Oregon Beach News, Monday 5/6 – NOAA Researchers Announce 33% Increase In Gray Whale Numbers and End Investigation Into Die-Off & Other Local and Statewide News…

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

Monday, May 6, 2024

Oregon Beach Weather



* WHAT...Southwest winds becoming west 15 to 25 kt with gusts up to 30 kt and steep seas 7 to 9 ft at 7 seconds.

* WHERE...All areas.

* WHEN...Until 11 AM PDT this morning.

* IMPACTS...Gusty winds and steep seas could capsize or damage smaller vessels.

* View the hazard area in detail at https://go.usa.gov/x6hks

NOAA Researchers Announce 33% Increase In Gray Whale Numbers and End Investigation Into Die-Off

There’s good news for whale lovers on the Oregon coast.

The number of gray whales that migrated south along the Pacific Coast this winter have rebounded sharply to numbers not seen in four years, according to the fisheries unit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA.

The increase is large enough and signs of healthy North Pacific gray whales are visible enough that NOAA also announced it had ended its five-year “unusual mortality event” investigation into what may have led to their decline from 2018 through 2023.

The latest counts were conducted between late December and mid-February.

Researchers estimate there are 19,260 gray whales along the West Coast — a surprising 33% increase from the 14,530 whales counted during the same period of 2022-23. Last season’s count was the lowest since 1971-72.

Researchers have been counting whales during their southward migration since 1967 and use three months of visual surveys along the central California coast that are plugged into a formula used and refined for decades.

But a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries cautioned against reading too much into one year’s dramatic increase.

“People shouldn’t get too hung up on the 33% specifically but more importantly see that the numbers are increasing,” said NOAA spokesman Michael Milstein. “The numbers are trending up. The indications are consistent that the whales have gone from a decline to a recovery.”

That’s good news for scientists and whale enthusiast along the Oregon, Washington and California coasts.

The recovery is evident enough that NOAA officially declared an end to its five-year investigation into why many north Pacific gray whales appeared undernourished and why strandings increased starting in 2018.

NOAA’s investigation began in 2019 after hundreds of gray whales stranded along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Alaska, including in whales in their wintering, migratory, and feeding areas.

There was a roughly 40% decline in the gray whale population, leading to the official designation of an “unusual mortality event” which then triggered a required effort to understand why it was happening.

The mortality event occurred between December 2018 through last November, with peak strandings occurring during a two-year period ending in December 2020. There were 690 gray whale strandings, including 347 in the United States, 316 in Mexico, and 27 in Canada.

“While the number of strandings spiked at the start of the unusual mortality event, they have since declined to annual numbers similar to those recorded before the event began,” NOAA Fisheries said in a statement. “The number of calves born to the population also appears to be improving, with other signs that the population may have begun to recover.”

The number of calves born in 2022 was estimated at 217, down from about 950 in 2018. NOAA researchers estimate that 412 female gray whales swam north last year — nearly twice the 2022 count. Still, that number was far below the estimate of roughly 1,500 gray whale calves in 2016.

NOAA said the decline in gray whale numbers during from 2018 to 2023 resembled a similar but shorter decline between 1999 and 2000. The population rebounded in the following years eventually reaching a recent height of 27,500 whales in 2015-16 before declining again in 2019-20.

“We know the population has demonstrated strong resilience in the past, and we will be watching to ensure we know how the whales recover from this unusual mortality event,” said Deborah Fauquier, NOAA’s coordinator of the investigation.

Studies of dead whales supported malnutrition as a common cause of death and did not identify other causes or infections. NOAA investigators concluded that localized ecosystem changes, including both access to and the quality of prey, in the northern Bering and Chukchi seas contributed to the poor nutritional condition observed in live and stranded gray whales.

Killer whale predation, entanglement in fishing nets, biotoxins and collisions with vessels also contributed to gray whale deaths. But these factors were not as significant as malnutrition, researchers said.

NOAA said marine mammal stranding networks in the United States, Canada, and Mexico will continue to respond to whale stranding reports this year and collect samples when feasible. NOAA Fisheries will also conduct a survey this spring and summer to evaluate whale calf production. READ MORE: https://oregoncapitalchronicle.com/2024/05/06/noaa-researchers-announce-33-increase-in-gray-whale-numbers-end-investigation-into-die-off/

Man Dies In Cliff Fall at Natural Bridges North Of Brookings

The Curry County Sheriff’s Office 911 Dispatch received information from the Brookings Police Dispatch, of a call from a person who had been hiking the coastal trail near Natural Bridges, about twelve miles north of Brookings, at approximately 2:35 p.m. Sunday April 21.

The caller relayed that he had seen a person on the rocks below him that appeared to be deceased. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the area along with an Oregon State trooper. The Curry County Sheriff’s SAR team was also called to the scene.

“Several SAR members set up a raising system and SAR members Andy Stubbs and Tim Hawkins rappelled approximately 300’ down to the victim,” according to a Curry County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post. “Due to the location and steep terrain, additional help was requested.”

Members from Cape Ferello and the Brookings Fire Department arrived along with a USFS law enforcement officer to help carry the victim back to the parking area where the victim was released to Redwood Memorial. The victim was identified as 69-year-old Richard Ehrhart from San Jose, California.

Ehrhart had been hiking with his wife and they had separated on the trail and the wife returned to their car, unknowingly that her husband had fallen.

A Chaplin had been called and responded to assist with the notification to Ehrhart’s wife, Susan Kimura. The Oregon State Police. The lead agency for the investigation, has provided the information to the Curry County District Attorney.

“We here at the Curry County Sheriff’s Office express our condolences to the family and friends of Richard Ehrhart. We also want to remind everyone of the dangers of hiking the coastal trails, and to please be safe,” the Facebook post reads.

