The latest news stories across the state of Oregon from the digital home of the Oregon coastal cities, OregonBeachMagazine.com
Thursday, January 20, 2022
Oregon Beach Weather
Today– Showers, mainly before 10am. High near 52. South southwest wind 6 to 8 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Friday– Sunny, with a high near 52. North northeast wind 3 to 7 mph.
Saturday– Sunny, with a high near 53. East northeast wind around 7 mph.
Sunday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 56.
Monday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 53.
Columbia River Commerce to Halt for Extended Period
Commerce moving up and down the Columbia River, which is a $23 billion industry, will be at a stand-still for up to five weeks beginning Feb. 13. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) closes its navigation locks on the Columbia and Snake river dams on an annual basis for maintenance and repairs; however, this year the Corps is extending the closure an extra three weeks – in part – to repair the downstream miter gate at The Dalles.
Engineers will also perform annual maintenance on the navigation locks at Bonneville Dam (ending March 12) and John Day Dam (ending March 5) during the outage.
Technicians found damage at The Dalles navigation lock during last year’s planned closure, forcing an emergency extended outage. Engineers will perform repairs during the five-week closure, which will end March 19.
“These series of locks on the Lower Columbia are a vital piece of transportation infrastructure – the highway that moves our regions exports,” said Kym Anderson, Portland District Operations Division chief. “Keeping the locks maintained during scheduled outages ensures that these systems stay open on a reliable schedule. We actively communicate any changes in our operating status to all river users to minimize impacts to navigation in this system.”
Anyone interested in status updates for the work at The Dalles Dam can do so on a regular basis, starting January 19 at 2:30 p.m.
Dates & Times: January 19; February 2, 9, 16 and 23; and March 2, 9 and 16
Access Code: 1993 59 4598
Portland District navigation locks on the Columbia River are located at Bonneville Dam at river mile 145, The Dalles Dam at river mile 191 and John Day Dam at river mile 216.
Typically, Portland and Walla Walla districts send a single closure update, but with closures ending at various times, each district is announcing its own outages. You can find Walla Walla’s outage information here: https://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/2900498/22-005-columbia-and-snake-river-navigation-locks-will-close-in-february-for-ann/.
To maintain safe and reliable passage through this valuable navigation system, the Corps coordinates the annual lock closures with inland shippers and cruise lines to minimize impacts to those users. For Portland District navigation lock information, visit www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation.
Portland District locks on the Columbia River pass 10 million of the 50.5 million tons of commerce shipped annually in the nation. Navigation is Portland District’s oldest mission, dating back to 1871.
The Columbia River is the number one U.S. export gateway for wheat and barley, the number two U.S. export gateway for corn and soy, and the number one U.S. export gateway for West Coast mineral bulk. The Columbia River system is also a national leader for wood exports and auto imports and exports. As far as tourism dollars go, approximately 15,000 passengers a year go through on cruise ships, which accounts for $15 to 20 million in revenue for local economies.
Defazio Announces Nearly $33 Million From Army Corp of Engineers For Coos Bay North Jetty
Congressman Peter DeFazio has announced that the Port of Coos Bay will receive nearly $33 million from the U.S. Department of Army Corp of Engineers to support the ongoing efforts to rebuild and maintain the jetty.
DeFazio said, “I have been fighting for years for much-needed funding to support the Coos Bay North Jetty, which is in desperate need of repair”. DeFazio said ongoing jetty deterioration has increased danger for ships, boaters, and commercial fisherman, and puts economic opportunity at risk. He said the funding will allow jetty repairs to finally begin. DeFazio said, “By bringing the North Jetty into a state of good repair, we’ll ensure safer conditions at the Port of Coos Bay and enhance economic opportunity by supporting the Port’s work to attract a new class of shippers”.
A release said the Coos Bay North Jetty loses approximately 20 feet every year and has receded more than 750 feet since its construction. The Port of Coos Bay will use this funding to keep mariners out of harm’s way and support the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out search and rescue missions.
Oregon reports 8,538 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 15 new deaths
PORTLAND, Ore. — There are 15 new COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,908, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at 12:01 a.m. today.
OHA reported 8,538 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 549,942.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (57), Benton (214), Clackamas (672), Clatsop (25), Columbia (105), Coos (115), Crook (93), Curry (46), Deschutes (675), Douglas (160), Grant (3), Harney (2), Hood River (109), Jackson (551), Jefferson (49), Josephine (183), Klamath (106), Lake (6), Lane (586), Lincoln (135), Linn (402), Malheur (124), Marion (1,031), Morrow (56), Multnomah (1,120), Polk (268), Tillamook (51), Umatilla (301), Union (52), Wallowa (22), Wasco (57), Washington (959) and Yamhill (203).
