Tag Archives: Top Stories

Road woes: Spilled wood on Highway 26, rockslide at Cove Palisades Park

It took highway crews most of the day Thursday to clear two road blockages affecting Central Oregon travelers – one caused by man, an early-morning lumber spill on Highway 26 over Mount Hood, and one by nature, an overnight rock and landslide that sent car-sized boulders slamming down onto a road along Lake Billy Chinook, at the Cove Palisades State Park.

The spilled load of wood on Highway 26 blocked the westbound lanes until about 3 p.m. at the junction with state Highway 35, east of Government Camp. Fortunately, the road has four lanes at that point, so one lane was kept moving in each direction in the eastbound lanes during the lengthy cleanup, Oregon Department of Transportation officials said.

“There was a lot of shattering of the wood, all over,” so it had to be swept up, not just picked up, said ODOT spokesman Shawn Uhlman. “There’s no other way than a guy with a broom.”

The landslide, meanwhile, occurred around 11 p.m. Wednesday along Jordan Road, which runs between the canyon cliffs and Lake Billy Chinook at Cove Palisades, a popular camping and recreation area about 20 miles southwest of Madras.

Steve Janiszewski, park manager, said several vehicle-sized rocks came pounding down onto the road, including boulders large enough to damage the roadway, located south of the Crooked River day-use area.

Karen Schjoll of Jefferson County’s public works department said road crews brought in heavy equipment to remove the boulders and debris, and the road was reopened by about 2:30 p.m. But gravel was used to level out the caved-in sections of road, with repaving expected to take place next week.

“Nobody was actually trapped” by the slide, Schjoll said, as there was another, unpaved alternate route from the area, through Camp Sherman.

Term-limits backers take radio-ad jab at Westlund over job bid

SALEM – Hip-deep – make that neck-deep – in crucial budget deliberations, state Rep. Ben Westlund, R-Tumalo, doesn’t have a whole lot of time to think about the irony of a term-limits group’s radio ad that scoffs at his bid to become executive director of the new Oregon Cultural Trust, an agency he helped create last year.

But, having stated repeatedly that he would only take the job if voters this fall reinstate term limits thrown out by state courts – an initiative that would be retroactive, and end his legislative career – Westlund said Thursday he’s well aware of the irony. He also said he believes he knows what’s behind the ad: his continued effort to put a “reasoned,” lawmaker-backed term limits alternative on the November ballot – one that isn’t retroactive.

Westlund told bend.com he hasn’t heard the radio spot, which features a smarmy-sounding, unnamed “Portland fat cat,” waxing poetic about how Westlund – whom the speaker at one point chummily calls “Benny” – has supposedly become “one of us,” because he is going for “an $80,000 job he created.” (Not exactly: lawmakers didn’t create the post of executive director of the trust fund. They created the trust and its board, and instructed Secretary of State Bill Bradbury’s office to provide staffing).

“You’ve come a long way, Benny,” the supposed “fat cat” intones.

At the end of the ad, an announcer says that the “Committee to Restore Term Limits” – apparently an arm of U.S. Term Limits of Washington, D.C. (http://www.ustermlimits.org) — is running the spot to point out the big need for term limits: Lawmakers who “tend to lose touch with their roots.”

“I’ve heard (the ad) characterized enough times that I have a feel for it,” Westlund said. “I’m assuming they feel better, and I don’t feel any worse.”

“I am focused on trying to balance and $860 million shortfall in the state’s budget,” the co-chairman of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee said. “I’m running 100 mph. I find it very ironic that an out-of-state special interest group is attacking me for applying for a job that I would rather not have.”

Westlund said he only decided to seek post because of term limits revival

The legislator said he sees no conflict at all, since he wouldn’t take the position if he remains in office -only if term limits backers get voters to reinstate a 12-year cap on legislative service and its most problematic element, to many lawmakers – a 6-year limit on House terms and 8-year cap in the Senate.

State officials have said that, as long as Westlund resigns from the Legislature, it would be legal for him to take the new job – one he said he only began to consider seeking in April, upon learning of a new bid to impose term limits at the polls retroactively.

Westlund was on a 12-member task force that worked on the cultural trust idea before the 2001 Legislature, as the state looked at ways to boost its spending on cultural programs, long ranked near the bottom of all states. The trust is expected to raise more than $200 million over 10 years, selling some state property and offering tax credits for contributions. The money raised would go to existing agencies, counties and tribes, and cultural organizations.

Bradbury, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, is expected to name the trust’s executive director by the end of next week. Westlund, whom Bradbury interviewed for the job last week, is one of two finalists, out of 40 initial applicants; the other finalist has not been named.

Doesn’t that mean Westlund would have to step down from the Legislature before the term limits issue is decided this fall, should he win the post? Not necessarily – the lawmaker noted that Gov. John Kitzhaber has instituted a hiring freeze in the executive branch, which could delay or stall that process.

