You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
New legislation to localize domoic acid closures

A bill aimed at assisting fishermen and fishing processors by limiting regional closures of crab harvest due to domoic acid passed unanimously in the Oregon state senate yesterday.

Senate Bill 1550 is a bipartisan bill that calls for better tracking of domoic acid so that resulting closures can be more localized and not regional.

The hope is to establish a sea-to-sale tracking program to protect public health without shutting down entire segments of the seafood industry.

The bill comes from the combined efforts of state senator Arnie Roblan and state representative David Brock Smith.

“We have an ever-increasing frequency of domoic acid test results that have a negative impact on our coastal industries,” Roblan said.

Last Friday’s domoic acid closure from the California border all the way Cape Blanco is devastating the fishing industry. The industry was already in a volatile state due to the latest start to a crab season most Oregon fishermen have ever seen.

“We have been working with our industries and agencies to come up with a better solution to protect our consumers, without having such a wide impact on our producers,” Roblan said.

Currently there is no biotoxin tracking system in place. So harvest seasons for fisheries all over the state are delayed and even shut down in response to a biotoxin discoveries.

“I’m trying to run a business and every time I turn around I have to shut part of it down,” plant manager for Hallmark Fisheries Scott Adams said.

A tracking system will allow the industry and government agencies to locate the specific areas where there are biotoxins. Then those specific areas can be closed to fishing, instead of the entire Oregon coastline.

“Anybody out there trying to help us is great, but what we really need is facts about domoic acid. I’ve been in this business more than 30 years and I’ve never heard of anyone getting sick from domoic acid,” Adams said.

A crab with high levels of domoic acid is still safe to eat if properly cleaned. Most fisheries including Hallmark provide crab consumers with a detailed list of cooking instructions that explicitly advise removing the butter, or guts, of the crab where domoic acid is found.

“We have labels and if you follow our labels you’re going to get crab that is completely safe,” Adams said.

The now approved senate bill will be sent to Representative Smith’s House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on Wednesday to be worked and voted on by his side of the capitol.  

“This tracking and data collection will help isolate the affected areas and allow more certainty to Oregon Department of Agriculture on localized closures. This legislation will also allow for more flexibility in evisceration orders, while keeping the public safe and helping our fishing industries continue to be successful,” Smith said.

The new legislation will look at the location of the seafood caught and if a problem is discovered in one location, product data can be tracked to check nearby locations for a similar issue. If one is not found, area closures can be isolated and much smaller rather than have larger, regional closures like the current crab harvest closure that occurred last week from Cape Blanco to the border.

One of the main complaints raised by fisheries including Hallmark is that they don’t have strong enough communication with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Cold weather continues for Coos County

COOS BAY — Winter weather Sunday night and early Monday morning left a dusting of snow on roofs and open ground throughout North Bend and Coos Bay.

Njohnson / NICHOLAS A. JOHNSON The World 

Coos Bay residents decorated their front yard with a snowman in response to  unusual weather in Coos County. 

The National Weather Service received reports of snow throughout the South Coast. Communities as far south as Brookings reported snow.

“Snow showers are pretty much done. There is a quick moving system coming in from the north that will drop temperatures below freezing, but we’re not expecting snow likely just rain,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Marc Spilde said.

The Presidents Day holiday was also a snow day for kids on the South Coast. Snow was limited, but that didn’t stop folks from scrapping handfuls off the hoods of cars and having snowball fights.

Mingus Park in Coos Bay got enough snow for a local family to sled down the hills on a cardboard box. One Coos Bay home even had a snowman out front.

Coquille and Myrtle Point have reported as much as 2-3 three inches of snow in some areas. Closer to the coast the National Weather Service received reports of two inches of snowfall just a few miles south of the city of Coos Bay.

Njohnson / NICHOLAS A. JOHNSON The World  

Weekend storms leave Mingus Park in Coos Bay with a dusting of snow. 

The Nancy Devereux Center’s warming center has had to adjust its hours to accommodate folks who are left out in the cold. With freezing temperatures continuing throughout the week Devereux Center director Tara Johnson expects they will have to extend the warming center’s hours through this coming Saturday.  

“We opened at 6 p.m. on Saturday night and stayed open all through Sunday,” Johnson said.

According to the Coos County Sheriff’s Office they have seen an increase in traffic accidents due to the weather, but less than what they expected.

