Eastern Oregon Ranchers Convicted of Arson Resentenced to Five Years in Prison

EUGENE, Ore. – Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr., 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46, both residents of Diamond, Oregon in Harney County, were sentenced to five years in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken for arsons they committed on federal lands.

A jury sitting in Pendleton, Oregon found the Hammonds guilty of the arsons after a two-week trial in June 2012. The trial involved allegations that the Hammonds, owners of Hammond Ranches, Inc., ignited a series of fires on lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), on which the Hammonds had grazing rights leased to them for their cattle operation.

The jury convicted both of the Hammonds of using fire to destroy federal property for a 2001 arson known as the Hardie-Hammond Fire, located in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. Witnesses at trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out “Strike Anywhere” matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to “light up the whole country on fire.” One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson. The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations. After committing the arson, Steven Hammond called the BLM office in Burns, Oregon and claimed the fire was started on Hammond property to burn off invasive species and had inadvertently burned onto public lands. Dwight and Steven Hammond told one of their relatives to keep his mouth shut and that nobody needed to know about the fire.

The jury also convicted Steven Hammond of using fire to destroy federal property regarding a 2006 arson known as the Krumbo Butte Fire located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steen Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. An August lightning storm started numerous fires and a burn ban was in effect while BLM firefighters fought those fires. Despite the ban, without permission or notification to BLM, Steven Hammond started several “back fires” in an attempt save the ranch’s winter feed. The fires burned onto public land and were seen by BLM firefighters camped nearby. The firefighters took steps to ensure their safety and reported the arsons.

By law, arson on federal land carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. When the Hammonds were originally sentenced, they argued that the five-year mandatory minimum terms were unconstitutional and the trial court agreed and imposed sentences well below what the law required based upon the jury’s verdicts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, upheld the federal law, reasoning that “given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense.” The court vacated the original, unlawful sentences and ordered that the Hammonds be resentenced “in compliance with the law.” In March 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the Hammonds’ petitions for certiorari. Today, Chief Judge Aiken imposed five year prison terms on each of the Hammonds, with credit for time they already served.

“We all know the devastating effects that are caused by wildfires. Fires intentionally and illegally set on public lands, even those in a remote area, threaten property and residents and endanger firefighters called to battle the blaze” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Billy Williams.

“Congress sought to ensure that anyone who maliciously damages United States’ property by fire will serve at least 5 years in prison. These sentences are intended to be long enough to deter those like the Hammonds who disregard the law and place fire fighters and others in jeopardy.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank R Papagni, Jr., AnneMarie Sgarlata and Kelly Zusman handled the prosecution of this case.

Mirror Pond levels to drop next week for dam inspection

Bend, Ore. — PacifiCorp will lower the Mirror Pond water levels next week to facilitate another inspection of the dam.

The inspection will be conducted by Gannett Fleming, an engineering firm from Phoenix, for the Bend Parks and Recreation District as part of deliberations around the potential acquisition of the dam from PacifiCorp to maintain Mirror Pond after the facility is no longer used to generate electricity.

The drawdown will begin Tuesday morning and will continue gradually until about midday on Friday. The pond will be allowed to refill starting Friday afternoon and should be full again by the Sunday morning. The inspection itself is scheduled to occur on Thursday and Friday. According to BPRD employee Jim Figurski, for safety and security reasons, access to the inspection will be limited to BPRD personnel, the inspectors and PacifiCorp.

Because of increased flows compared to last October when the Mirror Pond was drawn down to facilitate a PacifiCorp inspection, water levels are not expected to drop as dramatically this time, although it will likely be noticeable.

As was the case during the October drawdown and refilling of Mirror Pond, PacifiCorp will monitor water quality and conduct fish surveys consistent with state regulatory requirements.

PacifiCorp inspected the dam on October 31 after a leak developed in one of the structure’s wooden panels. The inspection concluded that while the facility was safe, it would not be cost effective to rebuild the entire facility to generate power for current and future generations of customers across PacifiCorp’s six-state territory. Since then, the company and representatives of the Bend Parks and Recreation and the City of Bend have been in discussions around potentially transferring the dam to a local entity so the community can realize its vision for the future of Mirror Pond.

PacifiCorp has announced plans to install sheet pile reinforcement in front of the leaking panel. The reinforcement work is planned to take place in April, or earlier if permitting is complete and a contractor is in place. The company does not anticipate needing to lower Mirror Pond levels again for that procedure.

Potential flooding for Tumalo

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to monitor the situation regarding potential flooding along the Deschutes River in the Tumalo area. In coordination with the Deschutes Basin Watermaster, we have been assessing the potential risk of flooding that could involve homes in Tumalo. At this time, stream gauges are continuing to rise along the Deschutes River.

Due to the potential risk, we are asking those recreating on the river such as kayakers to use caution and avoid accessing the river below Mirror Pond. Hazardous river conditions could exist. We also ask that people avoid low lying areas such as river trails along the Deschutes River.

The potential for flooding exists in the Tumalo community. Residents that live along the Deschutes River in Tumalo should be prepared for a flood event. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Water Master have been contacting residents in areas of highest risk to offer information.

Preparations include:

· Move valuables to higher ground, or higher floors
· Prepare a disaster kit. For more information see: www.ready.gov
· Prepare for evacuation as necessary
· Avoid walking or driving through high water

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management is coordinating with the Deschutes Basin Watermaster and their partners to monitor and respond to this event. Deschutes County Sheriff’s Deputies and Search and Rescue Volunteers are preparing to offer assistance in the event it becomes necessary.