Another 700 Oregon National Guard members are arriving at
hospitals around the state to help with the surge in patients from
the Omicron variant of COVID-19. They join 500 service
members who arrived at hospitals last week. Their duties will
include disinfecting rooms for new patients, food service, greeting
visitors at entrances, and moving patients in hospitals.
Oregon’s latest coronavirus case numbers show a significant surge, attributed to the fast-spreading omicron variant. However, deaths are relatively low when compared to the previous delta variant surge.
Oregon Health Authority released data showing there was an average of 7,892 new COVID cases in the state over the last week. That number from January 2022 compares to about 3,000 cases per day at the delta peak in August and September of 2021.
Hospitalizations, however are nearing the delta peak, overwhelming an already strained medical system. The ten most recent deaths reported this week were all people ages 60-90. At least half had underlying health conditions.
Hospitals continue to report that people who are vaccinated are not ending up in the ICU. Health experts are repeating the call for people to get vaccinated and boosted, to wear masks and to distance for people at higher risk.
Oregonians will have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposal to make masking indoors permanent.
State leaders will take testimony from the public as part of a rules committee hearing on Thursday morning.
Dr. Paul Cieslak, the medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations with the Oregon Health Authority, says making the indoor mask mandate permanent doesn’t mean it’ll be in place forever.
Making the rule permanent allows the state to keep the mandate in place, but it can be still be removed at a later.
In December, the state met with stakeholders like businesses and restaurant owners about the proposal.
Now, officials are allowing public testimony virtually. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/ABOUT/Documents/phab/01202022-PHAB-Agenda.pdf
On Monday, January 24, officials will hold a similar testimony for a coronavirus vaccine mandate rule for teachers and staff, as well as healthcare workers.
They will also discuss masking in schools as well.
Lane and Linn County District Attorneys File Lawsuit Against Gov. Brown for Granting Clemency
Lane and Linn county district attorneys and others argue in a legal petition that Gov. Brown has ignored victim rights while granting clemency to inmates,
Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow, along with Linn County DA Douglas Marteeny and four surviving victims, are asking a Marion County Circuit Court judge to compel Brown, the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Oregon Youth Authority and the state’s parole board to “comply with the law.”
Salem-based Mannix Law Firm and Common Sense for Oregon filed the lawsuit online Wednesday on behalf of Perlow, Marteeny and the other plaintiffs. Kevin Mannix, a former chair of the Oregon Republican Party, leads both the law firm and the organization.
A spokeswoman for the governor said the office “generally does not comment on matters of pending litigation.”
Brown is only focusing on the rights of the convicted felons, instead of considering the rights of victims and input of district attorneys, Mannix Law Firm attorney Monique DeSpain told the Statesman Journal Wednesday.
“The existing law requires that she consider carefully each individual case … and that includes the impact on the victim of the crime committed and the experience of the district attorney who prosecuted the criminal. We’re simply asking that the governor complies with the laws that currently exist,” DeSpain said.
The plaintiffs’ request comes as 73 inmates who were juveniles convicted as adults before Jan. 1, 2020, are able to request parole board hearings for a possible early release. Hearings are expected to begin this spring, a spokesperson for the governor said.
Brown announced she was using her clemency powers to let those inmates benefit from Oregon Senate Bill 1008, which passed in 2019 and reforms the juvenile justice system. Among other things, the bill eliminates life without parole sentences for youths and gives them a “second look” hearing for a possible release after serving half their sentence. It’s also intended to correct any unjust lengthy sentences.
Several Oregon district attorneys, including Perlow, criticized Brown for not notifying victims or their families before publicly releasing the inmates’ names on Oct. 20.
The entire process fails to ignore victim impact from the crimes, Perlow said.
“The Governor’s priority is offenders of crimes, many of them violent, and ensuring they have a ‘meaningful opportunity to be released’ before they complete their duly secured criminal sentences,” she said in a statement about the legal petition. “Victims of crime, and all other Oregonians, deserve the enforcement of their rights. It is essential that all Oregonians, including public officials, adhere to the rule of law.”
Perlow added she feels “obligated” to ask a judge to intervene and to “raise public awareness of this violation of our state Constitution and the laws surrounding process and transparency in our criminal justice system.”