“We have seen an uptick, but not a real significant one. The reason for that is probably the holiday. School busses aren’t running the, the courthouse is not open, government offices and banks are closed, so there are way less people on the road,” dispatch supervisor for the Coos County Sheriff’s Office Joanne Beck said.

The Sheriff’s Office has had a few cases were people have slid off the road and into ditches, but no one has been hurt so far.

Someone ran into a power pole on Seven Devils Road at milepost 11 just outside of Charleston causing a closure on Monday while the Sheriff’s Office cleaned up the area.

“If it freezes tonight it will just be sheer black ice. I think tomorrow will be far worse than today, because this sloppy wet stuff is going to freeze,” Beck said.

Parts of Coquille experienced a blackout early Monday morning after a tree fell and damaged a transformer.

“The outage was caused by a fallen tree, and it was probably due to the weather. We had about 1,500 customers out. It started about 8:45 a.m. and we had power restored at 10:25 a.m.,” Pacific Power Regional Business Manager Sam Carter said.

Southern Oregon has seen an unusual amount of sunshine this winter. The precipitation from this storm is helpful, but not helpful enough.

“We had a very dry January and a very dry February. This snow fall was helpful, but it wasn’t really enough to put a significant dent in our current rain deficit,” Spilde said.

School shooting puts pressure on Florida lawmakers to act (copy)

PARKLAND, Fla. — The deadly shooting at a Florida high school has put pressure on the state's Republican-controlled Legislature to consider a sweeping package of gun-control laws in a state that has resisted restrictions on firearms for decades, lawmakers said Monday.

The legislative effort coalesced as 100 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School prepared to ride buses more than 400 miles to the state capital today to urge lawmakers to act to prevent a repeat of the massacre that killed 17 students and faculty last week.

The suspect, 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, made his first appearance in court Monday. Wearing a prison jumpsuit, he kept his head down and didn't appear to make eye contact with the judge or others in the courtroom, although he responded briefly to someone on the defense team. A previous appearance was by a video connection from jail.

His lawyers have said he will plead guilty if prosecutors agree not to pursue the death penalty. No decision has been made on that.

The attack seemed to overcome the resistance of some in the state's leadership, which has rebuffed gun restrictions since Republicans took control of both the governor's office and the Legislature in 1999. However, there is still strong resistance by many in the party to any gun-control measures, leaving the fate of new restrictions unclear.

Sen. Bill Galvano, a Republican and the incoming state Senate president, said the Senate was preparing a package that would include raising the age to buy any firearm to 21, creating a waiting period for buying any type of firearm, banning bump stocks that can allow semi-automatic guns to spray bullets quickly and creating gun-violence restraining orders.

The Senate also is considering boosting spending on mental health programs for schools and giving law-enforcement greater power to involuntarily hold someone considered a danger to themselves. The body also will look at a proposal to deputize a teacher or someone else at school so they are authorized to have a gun.

State House leaders and Gov. Rick Scott also are considering possible changes to firearms rules but have not given any details. Scott planned meetings today on school safety, and said he would announce proposals on mental health issues later in the week.

Still, some Republicans questioned whether additional gun restrictions are the answer.

"I really don't want to see this politicized into a gun debate," Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley.

Referring to gun-control advocates, he said: "Sometimes I wish they were right, that this would fix it, but it won't ... We have a terrible problem with obesity, but we're not banning forks and spoons."

Democrats believe raising the age limit and creating a waiting period to buy rifles isn't enough.

"That's unacceptable. That's a joke," said Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer of Broward County. "I don't see that as a restriction. It never should have been that an 18-year-old could buy an assault weapon. No Floridians should be able to buy an assault weapon."

Cruz legally purchased at least seven long guns, including an AK-47-style rifle he bought less than a month ago, a law enforcement official said Monday. The official is familiar with the investigation but isn't authorized to discuss it and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Federal law allows those 18 and over to buy rifles, and Cruz passed background checks necessary to obtain the weapons.

From the confines of his golf club, President Donald Trump offered support for a limited strengthening of federal background checks on gun purchases Monday while staying largely mum in the last few days about the victims of the massacre and the escalating debate about controls on weapons.

One side of that debate was represented outside the White House as dozens of teens spread their bodies across the pavement to symbolize the dead and call for stronger gun controls, a precursor to a march in Washington planned next month by survivors of the Parkland school shooting and supporters of their cause.

