▶️ Central Oregon football teams gearing up for season, square off at jamboree

Teams from across the High Desert competed in a football Jamboree at Redmond High School on Thursday.

Redmond, Sisters, Caldera, La Pine, and Madras squared off before the start of the season.

“Did great, our players were running hard, defense was real good out there, were fast, I have a good feeling about this season,” said Sisters High senior quarterback Easton Moore.

“I feel like our pocket was there, we threw it good, had a couple touchdowns in the air, now we just need to work on the run game,” said Redmond High senior running back Kyle Littlejohn.

“Gets us ready for the that game speed before game one, you know,” said Madras High senior quarterback Drew Boyle.

A last tune up before the real games begin.

Something maybe needed a little extra this year with so much change to this year’s conferences.

All of the Bend schools will be in the same conference as Redmond and Ridgeview this year at the 5A level.

“It’s going to be cool, a lot more people, bigger crowds, it’s going to be a lot more exciting,” said Littlejohn. “A different level of competition with Summit and a bunch of different teams coming around. It’s going to be awesome.”

That includes a team with no seniors this year, Bend’s newest school, the Caldera High Wolfpack.

“We don’t have a lot of expectations, we are the underdogs, but I hope we can go out and fight and maybe go to the playoffs this year,” said Caldera High sophomore Brady White.

Sisters is also going down a classification, now in the same league as La Pine.

One team is looking to turn things around.

“I feel good about it. Last year we didn’t have our best record, but this year we will do a lot better,” said Moore.

The other team is looking to remain on top.

“This year’s team, we are a gritty bunch, we have been playing together for a while. We have some big shoes to fill from last year’s team that went to the semifinals,” said La Pine senior quarterback Colton Campbell.

 


Central Oregon High School games week one:

5A

Mountain View vs Canby 

Redmond vs Hood River Valley

Ridgeview at Springfield

Caldera vs Pendleton

Summit at Tualatin (6A)

Bend at Lincoln (6A) Thursday 9\1

4A

Crook County at Philomath

Madras at Sweet Home

3A

Sisters at Burns

La Pine at Corbett

2A

Culver vs Weston McEwen

  • 7 p.m. start time

A long travel time, Crook County, Madras football put in Greater Oregon League

▶️ OSAA proposal moves Bend high schools to 5A, joining Redmond, Ridgeview

▶️ After OSAA’s decision, 2A schools including Culver playing 9-man football

High School football is back on the High Desert, but for one team, things are totally different.

“(Our) Little town from Culver is not going to change OSAA’s mind,” said Culver head football coach Brian Silbernagel. “OSAA is kind of geared to take care of the bigger classifications and so it is what it is and we’re just going to move forward with it.”

For the Culver Bulldogs and the rest of 2A schools, the 11-man game of football is no more.

An ad hoc committee for the Oregon School Activities Association decided it’s time for a change.
Making all 2A schools play 9-man football.

“A couple different reasons behind that,” said OSAA Executive Director Peter Webber. “In the past there have been a couple of schools that have played 9-players. Mainly at the sub-varsity level, but occasionally at the varsity level when they just don’t have enough kids. We’ve seen the size of those rosters shrink.”

Webber says another big factor besides the decline in participation numbers is the flexible schedule 9-man football provides.

“You can have 9-player teams playing an 8-player team,” he said. “You can play an 11-player team one week, you can play a 9-player team the next week and you can do that a lot more easier than say, an eight to eleven.”

With Culver being the smallest Central Oregon football program and with the closest 2A team being over two hours away, Bulldog head football coach Brian Silbernagel disagrees with that.

“It’s kind of the opposite for us,” Silbernagel said. “When we’ve had JV games cancellations in the valley with our league. I have always been able to pick up 11-man games over here with our JV team whether it was Sisters, Madras or Crook County.”

With major differences from playing 9-man then back to 11-man football, Silbernagel thinks those local make-up games aren’t an option anymore.

“Trying to make the leap from JV 9-man to 11-man for one week or one game, it’s just not very fair to the athletes I believe.”

Webber said in January a survey taken by the OSAA had 32 of 35 schools in favor of 9-man football, including Culver.

“Whether that was the coach, or the A.D. or somebody else, I don’t know,” Webber said.

“I’m an 11-man guy,” said Silbernagel. “I thought we should have remained there, but it is what it is. OSAA made their decision, so we’re embracing it and going forward with 9-man.

