The latest news stories across the state of Oregon from the digital home of the Oregon coastal cities, OregonBeachMagazine.com
Thursday, September 7, 2023
Oregon Beach Weather
Register for SOLVE Beach & Riverside Cleanup
– Get ready to participate in a time-honored tradition as SOLVE presents the Annual Beach & Riverside Cleanup. This eagerly anticipated event brings families and communities together to engage in beach cleanups, river cleanups, habitat restoration projects, and neighborhood litter pickup events throughout Oregon.
SOLVE is hosting over 60 project sites statewide between September 9th through September 17th – with the main events culminating on Saturday, September 16th. This extensive reach encompasses locations from the Coast to Portland, as well as the Willamette Valley, Central and Eastern Oregon. Volunteer registration is now live. Visit www.solveoregon.org to learn more about the available projects and to register for this impactful event.
From its inception in 1986, the Beach & Riverside Cleanup has evolved into a cherished annual event for countless Oregonian families. “It stands as a testament to our shared dedication to environmental stewardship, offering a safe and efficient way to make a lasting impact,” says Kris Carico, SOLVE’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our journey through the years has fostered a deep connection to Oregon’s waterways, from their origin to the sea. We encourage all fellow Oregonians to sign up for this statewide cleanup event.“
Since its start, the Beach & Riverside Cleanup has accounted for the removal of more than 2.5 million pounds of litter and marine debris. To put this in perspective, that’s equivalent to the weight of six Boeing 747 airplanes. Last year’s impressive effort involved almost 3,000 volunteers across 147 sites in Oregon, resulting in the collection and removal of approximately 50,000 pounds of discarded trash. September 16th is also International Coastal Cleanup Day and SOLVE is proudly joining forces with the Ocean Conservancy Group, contributing to a global endeavor aimed at preserving our coastlines.
SOLVE’s Beach & Riverside Cleanup is in partnership with Subaru of Portland, with additional support from OnPoint Community Credit Union, Bamboo Sushi, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Metro, BottleDrop, Knife River, Koin, Fred Meyer, Chevron, Clean Water Services, Tillamook County Creamery Association, and Tektronix.
About SOLVE — SOLVE is a statewide non-profit organization that brings Oregonians together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship. Since 1969, the organization has grown from a small, grassroots group to a national model of volunteer action. Today, SOLVE mobilizes and trains tens of thousands of volunteers of all ages across Oregon to clean and restore our neighborhoods and natural areas, and build a legacy of stewardship for our state. Visit solveoregon.org for more information.
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.
Fatal Crash – HWY 20 – Lincoln County
On Tuesday, September 5, 2023, at approximately 5:02 P.M., the Oregon State Police responded to a two-vehicle crash on Hwy-20, near milepost 4, in Lincoln County.
The preliminary investigation indicated a Suzuki Sidekick, operated by James Richard Lebo (70) of Wrangell (AK), was eastbound when it veered into the on-coming lane of travel and struck a westbound Toyota Tacoma, operated by Trevor Lee Hutchison (49) of Toledo, head-on.
The operator of the Suzuki (Lebo) was declared deceased at the scene. The operator of the Toyota (Hutchison) was not injured.
The highway was impacted for approximately 2.5 hours during the on-scene investigation. OSP was assisted by the Toledo Police Department, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Toledo Fire, Newport Fire, and ODOT.
Fatal Crash – HWY 30 – Columbia County
On Tuesday, September 5, 2023, at approximately 1:10 P.M., the Oregon State Police responded to a two-vehicle crash on Hwy-30, near milepost 36, in Columbia County.
The preliminary investigation indicated a Ford E-250, operated by Beverly Ann Seymore (45) of Rainier, was traveling eastbound when it crossed the center line and struck a Nissan Frontier, operated by Michael Robert Pohl (59) of Rainier, head-on.
The operator of the Ford (Seymore) was airlifted to a local hospital for treatment. The operator of the Nissan (Pohl) was declared deceased at the scene.
The highway was impacted for approximately 3.5 hours during the on-scene investigation. The cause of the crash is still under investigation. OSP was assisted by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Columbia Fire and Rescue, and ODOT.
Rod’s N Rhodies Car Show
The annual Rod’s N Rhodies car show event is coming September 8th and 9th to the Old Town Area. The 15th annual event will feature hot rods and classic custom vehicles from all over the west.