Fleeing Domestic Violence Suspect Apprehended Following Lincoln City Pursuit

On Friday, May 3, 2024 at about 7:50 AM, Lincoln City Police was contacted by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for assistance with locating a suspect involved in a violent domestic violence assault they were investigating. WCSO believed their suspect, Edward Eldridge, was heading to Lincoln City, and provided our agency with information about their case and a description of the vehicle he was driving.

An Oregon State Police Trooper observed the vehicle traveling through Otis towards Lincoln City, and coordinated with the Lincoln City Police Department to attempt to stop the subject in an interagency effort. Eldridge failed to stop when prompted, so Lincoln City Police Department took lead in a two-mile pursuit through the city, ending at an area hotel. Lincoln City Police Department Officers and the Oregon State Police Trooper took Eldridge into custody at gunpoint.

In addition to the charges from the Washington County Sheriff’s investigation, Eldridge was also locally charged with felony Eluding a Police Officer, and Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants, due to indicators observed by Officers during the pursuit. He was released to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to continue their investigation.

This incident is another great example of how state and local law enforcement agencies work together in our shared fight against perpetrators of domestic violence. We are thankful that no one was injured during the pursuit through Lincoln City.

Salmon Harbor Sets Sights on a New Master Plan

Douglas County Commissioners Chris Boice, Tim Freeman, and Tom Kress, along with Salmon Harbor Director James Zimmer and staff at Salmon Harbor Marina, a division of Douglas County Government, are excited to announce that they have started on the development of a new master plan exclusively for Salmon Harbor Marina and the Waterfront. 

Master plans provide a comprehensive look at the current economy and infrastructure while helping to identify other factors relating to development, planning, acquisitions, tourism, and sustainability. Master plans then go one step farther and provide a glimpse into the future growth of a community.

Salmon Harbor is partnering with Healthy Sustainable Communities (HSC) and HGE Architects, to craft a new master plan that not only lays the groundwork for a thriving and resilient future, but also identifies potential development sites and assesses infrastructure requirements.  The new plan will also include considerations for future tourism opportunities, sustainability, community growth, support for our local commercial fisheries, and innovative solutions that enhance navigation within the marina.  HSC and HGE were the successful bidders in the request for proposals process conducted in 2023. 

The process for development of the new master plan will actively involve the residents, business owners, stakeholders, as well as the creation of a diverse Technical Advisory Committee representing various sectors of Salmon Harbor Marina and Waterfront communities.  The process also includes the completion of a comprehensive market study, which is currently underway.   

This collaborative journey signifies our commitment to steering coastal Douglas County towards a sustainable and prosperous future,” expressed Board Chair, Commissioner Chris Boice. “Through the combined efforts of our community, stakeholders, and expert advisors, we aim to establish a master plan that becomes a beacon of responsible development along the coast.”

As this collaborative process moves forward our commitment remains steadfast in addressing our community’s needs while proactively fostering public involvement and developing solutions that promote long-term, sustainable development. We anticipate that the unveiling of the new master plan will help us chart a course for new standards in growth, prosperity, and environmental resilience for coastal development. 

We encourage residents, business owners, tourists, and stakeholders to stay informed and participate in shaping the future of Salmon Harbor Marina and the Waterfront by visiting the weblink provided below. Our new webpage will host documents, future open house announcements, and essential information during the master planning process. https://douglascountyor.gov/900/Master-Plan-2024.

Federal Government States It Is Ready To Sell Commercial Wind Energy Leases Off The Coast of Coos Bay and Brookings for Floating Offshore Wind Facilities

The Southern Oregon coast is closer to hosting floating offshore wind energy, after the Biden administration announced it’s preparing to accept proposals for the area. This is the first step in a multiyear process before any wind developer could begin construction.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, proposed an auction for developers seeking floating offshore leases to develop wind energy in two locations off the coast of Southern Oregon. The announcement kicks off two opportunities for the public to comment on the proposal — on the areas that would be developed, and on the federal government’s draft environmental assessment.

offshore wind energy
The map shows the two wind energy areas approved off the Oregon coast. The federal government says it is ready to sell commercial wind energy leases for the two areas.

Ocean areas approved for wind energy development off the coast of Coos Bay and Brookings, which were finalized in February, total nearly 195,000 acres. There, offshore wind could have the potential to power more than one million homes with renewable energy, according to the federal agency.

Coos Bay Harbor Entrance Viewpoint, near the Charleston Marina on Dec. 7, 2023, where potential floating offshore wind turbines could be seen.
FILE: Coos Bay Harbor Entrance Viewpoint, near the Charleston Marina, where potential floating offshore wind turbines might someday be seen. Photographed on Dec. 7, 2023.Monica Samayoa / OPB

But the federal push to advance offshore wind has also prompted concerns from tribal leaders and commercial fishing groups about impacts on the marine environment, and broader concerns along the Southern Oregon coast at the speed of federal action before a state effort to guide offshore wind is in place. Federal officials said development will take years, and there will be time to incorporate Oregon’s roadmap, as long as the state meets its own deadlines.

BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein said the agency will work with government partners and stakeholders.

“We’re excited to unveil these proposed sales and emphasize our commitment to exploring the potential for offshore wind development from coast to coast,” Klein said in a release.

BOEM is also seeking feedback about several of its drafted lease stipulations, including requirements that offshore wind developers make commitments to union jobs and workforce training, that they engage with impacted communities like tribes and the fishing industry, and that they create a community benefits agreement.

The details of the proposed auction and the draft environmental assessment will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday.