The players admit the game will be different, but to them it’s still football.

“Honestly, it’s better because you get more space to run and basically do what you want,” said senior running back Isacc Solis.

“We have to really make due with what we got, but deep down, yeah, it’s the same game deep down,” said senior fullback Ethan Russo.

“To me it’s nothing much besides two less lineman on the field, but either way, it’s just, same rough sport,” said senior center Max Jimes.

The guard or tackle lineman position are the two taken out to play 9-man football.
Culver opens up the season at home September 9th against Weston-McEwen at 7 p.m.

 

▶️ Crews respond to Big Canyon Fire South of Lake Billy Chinook

Friday night, crews responded to a fire near Upper Canyon Rim Drive at Lake Billy Chinook.

The fire is called the Big Canyon fire and, as of 9 p.m. estimated to be around 8 acres.

The Big Canyon fire started around 5 p.m. and caused a level two alert, an evacuation warning for all of Three Rivers, warning folks to pack up and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Crews responded to five new fire starts South of Lake Billy Chinook.

All five incidents were caused by lightning.

Firefighters worked on securing fire lines around the perimeter of that fire.

They will remain on scene throughout Friday night.

▶️ Culver Crawdad Festival returns after 2 years with 1,000 pounds of mud bugs

Culver Oregon’s Crawdad Festival has returned after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

“Oh boy. It’s a small lobster,” said Culver city Councilor Gretchen Schlie on what a Crawdad is.

“That’s what I am calling it. Crayfish, also known as a crayfish. Also known as a mud, a mud bug.”

Saturday’s Festival will consist of a parade, bingo, a beer garden, live music, 60 different vendors and several other activities.

It will be held at Veterans Memorial Park from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

RELATED: Deschutes Historical Museum to hold first antique fair in 20+ years

“We are doing things a little bit different, for example we are having a food truck actually do the crawdads instead of trying to find hundreds of thousands of volunteers and volunteer hours to home in and do it,” said Schlie.

Mariah Larson, owner of Teriyaki Grill and Mom’s Kitchen and Catering Company says 200 ears of corn were shucked and 400 pounds of potatoes rinsed and chopped.

“We did a thousand pounds of crawdads this year and I have had countless amounts of people tell me it’s not enough, they want more,” Larson said. “So, we will see how it goes, maybe next year, we will double the dosage and see what happens.”

All the crawdads come straight from Lake Billy Chinook.

“The way that the crawdads are harvested here locally, they are netted and they are kept in the water until it is time to put them on ice and bring them to us,” said Lasrson. “So, they can’t get any more fresh than that.”

The festival has been going on for more than 30 years.

It started with local family and friends coming together and eventually grew bigger and bigger.

“I just think it helps bring the community together and that’s the main purpose of this to just to bring the community together, especially after so many years of being isolated,” said Schlie.

The Crawdad Boil costs $28 if you buy tickets in advance. Several other food carts will also be available.

Live music with musician Matt Borden is 5-7 p.m.

▶️ Central Oregon wildfire defensible space town halls this week

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office is holding five town halls in Central Oregon this week to discuss the Oregon Defensible Space Code. The town halls will address the code’s development, timelines, and upcoming opportunities for community input, the fire marshal’s office said.

Here are the dates and times for the Central Oregon town halls:

  • Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sunriver, Three Rivers School Gym, 56900 Enterprise Drive 
  • Tuesday at 5:30 – 7 p.m., Bend, Sky View Middle School Cafeteria, 63555 NE 18th Street 
  • Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sisters, Sisters Community Room, Sisters Fire, 301 S Elm Street 
  • Wednesday at 5:30 – 7 p.m., Prineville, Crook County High School Auditorium, 1100 SE Lynn Blvd 
  • Thursday at 5:30 – 7 p.m., Madras, Madras Performing Arts, 412 SE Buff Street  

The OSFM has a section on its website dedicated to the defensible space code development process. To learn more, visit defensible space code requirements. 

▶️ St. Charles says it overpaid workers $2 million, wants the money back

The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) has sent a cease and desist letter to St. Charles Health System on Friday after it was reported the hospital seeks to receive back payment from its employees. It all stems from the hacking of a payroll management provider that affected companies nationwide.

The letter alleges the demands by St. Charles for repayment by employees is illegal.

The workforce management company Kronos was hacked late last year. It forced the hospital to conduct its payroll method by hand.