The annual event goes towards supporting Transportation Solutions which provides car repairs for families in need. Transportation Solutions works with local families on a referral basis to fix most maintenance problems so that individuals can get to work, transport kids to school, and other activities. Information on the mission of Transportation Solutions can be found at rodsnrhodies.org/transportation-solutions.
Florence Annual Yard Sale
If you want to participate in the annual City Wide Garage Sale September 8-10, then you have to act quickly. In order to be included in the map that is distributed in the Siuslaw News the deadline for registration is this coming Monday, August 21st. due to print deadlines information has to be in to make the September 1st and September 8th publications. This is the 10th year the community garage sale has gone on and participants will receive recognition on the map and two signs for their $15 fee.
Fire information for the Smith River Complex North in Southern Oregon – US Route 199 Reopened
U.S. Route 199 has reopened after closing last month due to wildfires on the Oregon and California state line. The U.S. Forest Service is still warning of hazardous conditions and traffic congestion.
The highway from Pioneer Road near Gasquet to the Oregon state line closed Aug. 15. More than 150 lightning strikes ignited the Smith River Complex Fire that has burned more than 85,000 acres. The Forest Service said an unusually dry summer and rugged terrain have made the 27 confirmed fires difficult to suppress.
As of Wednesday, the complex was 19% contained.
Several days of little fire activity allowed crews to begin extinguishing hotspots at the fire’s edge. They plan to continue indirect suppression efforts to contain the main fire.
The Forest Service expects low levels of smoke until crews begin firing operations later this week. An updated air quality map is available from the U.S. Wildfire Air Quality Response Program.
Still, the 11-mile stretch from Sandy Beach to Oregon Mountain Road has one-way piloted control, leading to potential traffic delays of up to 45 minutes. The Forest Service said this segment could grow or contract depending on guardrail repair efforts or road debris.
Dry, breezy weather expected through the end of the week could aid fire development.
Six Rivers National Forest lands, roads and trails surrounding the Smith Complex remain closed. For additional information on road conditions, go to the Caltrans website and the Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck website .
Smith River Complex as of 9/7 Acres: 85,520/10,261 acres in Oregon – Containment: 19%
Oregon to leverage Medicaid benefits to prevent homelessness, support behavioral health services, mitigate the impacts of climate change, pending federal approval
Rent assistance benefits will focus on preventing homelessness for individuals who are medically and economically vulnerable; timeline pending federal approval
SALEM, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority (OHA), in collaboration with Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), announced proposed timelines to begin offering new Medicaid benefits that eligible Oregon Health Plan (OHP/Medicaid) members would receive under Oregon’s ground-breaking 1115 Medicaid waiver agreement with the federal government. If the federal government agrees to the proposal, eligible OHP members would start receiving benefits for climate-related supports in January 2024, housing insecurity in November 2024, and food insecurity in January 2025.
Oregon would be the first state in the nation to gain federal approval to offer six months of temporary rent assistance as a medically necessary Medicaid benefit. These benefits would first roll-out to people who are at risk of losing their current housing, beginning on Nov. 1, 2024, if the federal government approves the plan.
In lockstep with Governor Tina Kotek’s priority to reduce homelessness, state health officials have determined that the most immediate and effective way to implement Oregon’s new short-term Medicaid housing benefit is to help people who are medically and economically vulnerable avoid becoming homeless in the first place.
According to state housing experts, the rate of Oregonians losing housing is increasing faster than state and local programs can rehouse them, due to a critical statewide shortage in affordable housing. The short-term Medicaid rent assistance benefit will help prevent people from losing housing due to a health issue that disrupts their ability to stay current on their housing payments, or because they need to be connected to mental health or substance use services to maintain stable housing. This preventive approach should help slow the rate of growth in the homeless population.
State officials estimate approximately 125,000 OHP members currently meet the federal housing definition of “at risk for homelessness” and could be eligible for the short-term housing benefit if they have health and housing needs that would require up to six months of rent assistance or other housing supports. While assuring that these benefits help keep people housed, OHA will continue to have a strong focus on assisting OHP members that have a significant mental health or substance use disorder that exacerbates their housing insecurity.
OHA’s interim director Dave Baden said, “As a first step, we want to use these new and innovative Medicaid housing benefits to make sure that someone with a health problem stays in stable housing. We can’t let more people wind up on the streets, where their health issues will worsen and get harder to treat, making sustainable, long-term housing harder to find, especially given the lack of affordable housing across the state.”
