Eastern Oregon News & Sports

LA GRANDE, OR: Bid for new Union County Courthouse awarded

Winning bid comes in more than $200,000 under budget

Posted August 20, 2014

The Union County Courthouse now has an official design.  Union County Commissioners this morning awarded the bid for the project to local contractor Mike Becker Construction.  Commissioner Bill Rosholt says three strong bids were received, but the design offered by Becker Construction stood out: "It brought back into the frame of Union County the old courthouse, and I think it really does justice for the history of the county."

And the good news- the $2.4 million bid to build the courthouse was more than $200,000 below what the county had in their budget for the project.  Rosholt says construction could begin early next year.  Court employee’s say the design will give them a functional building with bigger courtrooms better suited for hearings.  Commissioner Rosholt says it will still be a few months before work begins: "I don’t think you’ll see dirt start moving until the new year- probably February with a seven or eight month time frame for construction completion."

Three companies submitted bids for the project and commissioners said all three were strong bids with good designs.

PENDLETON, OR: Guilty plea expected today in Echo murder case

Also expected to plead guilty to Methamphetamine charges

Posted on August 20, 2014

Defense Attorney Dean Gushwa announced this morning that Daniel Lee Smith plans to plead guilty today to murdering a woman in June in Echo. Smith, 30, has been in jail following his arrest June 10, one day after he told James Clements he murdered his 24-year-old girlfriend, Samantha Brown. Clements told police about Smith's conversation. Gushwa also said Smith plans to plead guilty in a methamphetamine case and to assaulting a jail inmate July 17. Umatilla County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Hampton set those pleadings for 3 p.m.

BAKER CITY, OR: Bomb making materials in apartment draw response

Bomb Squad called in to error on the side of caution

Posted on August 20, 2014

Yesterday evening at about 5:50 pm officers in Baker City responded to a report that suspicious items were left behind by a recently vacated tenant at 1565 Auburn Avenue. Officer Mike Lary inspected the items and noted they were consistent with materials commonly used to make explosive devices. The Oregon State Bomb Squad from Pendleton was called in to err on the side of caution. They arrived at the scene at about 9:45 pm. A search warrant arrived and the bomb technicians entered the residence. The items found inside were found to be components that could be used to manufacture an explosive device, but determined that was not the case in this situation. The scene was declared safe and was cleared just before midnight. The investigation into this incident has been closed.

ENTERPRISE, OR: Gender, age both factors in suicide

Many risk factors contribute to suicide

Posted August 20, 2014

Yesterday we told you about a spike in suicides officials are seeing across the state.  While many of these suicides are being tied to people with severe depression, Steven Cleaver with the Wallowa County Center for Wellness says there are other risk factors that can trigger suicide: "Another mental illness like anxiety is a risk factor, use of alcohol is a risk factor, not having other people around them supporting them is a risk factor, having tried it before is a risk factor."

And Cleaver says there are some factors that add into suicide that most people never hear about: "There are certain ages where people are more likely to attempt or are more likely to succeed.  Gender is a factor."

Women are three-to-four times more likely to attempts suicide while men are three times as likely to succeed.  Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the warning signs someone may be ready to end their life.

BAKER CITY, OR: Babe Ruth Regional Tournament good for the economy

Local hotels, businesses see the impact

Posted August 20, 2014

In a normal year, the number of hotel rooms rented for big events in Baker City drops sharply after the Shrine Game in early August- but a big event this year changed that according to Baker County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debi Bainter.  Baker City played host to the Pacific Northwest Babe Ruth Regional Tournament which brought in ten teams for a full week: "The Sunridge shared that they rented about eighty rooms for the Babe Ruth tournament that would never have been rented had there not been a Babe Ruth tournament that weekend."

 And while the players spent a lot of their week either on the field or around the pool, their parent were often in local stores and restaurants spending money which was a boost for the economy.

BAKER CITY, OR: More West Nile detected in Keating Valley

Take steps to protect yourself from the virus

Posted on August 19, 2014

West Nile Virus has been detected in 4 more pools of mosquitoes collected on August 11th, 2014. The positive pools were collected in Keating Valley, bringing the total to 7 pools of mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile Virus in the district this year. Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Corvallis confirmed the positive mosquito pools.  The Baker Valley Vector Control District routinely sets 24 adult mosquito traps baited with CO2 weekly throughout Baker, Bowen and Keating Valleys. The mosquitoes caught are then identified to species, counted and pooled into groups of 10-50 and sent onto the OSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Corvallis for testing. West Nile Virus was detected during the 2013 mosquito season. To date there have been no human, avian or equine cases reported in the Baker Valley Vector Control District area this year. Dead bird surveillance has been ongoing in the district. People that notice sick or dead birds such as crows, magpies, jays  and robins should contact the vector control district so that they can be picked up for testing. Most people who become infected with West Nile Virus do not become sick. Some may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally swollen lymph glands or rash. In some cases, West Nile may cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.

LA GRANDE, OR: Urban Renewal Agency to decide grocery store funding

$500,000 is one-third of remodel costs

Posted August 20, 2014

The La Grande City Council, acting as the Urban Renewal Agency, will make a decision tonight on a request to fund the Family Marketplace Grocery Store with $500,000 in Urban Renewal funds.  The money is about one-third of the total cost to remodel and open the store on the corner of 4th and Adams on the west end of the downtown area.  Members of the city council and the community seem to be split down the middle on the project.  Tonight's meeting starts at 6:00 in City Hall.

LA GRANDE, OR: EOU football team returns solid group

Mountaineers open their season Saturday

Posted August 20, 2014

The Eastern Oregon University football team opens the 2014 season on the road this Saturday against Menlo College in San Francisco.  The Mountaineers bring back most of last year's starters on both sides of the ball and will start the season ranked 26th in the nation.  You can listen to Saturday’s game starting at 11:40 on NewsTalk 103.