Errors were made in the process, leading to underpaid and overpaid workers. St. Charles says the overpayment totals reach about $2 million. 

RELATED: St. Charles temporarily enacts crisis standards of care; State says no

RELATED: St. Charles CEO Joe Sluka stepping down after eight years

St. Charles nurse Megan Bovi says she was handed a sticky note, without warning, detailing an amount of $2,900 that she owed. Bovi says there is no proof she was overpaid or how the amount was calculated.

“I’m not just going to take their word for it,” Bovi said. “I need evidence and why has this been rolled out so unprofessionally and disrespectfully and without tact?”

In a statement sent to Central Oregon Daily News, St. Charles spokesperson Lisa Goodman says the hospital believes employee time card entries show fewer hours than what employees are claiming to have worked.

ONA claims the Oregon Bureau of Labor Institute is clear on the issue.

“Paycheck deductions going to the employer to pay for an alleged ‘overpayment’ or loan are not for the employee’s benefit and are therefore unlawful,” the cease and desist letter reads.

Goodman responded to the letter on Friday.

“We strongly believe that we’ve complied with the law and with our contractual obligations in every respect as we’ve paid our employees and as we now look at how to make payroll corrections that are needed because of the ransomware attack on UKG,” Goodman said in an email.

▶️ Madras marijuana grow op bust Friday a continuation of June investigation

Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) seized more than 800 marijuana plants while serving a search warrant in Madras Friday. It was the continuation of an investigation into a Chinese cartel that resulted in a record bust in June.

CODE said the warrant at a home on NE 10th Street near NE Cedar Street in Madras netted 60 pounds of bulk, unprocessed marijuana and 807 plants.

Detectives also found the grow site used shoddy, jerry-rigged wiring that bypassed circuit breakers to power processing equipment, fans and lighting. CODE notes that overloaded electrical wiring has caused fires at other grow sites.

RELATED: International gangs, trafficked labor behind many local illegal pot grows

RELATED: Jefferson County drug bust: 5 arrests, 8 tons of marijuana, links to China

Another common feature of grow sites is that they often divert water meant for nearby properties. CODE said this grow site diverted an estimated 2,421 gallons of water per day. That’s almost as much as the average person uses in one month, according to U.S. government estimates.

This site was also infested with black mold, CODE said.

Several suspects were identified and arrests are expected.

CODE said this was a continuation of the June 2022 investigation search warrants related to an international drug cartel that allegedly grows and processes illegal marijuana in Madras and Culver. That pot, CODE said, would then be shipped to Portland where it would be distributed nationwide.

▶️ International gangs, trafficked labor behind many local illegal pot grows

Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, of course. But the illegal pot business hasn’t gone away.

In fact, it’s a growth industry.

And we’re not talking about your neighbor growing a few dozen plants in his barn for personal consumption. We’re talking about international criminal gangs using trafficked labor in major marijuana growing operations.

And they’re keeping local drug teams busy.

Deschutes County Detective Dustin Miller walked us through what’s left of a major illegal grow that was busted on July 6, 2022.

“These are designed to go up, be one season and be done,” said Miller. “This is a large operation.”

Just east of the Bend Airport, in a neighborhood of small farms and private homes and hiding in plain sight, they found 25 flimsy greenhouses.

“Counting this large one back here, the large one we found here just had starters and growing materials different things probably for the original stages before they planted the real greenhouses,” said Miller.

Bend pot bust greenhouses

The same bust involved another property. Together, more than 6,000 plants were confiscated. Estimated street value: $3.5 million.

RELATED: 2 Bend locations raided in marijuana bust; $3.5M in street value pot seized

“What we have become is the criminal breeding ground for this criminal activity as it’s spread across the states,” said Miller.

And this is just the most recent. 

The biggest bust in county history came in September 2021 in Alfalfa. Nine thousand plants and more than a ton of processed pot. Detectives say it was run by a Mexican cartel. The workers were brought into the country illegally, working off debt and living in terrible conditions.

RELATED: Arrests in Mexican drug cartel bust could take months, detectives say

Alfalfa pot bust 2021

This past April, 2,800 plants were seized. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and more than a dozen firearms.

On June 14, Jefferson County busted a record haul of 17,000 plants and eight tons of processed pot. Another foreign-run operation, this one tied to a cartel in China. Mostly Chinese workers living in the same conditions as the other grows.