In the lawsuit, she and the other plaintiffs say most of the 74 granted clemency in October — and nearly all of the 953 people released so far as part of Brown’s use of her clemency powers — have not applied for clemency.
Inmates in Oregon must apply for clemency, and an application states the governor will grant clemency only in “exceptional cases when rehabilitation has been demonstrated by conduct as well as words.”
State law requires the governor to then notify the district attorney of the county where the conviction took place and where the individual is in custody, and requires the DA to notify the victim and provide specific information to the governor, DeSpain said.
That didn’t happen with the commutation order in October, plaintiffs say.
“District attorneys and citizens across the state are voicing their shock and outrage at this sweeping and reckless action by the Governor, fully outside the parameters of Oregon’s established clemency process, denying district attorneys and victims the opportunity to participate as required by law,” the lawsuit reads.
Plaintiffs also argue Brown is violating state law by delegating her clemency power to the Department of Corrections and the parole board, which has been considering the early release of inmates “over whom they have no jurisdiction.”
Additionally, the lawsuit argues Brown:
- Has broad clemency powers subject to regulation and has “abandon all clemency process and procedure as abandoned by law”
- Unlawfully extended her clemency powers because some of the inmates won’t be eligible until after she leaves office. Brown already has announced she isn’t running for governor again.
- “Refused to involve victims” in the process as required by law
- Made Senate Bill 1008 retroactive when she doesn’t have authority to do so
- Has illustrated her “willingness to act outside the restrictions on her clemency power.”
The petition is filed in Marion County because that’s where Brown’s office and all the agencies are located, DeSpain said.
Marteeny said the lawsuit is “not personal” and that he got involved because he believes Brown isn’t following the law.
“The Governor and I simply disagree on the extent of her powers,” he said in a statement. “I believe our laws put limits on her actions. I am working to enforce those limits.”
Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson, who has been vocal about her opposition to Brown’s clemency order, previously calling it a betrayal to public safety promises, was not a part of the lawsuit, according to Deputy District Attorney Amy Queen.
In a statement released last October, Clarkson said Brown failed to notify the victims and their families, or the district attorney’s office, before pardoning the incarcerated individuals. Clarkson said the order runs contrary to the generally accepted use of clemency power — the group of pardoned individuals was painted with a “broad brush” instead of looking at each case, individually.
The four people who joined Perlow and Marteeny in the lawsuit are surviving family members or loved ones of crime victims:
- Randy Tennant, whose mother Donna Tennant was killed by her grandson Andrew Johnson in 2012, when Johnson was 17
- Samuel Williams, whose daughter Jessica Williams was stabbed to death and mutilated then set on fire by Carl Alsup and two others in 2003, when Alsup was 17
- Amy Jones, Jessica Williams’ sister
- Melissa Grassl, whose life partner Austin French was shot in the head three times in 2006 by his brother Cayce French, who was 17 at the time
Oregon’s Graduation Rate Drops By 2% Compared To Last Year
Oregon’s statewide high school graduation rate is 80.6%, which is a two percent drop from last year, according to a new report from the department of education. However, the Oregon Education Department says it is the state’s second-highest graduation rate.
Oregon’s largest district, Portland Public Schools, saw a slight increase in the graduation rate. Meanwhile, graduation rates dropped in the Beaverton, Salem-Keizer, and Hillsboro school districts. That includes the David Douglas school district, which saw an 11.3% graduation rate drop.
You can find the Oregon Department of Education’s full report here.
Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP) Reopens Wednesday, Jan. 26th
Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) has announced that the agency will begin accepting new applications again for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP) starting Wednesday, Jan. 26.
The state paused accepting new applications in early December due to dwindling funding and the need to make system improvements. This will be a limited reopening for three to five weeks, depending on availability of funds. The agency estimates to have sufficient funding to pay between 6,700-9,300 additional applications. Households with the most need will have priority in accessing these resources, not a first-come, first-served basis.
OHCS is first processing applications received before the Dec. 1 pause. Applications received on Jan. 26 will be processed after applications received before Dec. 1. Tenants who apply on Jan. 26 or after may receive safe harbor protections that prevent landlords from evicting tenants until their application is processed. However, those tenants should expect a delay prior to processing and payment.
Other rental assistance is available in many localities in Oregon through local programs that are operating independently from OERAP. Tenants applying for these programs will likely qualify for the safe harbor eviction protections. People can contact 211 or Community Action Agencies in their area.
