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Knutson tow boat sinks for unknown reason in Coos Bay

COOS BAY — A tow boat belonging to the Knutson Towboat Company fleet sank Wednesday morning in Coos Bay.

“We had a derelict boat waiting on our dock to do be scrapped and it sank, we’re not sure why,” Knutson Towboat safety director Jim Ring said.


A perimeter was set in an attempt to contain an oil sheen after a boat owned by Knutson Towboat Company sank last Wednesday morning.

The boat's sinking has caused some oil mixed in the boat's bilge water to spill out into the bay, creating an oil sheen on the water. The amount of oil and impact the spill might have on the bay is currently unknown, but because it comes from bilge water it’s thought to be minimal.

Bilge water is the dirty oily water that collects at the bottom of the boat. It’s essentially water that doesn’t drain off the side of the deck and instead drains down into the boats bilge.  

“It was reported to have about 100 pounds of bilge water when it sank.  A little bit of oil can make a pretty big sheen,” Department of Environmental Quality Natural Resource specialist Geoff Brown said.  

Knutson’s is handling the situation in the proper manner. The past few days they’ve made a couple attempts at retrieving the boat. Another attempt to surface the boat was to have been made Friday night.

The reason behind trying to surface the boat at night is because the tide will be at its lowest.

"It's a very slow process pulling the boat out of the water it doesn't happen all at once. It takes hours to get it out of the mud and up to the surface," Ring said. 

While Knutson’s is responsible for retrieving the boat, the process of determining the cause of the sinking and assessing the impact of escaped oil into the bay is overseen by a Coast Guard Incident Management Division team from the Columbia River.

“We’re a detachment out of Portland and we’re just monitoring the incident and overseeing the recovery,” Marine Science Technician Third Class Neil Loomis said.   

The oil leaking out of the ship has been contained. Within the contained area Knutson’s has been applying pads that float on the top of the surface and soak up oil in the water.

“We can’t get an accurate estimation of how much oil leaked out into the bay until we recover the boat. Almost all of it is contained though. There is a little bit of sheen,” Loomis said.

When recovering a sunken boat, pumps are used to pump water out of the boat and air in so that the eventually the air will cause it to float to the surface.

Content with the methods of containment that Knutson’s has put in place the Portland Coast Guard team headed home on Friday morning.

According to Ring the Coos Bay Response Cooperative told him that there was not a recoverable amount of diesel in the water. Which means there wasn’t enough diesel in the water to warrant any sort of cleanup especially after the area was contained. 

"The Coast Guard guys who were here told me that one eye dropper full of diesel can cause a 100-foot by 100-foot sheen," Ring said. 

Trump says Russia-probe memo proves bias; Dems say no

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declassified a top-secret congressional memo Friday and suggested it proved the investigation of his presidential campaign and Russia was fatally flawed from the start. Democrats said the document did nothing to clear him or his campaign, and the FBI called the memo inaccurate and incomplete.

Butting heads just as they had before the memo's release, Trump and his critics stuck to the positions they had staked out in the weeks leading up to the hotly disputed release of the memo prepared by Republicans on the House intelligence committee. The memo makes their case — and Trump's — that politically motivated abuses in the early stages of the FBI's investigation made it worse than worthless.

The Democrats, having none of it, said the four-page memo merely cherry-picks Republican talking points in an effort to smear law enforcement and undercut the current federal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee's top Democrat, said the GOP document "mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information" and its release "will do long-term damage to the intelligence community and our law enforcement agencies."

The memo's central premise is that the FBI relied excessively on anti-Trump research funded by Democrats in seeking a warrant to monitor the communications of a Trump campaign associate and that federal authorities concealed the full details of who was paying for the information.

The disclosure of the document is extraordinary since it involves details about surveillance of Americans, national security information the government regards as among its most highly classified. Its release is likely to further escalate an intra-government conflict that has divided the White House and Trump's hand-picked law enforcement leaders.

Trump, who lashed out at the FBI and Justice Department on Friday morning, refused to express confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and is mentioned by name in the memo.

Asked if he was more likely to fire Rosenstein, and if he still had confidence in him, Trump retorted, "You figure that one out."