LA GRANDE, OR: EOU volleyball ranked 23rd in first NAIA poll

EOU one of two ranked Cascade Conference teams

Posted August 20, 2014

The Eastern Oregon University volleyball opens the 2014 season as the No. 23 team in the Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll, the National Office announced Tuesday.
 
EOU opened its 2014 last weekend against Cal State San Marcos, where EOU defeated the Cougars, 3-2 (25-23, 25-27, 25-16, 24-26, 15-8). Leading the Mountaineers attack was Casey Loper, who recorded 17 kills on the afternoon. Newcomers Kendra De Hoog followed with 16 kills, while Rachelle Chamberlain dished out 39 assists in the victory over the Cougars.
 
The Mountaineers are coming off the best season in program history in 2013 as they went 25-6 overall and 15-3 in CCC action.
 
Eastern Oregon returns to action this Thursday, Aug. 21 when they play Westminster (Utah) at 6 p.m. in the Sport Travel Northwest Challenge in Spokane, Wash.
 
Below is the complete Preseason Top 25 Poll.

2014 Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll (Aug. 19)

RANK LAST WEEK^ SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES) 2013 Record TOTAL POINTS
1 1 Texas at Brownsville (20) 37-0 560
2 3 Concordia (Calif.) 27-3 542
3 4 Wayland Baptist (Texas) 36-7 516
4 5 Madonna (Mich.) 41-2 480
5 9 Northwestern (Iowa) 36-4 479
6 8 Grand View (Iowa) 34-14 446
7 7 Midland (Neb.) 37-5 442
8 2 Biola (Calif.) 27-4 405
9 11 Columbia (Mo.) 30-11 399
10 16 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 36-6 381
11 10 Georgetown (Ky.) 35-11 352
12 15 Park (Mo.) 35-7 344
13 11 Dordt (Iowa) 25-9 337
14 13 Oklahoma Baptist 33-7 333
15 RV Viterbo (Wis.) 34-13 324
16 14 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) 27-4 308
17 18 Rocky Mountain (Mont.) 25-9 280
18 24 College of Idaho 18-10 256
19 6 The Master's (Calif.) 23-9 254
20 17 Indiana Wesleyan 30-12 189
21 21 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) 22-12 178
22 19 Vanguard (Calif.) 22-9 164
23 NR Eastern Oregon 25-6 146
T24 RV Davenport (Mich.) 31-10 140
T24 RV Missouri Baptist 27-7 140   


Others receiving votes: Bellevue (Neb.) 121; Hastings (Neb.) 77; Trinity Christian (Ill.) 65; Westmont (Calif.) 61; Baker (Kan.) 52; Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) 50; Southern Oregon 37; Cal State San Marcos 24; Cornerstone (Mich.) 15; Evangel (Mo.) 8; Asbury (Ky.) 4; Concordia (Ore.) 3; College of the Ozarks (Mo.) 3.

EASTERN OREGON: ODOT project will go to bid in Oct. or Nov.

Areas impacted will include Interstate 84 between Nelson Point near the Ash Grove cement plant and Lime

Posted on August 19, 2014

 

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will be constructing two highway preservation projects in 2015. One will improve pavement conditions along Interstate 84 between Nelson Point near the Ash Grove cement plant and Lime, mile points 330.7-342.12 in south Baker County. The other will resurface a section of U.S. 20 between Black Canyon and Harper (between Vale and Juntura), mile points 203-223 in Malheur County. The projects are being developed now and will go to bid in October and November. Parties interested in hearing more about these projects and potential traffic impacts during construction can contact ODOT Project Leader Sean Maloney at (541) 823-4013, or by email at Sean.Maloney@odot.state.or.us .

ENTERPRISE, OR: Spike in suicides likely tied to depression

Deep depression a form of mental illness

Posted August 19, 2014

Oregon officials have seen a spike in the number of suicides across the state this summer, and it has everyone from family members to law enforcement officials wondering why.  Steven Cleaver, the Executive Director of the Wallowa County Center for Wellness says there are several factors that play into suicide- and one of the biggest is depression: "The first thing to remember is that a person who has depression isn’t down the way a normal person is down.  They actually have a medical illness which may have some chemical components to it, some genetic components to it."

Those underlying issues make their depression more profound than just an average case of the blues and may require a doctor's intervention to manage.  Cleaver says that level of depression is actually a form of mental illness.  Cleaver says depressed people who commit suicide aren't trying to escape: "It’s not an escape, it’s a resolution- what are they escaping too?  The pain and the despair and the feelings of hopelessness are just so profound, and it actually feels like living is more painful."

We'll talk about some of the signs of depression and suicide tomorrow.

LA GRANDE, OR: La Grande not becoming a Mecca for pot- so far

Only one application received so far

Posted August 19, 2014

When the La Grande City Council made the decision in April to pass up the opportunity to place a one year moratorium on marijuana dispensaries they were warned that La Grande would likely become the center of Eastern Oregon’s pot trade with dispensaries lining up to apply for permits.  City Planner Mike Boquist: "It hasn’t happened yet- it doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but we haven’t seen in yet."

 Boquist says he’s received less than five inquiries and only one application nearly four months after the council decision.  La Grande remains the only Eastern Oregon community that will allow dispensaries.

BAKER CITY, OR: Following best science, forests would be healthy

Healthy forests produce timber for mills, jobs

Posted August 19, 2014

If the Forest Service followed the conclusions of most scientists our forests would be healthy and there would be a steady supply of logs to sustain local mills and provide plenty of jobs in rural Oregon.  And, Congressman Greg Walden says the increase in activity could pay for itself: "If we structured it so it pays for itself- which it used to do- we’d be in a lot better shape and our mills would have a reliable supply of timber, we wouldn’t have these catastrophic fires every summer."