Medically necessary temporary rent assistance and other housing supports would become available to other OHP members, including people who are already homeless, later in the state’s five-year waiver implementation. That date has not been specified as state health and housing officials continue to work with federal partners to address barriers to housing access and other questions.
Input from housing providers, coordinated care organizations (CCOs) and other community voices informed the state’s strategy to focus on preventing homelessness in this first phase.
Andrea Bell, director at OHCS, said, “Today’s actions build upon a longstanding commitment to addressing the social determinants of health in action. This historic rent assistance provision is a tangible pathway to deliver rent assistance as a health intervention. Housing and health barriers are connected. The solutions should be reflective of that reality.”
State officials also announced that climate-related supports for some OHP members will become available starting Jan. 1, 2024, if federal officials approve the proposed timelines. Under this benefit, eligible OHP members could qualify to receive air conditioners to help reduce health risks during extreme heat emergencies (if medically necessary) or air filters to protect from the respiratory effects of wildfire smoke.
Nutrition benefits, such as medically tailored meals, would become available starting Jan. 1, 2025.
Oregon’s five-year 1115 Medicaid waiver provides OHP coverage and more than $1 billion in federal funding to address the health-related social needs (HRSN) of people whose health is affected by the most pressing problems affecting Oregon communities, including homelessness, climate change and poverty. Under the state’s agreement with CMS, Oregon is required to begin making health-related social needs benefits available no later than Jan. 1, 2025.
1115 Medicaid waivers allow states flexibility to test new ways to deliver and pay for Medicaid benefits. A state must receive CMS approval to implement a waiver.
Medicaid provides health coverage to income-eligible people. Currently, more than 1.4 million Oregonians – or 1 in 3 state residents – are covered by OHP. Most people who qualify for Medicaid in Oregon are covered by OHP. Approximately nine in 10 OHP members have their care coordinated through one of 16 CCOs which operate in defined regions across the state.
Public Invited to Visit 9/11 Memorial at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem
On Monday, Sept. 11, the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) invites the public to visit the 9/11 Memorial at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.
The Academy hosts a permanent display of artifacts from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people, including more than 400 firefighters and law enforcement officers. In addition to the lives lost in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, hundreds of first responders have died due to illnesses contracted while engaged in rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.
Guests are welcome to view the memorial to honor the victims and all whose lives were impacted by the attacks, including the firefighters, police officers and rescue workers whose heroism prevented further loss of life. The gates of the Academy, located at 4190 Aumsville Hwy. SE in Salem, will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for drop-in viewing. The memorial is located in the lobby of the Academy; guests should follow the signs for the main entrance.
Artifacts included at the 9/11 Memorial include:
- A floor beam from either 5 or 6 World Trade Center, both of which sustained heavy damage in the September 11 attacks as the towers fell.
- A section from the base of 1 World Trade Center, also known as the North Tower.
- A strap used to support mechanical systems in the towers
- A smaller floor beam from above the 50th floor of one of the Twin Towers
- A piece of aluminum used in the outer “skin” of one of the towers
- A piece of limestone fascia from the outer wall of the Pentagon, taken from near where the aircraft impacted the building
The artifacts are accompanied by a video tribute to the first responders and victims, and a painting by artist Ricardo Salazar, “Memoriam,” which depicts the attacks on the World Trade Center.
“We welcome the public to join us in upholding the memory and honoring the firefighters, police officers and other first responders who gave their lives on September 11,” said DPSST Director Phil Castle. “We will never forget the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice on that tragic day in America’s history, as well as those who have succumbed to illness in the years since.”
In addition to the 9/11 Memorial, the Oregon Public Safety Academy campus is home to memorials honoring the state’s fallen first responders. The Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial honors more than 190 officers who have died in the line of duty since the 1860’s, and the Oregon Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial honors more than 170 fire service personnel who have died in the line of duty since 1881. Memorial ceremonies are held annually to honor the officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
### About DPSST
The mission of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) is to cultivate excellence in public safety by developing and delivering training and upholding established professional standards. DPSST certifies and licenses police, corrections, and parole and probation officers, as well as regulatory specialists, emergency telecommunicators and medical dispatchers, criminal justice instructors, private security providers, private investigators, fire service professionals and polygraph examiners in the State of Oregon. DPSST works with public and private safety agencies around the state to provide basic, leadership and specialized training at the 237-acre Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem and regionally throughout the state.
SAIF declares $135 million dividend
Wednesday the SAIF board of directors declared a $135 million dividend for its policyholders. This marks the 14th year in a row SAIF has been able to offer a dividend, and the 26th dividend since 1990.