A statewide emissions goal, and concerns about marine environments — Floating offshore wind could potentially help Oregon reach its goal for electric utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity they provide by 100% by 2040. But the prospect of the new technology has prompted pushback from residents, as well as calls from Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek for more research. The governor and affected communities have asked for more transparency and engagement from the federal government, which has so far shared limited information about environmental impacts.

That pushback was a factor in the passage of state House Bill 4080, which requires Oregon to develop a roadmap, drawing on engagement with impacted communities and tribes, to define standards for offshore wind energy.

A group that included environmentalists, climate advocates, fishing industry representatives, labor unions and city officials helped draft the legislation, which state lawmakers passed in March.

That informal group, working through the facilitator Oregon Consensus, has provided Kotek with recommendations for creating an floating offshore wind energy roadmap. Recommendations include protecting the environment, culturally significant viewsheds and resources important to tribes, and supporting local communities and the fishing industry.

Kotek said the roadmap will be a critical tool to ensure the state is prepared to assess and coordinate offshore wind opportunities with the federal government, “while also ensuring that local communities are at the forefront of economic, workforce, and supply chain development opportunities,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing the recommendations from the work group.”

Nicole Hughes is the executive director of Renewable Northwest, and was part of the informal group. She said the most important part of getting so many voices from diverse interests together on this issue was to begin to understand the different concerns from each group as well as build relationships with each other to figure out solutions.

“We know we did not get all the issues, we know there’s things that were left out of consideration, we know that not every Oregonian is going to be able to see themselves in the outline that we wrote,” Hughes said. “But we’re hopeful that the work we did just sets the state agencies up for better success in the actual development of this road map, which we hope and are pushing for a much broader formal stakeholder process than we were able to accommodate in our informal working group.”

She said the group spent about nine months working on the recommendations that also includes “exit ramps,” or checks and balances on how a project should move forward and when to reevaluate or pause a project.

“Some of the ways that those can come up, you know, a new environmental situation that hadn’t been identified before, a new economic situation that hasn’t been identified before,” she said. “These are all things that might cause us to rethink the viability of offshore wind or make us go out and do more research to get more answers to questions that hadn’t yet been posed.”

The Oregon offshore wind energy roadmap is set to be completed by fall 2025.

BOEM’s Klein reiterated the federal agency’s commitment to working with Oregon’s roadmap in a letter sent to Kotek Monday. The federal government expects a sale of the proposed areas is expected to occur in October, she said, and that would likely have an effective date of Jan. 1, 2025.

“A lease does not authorize the construction of projects,” she said in the letter.

Once a developer is chosen, they will have up to five years to submit a project proposal, which will undergo an environmental review before final approval. That review, Klein said, could take at least four years to reach completion.

“Therefore, if the state adheres to the current planned roadmap timeline, the roadmap report and resulting formal policy amendments should be completed well before any [Construction and Operations Plan] decisions are made,” she said.

But news of BOEM’s proposed sale lease announcement on Tuesday left people from the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and some from the fishing industry saying they are disappointed.

Tribal Council Chair Brad Kneaper said the federal agency should delay moving forward until more research is available to understand environmental and cultural impacts to the tribes and the fishing industry. He also said offshore wind leasing should wait until the Oregon Roadmap is complete.

“No one, including BOEM, has an understanding on how wind development will impact the fragile marine environment,” Tribal Council Chair Brad Kneaper said. “Commercial fishing interests separately requested such a delay. This only makes sense because the roadmap may be a futile effort without a commitment from BOEM to actually consider the recommendations of the Tribe, the State, and coastal stakeholders.”

According to BOEM’s website about Oregon wind energy, “the environmental impacts of any proposed wind energy projects will be assessed after a lease is issued and before BOEM decides whether or not to approve any lessee’s project construction and operations plan.”

Heather Mann, who is the executive director of Midwater Trawlers Cooperative and worked on creating and collaborating with the informal group, said BOEM is rushing the process. She is also considering switching her views to oppose offshore wind.

“BOEM does not care about the Oregon Roadmap process, instead they are rushing to meet a political and electoral deadline,” she said in a statement. “Just because BOEM claims they worked collaboratively with stakeholders doesn’t make it true.

Mann said BOEM’s announcement is undermining the work the informal group has done to work with different interests and to provide recommendations on how to move forward. (SOURCE)

Largest Cascadia Exercise Ever Planned On Coast May 14th And 15th

In the largest exercise of its kind ever on the Oregon coast, Lincoln County Emergency Management, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Human Services’ Office of Resilience and Emergency Management (OREM), city of Newport, Scappoose Fire District, Life Flight, Team Rubicon, and the United States Coast Guard, will host a two-day exercise to introduce and train first responders and volunteers in the deployment of the newest Evacuation Assembly Point (EAP), housed at the Newport Municipal Airport.

On May 14 and 15, emergency management personnel from around the state will respond to a simulated emergency, such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and ensuing tsunami. First responders will have an opportunity to set up, test, and demobilize tents and other EAP equipment.

Last month, OREM delivered two Conex containers — heavy duty metal storage and shipping containers — storing the EAP equipment in the northeast corner of the Newport Municipal Airport. Partner agencies, hosted at Oregon Coast Community College, have met several times since to plan for the exercise and familiarize themselves with the equipment.

This EAP is intended for temporary use to triage and provide shelter to individuals who will need to be evacuated off the coast to receive additional assistance or to return home to other parts of the state. Over the course of the two-day event, there will be demonstrations, preparedness activities, and overnight sheltering provided.