But currently forest policy is largely controlled by environmentalists who use the legal system to hold up timber sales.  A bipartisan bill that cruised through the House last month is currently sitting inactive in the Senate because Democrats won’t allow the bill to advance.  

LA GRANDE, OR: Ramp onto I-84 at exit 265 to close tomorrow

Repaving project to last until early afternoon

Posted August 19, 2014

The westbound ramp at exit 265 near the Flying J Truck Stop will be closed tomorrow as ODOT crews repave it.  ODOT Spokesman Tom Strandberg says they expect to close the ramp to traffic about 8:00 am and it won’t reopen until about 2:00 tomorrow afternoon.  Motorists who want to get on or off the freeway into La Grande can use exit 261 on the Island City Strip.

***UPDATE*** Bomb squad detonates IED behind business

Bomb was in a rusty paint can

Posted August 18, 2014

Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner said this morning that the improvised explosive device found behind the Natural Structures was "disrupted" by the Oregon State Police Bomb Squad based in Pendleton about 2:00 Friday afternoon.  What's unclear is just how long the device sat behind the business.  Interviews conducted with employees found one person who said the device, hidden in a rusty paint can, was not there the night before it was discovered while another employee said the paint can had been there for two years.  The investigation into the device is ongoing.

ELGIN, OR: Boise Cascade celebrated 50 years in the community

Company plans to be around another fifty years

Posted August 18, 2014

The Boise Cascade Plywood Plant celebrated fifty years of service in Elgin on Saturday, just part of the company's long history in Union County.  Boise Cascade Regional Manager Tom Insko says Boise Cascade first came to the county in 1959 and now they’re the largest employer in the area: "We have approximately 590 employees today in the county, and specifically for Elgin about 325 to 330 employees."

Boise Cascade has long been a major sponsor of youth activities in the community.  One of the programs they’re now supporting is a new Elgin High School class where students will build a home from the ground up in the coming school year.  That home will then be sold to help the program continue.  And Insko says the company plans on being a part of the community for many years to come by investing in the future: "We’re really excited, actually, about the future of Boise Cascade.  We have a lot of challenges, but, specifically at Elgin we’re some significant investments."

Those investments will help Elgin clean up our national forest lands while keeping the mills open and employing local workers.  Insko says the company has a good business model and they’re looking forward to another fifty years in Union County.

LA GRANDE, OR: Central school needs serious work on its plumbing

Plumbing system encased in a concrete slab

Posted August 18, 2014

With school starting for La Grande students in just a week area residents will begin to hear more about the proposed $31.8 million bond voters will be asked to approve in November.  Superintendent Larry Glaze says the biggest part of the bond is to replace Central school which was built just after World War II and has some serious issues: "It’s built on a concrete slab, all the plumbing’s inside that concrete slab, and you’ve got maintenance issues there.  Repairing that plumbing is almost mission impossible."

The schools heating system had to be dismantled years ago because it was also built into the concrete slab making it inaccessible for repairs.  Glaze says both the school board and the facilities committee that did the majority of the work over the past year on the bond tried to keep the cost to residents as low as possible:
"That comes out to approximately $1.99 per thousand of assessed value of your home- it’s not the real market value, it’s the assessed value."           

Schools throughout the district will be hosting open houses once classes begin next week so voters can see the issues for themselves.  Much of the work is also intended to make the schools safer since they were all built before problems with school security became an issue.

BAKER CITY, OR: Crews to begin work on UV treatment plant roof

Contractor finished the buildings walls

Posted August 18, 2014

Work on the permenent UV treatment plant in Baker City is progressing.  Crews from the construction company building the project last week hit two milestones- they completed the walls of the structure and poured cement slab for the backup generator that will provide power in the event of an outage in the area.  Work will start today on placing the joists for the steel roof of the building.   Work is expected to be complete this fall.

ENTERPRISE, OR: Crews gain ground on the Somers Fire

5 Mile Fire nearly contained

Posted August 18, 2014

Fire crews battling the Somers Fire near Hells Canyon made significant progress over the weekend.  The fire is now more than 50% contained.  Fire officials say nearly 36,000 acres have burned so far.  The Hat Point Road remains closed, however, due to fire activity and campgrounds on the Oregon side of the Snake River remain closed until further notice.  Many of the crews fighting the 5 Mile Fire will be released to help with other fires later today as the fire burning near Imnaha is now 95% contained.

LA GRANDE, OR: EOU volleyball opens season with a win

Loper leads the Mountaineers with 17 kills

Posted August 18, 2014

The Eastern Oregon University volleyball team won its season opener, 3-2 (25-23, 25-27, 25-16, 24-26, 15-8), over Cal State San Marcos on Saturday afternoon.  

Leading the Mountaineers attack was Casey Loper, who recorded 17 kills on the afternoon. Newcomers Kendra De Hoog followed with 16 kills, while Rachelle Chamberlain dished out 39 assists in the victory over the Cougars.

Loper led the Mountaineers to an early lead in set one, as she recorded three kills and paced the Mountaineers to a 7-1 lead over the Cougars. Cal State San Marcos continued to battle back and a lead over EOU, 13-12, after an attack error by Emily Nay.

The remainder of set one went back and forth as neither team took a lead larger than three points. With EOU leading, 19-16, Cal State San Marcos scored the next three points to tie the set at 19. Both teams continued to switch leads and EOU found themselves down 23-22. After an EOU timeout, the Mountaineers scored the next three points, capped off by a Loper kill to take set one, 25-23.