“It’s actually a rare opportunity,” Westlund said of the position. “This is a statement about all legislators. Pick a number, you are involved with 100 issues in a session. Out of those, you are very instrumental in helping them along, shaping the flavor of the legislation. But there’s never any closure of the circle. Once it’s through the Legislature, you are off to the next set of issues.”

“I can’t stress enough that my first choice, by far, is to remain in the Legislature,” he said. “In my assessment of the situation, if I am going to run, go through all the rigors of a campaign – which I’m happy to do – and then not be seated, well, the next best thing for me would be to involve myself in a field I’m very passionate about, that I had a small finger in a hand of creating.”

State’s legislative counsel says Westlund `well within limits of law’

The Oregon Supreme Court struck down the state’s 1992 term limits law in January, prompting term limits supporters to put a new measure on the November ballot that would reinstate term limits – retroactively, including past legislative service.

The state Constitution says no lawmaker “shall be appointed to any civil office of profit which shall have been created” or had its pay increased during their term. But Legislative Counsel Greg Chaimov told The Oregonian, “I’m confident (Westlund) is acting well within the limits of the law to apply for and – if not serving in the Legislature – to take the job.”

At a previous special session this year, lawmakers considered but didn’t pass a bill that would have offered voters a competing proposal, asking them to let current lawmakers serve 12 more years.

Westlund said he’s trying again this time, amid all of the budget wrangling, to get that alternative term limits measure onto the November ballot. But he added, “Making crystal ball projections during a special session is even more dangerous than during the regular session. Special sessions move at the speed of light. They change direction at a second’s notice. They are very hard to predict.”

“I think it’s an interesting comment on the irony: While I’m trying, literally, 18, 20 hours a day to get this (budget) problem solved, they (term limits supporters) are out running ads attacking me, while I am participating in the process I want to participate in, and I want to continue to participate in.”

Westlund said he’s presuming he is being targeted “because they have got a retroactive term limits measure on the ballot that I’m trying to put out a reasoned alternative for Oregonians to vote on.”

“What are they afraid of?” he asked. “Are they afraid that if we get out an alternative, provide Oregonians a choice, that their measure would not succeed?”

Westlund `more hopeful’ of budget deal after special session’s first day

State Rep. Dan Gardner, D-Portland, Oregon’s labor commissioner-elect, also saw no problem in Westlund’s bid for the cultural trust job.

“The only thing that would raise a red flag is if he had planned it all along, and I don’t think that’s the case,” Gardner told the Portland paper. “From what I understand, with his bull ranch and his family money, he wouldn’t have to work if he didn’t want to. So that’s not at all what’s going on here.”

Westlund has cited as qualifications for the position his bachelor’s degree in history from Whitman College and his business and legislative experience, as well as his passion and advocacy for the trust.
Then there’s the reason everyone is in Salem in the first place: the budget negotiations. While Day 1 of the year’s third special session on Wednesday didn’t inspire a lot of hope in some quarters, Westlund sees things a bit differently.

“I have no idea what’s going to come out of the budget reductions and solutions,” he said. “I am actually more hopeful. I think we made good progress yesterday. Now, I could walk down the hall and something could change instantly.”

“In the area of `be careful what you wish for,’ I was sitting at my desk in all three (regular) sessions, and I’d think, `I’d really like to go through a special session – just to see what it’s like,” Westlund said.

Where there’s smoke, there’s pot: Cigarette sparks blaze, arrest

A helpful neighbor quickly doused an outbuilding fire in Deschutes River Woods Wednesday night, but firefighters’ investigation into the cause of the blaze led to the discovery of a small marijuana growing operation and the arrest of an 18-year-old resident.

As it turns out, the blaze wasn’t caused by the grow lights – instead, it apparently was caused by smoker’s carelessness. A still-hot cigarette dropped next to the shed ignited some wood, a blaze that burned into the extension cord that was bringing power to the pot-growing setup, fire Investigator Mike Skeels said.

Bend firefighters responded to a neighbor’s call on the fire in the 60200 block of Pawnee Lane around 7:30 p.m., said Deschutes County sheriff’s Deputy Troy Gotchy. They learned the fire had been extinguished by a neighbor’s hose, but as they entered the shed, looking for the cause, they found the pot-growing operation.

That prompted a call to sheriff’s deputies, who removed growing equipment, drug paraphernalia and several small plants from the residence and the shed, Gotchy said.

Christopher Robert Duschik was arrested on a charge of drug manufacturing and lodged in the Deschutes County Jail, held on $20,000 bail.

Skeels said the heavy extension cord was “tucked underneath a stack of wood. Then there were pine needles and dry duff across it. It appeared it kind of crept in from the edge and got into the wood.”

“He had quite an elaborate setup,” the fire inspector said. “Something as innocent as walking around smoking outside turned up what he was up to.”