This is the second such exercise OREM has delivered to the coast, the first being housed at the Tillamook Airport. The agency plans to establish a third EAP on the south coast this summer. OREM delivers the equipment to local responders and conducts initial training, leaving the EAP in the hands of those who will be faced with the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

“As the lead state agency for mass care and shelter services following disasters, we believe it’s important to get EAP supplies to coastal communities like Lincoln County,” said Ed Flick, OREM director. “Data shows coastal communities are likely to be cut off from the rest of the state during the Cascadia earthquake. Prepositioning EAP supplies and training local communities to use them is one of our priorities.”

Demonstrations will include the use of drones operated by Scappoose Fire’s Aviation unit, a Life Flight rescue helicopter, and the Coast Guard Newport Air Station’s MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter.

“Lincoln County is grateful to ODHS for providing us with the Evacuation Assembly Point,” Lincoln County Emergency Manager Samantha Buckley said. “In a large-scale emergency event, the ability to quickly remove individuals from the area is essential to life safety and the wellbeing of our community. The EAP will allow us to provide shelter and other resources for those being medically evacuated by air. It will make a significant difference in the type of care we can provide.”

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners will hold their bi-monthly business meeting on site during this event on the second day, starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 15. As always, attendance at the commissioners’ meeting is open to the public. Remote attendance is encouraged, as access to and from the EAP site will be limited to shuttles from the main airport parking lot. If you have special transportation needs and wish to attend the meeting in person, contact public_affairs@co.lincoln.or.us.

County commissioners, county and city emergency management teams, the OREM team and at least one state legislator plan to spend the night at the EAP May 14 as part of the exercise. —- Information provided by Lincoln County and the Oregon Department of Human Services https://www.newsbreak.com/newport-or/3419243392812-largest-cascadia-exercise-ever-planned-on-coast

Lincoln County Announces Low Income Program To Help Spay And Neuter Pets

Lincoln County has announced it will use some of its federal relief funds for a spay and neuter service to help counter dog and cat overpopulation that was substantially worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The program is for local low-income households that cannot afford spay and neuter services for their pets. County staff will work with applicants and participating veterinarians’ offices to coordinate and submit payment for the procedures.

To qualify, people must be a resident of Lincoln County and income eligible, which can be confirmed by showing eligibility for SNAP/TANF; WIC; OHP; Medicaid; housing assistance; supplemental social security income; veterans pension benefits; and surviving spouse pension benefits.

The applications are online. For the English version go here; for the Spanish version, go here.

For assistance filling out the application, call the helpline at 541-270-3393. Friends of the Lincoln County Animal Shelter has volunteered to help answer questions on the helpline and assist applicants who do not have access to computers.

“Our county fell woefully behind in spaying and neutering during the pandemic, when many vets had to suspend elective surgeries altogether, and after the fires of fall 2020, which meant financial hardship for many residents,” said FOLCAS president Emily DeHuff. “These subsidies will go a long way in getting spay/neuter rates back on track.”

People who do not meet the income qualification for the county program can apply for spay/neuter and other veterinary care assistance through other programs administered by the humane society by visiting www.centralcoasthumanesociety.com and completing a request for assistance form. (SOURCE)

Rhododendron Quilt Guild (RQG) is pleased to announce a quilt show and sale taking place from 10:30 am to 5 p.m. on Friday May 17th and 10:30 to 4 p.m. on Saturday May 18th.

This exciting event will feature a stunning display of beautiful and intricate quilts, handmade by local artisans.

Visitors to the quilt show and sale can expect to see a variety of quilt styles, including traditional, modern, and contemporary designs. The quilts on display will feature a range of colors, patterns, and techniques, showcasing the diverse talents of the local quilting community. In addition to the quilt show, visitors will have the opportunity to purchase quilts, as well as other handmade items such as table runners, wall hangings, and tote bags. There will also be fabrics, patterns, and quilting supplies sold, making this event a one-stop-shop for all quilting enthusiasts. Rhododendron Quilt Guild is proud to host this event and celebrate the talent of the local quilting community.

MORE INFO: http://www.rhodyquilt.com/


Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay

Garden volunteers needed at Shore Acres State Park April through September

— Come share your gardening skills or learn new ones as a garden volunteer at Shore Acres State Park.

Join rangers in caring for the gardens 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the third Friday of every month from April through September. Tasks vary depending on the season and could include cleaning out the pond, pruning roses, trimming shrubs, pulling weeds, mulching, planting and helping to remove invasive species.

The 2024 garden volunteer schedule:

  • April 19: Pond clean out
  • May 17: Prepare for summer
  • June 21: Garden clean up
  • July 19: Garden clean up
  • Aug. 16: English ivy pull
  • Sept. 20: Prepare for fall

Sign up for one or more of these events at https://form.jotform.com/240225153017140

Participants should be prepared to travel a short distance on uneven ground and trails to the service site. Service will take place outdoors, and volunteers should be comfortable wearing work gloves and using hand tools.

Dress for the weather. Closed-toed shoes are recommended. Wear something you don’t mind getting dirty. Remember to bring a water bottle, sack lunch and work gloves if you have them (some will be provided if not).

Oregon to Honor Fallen Law Enforcement Officers May 7th, 2024

Every year, the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honors the state’s law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This year’s ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 7 at 1 p.m. at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.

The annual event commemorates the more than 190 fallen officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the state of Oregon since the 1860s. This includes law enforcement, corrections, and parole and probation officers from city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is proud to host the ceremony in partnership with the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, and various statewide law enforcement associations.

Negotiations Continue Between UO and Student Protest Encampment

It was a quiet weekend at the UO pro-Palestine encampment as the group of nearly 150 tents prepared to enter its second week on the Memorial Quad. Media liaisons in the encampment largely avoided talking to outside media for the day after doing so for six consecutive days. 


