Oregon Beach News, Monday 1/23 – New Wave Energy Test Facility Taking Shape At Newport, Necropsy Performed On Young Gray Whale Found At Fort Stevens State Park

The latest news stories across the state of Oregon from the digital home of the Oregon coastal cities, OregonBeachMagazine.com

Monday, January 23, 2023

Oregon Beach Weather

…SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM TUESDAY TO 4 PM PST WEDNESDAY… * WHAT…Steep swell dominated seas 9 to 14 ft at 19 seconds expected. * WHERE…All areas. * WHEN…From 4 AM Tuesday to 4 PM PST Wednesday. * IMPACTS…Gusty winds and/or steep seas could capsize or damage smaller vessels. * View the hazard area in detail at https://go.usa.gov/x6hks

New Wave Energy Test Facility Taking Shape At Newport

OSU announces the last major pieces of the contract to build the wave energy test facility PacWave South have been executed, paving the way for the completion of the Oregon State University-led facility off the coast of Newport.

PacWave South will be the first utility-scale, grid-connected wave energy test site in the United States. The facility will offer wave energy developers the opportunity to try different technologies for harnessing the power of ocean waves and transmitting that energy to the local electrical grid.

PacWave project leaders recently authorized the procurement of more than 80 kilometers of cable that will deliver wave-generated energy to a shoreside facility where it can be fed to the local electrical grid. They also just finalized the contract for construction of the shoreside facility, said Burke Hales, PacWave’s chief scientist and a professor in the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“These are the last two major pieces of the project,” Hales said. “The cable manufacturing and installation is the most technically challenging aspect. Authorization of the manufacturing is a huge milestone for PacWave and is critical to its success.”

The ocean test site will be located on a sandy-bottomed stretch of the Pacific Ocean away from popular commercial and recreational fishing reefs about seven miles off the coast of Newport. The site will have four different test “berths,” which combined can accommodate up to 20 wave energy devices at any one time.

Power and data cables buried below the seafloor will connect the ocean test site to the shoreside facility in Seal Rock, south of Newport. Louisiana-based industrial electrical services contractor R.T. Casey is overseeing the procurement, construction and installation of the cable for PacWave. The cables will be manufactured in Norway by the Paris-based firm Nexans, which also has facilities in the U.S.

“This good news adds up to a significant step forward for OSU’s world-renowned research into the marine energy that will play such a key role in the energy mix of the future,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. “I’m proud to have teamed up with OSU to support the purchase of subsea cables and begin construction. And I’ll keep battling to ensure OSU continues to secure the resources it’s earned to continue generating jobs and conducting groundbreaking research right here in Oregon.”

The cable manufacturing process is expected to begin soon and will take about a year. The goal is for the cables to arrive in the Pacific Northwest in the spring of 2024 for installation in the summer of 2024, Hales said.

Once installed, the subsea cables will come ashore at the Driftwood Beach State Recreation Site, where they will connect to terrestrial cables in an underground vault. The terrestrial cables will connect to the shoreside facility on Northwest Wenger Lane, just off Highway 101 in Seal Rock.

Corvallis-based contractor Gerding Builders has been selected to construct the shoreside facility; work on that piece of the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2023, said PacWave Deputy Director Dan Hellin.

With key support from Wyden, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, the recently enacted federal fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations legislation provides for an additional $22 million in funds to continue construction of the PacWave project.

“As we transition to clean energy, we must look to innovative solutions and bold new technologies like marine energy,” Bonamici said. “Harnessing the power of the ocean has tremendous potential, and researchers at Oregon State University have led the development of this promising industry. The new funding secured for the PacWave test facility to begin construction of its shoreside facility is an exciting step toward tapping the vast renewable energy potential of our ocean. I look forward to seeing the completed project and will continue to be a champion for climate action, including marine energy, in this and future Congresses.”

In 2022, crews completed the installation of underground conduits that will house the subsea and terrestrial cables that will carry wave-generated energy from the devices to the shoreside facility. To install the more than 6 miles of conduit, crews used horizontal directional drilling to make four offshore bores that were each more than a mile long, Hellin said.

At the shoreside facility, which operates similar to a power substation, the wave-generated power can be connected to the local power grid, which is operated by the Central Lincoln People’s Utility District. PacWave South’s connection to the power grid will provide wave energy developers with the ability to test the efficacy of their devices as well as mechanisms for turning the energy they capture into a commodity with value on the energy market.

Based on current timelines, PacWave could be operational in 2025. The U.S. Department of Energy has already identified and provided funding to a slate of wave energy developers who will begin testing their devices once the PacWave facility is completed, Hales said.