Budget battle bots: With all eyes on Salem, cuts debate isn’t heated (yet)

It took as many Mountain View High School recent graduates – two – to display and maneuver their regional-champion robot for the Bend-La Pine School Board on Tuesday night as there were adults who showed up to speak at a hearing on the district’s embattled, not-quite-done $84 million budget for 2002-03.

“This is not Battle Bots,” stressed team member Annie Rexford (daughter of Assistant Superintendent for Operations John Rexford), as she and teammate Russ Casler showed off “Zero,” the 129.7-pound, four-wheeled robot (powered by two Power Wheels kids-car motors and a 12-volt battery) that captured the regional title and got the team to the national FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition in Orlando, Fla., where they were one of the top finishers among first-year teams (see earlier bend.com story, bendbugle.com/?p=4547).

The robot’s success and Casler’s video about the team were a pleasant, if brief diversion from the uncertainties looming over the district budget, pending the outcome of a third legislative special session that began Wednesday and aimed at a deal to balance the budget, hopefully restoring $220 million that Oregon school districts will have to cut, due to the recent failure of Measure 13.

Already, Oregon school districts have cut another $112 million, and Bend-La Pine (http://www.bend.k12.or.us) has trimmed $5 million from what it called a “roll-over of current service level,” through reductions in classified staff, no cost-of-living raises, cuts in use of substitutes, staff development time, textbook purchases and administration, among other areas.

But with a revenue shortfall of almost $900 million facing lawmakers – and no guarantee that a deal can be reached – “our budget is a little tenuous,” Superintendent Doug Nelson told the board, with a heavy dose of understatement. “Who knows what will happen?” (Much less whether the picture will clear before the ’02-03 budget is due for adoption on June 25.)

Failure to “backfill” the additional $220 million in K-12 school cuts would bring the need for Bend-La Pine to cut up to $5 million more, or raise revenues to lessen those cuts. That list is subject to a lot more public discussion and school board revision – not to mention collective bargaining with affected employees unions – but the biggest chunk, as proposed, would trim five school days and cut five non-class staff training days.

If worst comes, say goodbye to aides, pony up for sports

Going down the list toward the last items to cut (or the first ones to restore), you find items that would generate the most controversy – eliminating “non-mandatory” educational assistants, closing school libraries at noon, cutting midday high school shuttles (relied upon by ROTC programs), dropping in-town athletics transportation and, last on the list, doubling to $200 the “pay to play” fee charged for participation in a sport.

If and when any of those cuts are proposed for real, the hearing room is likely to be quite a bit fuller. But for now, just two people testified, one the union official representing district teachers.

Karen Anderson, chairwoman of the Mountain View site council, urged better coordination with the maintenance department and questioned why fields need to be “redone every year.” She also urged charging more fees to the Bend Metro Park and Rec District (which is planned) and “maybe not go after the athletes who are supporting you.”

School board member Bill Smith said he wanted to make clear that the proposal to double pay to play fees is “the very last thing” on the list. “Nobody wanted to mess with it,” he said.

The only other testimony came from Mark Molner, president of the Bend Education Association, saying that, speaking as a parent and educator, the sports-fee hike is “the one that hangs out there the most, to me. That is the most direct hit on the kids. I know that’s not the intent … (but) I would like to see it swept off the table” from consideration.

“Let the kids play with two-year-old baseballs and dirty uniforms – but let `em play,” Molner said.

Molner also targeted the proposal to cut libraries to half days, saying, “It just seems counter-intuitive to everything we’re trying to do in education.”

School board Chairman Ron Paradis said that if all the cuts had to be implemented as proposed, that would “eliminate a minimum of 20 positions” across the district.

“I have faith that the Legislature will relieve that – but not if they don’t hear from folks,” Paradis said, urging the public to “let the Legislature know” that education funding a priority.

Local firefighters on the lines in Colo.; revamped tanker base ready for our turn

REDMOND – As hundreds of contract firefighters from Central Oregon are called to the lines of major blazes in Colorado and other states, the Forest Service is ready back home with a renovated, upgraded air tanker base. But fire officials say decent winter snows in the Cascades should help avoid a severe fire season in Oregon, except perhaps in some parched areas to the east.

In the past few days, 14 20-person crews have shipped out of Central Oregon for the fire lines, including a trip to Nevada by the Prineville Hotshots, perhaps best known for their deadly encounter with a fire on Colorado’s Storm King Mountain in 1994. Along with 40 “overhead” (management) personnel, that makes about 320 local folks busy elsewhere in a very active early fire season in the West and Southwest, said Dave Fuller of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch facility in Prineville.

“There’s still people” in the region who are ready to get to it, should the local fire season flare early, Fuller assured. The warmest temperatures so far this year, approaching 90 degrees, are expected in the next few days, forecasters said.