In an email statement, a UO spokesperson confirmed that negotiations “continue” between the university and student negotiators and are expected to resume on Monday. The statement also indicates that the university is “actively working to prevent unnecessary escalation” in regards to police presence at the encampment.

At least 28 additional UO staff and faculty signed a letter to university administrators in support of the encampment since last night, bringing the total to at least 74 as of this writing.

Students at the encampment announced they had received all necessary supplies to deal with inclement weather, instead requesting that further donations go to their relief fund for Palestine. (SOURCE)

Oregon Health Authority · COVID-19 Update

May be an image of hospital and text that says 'COVID-19 hospitalizations at lowest point in nearly four years New data released this week shows: The number of adults hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oregon at its lowest point since June 2020, dropping about 34% during April. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital ICUs is at its lowest point since April 2020. Test % positivity for COVID-19 is also at its lowest point (2.4%) since June 2020. Health Authority Oregon'

New data released this week show the number of adults hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oregon at its lowest point since June 2020, dropping about 34% during April. COVID-19 is still out there, and we expect case numbers to rise again, likely this fall/winter. Overall, however, community transmission is currently low.

For more information, visit: https://ow.ly/GZ9m50RwkyK

Tuition to rise again at Oregon’s seven public universities

Oregon’s public four-years already charge some of the highest tuition and fee rates among public universities in the West

Incoming freshmen at Oregon’s public universities will pay record tuition for the upcoming school year, with all seven of the state’s public universities hiking the cost again.

Nearly every one of the schools has increased tuition every year for the past 10 years, making average tuition at Oregon’s public universities today about 26% higher than it was a decade ago, according to the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. 

The hikes have drawn the ire of students and the commission leaders, who point to the lack of state funding for higher education as a key reason tuition continues to rise. Oregon ranks 32nd among states for public investment in higher education, according to the Colorado-based policy group State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

Nearly every public university in the state has approved tuition increases of 3% to 5% for the 2024-25 school year, while the board of Eastern Oregon University in La Grande is preparing to vote on a tuition increase within that range by May 15. Any tuition increases above 5% require that the universities’ boards get approval from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

“Oregon public universities have some of the highest tuition and fee rates among Western states,” said Ben Cannon, executive director of the commission, in an email. “We are very concerned about increased tuition and rising college costs as a whole (including tuition, housing, books, etc.), particularly as they affect low-income populations who are struggling most.” 

The tuition hikes means that in-state freshmen at the University of Oregon will pay more than $16,100 a year, while in-state full-time students at Portland State University will pay about $11,800 compared with $14,400 for Oregon State University. The three universities have the highest enrollment in the state, and the University of Oregon and Oregon State are the most expensive public universities in the state. 

The schools say rising inflation and higher staff costs, including contributions to the state’s Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS, along with the cost of materials and capital investment are also behind the tuition hikes. Despite dramatic rises in tuition during the last decade, full-time enrollment in Oregon’s four-year universities has declined by about 3,000 students since 2014, and the number of students enrolled in classes has fallen by about 4,000 over that time period. Last fall, nearly 80,000 students were enrolled at Oregon’s public universities, and more than 98,000 were taking classes.

At every university, student tuition and fees make up more than half of revenue, one of the highest proportions in the nation, according to a recent report commissioned by lawmakers from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, a nonprofit think tank in Colorado. About 25 years ago, public funding accounted for up to 75% of the cost of each full-time employee at an Oregon university. Now, it pays for about 50% or less, researchers found. Oregon’s per-pupil funding for full-time college students is about $5,600 annually, around $3,000 less than what California and Washington provide. 

“When the Oregon state Legislature and our governor fail to prioritize meaningful state investment in our college and universities, Oregon’s students’ foot the bill via yearly tuition increases,” Nick Keough, legislative director for the nonprofit student advocacy group Oregon Student Association, said in an email. “Continual tuition increases are undoubtedly pricing Oregonians and students out of higher education every day, while contributing to the exasperation of the student debt crisis here in Oregon.” READ MORE: https://oregoncapitalchronicle.com/2024/05/01/tuition-to-rise-again-at-oregons-seven-public-universities/

AC, power banks, mini fridges: Oregon equips Medicaid patients for climate change

Oregon is shipping air conditioners, air purifiers, and power banks to some of its most vulnerable residents, a first-in-the-nation experiment to use Medicaid money to prevent the potentially deadly health effects of extreme heat, wildfire smoke, and other climate-related disasters.

The equipment, which started going out in March, expands a Biden administration strategy to move Medicaid beyond traditional medical care and into the realm of social services.

At least 20 states, including California, Massachusetts, and Washington, already direct billions of Medicaid dollars into programs such as helping homeless people get housing and preparing healthy meals for people with diabetes, according to KFF. Oregon is the first to use Medicaid money explicitly for climate-related costs, part of its five-year, $1.1 billion effort to address social needs, which also includes housing and nutrition benefits.

State and federal health officials hope to show that taxpayer money and lives can be saved when investments are made before disaster strikes.

“Climate change is a health care issue,” so helping Oregon’s poorest and sickest residents prepare for potentially dangerous heat, drought, and other extreme weather makes sense, said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on a visit to Sacramento in early April.

Becerra said the Biden administration wants states to experiment with how best to improve patient health, whether by keeping someone housed instead of homeless, or reducing their exposure to heat with an air conditioner.

But Medicaid’s expansion into social services may duplicate existing housing and nutrition programs offered by other federal agencies, while some needy Americans can’t get essential medical care, said Gary Alexander, director of the Medicaid and Health Safety Net Reform Initiative at the Paragon Health Institute.

“There are 600,000 or 700,000 intellectually disabled people in the United States waiting for Medicaid services. They’re on a waitlist,” said Alexander, who oversaw state health agencies in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. “Meanwhile Medicaid has money for housing and food and air conditioners for recipients. Seems to me that we should serve the intellectually disabled first before we get into all of these new areas.”