Early in set two, the Mountaineers and Cougars were locked in a tight set. With the score tied at 6-6, EOU scored five of the next six points to take an 11-7 lead. EOU continued to grow the lead out to 16-10. Late in set two, the Cougars started to make a move.

Down 21-17, Cal State San Marcos scored the next three points to trim EOU's lead to 21-20. EOU stretched the lead back to two points twice, 22-20 and 23-21, but could not put the Cougars away. It looked as if EOU would put set two away as they led, 25-24, but Cal State San Marcos took advantage of two attack errors by EOU to take set two, 27-25.

The Cougars took control of set three early as they jumped out to a 12-9 lead. However, EOU responded as they scored outscored the Cougars 14-4 after that point. With the game tied at 16-16, Eastern Oregon scored the next nine points to take set three, 25-16.

Eastern Oregon raced out to an early 9-4 lead over the Cougars in the fourth set. The lead did not last long as the Cougars continued to claw back into the match and tied the set at 12-12 after an attack error by Amanda Miller.

With the fourth set tied at 18-18, EOU took control and pulled ahead by five points, 23-18, after a Nay kill. However, the lead did not stay, EOU let the fourth set slip away. With set and match point and EOU leading, 24-21, the Cougars battled all the way back to score the last five points of the set and take set four, 26-24, and tie the match at 2-2, forcing a fifth set.

The fifth and final set of the day belonged to the Mountaineers, as EOU raced out to a 5-1 lead. EOU continued to control the fifth set as they stretched the lead to 9-3 after an attack error by Ashley Kaylor. EOU continued to stretch the lead to as many as eight points, after a kill by Kasaundra Tuma. The Cougars tried to battle back but could not as Loper capped the set and victory with her 17th kill of the day and EOU took set five, 15-8, to claim a 3-2 victory over the Cougars of Cal State San Marcos.

The Mountaineers return to action on Thursday, Aug. 21st when they travel to Spokane, Wash. to take part in the Sport Travel Northwest Challenge. EOU scrimmages North Idaho College at 12 p.m. and takes on Westminster College (Utah) at 6 p.m.
 

 
 
sity-Northern | 4 p.m., Spokane, Wash.

BAKER CITY, OR: Pipe bomb detonated by specialist

No injuries reported

Posted on August 17, 2014

We are recieving a report that a bomb specialist from the State of Oregon inspected and detonated what was in fact a pipe bomb behind Natural Structures in Baker City. No injuries reported. We will continue to follow this story.

LA GRANDE, OR: One person seriously injured in I-84 wreck

Driver fatigue blamed

Posted on August 17, 2014

Oregon State Police (OSP) is continuing the investigation into an early Sunday morning single vehicle injury traffic crash that occurred along Interstate 84 east of La Grande in Union County. The operator and only occupant received serious injuries as a result of the crash. Driver fatigue is being investigated as a main factor in the crash. On August 17, 2014 at approximately 6:08 a.m., a 2006 Kia Spectra operated by a 23-year old Utah man was traveling eastbound on Interstate 84 near milepost 282 when it traveled off the freeway onto the left shoulder. The Kia then traveled back across both lanes of traffic and the right shoulder, rolling over off the traffic lanes where it came to rest along the side of the eastbound lanes. The injured driver was transported by LifeFlight to Providence St. Mary's Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington with serious injuries. He was using safety restraints. His name will be released this afternoon. The eastbound lanes were closed for about 20 minutes for air ambulance transport. OSP troopers from the La Grande Area Command office are continuing the investigation. Trooper Robert Routt is the lead investigator. OSP was assisted at the scene by Union County Sheriff's Office, La Grande City Fire Department, North Powder Quick Response Team, LifeFlight and ODOT.

ENTERPRISE, OR: Chesnimus wolves injure a calf

Attack happened on the Zumwalt Prairie

Posted August 15, 2014

The Chesnimus pack of wolves in Wallowa County wounded a calf on private land on the Zumwalt Prairie near the Pine Creek drainage.  The injured calf was discovered yesterday by the rancher who was gathering his calves for branding.  Biologists with the ODF&W examined the wounds and said they are consistant with a wolf attack.  It’s the third confirmed attack on livestock by the Chesnimus pack in the past two months.

LA GRANDE, OR: Teachers getting ready to start Common Core

Standardized test scores expected to drop

Posted August 15, 2014

As schools around Northeast Oregon prepare to start classes for the fall, one big change they will be dealing with is implementation of Common Core, the new standards in many academic areas.  La Grande Superintendent Larry Glaze says the switch is causing some confusion: "It’s also, I think, a misunderstood area, in my opinion.  I believe that the Common Core state standards are more rigorous than what we’ve had in the past for reading and math.

The La Grande School District is working hard to get teachers up to speed with those new standards.  The state will switch to the smarter balance assessment test this year to ensure kids are meeting the new benchmarks- and school officials want to warn parents that scores on state required standardized tests are going to drop sharply: "Because the curriculum’s more rigorous and because the test itself is more rigorous, they expect a thirty to forty point drop."

But, after that initial drop, test scores have rebounded quickly in other states that have already implemented Common Core.  Glaze says the goal of the Common Core program is to increase the standards in many academic areas.