While snowmelt continues at the highest elevations of the Cascades, the Ochocos and the Malheur National Forest “did not get the same snow load as the Cascades,” Fuller said, so those lower-elevation areas will be a focus of concern as fire season builds in the state. While range fires like the nearly 2,700-acre Kaskela Fire north of Madras are fairly typical at this time of year, there’s also been a 108-acre forest fire near Crescent in northern Klamath County.

Is it unusual to have that many local firefighters already working elsewhere in the country? Not really, Fuller said, calling it “on the unusual side of average.”

Forest Service spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons said, “From a statewide perspective, west (of the Cascades) is looking at a below-average fire season, and east at normal to above average.”

“Normal can be bad – it probably means we’re going to get a cooker or two,” Gibbons said.

Forest Service shows off tanker base renovations; old trailer is gone

When (likely not if) that happens, the Redmond Air Center’s rebuilt air tanker base will be ready to swing into action. A few final touches (landscaping and the like) were all that remained to be done this week as contractors, dignitaries and the media were invited to an open house and tour of the facility, which has had $3 million worth of improvements over the past year or so.

The center, which operated out of a “temporary” double-wide trailer since 1978, now has a 3,500-square-foot operations center, complete with kitchen, laundry, a spot to relax with TV (or a training video) and bunk beds for four visiting tanker crew members (any more still would need to get a motel room booked in town, as all did in the past), said Dan Torrence, air center manager.

There’s also a new 1,000-square-foot warehouse and added parking. The work was done following a nationwide study that found a need to upgrade the nation’s air tanker bases and make their operations and facilities more consistent. The base at Moses Lake, Wash., was the first in Region 6 (Oregon-Washington) to get the improvements; next up are ones at Klamath Falls and LaGrande.

This summer, a P-3 Orion that can haul 3,000 gallons of retardant at a time and a 2,400-gallon P-2V air tanker will be stationed at Redmond, from an out-of-area contractor. Local firm Butler Aircraft had been providing the Redmond facility’s planes, most recently a C-130 and a DC-6, but those planes will be used elsewhere this year.

“If we get a large number of incidents – three, four or five (major fires) – we could have six aircraft” working out of Redmond, Torrence said. In fact, the facility can work with up to nine aircraft at a time, although that taxes the facility in its ability to do the loading of retardant, etc. – a “pit stop”-style turnaround that can get a plane back in the air in as few as 10 minutes. “We can only load two at a time” with retardant, Torrence said.

The new facility, while modern and comfortable, is no luxury, but can help make sure the folks who drop retardant to slow the advance of flames are getting quality rest, for example, said Phil Armour, manager of the tanker base.

“It’s a real rigorous, hazardous job for these folks,” he said.

Newly paved ramp is nice; `We had to mow … the cheatgrass’ before, official says

There are four 10,000-gallon tanks that hold the retardant concentrate, mixed at a ratio of almost five parts water to one part chemicals. There’s also a 20,000-gallon water tank. “It’s mixed as it goes into the airplane,” Torrence said. There’s also an “offload tank,” when that’s needed.

The familiar red retardant has an iron component to minimize corrosion, and while large amounts that land in water can have a negative impact on wildlife, officials say they work to avoid that, and smaller amounts cause few if any problems.

Then there’s the spacious, repaved 9-acre ramp for the tanker planes, with a new layer of asphalt for the first time in many a moon – perhaps as far back as the `40s.

“We had to mow it every year, there was so much cheatgrass coming through” the broken-up blacktop, Torrence recalled with a laugh.

There’s also a set of large new sound-baffling walls, aimed at preventing problems for the many observers, from the noise or the big blasts of air that can come from arriving and departing tankers.

“The C-130 has a prop wash that can just blow you over,” Torrence said, and while there haven’t been incidents of injury to the visitors who show up to watch everything happen, that’s a concern. Torrence pointed out a new, safer spot designated as a viewing area, near the main entrance off Highway 126, and said picnic tables could sprout there soon.

Boss’s job: Keep tanker service crews from taking dangerous shortcuts

Torrence, a 27-year Forest Service veteran, has been at the Redmond facility for 10 years, having been in many other roles, from a district ranger in Michigan to a “hotshot” smokejumper in Washington state, during his career. He called his current role “a great challenge.”

“It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the urgency” of a battle against the flames and start taking dangerous shortcuts, Torrence said. “My job is to make sure we keep it safe.”

The air tankers share the Roberts Field (Redmond Municipal Airport) runways, taxiways and towers during their operations – and always get priority over the next commuter flight to Portland or wherever.

There’s also a new focus on security, in the wake of Sept. 11, and visitors were checked in and told to wear badges around their necks.

“Last year, we had a couple incidents of trespassing, transients,” Torrence said, noting that the airport only fenced its perimeter in the past year or so.

And with the shifted tanks (and the added water tank), the facility can mix up 200,000 gallons of retardant at a time. In the past, that total was 150,000 gallons, Torrence said, and “a couple of times, we came close to running out.” And you can’t just run down to the gas station and say, “Fill `er up.’”