“It’s really great that this pipeline of developers is already in place,” he said. “We have also had a number of other companies reaching out to see when we might be ready for them to use the testing facilities. There are a lot of developers working on alternative energy development and interest in wave energy is really picking up.”

Oregon State has pursued development of a wave energy test facility for more than a decade to accelerate the development of this industry. There currently is no U.S. facility for developers to measure the electrical and environmental performance of their devices at this scale.

PacWave South is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Oregon and other public and private entities. Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences is managing the construction and operation of the more than $80 million facility.

Necropsy Performed On Young Gray Whale Found At Fort Stevens State Park

Officials say the young gray whale found dead near the Peter Iredale shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park on Wednesday died soon after birth.

A team from the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network led by Portland State University completed a necropsy on Friday.

The examination determined that the 12-foot long female whale had begun nursing. The umbilical cord was gone, but its wound had not yet healed.

“The team found no signs of trauma or other obvious cause of death, but took numerous tissue, blood and fluid samples that will be analyzed for clues about why the young whale did not survive,” NOAA Fisheries said in a statement.

Scientists will also look for signs of why the survival of gray whale calves may have declined in recent years.

NOAA Fisheries declared an unusual mortality event in 2019 after researchers found a decline in gray whales along the West Coast.

The federal agency said the population is estimated at 16,650, down 38% since 2016. Last year, there were the fewest calves on record since counts began in 1994.

Gray whales are currently migrating south along the West Coast from the Arctic to Mexico, according to NOAA Fisheries. Females often give birth along the way and nurse the calves as they go.

The whales will return to the Arctic to feed later in the year.

The gray whale was the second whale found dead at Fort Stevens State Park in a week. A sperm whale found beached Jan. 14 about 100 yards from the calf was determined to have died by ship strike.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said another gray whale was found at Crescent Beach in Ecola State Park.

However, he said, the whale was so decomposed that it is unlikely a necropsy will be conducted.

Further south on the coast at Winchester Bay, near Reedsport, Milstein said the state investigated a gray whale that was found stranded on Jan. 11.

“We think that the stormy conditions off the West Coast over the last month may be carrying more carcasses to shore that otherwise would have deteriorated at sea,” he said.

Temporary Road In Place At Hwy 101 Landslide Site

The Oregon Department of Transportation successfully opened a temporary gravel lane allowing traffic access at the Arizona Landslide between Gold Beach and Port Orford on Friday, Jan. 13.

Both lanes of traffic on Highway 101 at Milepost 312 had been closed due to the landslide since early Monday, Jan. 9.

“The landslide forced a road closure and that became problematic because there was no immediate alternate route that would be safe for the public to take,” County Commissioner Brad Alcorn said. “That really put our emergency services plan in place.”

Traffic control flaggers remain on duty at the temporary lane and travelers should be prepared for delays. ODOT continues to monitor the site for further movement, placing traveler safety as a priority. Travelers are encouraged to monitor TripCheck.com for delays and closures.

The Curry County Emergency Management team continues to monitor the status of the Arizona Landslide and hazards throughout the County, as well as preparing for additional responses. They are also coordinating with partners to identify long term impacts of landslides along US-101.

“Landslides are common along the Coast and disruptions along US-101 will continue to impact our rural community,” said Curry County Emergency Management Director Monica Ward. “As a team, we must become proactive in planning for and implementing strategies to mitigate future impacts to our community and economy.”

Emergency Management Director Ward and County Commissioner Alcorn outlined the initial response and gave an update on the emergency response in an area known as the Arizona Landslide.

Ward said Curry County Emergency Management was first made aware of the sunken grade at Milepost 312 on Sunday, Jan. 8. They began communication with Curry County Road Department and Oregon Department of Transportation to assess the impacts of a possible landslide. Commissioner Brad Alcorn was notified of the possible hazard and plans were discussed in the event of a road failure during the night.

At about 4 a.m., Monday, Jan. 9 director Ward received a call notifying her of significant movement at the site and ODOT had closed both lanes of US-101.

They notified Commissioner Brad Alcorn and he notified his fellow commissioners and Sheriff John Ward.

“Curry County Emergency Management also began coordinating with the emergency management network in surrounding counties to ensure medical and critical needs were immediately met,” Ward reported.

They addressed fuel re-supply detours and identified supply chain disruptions.

The Board of Commissioners met on Monday, voting to partially activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and declare a local emergency.

“The Local Emergency Declaration immediately implemented protections for our residents, such as price gouging,” Ward said.