ENTERPRISE, OR: Upper Snake River opens to fall Chinook fishing

River will open on September 1st

Posted on August 15, 2014

Oregon fishery managers announced today that the upper Snake River will open to hatchery fall Chinook fishing on Monday, Sept. 1.  The river will be open from the Oregon –Washington border to the deadline below Hells Canyon Dam and will remain open until Oct. 31, or until a closure is announced. In addition, the reach from Cliff Mountain Rapid (at river mile 246.7) upstream to the deadline at Hells Canyon Dam will be open from Nov. 1-17.  The daily bag limit will be six adipose fin-clipped Chinook salmon. Anglers can also keep an unlimited number of fin-clipped jack Chinook. Chinook jacks are salmon between 15 and 24-inches long.  After decades of low numbers, fall Chinook returns to the Snake River have rebounded in recent years to the point that fishing can now be allowed, said Jeff Yanke, ODFW fish biologist in Enterprise. This is the fifth year in a row that this fall Chinook fishery has been open after years of closure, Yanke added.  Fishery managers are expecting a run of 53,500 adult fall Chinook salmon, including 27,500 wild fish, to return to the Snake River above Lower Granite Dam this year.  “The reputation of this fishery is starting to grow, and each year more and more Oregon anglers are participating,” Yanke said.

In 2010, the first year the fishery was opened after years of closure, Oregon anglers accounted for 34 percent of the fishing effort and 36 percent of the harvest in Oregon boundary waters. By 2013 those numbers had grown to 44 percent of the effort and 60 percent of the harvest.  “We’re hoping that the huge return this year, combined with liberal bag limits, will encourage even more anglers to add Snake River Chinook to their list of fall fishing destinations, ” Yanke added.  Only barbless hooks may be used on this stretch of the Snake River, and anglers should consult the 2014 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations (pdf) for other rules that may apply.  Snake River fall Chinook migrate over 800 miles and pass eight mainstream dams to reach Hells Canyon, the farthest any salmon will travel in Oregon.

BAKER CITY, OR: West Nile not found in humans, animals yet

Another positive test comes from near Keating

Posted August 15, 2014

West Nile Virus has again been confirmed in Baker County as another pool in Keating has now tested positive for the potentially fatal virus.  Matt Huchinson with the Baker Valley Vector Control: "We tracked another pool of mosquitos on August 4th in Keating Valley and there was one pool that was confirmed on Tuesday bringing the total to three pools all from Keating Valley."

The first confirmed virus detected in Union County was found earlier this week as well in a pool in North Powder.  Rumors continue to swirl about whether there has been a confirmed case in humans or animals in Baker or Union Counties.  Matt Hutchinson says so far the answer is no: "In our district I have not had any reports of any horses or people or any other animals confirmed West Nile Virus."

Vector control reminds you to protect yourself against the virus by wearing a repellent containing DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus, avoid being outside at dusk and dawn and remember to empty any standing water around your home.

BAKER CITY, OR: Today is the final day to comment of the forest plan

The plan does nothing to help NE Oregon

Posted August 15, 2014

Today is the final day to submit comments to the Forest Service about the Blue Mountain Forest Plan Revision, and officials from all over the region are urging people to get their comments in.  After ten years of working on the plan, officials say it will do nothing to clean up the forests, prevent the types of massive wildfires we’re experiencing now or increase logging to help the economy.  To make a comment, follow this link: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/BlueMountainForestPlanRevisionComments

LA GRANDE, OR: La Grande teacher a finalist for a national award

Leslie Graham called a leader in the classroom

Posted August 15, 2014

A La Grande School District teacher has been named one of five finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.  6th grade teacher Leslie Graham was honored at last night's school board meeting according to Superintendent Larry Glaze: "If she is selected out of the five then she will receive an award of $10,000 and an all-expenses paid trip for two to Washington D.C."

Glaze called Graham a leader and strong advocate for science education at the elementary school level.

BAKER CITY, OR: City looking to sell two parcels near the Elkhorns

Voters need to approve the sale first

Posted August 15, 2014

Baker City may soon be selling off some surplus property they own at the base of the Elkhorn Mountains- but voters will have to give them permission first.  City Manager Mike Kee says the city owns two parcels- one is 33 acres and the other 15- and the city has no need for them.  But, according to city charter, in order to sell them voters have to approve it first.  The issue will be on the November ballot.  If they are sold, the city council would like to use the proceeds to pay down the loan for the UV treatment plant.

LA GRANDE, OR: EOU volleyball team opens their season

Team opens in Portland against Cal State-San Marcos

Posted August 15, 2014

About the Cougars
Cal State San Marcos opens up this weekend against Warner Pacific (Ore.) on Friday night in Portland. The Cougars return Taylor DeGraaf and Alyssa Foster. DeGraaf led the team in kills last season with 538 and Foster led the team with 1,292 assists. DeGraaf finished seventh in the nation in kills and kills per set last season.
 
Previous Meeting
Prior to this matchup on Saturday, the Mountaineers and Cougars have only met one other time. The two teams met on Aug. 18, 2011 when both teams made an appearance at the Azusa Pacific Cougar Classic. EOU fell to Cal State San Marcos in five sets, 2-3 (17-25, 25-22, 25-21, 17-25, 12-15).
 
CCC Preseason Coaches' Poll
Eastern Oregon was picked to finish second in the CCC Coaches' Preseason Poll. EOU received two first place votes and 84 points to edge Southern Oregon (83 pts.) for second place. This is the second straight year that EOU was picked to finish second. College of Idaho was the coaches' preseason favorite to win the 2014 Cascade Collegiate Conference volleyball crown.
 
Quick Glance At EOU
The Eastern Oregon University Mountaineers volleyball team looks a bit different this year than last year. There are nine new faces on this years' team and five returners. Five of the newcomers are prep standouts and four are transfers. One of the returners is CCC Player of the Year, Casey Loper, who led the Mountaineers in kills with 394 last season.
 
Last Season
The Eastern Oregon University Mountaineers are coming off its best season in program history. In 2013, EOU went 25-6 overall and 15-3 in the Cascade Collegiate Conference. During the season the Mountaineers climbed to as high as No. 9 in the Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches' Top 25 Poll, the highest ranking ever for EOU.
 