Scientists and public health officials say climate change poses a growing health risk. More frequent and intense floods, droughts, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and storms cause more deaths, cardiovascular disease from poor air quality, and other problems, according to the federal government’s Fifth National Climate Assessment.

The mounting health effects disproportionately hit low-income Americans and people of color, who are often covered by Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for low-income people.

Most of the 102 Oregonians who died during the deadly heat dome that settled over the Northwest in 2021 “were elderly, isolated and living with low incomes,” according to a report by the Oregon Health Authority, which administers the state’s Medicaid program, with about 1.4 million enrollees. The OHA’s analysis of urgent care and emergency room use from May through September of 2021 and 2022 found that 60% of heat-related illness visits were from residents of areas with a median household income below $50,000.

“In the last 10-plus years, the amount of fires and smoke events and excessive heat events that we’ve had has shown the disproportionate impact of those events on those with lower incomes,” said Dave Baden, the OHA’s deputy director for programs and policy.

And, because dangerously high temperatures aren’t common in Oregon, many residents don’t have air conditioning in their homes.

Traditionally, states hit by natural disasters and public health emergencies have asked the federal government for permission to spend Medicaid dollars on back-up power, air filters, and other equipment to help victims recover. But those requests came after the fact, following federal emergency declarations.

Oregon wants to be proactive and pay for equipment that will help an estimated 200,000 residents manage their health at home before extreme weather or climate-related disaster hits, Baden said. In addition to air conditioning units, the program will pay for mini fridges to keep medications cold, portable power supplies to run ventilators and other medical devices during outages, space heaters for winter, and air filters to improve air quality during wildfire season.

In March, the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program, began asking health insurers to find patients who might need help coping with extreme weather. Recipients must meet federal guidelines that categorize them as “facing certain life transitions,” a stringent set of requirements that disqualify most enrollees. For example, a person with an underlying medical condition that could worsen during a heat wave, and who is also at risk for homelessness or has been released from prison in the past year, could receive an air conditioner. But someone with stable housing might not qualify.

“You could be in a housing complex, and your neighbor qualified for an air conditioner and you didn’t,” Baden said.

At the offices of insurer AllCare Health in Grants Pass, Oregon, air conditioners, air filters, and mini fridges were piled in three rooms in mid-April, ready to be handed over to Medicaid patients. The health plan provided equipment to 19 households in March. The idea is to get the supplies into people’s homes before the summer fire season engulfs the valley in smoke.

Health plans don’t want to find themselves “fighting the masses” at Home Depot when the skies are already smoky or the heat is unbearable, said Josh Balloch, AllCare’s vice president of health policy.

“We’re competing against everybody else, and you can’t find a fan on a hot day,” he said.

Oregon and some other states have already used Medicaid money to buy air conditioners, air purifiers, and other goods for enrollees, but not under the category of climate change. For example, California offers air purifiers to help asthma patients and New York just won federal approval to provide air conditioners to asthma patients.

Baden said Oregon health officials will evaluate whether sending air conditioners and other equipment to patients saves money by looking at their claim records in the coming years.

If Oregon can help enrollees avoid a costly trip to the doctor or the ER after extreme weather, other state Medicaid programs may ask the federal government if they can adopt the benefit. Many states haven’t yet used Medicaid money for climate change because it affects people and regions differently, said Paul Shattuck, a senior fellow at Mathematica, a research organization that has surveyed state Medicaid directors on the issue.

“The health risks of climate change are everywhere, but the nature of risk exposure is completely different in every state,” Shattuck said. “It’s been challenging for Medicaid to get momentum because each state is left to their own devices to figure out what to do.”

A California state lawmaker last year introduced legislation that would have required Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, to add a climate benefit under its existing social services expansion. The program would have been similar to Oregon’s, but AB 586, by Assembly member Lisa Calderon, died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which questioned in a staff analysis whether “climate change remediation supports can be defined as cost-effective.”

The cost savings are clear to Kaiser Permanente. After the 2021 heat wave, it sent air conditioners to 81 patients in Oregon and southwest Washington whose health conditions might get worse in extreme heat, said Catherine Potter, community health consultant at the health system. The following year, Kaiser Permanente estimated it had prevented $42,000 in heat-related ER visits and $400,000 in hospital admissions, she said.

“We didn’t used to have extreme heat like this, and we do now,” said Potter, who has lived in the temperate Portland area for 30 years. “If we can prevent these adverse impacts, we should be preventing them especially for people that are going to be most affected.” (SOURCE)

Report Shows More Oregonians Are Living Alone 

Nearly a third of Oregon households consist of someone living alone. That’s more than a half-million people with no one else in their household. It is a record high, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.

And the share of Oregon residents who live alone is up by about 50% this century.

Oregon’s shift mirrors national trends, according to Josh Lehner, a state economist who wrote an analysis of the state’s single-person households earlier this year.

Relatively few adults live alone in their 20s and 30s, Lehner noted. People often have roommates to help cover their housing costs, then form couples as they age. Many start families.

The number of people living alone is much higher among seniors. That’s partly because some have divorced, Lehner wrote, and partly because some of their spouses have died. The rate of Oregonians living alone rises sharply after age 75, and nearly all that increase is among women, who tend to live longer.

The number of Americans living alone has more than doubled since 1960, when just 1 in 8 households consisted of someone living by themselves, according to a federal report last year.

Many live alone by choice and are perfectly happy on their own. But the report by the U.S. Surgeon General found that living alone is one of several risk factors for rising loneliness and social isolation.