These protections are outlined in the Emergency Management County Code adopted by the Board of Commissioners on Jan. 4, 2023.

The local emergency declaration also requested a state declaration from the governor to recognize the impact to our community and request funding assistance for the community. The Oregon Department of Emergency Management held the first State Agency synchronization call on Tuesday and hosted a call every day to ensure state agencies fulfilled resource and support requests.

“We got some help with coordination from the State… but we haven’t seen the State coming in and providing money to someone who has lost a week’s worth of wages, but we are hopeful and still working on it,” Commissioner said.

Emergency response director Ward got additional staff from a variety of County Departments to run an Emergency Operations Center. They held coordination calls with the cities within the County every morning throughout the week.

“These coordination calls gave the cities a platform to discuss the impacts throughout their jurisdictions, provide possible solutions to issues experienced in the other cities, and submit verbal requests to the EOC,” Ward said.

Community organization coordination calls were also made to identify unmet needs of the organizations working closely with all populations throughout our community.

“One of the things we dealt with immediately was helping people in the community who are receiving dialysis and radiation treatment in Coos and they couldn’t get there. Also, the foodbank wasn’t getting deliveries,” he said. “That’s where Monica (Ward’s) position becomes extremely important to the community. The State comes in and fixes the road, but we also need to deal with the human impact needs.”

“You have people who are living paycheck to paycheck and now they can’t get to work, so they fall behind on their rent and now they are in trouble. You have businesses who are missing employees so they can’t conduct business – they can’t get their supplies delivered. Then you have the delivery of mail and a lot of our folks get prescriptions in the mail,” Commissioner Alcorn said.

The supply chain, medical and behavioral health needs, and economic impact were and still are a priority for all levels of government, according to the emergency response team. Most needs throughout the community were met within 24 to 36 hours of the initial request, Ward said.

“This was a significant event. But it wasn’t as bad as it could be,” Alcorn said. “So it was a good opportunity to put a system in place. The proactive approach worked really well. The next time we implement a critical incident the response will be even better.”

An after-action review will be completed to outline successes and areas of improvement of the response, as well as developing a plan for all areas of improvement.

“Curry County Emergency Management remains proactive in planning for disaster response,” Ward said. “We thank everyone for their dedication and hard work in serving our community during the Arizona Landslide response and ongoing recovery, continuing our effort in building a resilient Curry County.”

Study Shows Personal Income Is Among The Starkest Divisions Between Urban And Rural Oregon

Of the many divisions between urban and rural Oregon, personal income is among the starkest.

People living near Oregon’s biggest cities earn nearly twice as much as those living in remote, sparsely populated areas. That’s according to a new report from the Oregon Employment Department.

For example, Washington County residents earned $71,500 per capita during 2021, according to the analysis of the latest federal data by economist Molly Hendrickson. That’s the most of any county in Oregon and well above the statewide personal income level of $62,000 per capita.

Contrast that with Malheur County, which had Oregon’s lowest per capita income at $38,900.

Similar disparities exist across Oregon. The three counties in the Portland area all had per capita incomes over $70,000. The eight counties with incomes under $50,000 are mostly in eastern or southern Oregon.

There are many reasons incomes vary so dramatically. Oregon’s largest and most lucrative industries are in its big cities, which also have the highest cost of living. Some rural areas have struggled to overcome the decline of the state’s natural resources industries and attract new business and residents.

A key component of that trend is the aging populations in many of the counties with lower incomes. Many younger people leave smaller communities for higher wages in the cities, leaving behind a higher share of retirees who rely on Social Security and other government programs for a big part of their income.

Such “transfer payments” from the government, Hendrickson notes, are highest in Wheeler, Malheur and Jefferson counties – the three counties with Oregon’s lowest per capita income. Transfer payments also include Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance, though Hendrickson said the higher share of transfer payments in Oregon’s lower-income counties has more to do with age than dependence on government subsidies.

Overall, Oregon ranks 21st among states for personal income, which grew by 8.2% in 2021 – tied with Washington for the 10th fastest rate in the nation. COVID-19 provided a boost in personal income, according to Hendrickson, because of stimulus payments coupled with the boost that came from people returning to work as the pandemic eased.

State economists expect personal income growth will cool considerably in 2023, to 2.4%. That’s partly because well-off Oregonians boosted their incomes last year by cashing out investments after the stock market’s big run in 2020 and 2021, and partly because economists expect a “mild” recession this year.