SAIF is one of the only insurance carriers in Oregon that has regularly returned dividends to employers. As a not-for-profit with a public mission to make workers’ compensation coverage available, accessible, and affordable, it’s an important part of our value to policyholders.
“Serving our customers with expertise and heart is at the core of what we do,” said Chip Terhune, president and CEO of SAIF. “We have carefully considered current economic trends and believe it is right that we offer this dividend to our employers.”
SAIF determines whether a policyholder dividend is appropriate based on capital levels, claim trends, and the overall economic environment.
This year, SAIF is able to pay dividends because of its solid financial standing and continued success in managing workplace safety and health and controlling losses.
“In addition to dividends, we are proud to offer the largest network of workplace safety professionals of any insurance carrier in Oregon,” said Terhune. “Our vision is to make Oregon the safest and healthiest place to work, and we appreciate our policyholders’ efforts to ensure their workers go home safely at the end of each day.”
52,023 policyholders will receive the dividend. The dividend will be based on premium for policies whose term ended in 2022 and will be distributed in October.
SAIF is Oregon’s not-for-profit workers’ compensation insurance company. For more than 100 years, we’ve been taking care of injured workers, helping people get back to work, and striving to make Oregon the safest and healthiest place to work. For more information, visit the About SAIF page on saif.com.
Workers’ compensation costs to drop for 11th-straight year
Salem – In 2024, Oregon employers, on average, will pay less for workers’ compensation coverage, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) announced today. The decline in costs marks 11 years of average decreases in the pure premium rate – the base rate insurers use to determine how much employers must pay for medical costs and lost wages.
Underpinning the cost decreases is the success of Oregon’s workers’ compensation system, which includes programs to control costs, maintain good worker benefits, ensure employers carry insurance for their workers, resolve disputes, and improve workplace safety and health.
The numbers illustrate positive, long-term trends, including:
- Employers, on average, would pay 90 cents per $100 of payroll for workers’ compensation costs in 2024, down from 93 cents in 2023, under a proposal by DCBS. That figure covers workers’ compensation claims costs, assessments, and insurer profit and expenses.
- The pure premium rate would drop by an average 6.7 percent under the proposal. In fact, the pure premium will have declined by 49 percent from 2015 to 2024.
The reduction in costs is due to an improvement in loss experience and loss development patterns in Oregon, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). NCCI is the U.S. rate-setting organization whose recommendation DCBS reviews as part of its annual public process to decide rates.
Employers’ total cost for workers’ compensation insurance includes the pure premium and insurer profit and expenses, plus the premium assessment. Employers also pay at least half of the Workers’ Benefit Fund assessment, which is a cents-per-hour-worked rate.
The decrease in the pure premium of 6.7 percent is an average, so an individual employer may see a larger or smaller decrease, no change, or even an increase, depending on the employer’s own industry, claims experience, and payroll. Also, the pure premium does not take into account the varying expenses and profit of insurers or individual policyholders’ experience modification, if eligible.
The stability of Oregon’s workers’ compensation system helps sustain the trend in lower costs. The system includes the Workers’ Compensation Division; Oregon OSHA; the Workers’ Compensation Board, which resolves disputes over the state’s workers’ compensation and workplace safety laws; the Ombuds Office for Oregon Workers, an independent advocate for workers on workers’ compensation and workplace safety and health; and the Small Business Ombudsman, an independent advocate for small business owners on workers’ compensation.
The premium assessment funds those successful programs.
The premium assessment, which is a percentage of the workers’ compensation insurance premium employers pay, is added to the premium. It would remain at 9.8 percent in 2024, the same as 2023, under the DCBS proposal. In fact, 2024 would mark the third straight year the premium assessment remained at 9.8 percent.
“Oregon has a robust workers’ compensation system that strives to prevent injuries while also providing comprehensive benefits to injured workers and keeping costs low for employers,” said Andrew Stolfi, DCBS director and insurance commissioner. “This system has proven advantageous for everyone.”
Meanwhile, the Workers’ Benefit Fund assessment funds return-to-work programs, provides increased benefits over time for workers who are permanently and totally disabled, and gives benefits to families of workers who die from workplace injuries or diseases.
The fund’s revenue comes from a cents-per-hour-worked assessment. The assessment would decrease to 2.0 cents per hour worked in 2024 from 2.2 cents in 2023. It is the lowest rate since the inception of the cents-per-hour assessment in 1996. Because the Workers’ Benefit Fund assessment is shared by employers and workers – no matter the industry – a reduction in the rate saves money for both groups.