“Part of Phil’s job is to gauge how quickly we’re using it,” and make sure that doesn’t happen, Torrence said.

There also are a couple of large, open overflow or detention ponds, for the tanker ramp runoff when there’s rain or when the planes are washed down. Since the material evaporates quickly, Torrence said, “I don’t anticipate anything being in there for more than a couple hours” at a stretch.

Public tours of the new facility can be scheduled by calling 504-7200.

Hail the trumpeters, part II: Second swan batch hatches in Bend

For the second time in three weeks, a pair of imported trumpeter swans have hatched cygnet babies along the Deschutes River in Bend, while the first ones have doubled in size and appear well on their way to survival, a state biologist said Friday.

The three cygnets that apparently hatched on Wednesday below the First Street Rapids along the Deschutes River Trail may have a brother or sister waiting to come along, as the female might be incubating another egg, said Chris Carey, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Dave Ledder, vice president of the Central Oregon Audubon Society, snapped some photos of the city’s newest trumpeter swan family Thursday. “The parents were very busy, stirring up the water with their feet to bring up food from the bottom for the young,” he said.

If the fourth egg does indeed hatch, that cygnet would be “a few days younger than the others,” Carey said. “That’s probably typical of a first-time nesting female, they are not quite as synchronized” as more experienced mothers.

The baby swans born back on June 7 on Mirror Pond are “doing fine, except a lot of folks are feeding them bread,” Ledder said. Only three of the four cygnets hatched in that nest survived the first few days of life; officials said the other might have fallen prey to a predator.

The Mirror Pond survivors are “doing quite well,” Carey said Friday. “They are growing – they’re about the size of a mallard right now, so they have probably doubled in size in three weeks. So they have kind of gotten past the first step here.”

“We now have 10 trumpeter swans on the river,” Carey said – a great sign of success for a program aimed at replacing the non-native, aggressive mute swans with native trumpeter swans.

Please don’t feed the swans – especially moldy bread, biologist says

The ODFW biologist did express some concern about well-meaning folks feeding the swans bread.

“Moldy bread can be hazardous to waterfowl,” Carey said, instead urging people to feed them cracked corn, available at most feed and seed stores.

“We would prefer that people not feed them,” he said. “Unfortunately, they have turned into little beggars.” And don’t expect mama or papa to curb the trend, Carey said: “Unfortunately, the parents are almost encouraging it. They recognize a sack of bread and come up closer” to shore.

The circle of life is on display all year long at such special spots as Mirror Pond, beside Drake Park. But almost unnoticed amid the pre-summer Frisbee tossing, sunning and dog chasing three weeks ago was a small, bright white and historic sight, gliding by a ways out on the rippled blue water: a pair of proud, parental trumpeter swans and their tiny new offspring.

It’s a first for Bend – and perhaps, for any U.S. city, in terms of trumpeter swans being born in an urban park setting.

While one of the four cygnets apparently didn’t survive its first week of life, possibly due to predators, the hatchings believed to have happened June 7 at a nest on an island in the Deschutes mark a significant milestone in efforts stretching back almost a decade to bring native trumpeter swans to the stretch of river, eventually acing out the non-native, aggressive and problematic mute swans.

There still were three apparently healthy cygnets in view five days later, when officials held a pondside news conference on the hatchings.

Bend pioneer Clyde McKay (for whom McKay Park is named) no doubt had little idea of the problems that would arise in later years when, back in 1929, he released the first mute swan into the pond, as a Kiwanis Club project. Sixty-five years later, the tally was up to a dozen adult swans, 19 “sub-adults” (1 to 3 years in age) and two dozen cygnets, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Chris Carey.

And by the mid-`90s, there was a serious concern about the overpopulation of the territorial mute swans, which “were being aggressive to people,” according to Carey, and also were starving due to inadequate food supply, according to Dave Ledder, vice president of the Central Oregon Audubon Society.

“But the big concern,” Carey said, was that “a winter die-off of significant magnitude would force the birds out of the Mirror Pond area, and we would be establishing a feral population, nesting elsewhere. There is a state law that prohibits (establishment) of non-native wildlife.”

Waterfowl panel’s recommendations were tried, to varying success

Ledder said the Audubon Society wrote to Bend Metro Park and Rec District Executive Director Carrie Whitaker, saying that the swan issue needed addressing, along with the Canada geese (and their droppings), the ducks, etc. A waterfowl advisory committee was created, and along with occasional “goose roundups” and the like, the idea of replacing non-native mute swans with native trumpeter swans was hatched – though not without some consternation on the part of some residents along the pond.

“There were some real angry neighbors along the river,” many of whom considered the mute swans a special part of their home’s setting, Ledder recalled, but “as soon as they understood, now they have adopted the trumpeter” swans as well.

