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Glide residents mobilize to oppose rock quarry

GLIDE — A movement to block the reopening of a rock quarry east of Glide gathered steam Monday, as about 40 people gathered at the Glide Community Center. The group says it’s ready for a fight.

On Jan. 16, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners overturned a Douglas County Planning Commission decision and approved a permit for property owner Bjorn Vian to reopen a basalt rock quarry that could be used to create asphalt for county roads.

The quarry has been closed for nearly 70 years. Since then, an RV park has been built adjacent to the quarry site and next to that the Umpqua Ranch Cooperative, a 100-space mobile home park. Other homes are also nearby, along with an olive farm and the North Umpqua River.

Quarry opponents fear the project would damage water quality, pollute local wells, harm fish, and create traffic hazards, dust and noise, among other things.

Valynn Currie, a realtor who represents several neighboring property owners, said the neighbors have hired an attorney and plan to appeal the county’s decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

She said a quarry is simply no longer compatible with current uses in the area, and compatibility is one of the issues on which the case will turn.

“How is a quarry compatible with an RV park, a mobile home park, all these homes, compatible with the river, compatible with the wildlife? It’s not,” Currie said.

Larry Saccato said the quarry’s been closed a long time, and things have changed.

“Since that time, the rest of the area has been urbanized, and it’s just not functional to bring that quarry back online without affecting the compatibility of all the surrounding homes that are there now,” Saccato said.

Another concern is environmental.

Jeff Dose, retired Umpqua National Forest fisheries program manager, spent most of his career working on salmon and steelhead recovery in the Rogue and Umpqua River basins.

Water runs downhill, he said, and the quarry is a mining operation. That means toxic heavy metals could make their way into streams and run down into the North Umpqua River.

“I am greatly concerned about the impacts to the aquatic systems downstream,” he said.

He noted if that happened, it wouldn’t be the first time in Douglas County.

There are many local places where people are advised not to eat the fish due to heavy metal contamination from mining operations.

“I really do appreciate private property rights, whether it be a pipeline or anything else. It’s an important part of civil society. However, with those rights come responsibilities and those responsibilities include being aware of and responsive to the impacts to others around you,” Dose said.

Terrell Rudolf said the North Umpqua is a “precious resource” and they shouldn’t give up without trying to protect it.

“This is the most beautiful steelhead river in the world,” he said.

Currie said the quarry would not create many jobs, but many jobs would be destroyed if the river and fisheries were severely impacted.

“We cannot allow it,” she said.

Umpqua Ranch Cooperative mobile home park residents already face such difficulty with water supply that they must boil their drinking water because much of it comes from the river. There have also been problems with the sewer line, where county tests have shown leakage in the system.

Tobi Walker lives in one of those mobile homes.

“I’m kind of ground zero for this project, and I just wanted to thank all of you for your interest in the river and the environment and fish and everything that sort of surrounds the place I chose to live in,” she said.

John Cortez, a Vietnam veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, said after the meeting that there are 15 to 20 veterans in the area who suffer from PTSD and would be negatively impacted by blasting in the area.

Currie said other quarries in the county produce rock that can be used to produce asphalt, and that her efforts to put forward that evidence at the Jan. 16 hearing were rebuffed by the commissioners, even though it directly rebutted Vian’s assertion that this quarry would be the only source of such rock.

She also said the commissioners made the decision despite having conflicts of interest. She noted that Commissioner Chris Boice had formerly rented from Vian. At the Jan. 16 hearing, Boice acknowledged having rented from Vian but said it wouldn’t bias his decision.

Officials urge vaccinations amid Northwest measles outbreak

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Public health officials scrambling to contain a measles outbreak in the U.S. Northwest warned people to vaccinate their children Monday and worried that it could take months to contain the highly contagious viral illness due to a lower-than-normal vaccination rate at the epicenter of the crisis.

The outbreak near Portland has sickened 35 people in Oregon and Washington since Jan. 1, with 11 more cases suspected. Most of the patients are children under 10, and one child has been hospitalized.

Health officials say the outbreak is a textbook example of why it’s critical to vaccinate against measles, which was eradicated in the United States after the vaccine was introduced in 1963. In recent years, however, the viral illness has popped up again from New York to California and sickened hundreds.

Clark County, Washington, has a vaccination rate of 78 percent, well below the level necessary to protect those with compromised immune systems or who can’t get vaccinated because of medical issues or because they are too young.

Misinformation is circulating on social media, said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County public health director.

“What keeps me up at night is eventually having a child die from this completely preventable situation,” he said. “It’s still out there, even though it’s been debunked, that the measles vaccine results in autism. That’s nonsense.”