Tachikara-NAIA Coaches' Top 25
The Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches' Top 25 has not yet been released. The Preseason poll will come out on Aug. 19th.

LA GRANDE, OR: West Nile Virus found in North Powder

West Nile has been found all over Eastern Oregon

Posted August 14, 2014

West Nile Virus has come to Union County.  Vector Control Agent Kelly Beehler announced today that several mosquitoes tested from a pool in North Powder returned a positive test for the virus.  West Nile has also been found in Baker, Malhuer and Umatilla Counties so far this year as well as just over the border in both Western Idaho and Washington.  To protect yourself against the potentially fatal disease, Beehler says you should wear a repellent containing DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus, avoid being outside at dusk and dawn and empty any standing water around your home.

LA GRANDE, OR: EOU adding men's soccer to attract students

Revenue from incoming players pays for the program

Posted August 14, 2014

With the demographics of Eastern Oregon increasingly Latino and Eastern Oregon University looking to attract more minority groups to campus, interim President Dr. Jay Kenton formally announced this afternoon that Eastern will be adding men’s soccer in 2015.  Dr. Kenton said it’s the right time, and the numbers add up: "It pretty much breaks even.  You know, when you run the revenues that come with the student athletes- tuition, the state funding we get for resident students, that pretty much offsets the cost."

Dr. Kenton says faculty members are enthusiastically supportive of the addition.  The search for a head coach will begin next month and they hope to have someone hired in October.  Athletic director Anji Weissenfluh who says Eastern must progress to stay alive: "If we are going to be viable and keep attracting students we gotta have a niche- and athletics can be that driving force."

Weissenfluh said there are more than 700 varsity boys' soccer teams in Oregon, Idaho and Washington they hope to tap into.  The University will be offering some of them athletic aid to play in college.

PENDLETON, OR: PGG closures could effect local stores

Three locations closing first part of September

Posted August 14, 2014

Officials with PGG announced this morning they’re in negotiations to sell their stores in Joseph, Hermiston and Island City which will allow them to concentrate on their core business.  Three other stores- in Athena, Milton-Freewater and the Pendleton Automotive Center- didn’t attract any offers and will be closed and their inventories liquidated.  PGG officials say they understand the impact the closure will have on the employee’s and the communities.  Those stores will begin selling off their inventory by the end of the week with the goal of having the stores closed in September.  The timetable for closing the remaining three stores will depend on the ongoing negotations.

PENDLETON, OR: Storms roll through NE Oregon, Washington

More storms expected today

Posted August 14, 2014

No damage or new fires have been reported so far after thunderstorms moved through Northeast Oregon last night.  Most of the activity was west of La Grande where several severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in the afternoon and evening hours.  A tornado touched down briefly near Sunnyside, Washington which is just west of Tri Cities.  Central Washington got the brunt of the storms and flash flood warnings are still in effect for the area.  Storms are still possible for Northeast Oregon today.

LA GRANDE, OR: Planning Commission recommends pot rules

Commission adds rules about hours of operation

Posted August 14, 2014

The La Grande Planning Commission last night held a public hearing on proposed regulations to govern medical marijuana facilities in La Grande.  Planner Mike Boquist says what was proposed grew out of a public meeting in June that brought both sides of the issue together to work towards a solution.  Boquist said the commission made few changes to the proposal: "They’ve recommended the city council approve new standards that regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and added some additional provisions for regulating hours of operation."

 Those proposed hours of operation would be between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm.  Boquist says the next step is up to the city council: "The next step is on September 10th the city council will hold a public hearing and take public testimony on adoption.  They’ll actually hold two hearings- one in September, one in October."

The city council has remained split on medical marijuana facilities.

BAKER CITY, OR: City to repace Pocahontas Road

A good deal on concrete moves up the project

Posted August 14, 2014

A planned chip seal project in Baker City has been put on hold in favor of a bigger project that will help smooth Pocahontas Road.  City Manager Mike Key says ODOT will bring a cement plant to Baker to do a project on I-84, and that gives the city the opportunity to purchase concrete $30 per ton cheaper than normal- an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.  City and county crews will grind out the pavement on Pocahontas between 10th Street and the railroad tracks and then county crews will repave the road.  Kee says the work will be a temporary inconvenience because the road is heavily traveled, but when complete the road will be very smooth.  The first part of the work will begin in the next few weeks with the full project completed by the end of September.

LA GRANDE, OR: CHD works to find clients employment

There's a waiting list for the service

Posted August 14, 2014

While many Union County residents think the Center for Human Development is simply a health department, the services they offer really go far beyond that to deal with a wide range of issues.  One of the littler known aspects of what they do is help clients find employment.  Troy Davis is an Employment Specialist with the Center says the key is to work with the client: "You know, whatever the individual's goal is for employment, I try and get him to that place."

Davis also works closely with employers to make sure there are no problems.  Clients must be able to do the job just like any other employee.  Currently Davis says there’s a waiting list for the employment services.

UNION, OR: Deadline to file for public office looms

One city council position has no candidates

Posted August 14, 2014

The deadline for people interested in running for public office in Union is just ten days away.  City Administrator Sandra Patterson says so far Mayor William Lindsley will face Coy Wilde for his position, Ken McCormack will challenge incumbent Roger Clark for his City Council position, Sue Briggs in running unopposed for position six and no one has filed to run for council seat number four.  If you’re interested in running, application materials are available at City Hall and must be returned by 5:00 pm on August 25th.