Most of the mute swans were individually trapped or caught, then pinioned (surgery to keep them from flying). The males got vasectomies, while “with the females, we’ve experimented around with things,” in terms of birth control, Carey said.

As a result, there are now just seven mute swans around Mirror Pond, including two infertile pairs that are sitting on infertile eggs. “They still lay eggs and do everything” they had before, the biologist explained. “They kind of had to do that. If you take the eggs out too soon, they just re-lay them.”

Two pairs of trumpeter swans were brought to the pond and released in 1999, purchased from a private breeder in Port Washington, Wis., Carey said.

“For this particular pair, this is the first season they have nested,” the ODFW biologist said. “They probably would have last year, but we kind of changed their territory. We moved them up above the Colorado (Avenue) bridge, hoping they would nest there, but they came back down” to the point. That also caused “a major shift in the territories” of the mute swans – quite the “upheaval,” Carey said, but now, the “balance is restored.”

One cygnet apparently gone: You could call it `Survivor: Swan Island’

When Carey snapped some pictures of the new family the Monday after their birth, four cygnets were in view, but only three could be seen the next day.

“Mortality is fairly high on young cygnets,” the ODFW biologist said. “If they can make it through the first couple of weeks, that’s the critical time.”

Ledder said it’s possible a mink or an otter got one of the cygnets as they sat curled up during the night. It’s also possible that one of the mute swans got to the little one: “If it got near one of those young, they could grab them and break their neck.” Ledder said it might be necessary to temporarily remove a pair of mutes and place them in a holding area.

“They will grow amazingly fast,” Ledder said, “You can almost see them grow before your eyes.”

“The natural predators, there’s not much we can do,” he said. “Survival of the fittest – we’re not going to interfere with that.”

“To establish these trumpeter swans on the river, we think it’s the first time they have been raised within a city park,” Carey said. “I’m not really aware of anywhere else in the country (that’s been done). Most has been on private ponds” and the like.

Biologists, bird-lovers even helped with shortage of nesting material

Ledder expressed some concern that a “possible down side of all of this attention … is that people will want to see them up close and feed them, in order to bring them to the shore for a better look. This could be very disastrous for the young.”

The Audubon Society official urged people who want to see the swans not to feed them or get too close with canoes or kayaks.

Feeding the waterfowl is against a city ordinance, he said, “though not strictly enforced, and can be deadly to the birds. … Also, feeding the birds brings in predators and distracts the adult trumpeter swans from their young, which could lead to their death.” Ledder also warned that amid the “territorial disputes between the mutes and trumpeters … the feeding could open up the opportunity for the mutes to kill the cygnets.”

Nature also got a bit of a boost from man once more after the trumpeters established something of a makeshift nest on an island in the river, north of the Galveston Avenue Bridge. “There was a shortage of nesting material on the island, so we got some cattails, leaves dumped on” the spot, and the swans apparently made use of at least some of it, Carey said.

“This is an amazing thing,” Ledder said, “and a lot of people don’t know,” even if they look out across the water and see the swans. “This is possibly the start of a really good thing that could happen along the river.” The birdwatcher told of a cute moment the other day, when he was down snapping pictures and “one of the little cygnets chased a mallard away.”

“Mute swans do really well in these park-like situations,” he said. “They are tough and multiply. But they are huge problems – back East, they have wiped out vegetation, pushed out native species. … The trumpeters are a little more skittish, and don’t do as well in urban areas. So this is a real success. We’re lucky we have this spot in the river.”

The problem of waterfowl droppings hasn’t been an easy one to resolve. Keeping the geese in the water has involved tries at hazing, even a barking dog over the past few years. “Eventually, the geese were pretty smart,” Ledder said. “as soon as the truck pulled up, red or whatever in color, the geese just moved off the lawn. So I thought, maybe they should just park a truck there.”

So the effort to improve the habitat and interaction with the birds and prevent overpopulation has had mixed success, the Audubon official said.

“But being in the city, with so much human impact – be it the Cascade Festival of Music, the fireworks going off, there being a lot more kayakers than there used to be – it’s amazing they are surviving and doing as well as they do.”

Don’t feed the ducks – well, too much, anyway

“I think a lot of it is, people live down there on the river,” Ledder said. While there have been efforts to keep people from feeding the ducks and geese, it’s a tradition that’s hard to stop – and one Ledder isn’t sure is as harmful as some bird-lovers might fear.

“We found some feeding with swans is helpful,” he said. “There’s a good mix you can feed them, that helps with shell development.”

But what of the old-fashioned, long-time tradition of bread cast out to ducks by young and old? Even Ledder admitted that, shortly after “don’t feed the ducks” signs went up, some friends came to town and had a request – so they bought some bread, went down to the park and, well, were something of wildlife scofflaws for a time.

“I don’t think it does them a lot of harm,” he said, but he added, “Old, moldy bread is not healthy for us or birds.”