As of Jan. 12, OHCS and local program administrators (LPAs) have paid $235.4 million in federal emergency rental assistance to 33,770 households, up from $222.4 million and 31,816 applicants last week, through OERAP.
Tenants who apply on Jan. 26 or after can receive safe harbor eviction protections that prevent landlords from evicting tenants until their application is processed. Tenants must show proof to their landlord that they applied for the program to receive the protections. Tenant applications will be paid based on remaining funding available and are not guaranteed.
Applications still awaiting landlord/tenant response at the time of closure are subject to funds remaining when application is finalized and approved, and prioritization scoring is applied and are not guaranteed for payment.
Tenants at immediate risk of eviction should apply for rental assistance right away to access safe harbor protections and should contact a legal organization.
• Oregon Law Center’s Eviction Defense Project: 888-585-9638 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• Oregon State Bar: 503-684-3763 or email@example.com
Tenants should expect a delay prior to processing and payment but can count on accessing their safe harbor eviction protections immediately.
Cleetwood Cove Trail at Crater Lake to Close
The temporary closure of the Cleetwood Cove Trail, the most popularly used trail at Crater Lake National Park and the only route that allows access to the lakeshore, is being proposed by park managers in order to make necessary trail repairs.
The closure would allow crews to rehabilitate the 1.1-mile trail, with work lasting up to two years. The timeframe is complicated by a short construction season. Because of typically heavy snowfall, the trail is normally open only from mid-June to late October. The planned work also includes rehabilitating the lakeside marina facilities.
Cleetwood Cove is the location for ranger-guided, concession lake boat tours. Tours, however, have not been offered the past two years because of the ongoing Covid pandemic. Whether tours will be offered this summer is unknown.
Because the Cleetwood trail provides the only access to the lake, it is heavily used.
Based on trail counters used since 2014, more than 1,400 people use the trail daily — roughly 127,000 visits per summer. Under current plans, rehabilitation work would begin in 2024.
Local Adoption Agency Bookkeeper Sentenced to Federal Prison for Scheme to Defraud Employer and Family
A Hillsboro, Oregon woman was sentenced to federal prison today for engaging in a multi-year scheme to defraud her employer, a non-profit adoption and surrogacy agency operating in Oregon and Washington, and her extended family.
Melodie Ann Eckland, 56, was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release. She was also ordered to pay more than $1.6 million in restitution.
“Melodie Eckland used her position of trust within a local adoption agency to steal funds intended to help children across the world find loving families. She further stole thousands of dollars from a deceased family member’s estate in a failed attempt to keep her employer from discovering her scheme. Eckland’s selfishness and greed caused great loss and hardship for many people and pushed her employer agency to the brink of insolvency,” said Scott Erik Asphaug, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
“Preying on the trust of her employers, her friends, and her family, Ms. Eckland stole from those who trusted her most. In doing so, Ms. Eckland irreparably hurt local families attempting to do just that – become families,” said Special Agent in Charge Bret Kressin, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI), Seattle Field Office. “Financial and tax crimes are not victimless, and today’s sentence is justice served for Ms. Eckland’s wanton disregard and theft from those around her.”
According to court documents, from at least 2011 and continuing until April 2018, Eckland was employed as a bookkeeper for a local adoption and surrogacy agency. Her duties included maintaining agency books and records, managing payroll, filing employment tax returns, and paying quarterly employment taxes to the IRS. Eckland also provided financial statements to the agency’s board of directors, but did not have signature authority over the organization’s business bank account.
Eckland used her position to steal funds from the agency by making unauthorized wire transfers and writing unauthorized checks to herself. Eckland also transferred agency funds in the form of bonuses to her personal bank account. To conceal her scheme, Eckland maintained two sets of financial records. One version, which she provided to the board of directors, showed the business books as they should have been maintained. The other version showed the true payments she made to herself over the course of her employment.
To cover the money she had stolen, Eckland applied for loans from at least five lending agencies on behalf of the adoption agency, using the names of the agency’s owners without their permission. Eckland altered agency financial records to make it appear as though she owned the agency and was authorized to enter into the loan agreements. Beginning in 2016, Eckland stopped making the agency’s quarterly employment tax payments to the IRS and stopped filing employment tax returns. As a result, the agency owed more than $94,000 in past due employment taxes.