ELGIN, OR: Communities sounding off on Forest Plan

Baker City, Elgin City Council's sending comments

Posted August 13, 2014

With the Friday deadline for comments on the Blue Mountain Forest Plan Revision looming, communities across the region on working to add their comments to the record.  The Elgin City Council last night voted to take action: "I believe the City will send a letter stating that we oppose any closure to the public on any public lands."

And the Baker City Council will also send a letter in support of what the Baker County Commissioners have already sent according to City Manager Mike Kee.  Duffy said the Elgin City Council is just following what the people have asked them to do: "I think most people are aware of their plan and this council is under a little bit of a time constraint, but we tried to make a statement that we support public lands be open for the citizens of Union County."

Union County Commissioners have already sent 23 pages of comments to the Forest Service, and they’re urging anyone interested in our forests to get their comments in by Friday.

BAKER CITY, OR: School registration starts today for high schoolers

Registration continues tomorrow

Posted Augsut 13, 2014

Registration for Baker High School Seniors runs from 9:00 am to 11:00 am today and for Junior's it's from noon until 2:00 pm today.  Sophomore's register tomorrow from 9:00 am to 11:00 am and Freshman from noon to 2:00 pm.

ELGIN, OR: Candidates lining up for the November elections

Deadline to file is this Friday

Posted August 13, 2014

The deadline for anyone interested in filing to run for any of the Elgin City Council, Mayor or City Recorder positions is coming up this Friday at 5:00.  So far city officials say there are four people running for the three council positions, three people for the recorder position and two for the Mayors position.  If you’re interested in running, applications and petitions are available at City Hall.  We will have a list of candidates after the deadline.

PENDLETON, OR: Red flag warning for NE Oregon extended

Red flag warning in effect until 11:00 pm tonight

Posted August 13, 2014

The National Weather Service in Pendleton has extended a red flag warning issued for Northeast Oregon through 11:00 pm tonight.  The warning was supposed to end at 11:00 pm last night, but officials say conditions today will remain conducive to starting more wildfires.  More thunderstorms are expected to move through the area starting late this morning and continuing through the evening hours.

ELGIN, OR: City Council supports air conditioning project

Officials hope the new system is installed by September

Posted August 13, 2014

The historic Elgin Opera House is a step closer to having air conditioning after the Elgin City Council voted to move ahead with the project at last night's meeting.  The results of an audit of the grant funds for restoration of the 102 year old building showed that all of that money has been expended, but the city council said they would make up the remaining $5,700 out of the city building fund.  Friends of the Opera House board chair Kate Bottger was happy with the decision: "I’m just excited about the new season- it’s going to be wonderful and it’s going to be cool and comfortable.  Hopefully we can get this in before Oliver! Starts the first weekend of September."

Bottger says what they will be installing will be good for the city: "What we’re putting in will be an economical HVAC heat pump that will save us in the long run on our utility bills."

Jay Myra with High Mountain Mechanical is donating $8,000 worth of labor for the project.  Bottger says work should begin soon and they hope to have the new system operational in September.

ELGIN, OR: Mud volleyball tournament raises funds for program

Proceeds help the Meals on Wheels program

Posted August 13, 2014

The 3rd annual Muddy for a Mission Mud Volleyball Tournament at the Elgin Stampede grounds was another great success according to organizer Carmen Gentry with Community Connections.  More than $1,600 was raised to help the Meals on Wheels program: "We had twelve teams that participated in the event, and we had a lot more spectators than we had last year and I think that everyone just had a really good time."

The tournament was won by No Muddy Mercy from Island City who went unbeaten.  Meals on wheels is an important part of helping seniors stay in their homes longer.

JOHN DAY, OR: South Fork Fire continues to grow

Thunderstorms hampering efforts to fight the fire

Posted August 13, 2014

The South Fork Complex of fires burning near John Day continues to grow despite having more than 800 fire personnel working on the fire.  The blaze grew by more than 2,000 acres yesterday and has now destroyed 64,707 acres.  The fire is only 30% contained, and fire officials say the thunderstorms that have been sweeping through the area the past two days are making things worse as downdrafts from the storms are helping spread the flames.

BAKER CITY, OR: Women arrested for animal neglect 1

Community Members came together to raise funds to save the dog

Posted on August 12, 2014

On August 4, 2014 at about 6:24 am Baker City Police received information that a dog had been hit by a car the night before and that the owner had abandoned the dog. The caller stated she had kept the dog overnight and now needed to report the abandonment.  Baker City Code Enforcement Officer Mark Powell impounded the dog, which was determined to have two broken legs.  Without any information on the owner, Sergeant Dustin Newman began calling local animal groups to see if monies could be obtained to operate on the dog or if it would have to be euthanized. Ultimately, community members came together and the dog was operated on.
Sergeant Newman and Officer Powell continued to investigate this case and posted a picture of the dog on a newly created Baker City Police Department Facebook page (Newman’s creation). It was through those efforts that a recent owner of the dog was discovered. That owner was able to provide Baker City Police with the name of the person who had just taken possession of the dog shortly before the accident.  On August 12, 2014 at about 7:45 am Baker City Police Sergeant Dustin Newman arrested 30 year old Marcia Shelynn Studebaker, who resides at 2431 Campbell Street in  Baker City, for Animal Neglect 1 and Initiating a False Report, as Ms. Studebaker was the original caller who stated the dog belonged to someone else.

Courtesy of Baker City Police Department

BAKER CITY, OR: Fire activity closes roads near Anthony Lakes

Forest Service Road 73 the most impacted

Posted August 12, 2014

The Badger Butte 2 fire may be small, but it's forcing Forest Service officials into a 'soft closure' of roads in the area of the fire.  Wallowa Whitman National Forest spokesman Jodi Kramer says FSR 73 is the road most impacted, though motorists may find barriers on the Anthony Lakes Highway and near Peavey Cabin, though the cabin itself will remain open.  Road closures will be based on current fire activity and the needs of fire crews working in the area.  The Badger Butte 2 Fire has burned 25 acres so far on both sides of Forest Service Road 73. 

