Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, February 16, 2022, Image 1

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FEMA: Wildfire survivors
eligible for compensation
Residents can have medical bills related
to breathing problems reimbursed
Bill Poehler
Salem Statesman Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
Wildfire survivors in the Santiam
Canyon who have had breathing prob-
lems since the 2020 Labor Day wild-
fires are eligible to have expenses re-
lated to medical treatment for their
conditions reimbursed by the federal
government, according to FEMA.
FEMA spokesperson Paul Corrah
said survivors have until March 31 to
make a claim for medical expenses.
In a recent survey of more than 100
people conducted by researchers from
Oregon State University, 55% of resi-
dents reported having breathing prob-
lems more than a year after the wild-
fires compared to 27% who had
breathing problems before the fires.
Oregon State professor Marc Bra-
verman, one of the authors of the
study, said the burning of buildings,
machinery and other materials typi-
cally releases potentially toxic chem-
icals in the air.
“Exposure to wildfire smoke can af-
fect people differently. It can range
from no effect to long-term health is-
Damage caused by the Beachie Creek
wildfire is seen at the Gates School in
Gates on Sept. 18, 2020. BRIAN
Hundreds submit
testimony on
OT bill for
Dianne Lugo
Salem Statesman Journal
Supporters and opponents of House Bill 4002,
which would establish mandatory agriculture over-
time, spoke for more three hours during a public
hearing last week about the impact the bill would
have on farmworkers and the fear that the bill would
harm Oregon’s agricultural industry.
Under HB 4002, farm owners would be required to
pay farmworkers time-and-a-half for any hours
worked past 40 hours a week. That 40-hour thresh-
old would come at the end of a five-year phase-in.
To try and soften the impact on the resulting labor
costs, the bill also establishes a tax credit that would
be in place through 2029 for farm owners to deduct
50% of overtime pay costs in 2023 and 2024, 35% in
2025 and 2026, and 20% in 2027 and 2028.
Two different amendments
Bonnie and Robert O'Daniel relax at their campsite at Detroit Lake State Park campground. STATESMAN
Is that good or bad?
Zach Urness Salem Statesman Journal
It was another record-smashing year for the
number of people who hiked, camped and explored
Oregon’s outdoors, but whether that’s a good or bad
thing depends on who you ask.
Oregon’s state park system set records for recre-
ation visits and camping nights in 2021 while feder-
al land managers also saw a continued record pace
everywhere from the Columbia Gorge to Central
Oregon and especially at the Oregon Coast.
The result was campsites with few open spaces,
trailheads with crowded parking lots and one of the
highest rates of search and rescue missions in the
nation. But some stressed that done right, more
people outdoors can bring economic growth, par-
ticularly to rural areas, while creating a healthier
population more connected to nature.
The number of people heading into Oregon’s out-
doors has been increasing for the past decade,
largely in line with the state’s growing population.
But the COVID-19 pandemic supercharged demand
for outdoor recreation, often beyond the capacity of
well-known destinations, particularly on the Coast
where visitors flocked to avoid extreme heat and
wildfire smoke.
A barrier blocks access to further travel on North
Fork Road into Willamette National Forest near
“We have been talking for years about how to get
more people outdoors, so yes, you could definitely
see this as a good thing,” Oregon Parks and Recrea-
tion Department spokesman Chris Havel said. “On
the other hand, you’d much rather see a gradual in-
crease. No system reacts well to rapid change and
Oregon temperatures near record warmth
Zach Urness Salem Statesman Journal
Service in Portland.
While few would complain about borderline t-
shirt weather in February, the larger issue has been
an unusually long period of dry weather caused by a
strong high pressure ridge sitting off the West Coast
that is currently diverting all the wet storms to the
“Think of it as a giant boulder in the middle of a
river,” Muessle said. “The water hits the boulder and
goes up and around it. Right now we’re right behind
that boulder and all the water is missing us, mostly
going up to British Columbia and Alaska.”
High pressure ridges are not uncommon during
What happened to Oregon’s winter?
That’s the question meteorologists are contemplat-
ing as the state continues yet another stretch of histori-
cally dry weather culminating with near-record warm
temperatures across Western Oregon Friday and Sat-
Temperatures could reach 60 degrees in the Willam-
ette Valley and 70 degrees in southern Oregon, which
would be close to record levels for both regions.
“Whether we make a run at the record will depend
on how long that morning fog sticks around,” said Re-
becca Muessle, meteorologist for the National Weather See DRY, Page 4A
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Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, chair of the House
Committee on Business and Labor, acknowledged
that lawmakers are “in a real tough spot” with “rele-
vant issues on both sides.”
“Trying to figure out what to do with that is diffi-
cult,” he said.
Holvey has submitted an amendment for consid-
eration that would raise the proposed tax credits,
starting at 75% of overtime wages for farms with 25
or fewer employees in the first year of the phase-in.
Farms with more employees would get a 60% credit.
The original HB 4002 proposal would grant all
farms a 50% credit the first year. The credits would
end after six years under both proposals.
But Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, said the
amendment ignores the requests of farm owners and
potential consequences.
“As drafted, this bill risks entire sectors of Ore-
gon’s agricultural economy by pricing them out of the
labor market because their operations cannot adapt
to a 40-hour threshold,” Boshart-Davis said during
Tuesday’s hearing. “This means everyone who de-
pends on farms for income will suffer and have less
money in their pockets. And it is exactly why we
should craft an Oregon solution that addresses the
uniqueness of Oregon agriculture.”
Boshart-Davis, a third-generation family farmer
who grows grass seed, wheat and hazelnuts, has pro-
posed a different amendment with three changes
that she said recognize the unique traits of the agri-
cultural industry.
Her amendment establishes a “peak labor period”
and proposes flexibility in hours during those peak
harvest weeks, which could not exceed 22 weeks per
year. It would also increase the overtime threshold
from 40 hours to 50 hours over a three-year phase-in:
overtime pay after 60 hours a week in 2023, 54 hours
a week in 2024 and 50 hours a week in 2025 and be-
The proposal also exempts livestock.
“We need this Oregon solution that reflects our
unique state and the unpredictability of agriculture,”
she said in a statement about the proposal. “These
fixes are carefully crafted to avoid unintended conse-
quences for Oregon’s farmworkers and our family
farms and ranches. We invite our colleagues to join us
by passing an Oregon version of agriculture overtime
that supports jobs and preserves family farms.”
Farmworkers plead for support
“Farmworkers do important and often dangerous
work that fuels one of Oregon’s largest economic sec-
tors,” said Reyna Lopez, president of Pineros y Cam-
pesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Oregon’s farmworker
union that represents nearly 7,000 farmworkers in
the state.
Lopez pointed to the extended phase-in period
and the addition of tax credits as examples that farm-
workers and their advocates are aware of farm owner
concerns. It also represents their willingness to com-
promise on a change farmworkers have been denied
since 1938, she said.
“The overtime exclusion has monumentally nega-
tive impacts on the health, life expectancy and well-
being of Oregon farmworkers. I can’t explain to you in
See OT BILL, Page 3A