To further conceal her scheme, Eckland stole funds from a bank account opened on behalf of her deceased brother-in-law’s estate. As executor of the estate, Eckland’s husband was tasked with selling his brother’s assets, paying estate bills, and preserving the remaining funds for the benefit of his brother’s children. Eckland forged her husband’s signature on unauthorized estate checks and made unauthorized wire transfers of estate funds to herself. She sent a portion of the more than $123,000 stolen from the estate to the adoption agency’s bank account to conceal her theft of agency funds.
IRS records indicated that Eckland did not report any of the embezzled funds on her federal income tax returns for 2013, 2014, and 2017. In 2015 and 2016, she reported more than $550,000 as “other income,” but failed to pay the taxes due. Between 2013 and 2017, Eckland failed to report more than $675,000 in income, resulting in a tax loss of more than $345,000. As a result of her scheme, Eckland’s victims—including the adoption agency and its owners, her brother-in-law’s estate, and the IRS—suffered a total loss of more than $1.6 million.
On June 2, 2021, Eckland was charged by criminal information with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, filing a false tax return, and willfully failing to collect or pay payroll taxes. On June 29, 2021, she pleaded guilty to all four charges.
U.S. Attorney Asphaug and Special Agent in Charge Kressin made the announcement.
This case was investigated by IRS:CI and the Hillsboro Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Claire M. Fay, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. — U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of Oregon
Grants Available for Oregon Museum Projects
The Oregon Heritage Commission is offering grants to qualified museums for collections, heritage tourism, and education and interpretation projects. Awards typically range between $2,000 and $10,000.
Museums may apply for a variety of projects. Collections projects may include cataloging, archival storage, disaster preparedness, and conservation. Heritage tourism projects may include museum marketing and promotions, enhancing visitor experience, and training for museum staff. Education and interpretation projects may include exhibits, online education, school classes, workshops, and camps. Museums may also partner with other organizations for projects that might be outside of the museum, but still meet the museum’s mission. It is possible to enfold response to COVID-19 challenges into appropriate projects.
“This program is quite broad and can be used to collect the full spectrum of Oregon’s history, preserve it and raise awareness of it. We hope to see both creative and practical proposals,” said Oregon Heritage Coordinator, Katie Henry. Past projects include:
- Interpretation and education projects at the Albany Regional Museum, Elkton Community Education Center, Five Oaks Museum (Washington County), Willamette Heritage Center (Salem);
- Collections projects by Architectural Heritage Center, B-17 Alliance Foundation, Crater Rock Museum, Deschutes County Historical Society, Jordan Valley Owyhee Heritage Council, Keizer Heritage Foundation, Sheridan Museum of Historic, Willamette Heritage Center (Salem); and
- Tourism projects by the Hoover-Minthorn House (Newberg).
The online grant application is simple to use and includes plenty of support. A free online workshop specific to this grant and how to use the online grant application will be offered February 8, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Advance registration is required. Recorded trainings and tips are also online.
The Heritage Commission is comprised of nine people representing Oregon’s heritage and geographical diversity who have been appointed by the Governor. There are also nine advisory representatives from state agencies and statewide organizations. The commission’s mission is to secure, sustain, and enhance Oregon’s heritage by ensuring coordination of heritage initiatives by public and private organizations; advocacy on its behalf; education of the public about its extent and value; and promotion and celebration of its diversity. The commission supports Oregon Heritage Plan goals that include: including more voices of Oregon’s history, access to Oregon’s historic resources, attaining best practices and promoting the value of heritage.
Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Asks for Public’s Help in Search For Trucker Suspect
Please share!!! The first real clue to come in on all the missing person cases in the area. Help Klamath Falls Oregon Sheriff Office ID this trucker. He was the last to see this woman alive and could be the key to not only solving this woman’s disappearance but a number of the hundred other women missing in PNW. IF you have any information, please call (541) 883-5130
A 17-year-old was reported missing in Salem and detectives say the teen might be the victim of an online catfishing scheme.
Ezra Mayhugh, 17, was last seen on October 15, 2021 after being dropped off in downtown Salem by a friend, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. He was reported as a runaway the following day when he did not return home.
Investigators say he might be in Washington or California. They hope to reunite Ezra safely with family members.
He’s described as about 5-foot 11-inches tall, weighing 130 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes.
If you have had contact with Mayhugh since October 15 or have other helpful information on his whereabouts, the sheriff’s office asks you to contact Detective M.J. Sphoon at 503-588-6808 or to submit a tip by texting TIPMCSO and your tip to 847411.