A senior White House official said later the administration expects Rosenstein to remain in his job.

Trump has been telling confidants he believed the memo would validate his concerns that the FBI and Justice Department conspired against him. Though the document had been classified since it deals with warrants obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the White House declassified it Friday and sent it to the intelligence committee chairman, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, for immediate release.

The development also comes amid an ongoing effort by Trump and congressional Republicans to discredit the investigation by Mueller that focuses not only on whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia but also on whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Republicans seized on the memo's allegations to argue that the FBI's investigation was politically biased.

The memo does not address obstruction questions that have led Mueller to express interest in interviewing Trump. But it does reveal the FBI investigation actually began in July 2016, months before the warrant was even sought, based on information involving a separate Trump aide, George Papadopoulos, who has already pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Mueller inherited the probe in May 2017. Four people have so far been charged in his investigation.

Trump said Friday of the information in the memo: "I think it's a disgrace. What's going on in this country, I think it's a disgrace."

Earlier in the day, he tweeted: "The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans - something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people."

The memo offered the first government confirmation that the FBI in October 2016 obtained a secret surveillance warrant on a Trump campaign associate, Carter Page, on the basis that agents believed he might be an agent of a foreign power — Russia. That warrant was signed off on multiple times, including by Rosenstein.

In a statement, Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser and came on the FBI radar in 2013 as part of a separate counterintelligence probe, said, "The brave and assiduous oversight by Congressional leaders in discovering this unprecedented abuse of process represents a giant, historic leap in the repair of America's democracy."

The memo asserts that opposition research conducted by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, "formed an essential part" of the initial application to receive the warrant. It's unclear how much or what information Steele collected was included in the application, or how much has been corroborated. Steele's research into Trump and Russia was compiled into a series of memos, or a dossier, containing salacious allegations.

The FBI routinely relies on multiple sources of information when it obtains surveillance warrants. And the memo makes clear that the FBI believed there was probable cause that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power and a judge agreed — four times over.


North Bend junior Jayden Frank contests a shot by South Umpqua's Taylor Gross during North Bend's 59-51 win Friday night.

State audit says Oregon is not prepared for the 'big one'

COOS BAY — Last week, Oregon’s Secretary of State Dennis Richardson released an audit asking state officials to do more to prepare Oregon for natural disasters such as a Cascadia earthquake.  

Auditors found that in the event of a Cascadia earthquake and subsequent tsunami, Oregon is vulnerable to catastrophic consequences.

Richardson’s audit said that state and local governments throughout Oregon are not meeting the key standards for being prepared to respond to events like wildfires, flooding, earthquakes and tsunamis.

“We know Oregon is facing a massive threat from a Cascadia earthquake and tsunami,” said Richardson. “The only thing we don’t know is when. It is critical that we act now to better prepare our state to survive not only this particular threat, but all catastrophic disasters facing Oregon. The state’s emergency management system, coordinated through the Office of Emergency Managements, must be prepared to respond to such events.”

Coos County has, in recent years, implemented an emergency alert system through the company Everbridge. The Everbridge alert system is free and allows you to enter two work and two home phone numbers, as well as two numbers to receive text alerts.  

According to auditors, Oregon does not meet key emergency management program standards. The national baseline standards include strengthening preparedness and response, demonstrate accountability and identify resource needs.

Coos County Emergency Manager Mike Murphy said he does about 20 seminars on emergency preparedness for Coos County annually. He would be interested in doing more, if community members ask him to come give a presentation.

Continuity plans to ensure that government services are available after a natural disaster are either incomplete of missing in most communities.

According to Murphy, transportation after a seismic event like Cascadia will be very difficult.

“There are a lot of bridges around here and most of them are not up to seismic codes. Most of them have never been seismically tested. So if Cascadia happens we’re going to be a bunch of islands,” Murphy said.   

Staffing focused on reducing Oregon’s vulnerability to disaster is considered by the secretary’s audit to be inadequate statewide.

More accountability to ensure progress with preparedness goals was something the audit stressed.  

The audit makes 11 recommendations to both Oregon Emergency Management and the governor’s office to improve emergency preparedness. Recommendations include completing, implementing, and exercising emergency and continuity plans.

