Thursday, January 31, 2008

Interstate 5 reopens over pass

The Siskiyou Pass is now open, but drivers on their way to California could still face a lengthy wait before crossing the border, officials said.
The summit was opened at 5 p.m., after snowy conditions shut it down for four hours this afternoon.
About two feet of snow fell on the pass in a short time, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming.
ODOT officials are letting groups of 50 vehicles move through the pass with five minute gaps between them in order to avoid a traffic jam, Leaming said.
The full chain requirement remains in place, Leaming said.
— Chris Conrad

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 is back online

UPDATE: Our main site -- -- is back up and running. Thanks to our readers for your patience while we overcame our technical difficulties.

Senate leader: Trooper funding likely to get legislative OK

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, predicted today that funding for 39 additional state troopers will be approved during the supplemental legislative session convening on Monday.

But there’s a catch.

The money won’t go directly to the Oregon State Police, Courtney said, but will be reserved in an emergency fund and appropriated “as needed.”

That means further legislative scrutiny following the special session by the Emergency Board, which acts on funding requests during the interim.

Earmarking the appropriation means it can’t be spent on anything else, but it does not dictate when the money will be released.

“We’re going to do it in a way that, when it’s needed, it will be available,” Courtney said.

House and Senate Republicans, led by Rep. Bruce Hanna of Roseburg, the minority leader, Rep. Andy Olson of Albany, a former trooper, and Senate minority leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day, have been beating the drums for more patrols since the end of the 2007 regular session.

Last year lawmakers approved hiring 100 new state patrol officers, but rejected a last-ditch move by Hanna for additional officers to provide 24/7 highway coverage.

- Don Jepsen, for the Mail Tribune

Senate panel backs coastal wilderness

A Senate committee today endorsed a plan to create federal wilderness protection for nearly 14,000 acres of national forest land along Oregon’s southern coast.

The Copper Salmon Wilderness, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will be included a huge public lands bill to be debated by the Senate. The measure was among 42 separate bills approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Seventeen bills — including the Oregon measure and a land exchange bill in Idaho — will be combined in a measure that includes about 60 individual lands bills, Senate aides said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to bring the bill to the Senate floor soon.

Wyden said he was pleased at the committee’s unanimous vote and noted that Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., is a co-sponsor. The bill would protect 13,700 acres of coastal forest and salmon streams at the headwaters of the Elk River near Port Orford.

The proposed wilderness is part of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and is considered one of the best habitats on the West Coast for chinook salmon, winter steelhead, coho salmon, cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. Copper Salmon also supports healthy populations of blacktail deer, elk, black bear and mountain lion, and it provides opportunities to hunt in freedom and solitude, Wyden said.

The bills are S. 2034 (Copper Salmon), S. 1802 (Idaho land exchange) and S. 2483, the combined land measure. The Mount Hood bill is S. 647.

On the Net:

— The Associated Press

Three Rivers committee puts off meeting

A committee considering closing schools in the Three Rivers district has canceled a meeting set tonight.

The Right Sizing Committee was to meet in Murphy to discuss possible closures of Applegate, Williams Elementary and Wolf Creek Elementary schools.

The district needs to trim nearly $1.2 million from the school district budget and has considered the school closures as a way of saving money.

Committee member Sandi Garoutte said the meeting was canceled because a Portland facilitator was unable to make the trip today. She said it had yet to be rescheduled.

— Staff reports

Traffic backed up for miles on freeway

Northbound freeway traffic is backed up for several miles between Central Point and Medford exits.

The congestion occurred as state Department of Transportation crews were attempting to remove a wrecked truck from the median north of Upton Road near Central Point.

Restrictions on truck travel over the Siskiyou Summit south of Medford was lifted simultaneously, and traffic backed up, said Gary Leaming, a spokesman for ODOT.

"We had crews out there trying to pull (the wrecked truck) out of there," said Leaming. "We got caught with all this truck traffic from the Siskiyous."

The line of cars stretched from Central Point to the north to Barnett Road in Medford to the south.

Leaming said crews had halted the wreck removal effort for now and that traffic should move again soon.

- Staff reports

Phoenix fire victim identified

The man who died early today when a fire consumed his Phoenix travel trailer, above (Mail Tribune/Bob Pennell photo), has been identified.

Raymond Corbin Sr., 83, and his dog, Bandit, were found in the ruins of the 8-by-15-foot trailer in the 5000 block of Colver Road.

Jackson County Fire District 5 responded to the blaze after Corbin’s daughter, who lives in a house on the same property, called 9-1-1.

“It was fully involved when we arrived at the scene,” said District 5 Capt. Frank Banfield. “It didn’t take much to extinguish it.”

“From all appearances, he died of smoke inhalation,” Banfield said.

An investigation into the cause of the fire was under way this morning.

— Paris Achen