The report urges all levels of society to be more proactive in encouraging connections among people to fight feelings of loneliness, and suggests each person should make more of an effort to connect with friends and neighbors. (SOURCE)

During Mental Health Awareness Month, OHA reminds Oregonians of support resources for those in need and their loved ones 

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority is recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month during May by promoting resources that support mental well-being for all Oregonians.

One in five people will experience a mental health condition in a given year, and about half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their lives, according to national statistics.

Nearly everyone faces challenges in life that can affect their mental health and emotional well-being.

“Too many people in our state are facing mental health challenges, and we want everyone to know you do not have to struggle alone,” said OHA Director Sejal Hathi, M.D., MBA.

Dr. Hathi, who has spoken about her mental health journey, added, “In many of our communities, societal or cultural norms discourage people from reaching out, or even admitting that we may need some help. Mental Health Awareness Month is a critical opportunity to highlight that mental health is health.”

Here are a few highlights of resources available for Oregonians:

  • OHA provides support for Community Mental Health Programs that provide services related to mental health, substance use, and problem gambling, in counties and communities across Oregon. A directory of these services, listed by county can be found
  • In Oregon, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The easy-to-remember 988 number is available for people experiencing any type of mental health challenge, substance use crisis or thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Anyone who needs support can call, text or chat in English and Spanish (interpretation services and American Sign Language are also available) and connect with trained crisis counselors. The 988 Lifeline is also a resource for friends and families concerned about a loved one.
  • The Mental Health Toolkit was created through a collaboration between OHA and Oregon Department of Education to help educators increase students’ academic achievement through meeting their mental and behavioral health needs.
  • Online resources from Sources on Strength – Sources of Strength has two online resource packets. The first is Resources for Practicing Strength at Home, and the second is a shorter version that also offers a wellness plan. Any resource in these packets can be used in classrooms, staff meetings, in individual or group counseling, or to practice strength wherever you are.

OHA encourages communities, organizations, and individuals to use the month of May to help raise awareness of mental health and well-being. 

Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center Is Contacting More Patients and Families About Infections Amidst Criminal Drug Diversion Case

Shlesinger & deVilleneuve, a Medford law firm, states the hospital involved in a criminal drug diversion investigation is notifying more former patients or their families about possible injury or death related to more cases of in-hospital infection.

Medford attorney David deVilleneuve told NewsWatch 12 today his firm, Shlesinger & deVilleneuve, has a possible new civil case client who says Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center (Asante) contacted the client this week to notify that its related patient, who died, could have been infected at Asante.

“I’m interested in whether the hospital staff responded appropriately, not necessarily that the hospital staff was perpetrating a crime or actually stealing fentanyl, though I’m not ruling that out, either,” said deVilleneuve. “I’m investigating whether Asante responded to the increase in infections in a timely manner and in a responsible manner.”

deVilleneuve said today his firm now has 74 prospective client cases related to Asante and possible deadly drug diversion there. He said 15 cases with the strongest evidence could bring his firm’s initial civil case filings in the next 30-60 days.

deVilleneuve said eight of those 15 cases involve deaths of Asante patients, besides the new prospective client contact this week which indicates Asante is notifying more former patients who could have been affected adversely by a bacterial strain while at the hospital. He said the possible new case that surfaced this week involves a patient hospitalized at Asante in 2022.

“I’m concerned that maybe there’s a list or maybe a group of patients on their list that they (Asante) want to notify or they’ve tried to reach out, to some degree tried to reach out, but have never been contacted,” said deVilleneuve. “And maybe they’re in our community, and they don’t know they’re a potential victim because they’ve never been contacted.”

About Asante, deVilleneuve says, “I see no efforts on their part to inform the public about what’s going on. They are making efforts to whom they have articulated as potential victims. I’m concerned that maybe their search criterion isn’t going to pick up some of the potential victims. That’s why people who have not been notified by Asante or Medford Police Department should still call us because most of these people on our list have not been contacted by Medford PD or Asante, and they’ve all suffered from infections. That number (of his firm’s cases) alone doesn’t match up with the CDC numbers (for Asante in-hospital infections), so there’s a much higher rate of infections, I think, than has been reported, and so it begs the question, ‘Are there other people?’”

The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office said last week it had received Medford Police Department’s (MPD) criminal investigation of drug diversion at Asante. MPD said it started that investigation in December when Asante administration alerted police to its concern that hospital staff might have diverted drugs prescribed for patients. MPD said Jan. 3, 2024, “Additionally, there was concern that this behavior resulted in adverse patient care, though the extent of the impact on those patients is yet to be determined. MPD is actively working on investigating these claims.”

One claim became a civil case filed in February by Idiart Law Firm, when it listed Asante and its former nurse Dani Schofield as defendants for a case by the estate of Horace Wilson, who died at Asante Feb. 25, 2022. The case said Schofield charted that she administered fentanyl to Horace Wilson on several dates beginning Jan. 29, 2022, and, “In order to divert the fentanyl, Defendant SCHOFIELD replaced this entire quarter of a liter of ‘missing fluid’ with non-sterile tap water, thus reintroducing new inoculums of the bacterium Staphylococcus epidermidis into Horace Wilson’s bloodstream via his central line each time she administered the solution.”

MPD also said in January this year that the Department, “has received numerous calls from individuals asking if they or a family member have been impacted by the suspected actions of the former Asante employee. Asante has informed MPD that they have identified the involved patients and have notified or are in the process of notifying them or their families.”

deVilleneuve said this week’s Asante call to his prospective client causes him to expect more clients and claims to surface.