RELATED: Jefferson County drug bust: 5 arrests, 8 tons of marijuana, links to China

“Very little money. Very little food. Very little water. Very little shelter. Essentially no bathrooms,” said Miller. “The filth that they are being forced to live in is not anyplace any of us like to spend an evening much less send a full growing season.”

Jefferson County pot bust

Grow sites like this are dangerous fire hazards.

“A lot of them are run off extension cords, overloading breakers and circuits, said Miller.

And there are health hazards. The products are completely unregulated.

“We’re seeing hard fertilizers. We’re seeing pesticides and we’re seeing chemicals being placed on these plants and around these greenhouses to deter the rodents that are not intended for human consumption,” said Miller.

It’s happening because there’s money to be made — big money — in illegal marijuana.

“California, Washington,  Oregon is known for having some of the best marijuana in the United States,” said Miller.

It’s a classic case of buy low, sell high.

“You can buy bulk — $900 dollars a pound, $1,000 a pound, $1,200 a pound — and you can take it back to the other side of the country and you can triple that,” said Miller.

Or just grow your own and ship it out of state by truck, by the U.S. mail or package delivery services, detectives say.

The state’s hemp industry — often providing camouflage for illegal grows.

“It’s become fairly socially accepted to see large hemp farms being grown,” said Miller. It’s harder for law enforcement to discover them. It’s harder for us to see them, identify them and process them when they are in fact an illegal grow when there are so many of them.”

Marijuana

This metaphorical swamp was supposed to dry up with legalization.

Here’s one of the stated purposes of Ballot Measure 91.

 “Prevent revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels.”

Statements in support:

“Measure 91 fights back against drug cartels so that they face competition with the regulated market and go out of business.” — Volunteer firefighter and EMT

“We can cut off the unlawful drug trafficking with a smart approach at home.” — Former Supreme Court Justice

“Cut off the black market and send the cartels packing.” — Vote Yes on 91 campaign

“Get rid of violent drug cartel grow operations.” — Council for Retired Citizens

Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson calls that reasoning a farce.

“What we’re seeing is an increase in the cartel operations,” said Nelson.

“The argument that it would get rid of the black market industry, that argument hasn’t held up,” he continued. “We’re not seeing that. As a matter of fact, I believe we’re seeing an increase in the black market industry because marijuana from Oregon has probably by now been found in all 50 states and maybe other countries.”

Nelson is adding personnel to the county’s Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Team, hoping to avoid what’s happened in Douglas, Josephine and Jackson counties. Leaders there have declared states of emergency with law enforcement overwhelmed.

It’s led to legislative approval of $25 million in anti-drug funding and prompted a moratorium on licenses for hemp farms.

“They’ve made a dent by having the state of emergency and putting the licenses on a moratorium,” said Miller. “We’re seeing those particular type of grows start to squirt out to the community and they’re squirting out to Klamath County, Lake County, Deschutes County.”

That means more work for local drug teams who could use more resources.

“We probably have 25-30 active cases right now that we’re working on,” said Miller.

So do the math. How many more plants; how many more guns; how many more trafficked workers are out there right now, right here at home?

In most cases, it is tips from suspicious neighbors which lead to investigations and eventual busts. Central Oregon Daily News spoke with neighbors at several Bend-area grow sites and they were willing to talk to us, but not on camera. They admit they’re scared off by that word “cartels” and the serious criminal element involved.

▶️ Save the date: Oregon Defensible Space code town halls next week

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office is holding five town halls in Central Oregon next week to discuss the Oregon Defensible Space Code. The town halls will address the code’s development, timelines, and upcoming opportunities for community input, the fire marshal’s office said.

Here are the dates and times for the Central Oregon town halls:

  • August 16 at 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sunriver, Three Rivers School Gym, 56900 Enterprise Drive 
  • August 16 at 5:30 – 7 p.m., Bend, Sky View Middle School Cafeteria, 63555 NE 18th Street 
  • August 17 at 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sisters, Sisters Community Room, Sisters Fire, 301 S Elm Street 
  • August 17 at 5:30 – 7 p.m., Prineville, Crook County High School Auditorium, 1100 SE Lynn Blvd 
  • August 18 at 5:30 – 7 p.m., Madras, Madras Performing Arts, 412 SE Buff Street  

The OSFM has a section on its website dedicated to the defensible space code development process. To learn more, visit defensible space code requirements.