County

Here One Minute, Gone the Next —-– PART 2 – Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel joins investigative journalist Alex Rogue to speak with Here One Minute, Gone the Next about the disappearance of Fauna Frey, the growing friction between citizen investigators and law enforcement, and the lack of resources in missing persons cases. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-disappearance-of-fauna-frey-pt2-feat-sheriff/id1707094441?i=1000630100040

PART 1 – John Frey joins Newsweek to discuss exclusive details about the case of his missing daughter that until now have been unavailable to the general public.

READ MORE HERE: https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-what-happened-fauna-frey-new-clues-uncovered-1827197?fbclid=IwAR3Z3Glru5lIgqiYXbs_nA1Fj8JuCIzM11OHSVHfwIucfq2f_G5y9y5bnmQ

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Fauna Frey, call the anonymous tip line at 541-539-5638 or email FindFaunaFrey@gmail.com. — Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP

Missing Yachats Man’s Vehicle Found in North Lane County

On 08/25/2023, Dustin Steyding was reported missing to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office after he left work on 07/22/2023 and hadn’t been located since. Dustin was living and working in the Yachats area. 

Dustin was reported to be in good physical condition, having previously worked as a hot shot firefighter in New Mexico. Dustin is very experienced in the woods and commonly goes out for hikes to stay in shape. Without means to locate Dustin, Deputies entered Dustin as a missing person in a national database. 

On 09/04/2023, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office received a call from Dustin’s family after they located his vehicle on Keller Creek Rd, just outside of Lincoln County in Lane County. Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Deputies contacted the vehicle and determined it had been at the location for some time. Deputies were unable to determine Dustin’s direction of travel from the vehicle.

The vehicle having been located in Lane County, Lincoln County Deputies contacted the Lane County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team and arranged for their response the next day to started searching the area. After two days of searching, no clues to Dustin’s have been found.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Dustin Steyding should contact the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at 541-265-0777 and reference case number 23S-07321.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'MISSING TALYNN RYLIE MERTZ, 15 Talynn was last seen in Eugene, Oregon on June 2, 2023. Talynn is 5'3"- -5'4" and 170 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes. f/MissingNorthwest @MissingNW @MissingNW IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-THE-LOST Eugene Police Department: 541-682-5111'
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1109674113319848

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