Before mass vaccination, 400 to 500 people in the United States died of the measles every year, 50,000 people were hospitalized and 4,000 people developed brain swelling that can cause deafness, Melnick said. One to three cases out of every 1,000 are fatal, he said.

People also may have been exposed to the disease at about four dozen locations, including Portland International Airport and a Portland Trail Blazers game, officials said.

They announced Monday that others could have been infected at the popular Oregon Museum of Science & Industry in Portland and a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the bedroom community of Vancouver, Washington.

Thirty-one of the confirmed patients had not been vaccinated against measles. The vaccination status of four others who were infected is unknown.

The vaccine has been part of routine childhood shots for decades, and measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. But measles is still a big problem in other parts of the world, and travelers infected abroad can bring the virus back and spread it, causing periodic outbreaks.

Last year, there were 17 outbreaks and about 350 cases of measles in the U.S.

Officials still are not sure where the Northwest outbreak began. The first known patient sought medical care on Dec. 31, but it isn’t known if other people may have gotten sick before that and did not seek treatment.

Children receive the first vaccine between 12 and 15 months old and the second vaccine between ages 4 and 6. One vaccine provides 93 percent immunity from measles, and two shots provide 97 percent protection.

But the vaccine is less effective in those under a year old and is generally not given to infants.

Jocelyn Smith is terrified her youngest son, who is 11 months, will get measles. They live in Camas, Washington, where at least one infected person spent time while contagious.

Smith has an appointment to get her son vaccinated as soon as he’s eligible — the day after he turns 1.

“I haven’t taken the baby in public for 10 days. I’m just so scared,” she said. “Everybody’s staying inside.”

The virus, spread by coughing or sneezing, can remain in the air for up to two hours in an isolated space. Ninety percent of people exposed to measles who have not been vaccinated will get it, health officials said.

Those who may have been exposed should watch for early symptoms of high fever, malaise and red eyes, followed by a rash that starts on the head and moves down the body.

Trump friend Stone pleads not guilty in Russia probe case

WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, a longtime adviser and confidant of President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony charges in the Russia investigation after a publicity-filled few days spent slamming the probe as politically motivated.

The political operative and self-described dirty trickster faces charges that he lied to lawmakers, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

He was uncharacteristically quiet during Tuesday’s brief court appearance, rising to his feet to say, “Yes, Your Honor,” as U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson asked if he would agree to the conditions of his release, including restricted travel.

Stone attorney Robert Buschel entered the plea on his client’s behalf.

Stone, 66, made no public statements as he arrived and departed the courthouse amid dueling chants of “Lock Him Up” and “We Love Roger.” Stone waved and smiled to the small crowd, some holding up glowing photos of him, and he largely ignored a group of protesters carrying signs reading “Dirty traitor.”

Stone, who was arrested last week at his Florida home, is the sixth Trump aide charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The indictment does not accuse Stone of coordinating with Russia or with WikiLeaks on the release of hacked Democratic emails. But it does allege that he misled lawmakers about his pursuit of those communications and interest in them. The anti-secrecy website published emails in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election that the U.S. says were stolen from Democrats by Russian operatives.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday that the investigation is “close to being completed,” although an exact timetable is unclear.

Mueller continues to be interested in hearing from Stone aide Andrew Miller, who is fighting a grand jury subpoena, indicating the special counsel could be pursuing additional criminal charges against Stone or others related to the release of hacked material during the 2016 election by WikiLeaks, its founder, Julian Assange, and the online persona Guccifer 2.0.

Paul Kamenar, Miller’s attorney, said Mueller’s team notified him of their continued interest late Monday. Miller defied the grand jury subpoena last summer and took his challenge of Mueller’s authority to a federal appeals court. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has yet to rule in the case.

Mueller’s team and lawyers with the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia are jointly prosecuting the case against Stone. They did not push for Stone to be jailed or for Robinson to impose a gag order in the case.

He is free on $250,000 bond.

Stone, who has alleged without evidence that the FBI used “Gestapo tactics” in arresting him, has said he did nothing more than exercise his First Amendment rights to drum up interest with voters about the WikiLeaks disclosures. He has also denied discussing the issue with Trump.

“That’s what I engaged in. It’s called politics and they haven’t criminalized it, at least not yet,” Stone said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

“All I did was take publicly available information and try to hype it to get it as much attention as possible, because I had a tip, the information was politically significant and that it would come in October,” he added.

Tuesday’s arraignment didn’t inspire the same circus-like atmosphere that surrounded his Friday court appearance in Florida, where Stone emerged from the courthouse in a blue polo shirt, flashed a Richard Nixon victory sign, predicted his vindication and vowed that he would not “bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.”