Meeting minimum emergency management program standards and reporting on efforts to improve state resilience to disaster as well as defining roles and responsibilities are key changes auditors think need to be made.   

Richardson’s office conducted the audit to determine the efforts of state agencies and local emergency management programs to prepare for catastrophic events. Auditors interviewed staff at OEM and other agencies, researched programs in other states, and assessed emergency management program standards.

Murphy said that one of the most important things people can do to be prepared is to know their surroundings. Knowing where you are at all times and how to get out of the tsunami induction zone when an earthquake hits can save your life.

“When Cascadia hits you have about 15 minutes before the tsunami comes. People need to know that once that earthquake happens they need to get to higher ground if they can,” Murphy said. 

To find out more about Everbridge, go to the Coos County web site: and type Everbridge into the search bar. 

US prosecutor: Oregon has big pot overproduction problem

PORTLAND (AP) — Oregon's top federal prosecutor said Friday the state has a "formidable" problem with marijuana overproduction that winds up on the black market and that he wants to work with state and local leaders and the pot industry to do something about it.

U.S. Attorney Billy Williams convened the unprecedented summit of influential federal law enforcement representatives, state officials and marijuana industry scions after Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew an Obama administration memo that had guided states with legalized weed on how to avoid federal scrutiny.

The meeting included representatives from 13 other U.S. attorney's offices, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S. attorneys from California, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, Alaska and Montana attended in person.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, told guests that Williams has assured members of her administration that "lawful Oregon businesses remain stakeholders in this conversation and not targets of law enforcement."

The marijuana industry has been watching federal prosecutors in states with legalized weed like Oregon closely since Sessions rescinded the so-called Cole memo. U.S. attorneys in states where marijuana is legal under state law now face the delicate question of how to do their jobs and hew to the federal ban.

Williams sought to calm fears among pot growers, but said the market has a problem that must be addressed. Everyone needs a "bottom-line answer" on how much excess marijuana is being produced and how much of it winds up on the black market, he said.

Williams last month wrote a guest column in a newspaper in which he said the surplus attracts criminal networks and generates money laundering, drug violence and draws down water supplies in rural communities.

"Here's what I know in terms of the landscape here in Oregon, and that is, we have an identifiable and formidable marijuana overproduction and diversion problem," he said Friday.

Williams added: "And make no mistake about it, we're going to do something about it."

There is general agreement that marijuana from Oregon does wind up in other states where it isn't legal. Still, it's hard to say if pot smuggling has gotten worse in Oregon — where illicit pot farmers were thriving long before recreational legalization — or how much of the marijuana leaving the state filters out from the legal side.

Williams has previously said law enforcement in 16 other states have reported seizing marijuana from Oregon and postal agents have intercepted more than 2,600 pounds of pot in outbound packages and over $1.2 million in associated cash.

Advocates dismiss the idea that legalization has caused a spike in black markets sales. It's just that now, because it's legal, it's much easier to track it back, they said.

"When I moved to Oregon in 1979, cannabis was a billion-dollar crop then, so the notion that this is somehow caused by legalization or by the medical program is something that's misplaced," said Leland Berger, an attorney who specializes in marijuana cases.

Oregon did not cap the number of recreational pot producers, virtually guaranteeing an overproduction problem, said Seth Crawford, a former Oregon State University professor who's an expert on marijuana economics and cannabis policy.

He estimated Oregon growers produce up to three times the amount of marijuana that the state can absorb legally each year.

"You created this huge industry that has nowhere to put its product," Crawford said.

"If you were an investor and you had just dropped $4 million into a (marijuana) grow and you had thousands of pounds of flower that was ready to go but you had nowhere to sell it ... if you want any of your money back, the only thing you can do is sell it on the black market," he said. "It was a system designed for failure."

Oregon voters approved the sale of recreational marijuana in 2014, and it became legal the following year. The state has allowed medical marijuana since 1998.

It now has about 900 licensed recreational growers, with more than 1,100 licenses awaiting approval. Another roughly 25,600 growers in the state produce cannabis for medical marijuana patients.

More than 500 retailers are licensed to sell recreational weed, with nearly 250 applications pending.