USDA Puts Nearly $500 Million Toward West Coast Wildfire Prevention

Wildfires have been burning up the west coast with unprecedented frequency and intensity. Ongoing megadrought conditions have turned the major blazes from seasonal occurrences to year-round threats. NBC News now reports that the United States Government is now drastically ramping up efforts to protect vulnerable forests and at-risk communities from the devastating infernos.

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made a huge announcement. Approximately $490 million of government funding from the Inflation Reduction Act have been earmarked for projects to reduce wildfire risks. The states where those projects will take place are Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. This is on top of the $440 million in fire mitigation funding that was part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress.

The collective sum of funding is expected to help protect around 45 million acres. That according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. That acreage is broken down into 134 areas where wildfires are considered to pose a serious risk to communities and infrastructure. The USDA has identified as many as 250 of those areas across the western U.S. “We expect and anticipate that around 200 communities in the western U.S. will see a mitigated wildfire risk as a result,” Vilsack said Wednesday.

Ongoing Megadrought Making West More Susceptible To Infernos — While wildfires used to only be a concern during the warmest and dryest months. However, with current drought conditions still ongoing throughout much of the western U.S., wildfires have become a year-round threat. Research also predicts that climate change is only likely to increase both the frequency and intensity of these infernos.

USDA Focusing On Potential Wildfire Areas Near Infrastructure — The bulk of the work funded by the almost $500 million will focus on 11 different landscapes. Those areas were selected because of their proximity to neighborhoods, buildings, and infrastructure. Areas that include underserved communities, public water sources, and tribal lands will also be a major focus.

“We also factored into this determination the most current predictive science and research that will allow us to determine where risks are highest,” said Secretary Vilsack. “It’s not a matter of whether or not a forest will burn. It’s just a matter of when and where.”

A variety of techniques will be used to make the land hardier and more capable of withstanding threats from wildfires. Those methods include prescribed burns and thinning dense and dead strands of trees. A major priority will also be removing the buildup of leaves and branches on the ground that often fuel fires. Reforestation efforts are also a part of the plan.

“We know from science, we know from models, we know from input from those who live, work and raise their families in communities around these forests who understand and know the forest, that there are critical areas that need to be worked on,” Vilsack said. “And by working on them, essentially you create a circumstance that should there be a fire, you minimize the risk of the fire getting to a point where it risks communities or critical infrastructure.”

Oregon offers free electronic filing option for state income taxes

Salem, OR— All Oregon resident taxpayers preparing their own returns in 2023 can file electronically at no cost using one of Oregon’s free file options, the Oregon Department of Revenue announced today. The department will begin processing 2022 state income tax returns today, the same day the IRS will begin processing federal returns.

Free electronic filing options

Several free file options are available on the department’s website www.oregon.gov/dor. Free guided tax preparation is available from several companies for taxpayers that meet income requirements. Using links from the department’s website ensures that both taxpayers’ federal and state return will be filed for free.

Free fillable forms

Taxpayers that don’t meet the income requirements for guided preparation can file for free using Oregon Free Fillable Forms. Free Fillable Forms performs basic calculations and are ideal for taxpayers who don’t need help preparing their returns and want the convenience of filing electronically. A detailed series of steps for using free fillable forms are available on the agency’s electronic filing page. The IRS offers a similar option for filing federal taxes electronically.

Other free options

The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals. Low- to moderate-income taxpayers can also access preparation services through AARP and CASH Oregon. United Way also offers free tax help through their MyFreeTaxes program. More information on these options is available on the department’s website.

E-filing is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their refund. On average, taxpayers who e-file their returns and request their refund via direct deposit receive their refund 34 days sooner than taxpayers who mail their paper return and request paper refund checks.

Refunds will be issued starting February 15. A refund hold is part of the department’s tax fraud prevention efforts and allows for confirmation that the amounts claimed on tax returns matches what employers report on Forms W-2 and 1099.

To check the status of your refund or make payments, visit Revenue’s website. You can also call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish) or 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon. For TTY (hearing or speech impaired), we accept all relay calls.

Early Buzz Over New License Plate Design

There’s a possible new license plate in the works in the state of Oregon. It’s called ‘Pollinator Paradise‘. 

The plate features two of the state’s most iconic bees: the managed honey bee, and the wild yellow-faced bumble bee. 

There may already be a lot of ‘buzz’ with this new plate, but before production can start, the Oregon State University Horticulture Department must first sell 3,000 license plate vouchers. 

Proceeds then go towards documenting bee biodiversity in Oregon and research to keep honey bees healthy. 

You can learn more on the O.S.U. College of Agricultural Sciences website

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