The decrease in the pure premium will be effective Jan. 1, 2024, but employers will see the changes when they renew their policies in 2024.
Oregon’s workers’ compensation premium rates have ranked low nationally for many years. Oregon had the 10th least expensive rates in 2022, according to a nationally recognized biennial study conducted by DCBS.
The following cost chart summarizes the changes and includes information about how to participate in the virtual public hearing set for Thursday, Sept. 21, at 3 p.m.:
More information about Oregon workers’ compensation costs: http://www.oregon.gov/DCBS/cost/Pages/index.aspx
Written testimony will be accepted through 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, by the Director’s Office of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, 350 Winter St. NE, P.O. Box 14480, Salem, OR 97309-0405.
### The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For information, visit http://www.dcbs.oregon.gov/
More LGBTQ People Are Coming To Oregon To Flee Restrictive Laws in Other States
More people are moving to Oregon after nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced this past year during legislative sessions across the U.S., and over 80 of them were passed.
Oregon has not passed any proposed laws that include preventing transgender students from participating in school activities, blocking funding for gender-affirming care, and limiting people from updating gender information on IDs and records.
Kyle Rodriguez-Hudson, Executive Director of TransPonder, said Oregon has seen an influx of LGBTQ+ people because of Oregon’s more tolerant laws. For service providers like the Equi Institute in Portland, the last few months have seen a 60% increase in people from out of state seeking services.
Kyle Kurzet, physician, and owner of Transition Health, said one of the stronger protections for LGBTQ+ people that Oregon provides is better access to health care, especially for gender-affirming care.
Kurzet said Oregon Health Plan has provided a lot of much-needed care that is not always offered in other states.
Oregon Man Set Free After 25 Years Behind Bars As Prosecutors Dismiss Murder Case
An Oregon man walked out of prison a free man on Tuesday after spending 25 years in prison with 17 years of that spent on death row.
Jesse Johnson, 62, was incarcerated for 25 years after he was convicted of murdering 28-year-old nurse Harriet “Sunny” Thompson in a Salem apartment.
He remained on death row until his conviction was overturned, though Gov. John Kitzhaber instituted a moratorium that halted executions in 2011. Gov. Kate Brown cleared the state’s death row in 2022, converting each inmates’ sentence to life in prison. Prosecutors dismissed the case against him on Tuesday.
The Oregon Innocence Project, which works to free wrongly convicted prisoners, started representing Johnson in 2014 until the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned his conviction and death sentence. His lawyers said racism played a role in the case against Johnson, who is Black.
Prosecutors abruptly dropped the murder case against an Oregon man who won an appeal in 2021 after a new witness surfaced who said police investigators used racist slurs and discounted another possible suspect.
Jesse Lee Johnson, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence in the 1998 killing, walked out a free man Tuesday afternoon from the Marion County Jail.
“I was failed by the system,” Johnson, 62, said in an interview Wednesday. “The detectives built a circumstantial case in a capital murder, with no forensic evidence to tie me to the crime. It was all lies.”
The group said the state’s “tunnel vision” could have led to Johnson’s execution. “The State of Oregon spent decades trying to execute him but Jesse Johnson told them he was innocent for years.”
Johnson was let out of jail penniless so a GoFundMe has been set up by his friends and legal team to help cover basic living expenses. It raised more than its $10,000 goal in less than a day.
“I’m happy and excited and ready for the next phase now. Been a lot of years for something I didn’t do,” Johnson states.
Prosecutors said no other suspect has been identified in Thompson’s murder.
Oregon Among Steepest Home Price Increase
A new study released by SelfStorage shows that Oregon has the fifth-largest increase in home prices in the nation over the past decade. Idaho was number one with an increase of just under 79-percent. Oregon prices increased 61-percent.
Illinois had the lowest increase, at 16-percent. The study looked at average prices in 2012-2016 compared to 2017-2022 to see the increase.
A SelfStorage spokesperson said that the study underlines the strong differences in parts of America. Most on the list are on the West Coast.
The number of Oregonians who speak a language other than English at home has more than doubled since 1980
- According to the most recent Census data, 15.5% of residents speak a language other than English at home.
State of play: Like much of the country, Oregon has seen a sizable increase in Spanish speakers. About 13% of Americans spoke Spanish at home in 2021, up from around 5% in 1980.
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
- 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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