**UPDATE** Air quality alert issued for parts of NE Oregon

People with breathing problems need to stay indoors

Posted August 12, 2014

You may have noticed all the smoke in the air.  Larry Calkins with the Department of Environmental Quality in Pendleton says fires burning from Central Oregon to Wallowa County are sending smoke into Northeast Oregon valley’s- and it could cause some problems for people with health problems: We’d encourage people to, if they are prone to respiratory problems, to stay indoors or protect themselves in some manner."

And Calkins says they expect that smoke to continue for several days: "I think that Northeast Oregon is probably going to get the bulk of it into La Grande and Enterprise area.  The rest of the state will get varying degrees of smoke."

DEQ officials say the smoke will stick around until the winds pick up later this week and blow the smoke from the area.  For more information on air quality log on to www.oregonsmoke.blogspot.com

BAKER CITY, OR: Annual fair auction one for the record books

Auction sees record beef prices, floor prices

Posted August 12, 2014

This year's Baker County Fair Junior Livestock Auction was one for the record books.  Ron Rowan with Beef Northwest helped organize the sale: "The auction grossed $240,000 which is $20,000 more than last year with fifteen fewer total animals."   

And that total doesn’t include add ons according to Rowan.  Beef prices led the way at the auction with an average of $3.40 per pound for steers which help push prices higher: "Steers support prices are $1.58 which I’m sure the first time that steer floor prices have ever been higher than lamb or the pig prices."

Rowan says they were very happy with this year's Baker County Fair from the auction to the entertainment and the turnout he said this was one of the best fairs in recent years.

NORTH POWDER, OR: Repaving project to begin on I-84

Project expected to take four days to complete

Posted August 12, 2014

The construction season continues on roads in Northeast Oregon.  ODOT officials say that while some projects are now wrapping up, others will be getting underway in the coming weeks.  One of those projects is pavement upgrade on eight miles of I-84 between La Grande and North Powder.  Minor delays can be expected as flaggers will direct traffic through the area.  Work is expected to begin this week and will take about four days to complete.

LA GRANDE, OR: EOU to add men's soccer in 2015

EOU last Cascade Conference member to add the sport

Posted August 12, 2014

Eastern Oregon University will be adding men’s soccer starting in 2015 according to school officials.  It’s the first sport added in more than a decade.  Eastern is the only Cascade Conference School not to have a men’s soccer team.  A formal announcement will be made Thursday at noon.

LA GRANDE, OR: Smoke expected to stay in region a while

Smoke coming from forest fires says D.E.Q

Posted August 11, 2014

Smoky conditions will remain in the region for at least the next couple of days according to Air Quality Specialist Larry Calkins from the Department of Environmental Quality. He says that if you can see about 5 miles through the smoke and you have health issues you should minimize outdoor activities. 3 miles stay inside and if you can only see about a mile it is unhealthy air and you should stay inside as much as you can. No matter how far you can see, if you feel like you are having health effects from smoke exposure, take extra care to stay inside or get to an area with better air quality. You should also see your doctor or other health professional as needed. If you would like more information about air quality check out www.oregonsmoke.blogpot.com.

LA GRANDE, OR: House passes forest bill, Senate holding it up

House bill had strong bipartisan support

Posted August 11, 2014

As you would expect, wildfires have been the number one topic of discussion as Congressman Greg Walden makes his way around Eastern Oregon.  Speaking Friday to the Union County Chamber of Commerce, the Congressman says the House has passed a bill that would accomplish several things at once: "Our mills would have a reliable supply of timber, we wouldn’t have these catastrophic fires every summer that choke our air sheds and destroy our watersheds."

Congressman Walden says the bill is of vital importance to rural Oregon: "We’re losing these forests, our communities are threatened, lives are being lost fighting these fires- we gotta get this done."

But so far Senate leaders have been unwilling to allow the bill to come to the Senate floor for a vote.  Congressman Walden says Oregon’s Congressional delegation is behind the bill, and he’s working with Senator Ron Wyden to try and get the bill through the Senate.

BAKER CITY, OR: Watershed closed to hunters for now

No permits being issued until fire danger eases

Posted August 11, 2014

As we inch closer to the start of the archery hunting season, Baker City officials want to give archers who plan on hunting in the Baker watershed a heads up- the area is now closed and no permits for entry will be issued until the fire danger eases.  Officials say the fire danger is at the extreme level right now and will need to return to low or moderate before hunters will be allowed in the watershed.

BAKER CITY, OR: Fencing work completed near watershed

Donated cattle guard also installed

Posted August 11, 2014

Fencing work was completed around the Baker City watershed last week with crews putting the finishing touches on the fence at Marble Creek Pass.  Crews also donated a good quality used cattle guard near Griffin and Washington Gulch.  That cattle guard was donated by the Forest Service.  An inspection of the fence around Elk Creek showed it is holding up well and no repairs are needed.

BAKER CITY, OR: Regional Babe Ruth tournament concludes

Woodenville Hurricanes heading to the World Series

Posted August 11, 2014

The Woodenville, Washington Hurricanes won the regional Babe Ruth tournament in Baker City with an 18-14 win over Twin Cities last night.  The Hurricanes were the only unbeaten team in the tournament and will represent the Pacific Northwest at the World Series in Longview, Washington.  The Hurricanes scored ten runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning and eight runs in the bottom of the 5th to beat the Twins.  Neither the Baker or Union County All-Stars made it to the final day of competition.