He said his firm’s investigation has noted that perhaps 10% of hospital staff are involved in drug diversion, which suggests it could be underway more broadly than the public knows.

deVilleneuve also said his firm’s investigation found some drug diversion involving clear fluid medicine either substituted saline solution as a sterile replacement or substituted nothing, leaving an intended patient in pain, so he’s surprised a medical professional would use tap water to replace an IV drug, knowing the possible illness it could cause. (SOURCE)

May is Wildfire Awareness Month

SALEM, Ore. – May is Wildfire Awareness Month. Oregon experiences its heaviest wildfire activity during the summer months, but fires occur all seasons of the year including spring. Keep Oregon Green, in partnership with federal, state, tribal and local fire agencies, will be spreading the word about the steps we all can take to prevent the start of careless, unwanted wildfires this summer, and encouraging Oregonians to create defensible space around homes and outbuildings. 

At stake: lives, property and scenic beauty – Each year, over 70% of Oregon’s wildfires are started by people. Many are a result of escaped debris burn piles or gas-powered equipment and vehicles casting sparks or catching fire.

During the 2023 fire season, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported that people were directly responsible for sparking 823 wildfires that burned 6,197 acres. Any spark can gain traction in dry vegetation, spread quickly and impact lives, personal property, and the many benefits provided by Oregon’s scenic natural areas.

Before heading outdoors this summer, contact the agency or landowner who manages the land at your destination for an update on current fire restrictions or bans. Any visitor to Oregon’s natural areas should be familiar with these restrictions before building campfires or using equipment that could ignite a wildfire. 

Put Your Smokey Hat On – Smokey Bear is celebrating his 80th birthday this year. Smokey is a beloved and trusted American icon that has educated the public on preventing human caused wildfires since 1944. His timeless and important message celebrates people who take responsibility and prevent wildfires. Smokey’s hat is the driving force behind Keep Oregon Green’s 2024 summer wildfire prevention campaign. “Put Your Smokey Hat On” is a call to action, encouraging the public to predict the outcome of their actions and do everything they can to prevent wildfire ignitions. Campaign artwork, PSAs, and additional wildfire safety tips can be found at keeporegongreen.org and its various social media platforms.

Coming soon: More Wildfire Awareness Month tips – During May, a new wildfire prevention topic will be shared each week to help homeowners and recreationists learn how to prevent their outdoor activities from sparking the next wildfire. For more information, visit the websites for Keep Oregon Green at www.keeporegongreen.org, the Oregon Department of Forestry at www.oregon.gov/odf, and the Oregon State Fire Marshal at https://www.oregon.gov/osfm/education/pages/prevent-wildfires.aspx

Follow Oregon wildfire news and prevention updates on social media: Twitter @keeporegongreen, @ORDeptForestry and @OSFM

OHCS on track to help hundreds of disaster survivors through the Homeowner Assistance and Reconstruction Program

Program moves into application and review phase — Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) is moving into the application phase of the Homeowner Assistance and Reconstruction Program (HARP) after receiving nearly 800 Eligibility Questionnaires from survivors of the 2020 Labor Day wildfires and straight-line winds. This is an important milestone only made possible because of the partnership of local organizations.  

ReOregon, an OHCS program, launched HARP at the end of March to help homeowners with low to moderate incomes who still need assistance to repair, rebuild, or replace their homes in the wake of the disasters.  

“The HARP program is now progressing into the application review phase, which brings us closer to getting survivors the resources they need on their path to recovery,” said Ryan Flynn, director of Disaster Recovery and Resilience at OHCS. “We also want to thank all of our outreach and intake partners for their help in reaching and assisting hundreds of survivors. We couldn’t do this without them.”

ReOregon is now working on notifying more than 300 of the 800 people who submitted questionnaires with instructions on how they can apply for HARP. Local culturally specific organizations are helping households that may need additional support navigating the application process. ReOregon estimates there may be more survivors who may be eligible for assistance in later phases of HARP.

Those who are interested can still fill out the Eligibility Questionnaire on the re.oregon.gov website where eligibility requirements are also listed.  

For assistance with the process, contact the ReOregon Call Center at 1-877-510-6800 or 541-250-0938 or email t@oregon.org“>housingsupport@oregon.org. Additionally, OHCS has partnered with community-based organizations to provide in-person support. A full list of these partners is on the re.oregon.gov website.  

About Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS)  – OHCS is Oregon’s housing finance agency. The state agency provides financial and program support to create and preserve opportunities for quality, affordable housing for Oregonians of low and moderate income. OHCS administers programs that provide housing stabilization. OHCS delivers these programs primarily through grants, contracts, and loan agreements with local partners and community-based providers. For more information, please visit: oregon.gov/ohcs.  

Oregon Offers Electric Car Rebates Again – Apply Now Until June 3rd


Due to high demand and limited funding, OCVRP will be open for a short time in 2024. Vehicles must be purchased or leased between April 3, 2024, to June 3, 2024, to be eligible for a rebate.

Applicants have six months from their date of purchase or lease to apply. Low- and moderate-income households can prequalify for the $5,000 Charge Ahead rebate by completing the application now at https://apps.oregon.gov/DEQ/Voucher/apply.



83-year-old Clarence Edward Pitts walked away from his home in Bandon on Tuesday, January 31 at around 1:00 p.m. Pitts is described as:

  • 6′ 00″
  • 150 lbs
  • Gray hair
  • Brown eyes
  • Last seen wearing an orange beanie, plaid jacket, tan pants and white shoes
  • May have a walking cane
  • Has dementia and PTSD

Pitts may be in a vehicle that was also found to be missing from the home:

  • 1999 Toyota Van
  • White
  • Oregon license plate: WYN 788

If you see Clarence or have any information pertaining to where he may be, please call the Coos County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center at 541-396-2106 or the Bandon Police Department at 541-347-3189.

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