At his Florida club Trump gave a nod toward a specific policy action, with the White House saying he had spoken Friday to Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, about a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders qualified the support, stressing that talks continue and "revisions are being considered," but said "the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system."

The main action Trump has taken on guns in office has been to sign a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people. The president has voiced strong support for gun rights and the National Rifle Association.

Since the attack, students from the school have become increasingly vocal in their demands for gun-control measures. Many have pointed out politicians who take financial support from the National Rifle Association, and some have lashed out at Trump, saying he was busy blaming Democrats for failing to pass gun restrictions while taking no action of his own.

Students also are calling for anti-gun violence demonstrations in Washington and other cities March 24.

Organizers behind the anti-Trump Women's March called for a 17-minute nationwide walkout by teachers and students March 14, and a gun-control group was calling for a rally to ban assault weapons Wednesday at the Florida Capitol.

Distraction, drinking among causes for high traffic death toll

CHICAGO — The traffic death toll in Chicago is growing, and the national count remains at historic highs, despite new car safety technology.

That means it's past time to slow down, stay sober and stop trying to multitask while you drive, according to traffic safety experts.

"We're really treading water in terms of roadway safety, which is unfortunate" said Kenneth Kolosh, manager of statistics for the National Safety Council, a safety advocacy organization based in Itasca. "We'd like to see actually very large decreases."

Safety improvements to cars, like crash-avoidance technology, "really haven't moved the needle," Kolosh said. He cited a host of factors contributing to the high death count: more cars on the roads because of low gas prices and an improved economy, distracted drivers and pedestrians, high speeds and alcohol use.

In Chicago, the number of traffic deaths rose sharply last year over 2016, to 133 from 113, an 18 percent jump, according to city transportation and police department figures. This is above the 2011-15 average of 126.2

In the U.S., traffic deaths and injuries have plateaued, with a slight decrease of 1 percent from 2016 to 2017, with an estimated 40,100 people killed and 4.57 million seriously injured on the roads, according to data released last week by the National Safety Council. The council gets preliminary numbers from all 50 states ahead of the official count that will be released in December by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But a plateau is nothing to be happy about — it's just a leveling off of the steepest two-year increase in over 50 years, according to the council. Deaths have exceeded 40,000 for two years in a row.

Illinois has followed the national trend — the numbers remained largely unchanged from 2016 to 2017, but deaths last year were six percent higher than they were in 2015, the National Safety Council said.

In Chicago, deaths for motor vehicle drivers and passengers rose to 80 last year from 63 in 2016; pedestrian deaths rose to 46 from 44; and bicycle fatalities involving motor vehicles rose from 6 to 7. Pedestrian and bike deaths were both above the 2011-15 average of 38.2 and 6.2, respectively.

There has also been a large increase nationally in pedestrian deaths — up 9 percent in 2016 from 2015, along with an increase in fatalities for other vulnerable road users such as cyclists and motorcycle riders, Kolosh said. Pedestrian, bike and motorcycle numbers were not yet available nationally for 2017.

Rebekah Scheinfeld, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, said while cellphone use by walkers may be a factor in some fatal crashes, the bigger issue is driver behavior.

A pedestrian "using their cellphone does not pose the same risk as someone driving and looking at their cellphone," Scheinfeld said.

Mike Amsden, an assistant director of planning with the department, noted that most pedestrian deaths happen when the pedestrian is doing something legal, like crossing the street. Eighteen of last year's pedestrian deaths were hit-and-runs.

Patrick Salvi, a lawyer whose firm, Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard specializes in traffic-related deaths and injuries, said he often sees cases where pedestrians were not obeying the rules of the road.

"They've got to stay visible, avoid distractions and avoid using alcohol," Salvi said.

Knowing the risk of using technology like mobile phones and GPS does not keep drivers from doing it, according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. drivers by Esurance Insurance Services. While 91 percent of surveyed drivers believe that texting while driving is distracting, more than half admit to doing it anyway, because they're busy or bored.

Three out of 10 of those surveyed know someone who has experienced a distracted driving crash or close call, and one out of 10 have experienced a crash or close call personally, the survey found.

Kolosh said the distracted driving trend seems to be "evolving" with more advanced technology, but that does not mean things are getting better. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies see a decrease in the percentage of drivers observed using their cellphones, Kolosh said.

However, hands-free technology has been found to be just as distracting and "cognitively taxing" as using your hands to operate a phone, Kolosh said.

"There is no safe way to interact and do multitasking behind the wheel," Kolosh said.