Fires Costly, Dangers Extreme
Fires continue to plague southern Oregon and the Columbia river gorge as temperatures continue to be warm and the landscape dry. And the costs for fighting these fires continue to rise. And that Cassandra Moseley, a research professor at the University of Oregon, says it’s largely out of the agency’s control, and that costs are driven mainly by three factors. Climate change has created more burn days, development has pushed into fire-prone areas where firefighting is especially costly and the Forest Service has had to create a workforce dedicated solely to battling blazes. Moseley adds focusing on fire suppression keeps the agency from reducing the fuels that drive fires.
201: “The landscape has more trees and more shrubs in it and that makes fires burn more severely when they do burn. Those kinds of dynamics are really coming together to make fire more dangerous when it happens, particularly to people and so that drives up costs.”
Firefighting costs exceeded a record two billion dollars in 2017, including more than 450 million dollars in Oregon. This year, Congress passed a wildfire funding fix, which takes firefighting out of the Forest Service’s regular budget. Previously, the agency borrowed from other parts of its budget to pay for suppression. Moseley says this allows the Forest Service to fund activities needed to address the growing threat from wildfires. Locally fire conditions continue to be extreme. The early morning moisture over the past couple days has done little to create better conditions. Complete restrictions can be found at the Siuslaw valley Fire and Rescue website at svfr.org.
Lighthouse Not Ready to Open
The Heceta Lighthouse was supposed to be finished with repairs and reopen to the public today, but crews working on metal columns inside the structure are behind in their work. According to the State Department of Parks and Recreation the plans and drawings for the repairs were not detailed enough and are having to be updated. The grounds are still open to the public but tours inside the lighthouse will not be allowed. Completed construction date is now the end of September.
Bond Advisory Board Has 3 Months
The Siuslaw School District has just 3 months to convince voters that a new high school is needed. This November the ballot will include a bond measure asking voters for over a 100 million dollars to devote to new buildings and additional upgrades for some existing buildings on the middle school and elementary school campuses. The Bond Advisory Board continues to hold weekly meetings to discuss the progress of educating the public on the reasons for new construction. After a similar bond measure failed in 2016 the committee is working hard at getting information out to the public. In addition to their weekly meetings the bond advisory committee is structuring informational meetings for local businesses and community organizations. Russ Pierson, member of the Bond Advisory Committee says the 2016 bond measure was not complete in that a full analysis of the districts needs had not been done, but extra grant money was available if the bond measure had passed.
“In a sense prematurely you know we hadn’t really done all the due diligence that was necessary to determine what exactly was needed, where things stood with the existing facilities and infrastructure.”
The board has spent the past year planning and researching the needs for the schools and believe that they have put forth the best plan to take the schools into the future with proposed growth and a larger focus on trade and skill training. The bond advisory committee meets again tomorrow evening at 5:30 at the district offices on Oak Street.
Gas Prices Still Unstable
Gas prices are trending higher after two weeks of slight decreases. The national average is climbing slightly averaging an extra 2 cents a gallon, but in Oregon the average for regular gas dipped a penny. Locally in Florence the price also dipped a penny and the current average is at $3.02 a gallon. AAA Oregon reports that increased demand and decreasing supplies are responsible for the national rise. Crude levels are also lower this year over last averaging about 80 million barrels less. Marie Dodds with AAA says that if inventories continue to tighten we can expect to see prices continue to rise.