Smile, you’re on candid camera: Video security leads to fast burglary arrests

A first-class video security system at a second-hand sports equipment store on Greenwood Avenue allegedly caught two burglars in the act early Tuesday, leading to their arrest a short time later, officers said.

Shortly after 3 a.m., officers responded to an alarm at Second Season Sports, 67 NW Greenwood, said Lt. Kevin Sawyer. Upon arrival, the officers found the business had been broken into and that it appeared as though whoever did that had been in the store.

Officers initially contacted two men, identified as William Shelton Hughes, 35, of Bend, and Kevin Douglas Terry, a transient who turned 39 Monday, within a block of the store, Sawyer said.

They weren’t arrested then, but the 24-hour video surveillance system allegedly caught the pair on tape, in the act of committing the crime, Sawyer said. Between that and the alarm system, which alerted both police and the business owner, the arrests didn’t take long to accomplish, Sawyer said.

Hughes was booked into the Deschutes County Jail on second-degree charges of burglary, theft and criminal mischief, pending a court appearance Wednesday, jail officials said.

Terry was held on a second-degree burglary charge, as well as five felony parole violation warrants out of Klamath County, two of which had no-bail detainers attached to them.

La Pine trailer explodes into flames, but ‘defensible space’ spares neighbors

La PINE – A mobile home exploded in flames Monday evening, with a blast that rattled windows a mile away and sparked a blaze that spread to several nearby trees. But the land owner had created defensible space that helped firefighters keep the intense fire from reaching neighboring homes, yards and more trees, officials said.

A next-door neighbor called authorities shortly after 5 p.m., and La Pine Rural Fire District Chief Jim Court said, “When we got toned out, I looked out the window and could see the black column” rising straight up into the sky. The first of about 35 firefighters called out on the blaze arrived within five minutes, only to find the 14-foot-wide mobile home already was fully engulfed in flames.

The neighbor “heard a loud `poof,’ and looked over just in time to see all the windows blow out and flames coming in all directions,” Court said Tuesday.

Alan Foss, who lived with Iris Potter in the mobile home at 52240 Stearns Road, south of Burgess Road, said he had left home a half-hour before the fire broke out. Foss told officials the place belonged to his mother, who lives in California.

The single-wide, older mobile home had a “snow roof,” front porch, attached structure and detached garage. Court said the fire destroyed a car, blistered paint on a truck and melted plastic on a motor home.

“It was very intense, a very big fire,” the fire chief said, destroying about a half-dozen lodgepole pine trees and scorching a roughly equal number. “There were neighbors a mile away who said their windows rattled.

La Pine Fire Marshal Jim Gustafson on Tuesday pegged the losses at $40,000 to $45,000. “It is believed that unusually large amounts of propane cylinders and liquid accelerants in the mobile home contributed to the rapid flame spread,” the fire marshal said in a news release, adding that the State Fire Marshal’s Office was continuing to investigate the cause of the blaze.

There were no injuries.

Brush cleared, trees well spaced gave firefighters aid in their task

“We give credit to the people living there for not starting” what could have been a destructive wildfire, Court said. “There was no bitterbrush on the property and the trees were spaced well apart. A few trees `crowned,’ with flames leaping to the top, but they were spaced far enough apart that it didn’t spread to other trees that way.”

“For that property, they had done their defeinsible space. The property looked pretty nice,” the chief said. “There was a lot of stuff on it, but it was well landscaped, and that’s what kept it from getting into neighbors’ yards, who had no defensible space.”

Fire crews called out included a half-dozen Sunriver firefighters who kept a neighboring home wet and pushed the fire back onto the original property, Court said. The Oregon Department of Forestry and a U.S. Forest Service crew from Crescent also were called out due to the threat of the fire spreading.

“Probably within 10 minutes, we had the fire contained to the structure,” Court said. “We weren’t going to go into the structure, due to the hazard. We just let it burn and focused on high-risk exposures. It was a calm afternoon until this. … At one time, when it was fully involved, we had flames going at almost a horizontal (direction) toward the house on the south side of it.

The structure was not insured, according to the resident, Court said. The American Red Cross was called in to help find shelter for the residents and for people living in the motor home on the property.

Ex-sheriff’s deputy, accused of abuse, gains trial date – and loses job

A former Deschutes County sheriff’s patrol deputy, accused of sexually abusing a woman almost two years ago, entered not guilty pleas to the charges Monday, and an Aug. 27 trial date was set – while Sheriff Les Stiles confirmed that he has fired Kenneth Zervas, who also has moved out of the area.

“Deputy Zervas was terminated from employment by me at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office about two weeks ago,” at the conclusion of an internal investigation, Stiles told bend.com. He declined any further comment, stating, “I cannot discuss personnel matters.”

