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Whale watchers set sight on winter migration

COOS BAY — Over the weekend, folks young and old went out to Shore Acres State Park to catch a glimpse of the gray whales as they migrate south for the winter.

Veteran Whale watchers Bea and Dave Bone were scanning the waters at the Shore Acres Observation room providing information on the gray whales to anyone interested. They’re affiliated with the group Whale Watching Spoken Here which has volunteers at 24 spots in Oregon.

“We’ve been working with this program for 22 years. Whale Watching Spoken here is sponsored by the park, and Oregon State University, and the Bureau of Land Management,” Dave Bone said.

Whale Watching Spoken Here has been setup along the Oregon coast for the past week, watching the water for spouts. By 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Bone had spotted seven whales.

“Wednesday we saw 30, that’s when we start feeling like we’ve had a good day. This time of year there’s about 29 an hour passing by. We have had three cases where we’ve been out for five hours and actually averaged that many,” Bone said.

Another couple from Bandon standing around the Shore Acres observation room with their eyes glued to their binoculars said that they had been whale watching as a hobby for the past 48 years.

One thing the Shore Acres watch site had, that according to Bone many others don’t have, is a show and tell display that included whale bones and specimens Mice Head Shrimp that the whales eat.

“They’ll eat like 2,600 pounds of a day. I would have to eat 80 quarter-pound hamburgers a day to eat at the same rate as they do,” Bone said.

For many hobbyist whale watchers the biggest thrill isn’t actually seeing the whales themselves, but rather sharing the experience with someone else.

Bandon resident, and 48-year whale watcher Grant Webb said, “After all these years I still like seeing whales, but it’s great when somebody’s never seen one before. They just get so excited. Eighty year olds get just as excited as kids.”

Victim identified in Saturday fatal crash on Highway 38

Oregon State Police are continuing the investigation into a fatal crash that occurred Saturday afternoon on Highway 38 in Douglas County.

According to an OSP press release, at approximately 04:47 p.m., OSP troopers and emergency personnel responded to a report of a single vehicle crash on Highway 38 near milepost 14.

Preliminary information indicates a westbound silver 2004 Honda Civic operated by, Candelario Rincon-Hamm, 18, of Coos Bay, left the roadway for unknown reasons. The vehicle collided with a tree, rolled multiple times down an approximate 100 foot embankment and overturned in the North Umpqua River. Rincon-Hamm suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fatigue and weather conditions are being looked at by investigators as possible contributing factors of the crash. Seat belt usage was still being determined Sunday. One lane of travel of the highway was closed for two hours.

OSP was assisted by Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Scottsburg Fire Department, Lower Umpqua Ambulance, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Douglas County Medical Examiner.

Big changes in 2018 Oregon laws begin today

A new year means new laws. Starting Jan. 1, there are some big changes when it comes to hitting the road.

Most people already know about the move over law — drivers move over or slow down for emergency vehicles on the side of the road. But starting in 2018, that same rule applies to any vehicle stopped on the side of the road with hazard lights on or showing signs of distress.

Drivers would need to either move over a lane or slow down by at least five miles below the posted speed limit.

A new law, Senate Bill 35, says drivers who end up in a fender bender with damage under $2,500 do not have to report it. This is an increase from the $1,500 threshold that had been in place since 2014.

A few other interesting laws to keep in mind as Jan. 1 rolls around:

• One of the most controversial bills of the 2017 session, which allows a judge to order someone to give up their firearms, kicks in on Jan. 1. If a family member or police officer presents the court with convincing evidence that a person “presents a risk in the near future, including an imminent risk, of suicide or of causing physical injury to another person” a judge can issue an order of protection banning the person from possessing deadly weapons for one year.

• Once the new year begins, Oregonians under the age of 21 will no longer be able to purchase any tobacco products. The state became the fifth in the nation to raise the smoking age to 21 this summer.

• The voting age in the United States remains at 18, but in January teenagers in Oregon will be able to turn in their voter registration cards starting at age 16 so that they are already registered by the time they become old enough to vote.

• If you’re getting married next year but aren’t the religious type, you will be able to skip the ordained minister and be married by a secular organization “that occupies a place in the lives of the organization’s members parallel to that filled by a church or particular religious authority.”

• Fewer crashes will be required to be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles, after the minimum monetary damage requiring a report is raised from $1,500 to $2,500. Drivers are still required to report to the DMV within 72 hours if damage caused by the crash is more than $2,500, a vehicle is towed from the scene or the crash caused injuries.

• The definition of vehicular assault has been expanded from striking pedestrians and bicyclists to include striking motorcycle riders or their motorcycles.

• Charitable or fraternal organizations authorized to operate bingo or lotto games can now pay out prizes up to $5,000 for a single game, up from the previous maximum of $2,500.