Zervas, 30, who had a shaved head at his April arraignment before Circuit Judge Michael Adler, had grown his hair back and sported a beard, but did not speak during a brief appearance Monday morning before Presiding Circuit Judge Stephen Tiktin, who revealed an apparent plea offer last month by state prosecutors to settle the case – one rejected by Zervas and his attorneys.

Zervas’s lawyer, Don Larsen, entered the not guilty pleas on his client’s behalf, on two counts of first-degree attempted sodomy and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. An indictment handed down earlier this spring alleges that Zervas attempted to engage in “deviant sexual intercourse with a woman on July 4 or 5 of 2000, while she was in a helpless state.

Larsen said his client has moved to the Willamette Valley since his dismissal by the sheriff’s office, having been placed on paid administrative leave since the charges arose earlier this year.

“His job is gone,” said Larsen, filling in for Portland lawyer Larry Blake, who will defend Zervas in a trial scheduled to take two or three days. While declining to be more specific about Zervas’s current situation, Larsen said, “He’s not working in law enforcement any more.”

Zervas and lawyer reject undisclosed plea offer

In April, Adler agreed to an unusual allowance, sought by both the prosecution and defense attorney, giving Zervas several days to post the $5,000, 10 percent security on his $50,000 bail, due to the potential security risks, should he have been placed among jail inmates.

The state Department of Justice is assisting in prosecution of the case. Jennifer Martin, a senior assistant attorney general, was in Tiktin’s courtroom for Monday’s plea entry. The judge referred to a May 13 letter regarding an offer from Martin to resolve the matter, and Larsen confirmed that it was rejected. Asked by the judge if there was any counter-offer forthcoming, Larsen said, “I don’t believe there is.”

Tiktin also asked if there would need to be any hearing on pre-trial motions, but Martin assured that the only ones she might offer are fairly routine, such as excluding potential witnesses from the courtroom. The prosecutor also said “the victim will be testifying” at trial.

The judge initially proposed a late-July trial date before Circuit Judge Alta Brady, but Larsen said that Blake, Zervas’s main attorney, wouldn’t be available then. The next proposed date, of Aug. 21, wouldn’t work because one of the prosecution’s witnesses wouldn’t be available. That led to the Aug. 27 date. Zervas then spoke for the one and only time, giving the court his new, Portland-area address.

Neither Larsen nor Martin would provide any details on the rejected plea offer, and Blake was not available for immediate comment. But the state prosecutor said, “I see no reason (the case) won’t go to trial” as scheduled.

If convicted on a single charge of first-degree sex abuse, Zervas would face a mandatory 6 ½ years in prison.

Paterno manslaughter plea delayed again, to July 1

A few minutes before Zervas’s hearing, in the typical rapid-fire, alphabetical fashion of a packed Monday morning court docket, Tiktin granted Anthony Lorenzo Paterno, 23, and his lawyer another 3-week delay in entering a plea to second-degree manslaughter charge in the March 24 shooting death of a friend, Blair Cory McCurdy, of Bend, at Paterno’s southeast Bend triplex.

Police said McCurdy was accidentally shot in the head with a handgun, but District Attorney Mike Dugan has termed the shooting reckless, not accidental. Paterno also is accused of methamphetamine possession, delivery and manufacture.

McCurdy’s attorney, Aron Yarmo, said they still were awaiting the results of a forensic expert’s evaluation of the gun involved in the shooting. Yarmo told the judge that he hopes the expert will be able to examine the gun this week, but a report could take another two or three weeks.

After the previous delay, last month, Yarmo said his client didn’t deny holding the gun, but said “nobody knows how or why (the gun) went off,” adding that it “acted in an unpredictable way.” Dugan has noted that the manslaughter charge is a Measure 11 offense that carries a minimum 75-month sentence upon conviction, with no early release allowed.

Drunk driving suspect flees after crash; sheriff’s K9s get their man

A suspected drunk driver refused to pull over on Highway 20 east of Bend Sunday night, prompting a short chase before his pickup truck smashed into a fence. The driver then fled on foot, prompting an extensive search, before Deschutes County sheriff’s K-9 units apprehended the suspect, deputies said.

Around 8:45 p.m., a deputy working a special DUII overtime shift tried to pull over the driver of a 1978 pickup truck on the highway near Hamby Road, said Deputy Rhett Hemphill.

The driver, later identified as Ronald Dean Wisler, 45, of Bend, allegedly failed to yield to the patrol car’s overhead lights, and a brief pursuit ensued, eastbound on Highway 20, until the driver wrecked his pickup into a fence on Torkelson Road near the highway.

Wisler then allegedly fled the scene on foot, and sheriff’s deputies, aided by Oregon State Police, conducted an extensive search of the area.

Wisler was lodged in the Deschutes County Jail, facing charges of drunken and reckless driving, hit and run, attempt to elude, failure to perform the duties of a driver in an accident – and driving without a license. He remained in the jail Monday morning, with bail set at $15,000.