Bend Senior High School Lockdown Release Information

Bend Police and Emergency Responders were called to Bend Senior High School shortly after a noon 9-1-1 call that a student had allegedly committed suicide on campus. The school is in lockdown at this hour as police investigate the situation. There is no further threat to students or staff and the building is secure. A crisis team has arrived on campus and is meeting with those affected.

Staff will begin escorting students out of the building, by wing, to their vehicles, buses, and off campus – for pedestrians and bike riders – at approximately 2:35pm. Student pedestrians and drivers will exit campus via the 6th Street and Clay campus exit. Parents can pick up their students at the Presbyterian Church on 9th Street. Campus will remain closed to visitors through the weekend.

Students, staff or community members who would like to meet with counselors, at no cost, can drop in to Bear Creek Elementary School between 9am – 2pm tomorrow.

All evening activities are canceled at Bend Senior High.

Our hearts go out to the students, staff and our community at Bend Senior High School.

Normally, the District and law enforcement would not share public information regarding a suicide, but due to the circumstances, the District felt it important to share this sad information with families and the community.

PacifiCorp Looking to Divest the Mirror Pond Dam

BEND, Ore. — PacifiCorp has determined that it would not be cost-effective for its customers to make the investments needed to continue long-term operations at the company’s Bend hydroelectric generating project.

The decision follows a thorough engineering inspection of the project dam after a leak in the dam developed in early October, the third such leak in approximately five years, which also prompted a broader analysis of the facility.

“First and foremost, the inspection confirmed what we expected; the dam remains safe and is in overall good condition for a 100-year old facility, but further investment would be required for the hydro project to operate long term,” said Mark Tallman, PacifiCorp’s vice president for renewable resources.

“After a century of producing clean, emission-free and affordable power for customers, it’s time to divest or retire our Bend hydroelectric plant,” Tallman said. “It simply isn’t cost-effective or in the best interests of all our customers throughout six western states for PacifiCorp to rebuild the facility and generate power to serve current and future generations of customers.”

The project is located near the Newport Avenue Bridge. In addition to diverting water for the company’s hydroelectric project, the dam creates Mirror Pond on a section of the Deschutes River in downtown Bend. The Bend community has been engaged in extensive public discussions of its desires and priorities for the future of Mirror Pond.

“We’ve known and have been candid with the community that the facility was reaching the end of its useful life as a generating facility for PacifiCorp’s customers. That time is now here, accelerated by the recent new leak. This converges with public conversations and comparison of options the public has participated in,” said Pat Egan, PacifiCorp’s vice president for customer and community affairs.

The company will pursue discussions with the Bend Parks and Recreation District and the City of Bend to determine if an agreement can be reached that places the dam under local control in a way that PacifiCorp can also demonstrate to regulators that the outcome is in the best interest of PacifiCorp’s customers.

“The company wants to be supportive of community efforts to preserve its vision for the future of Mirror Pond as long as PacifiCorp can also meet its regulatory obligations,” said Egan. “Among the various options we must responsibly explore, we are hopeful an agreement can be reached that allows this to happen and also protects the interest of our rate-paying customers in Bend and throughout our multi-state service area.”

Ashton Eaton Field coming to Mountain View High

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Bend La Pine School Board voted unanimously tonight to name Mountain View High’s track after graduate and Olympic gold medalist, Ashton Eaton.

MVHS Principal Katie Legace said, “Ashton has not forgotten his hometown and his roots and has continued to find ways to give back to his community.

His high school athletic achievements were significant on the football field and track at MVHS. However, teachers remember him more for his character, attitude, and citizenship than his athletic prowess.

I believe this is an appropriate way of recognizing one of our great graduates.”

Mirror Pond Survey Results

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Q1 Where do you live?

14.92% – Old Bend Neighborhood
17.63% – River West Neighborhood
53.90% – Other Bend Neighborhood
13.56% – I don’t live in Bend

Q2 Did you vote in the general election in November?

Yes – 88.14%
No – 11.86%

Q3 Please tell us which option below best describes how often you visit Mirror Pond or one of the adjacent park:

Never – 1.42%
A few times a year – 20.21%
About once a month – 20.92%
2 or 3 times a month – 22.70%
About once a week – 16.31%
2 or 3 times a week – 11.35%
Daily – 7.09%

Q4 Please tell us how you interact with Mirror Pond:

Floating – 42.86%
Boating – 30.83%
Stand Up Paddle – 14.29%
Swimming – 6.39%
Fishing – 5.64%
Nature watching – 68.80%
Scenic background for park activities – 81.20%

Q5 What do you think should happen with Mirror Pond?

62.26% – The dam should be removed and the river returned to its natural channel.
35.47% – The dam should be retained and a solution found for the sedimentation problem.
2.26% – The dam should be retained and the pond should be allowed to turn into a wetland.

Q6 If the dam is retained, which of these would you like to see?

50.19% – The pond dredged and its shape kept the same as it is now
26.24% – Change the shape of the river channel and pond, creating rapids.
14.45% – Let the pond fill in and turn to wetlands.
47.53% – Add fish passage and fish screens to the dam.
38.40% – Add people passage or river play area to dam.

Q7 If the dam is removed, what would you like to see happen to the land no longer submerged under Mirror Pond?

12.31% – It remain in the hands of its current owners. (McKay family?, etc.)
15.77% – It becomes the property of the adjacent land owners, maintaining their river frontage.
71.92% – It becomes public property and remains in public use.

Q8 Which would you prefer?

44.32% – Mirror Pond to retain its current charm and iconic stature.
55.68% – Boat or float the Deschutes River from above the Bill Healy Bridge to below the First Street Rapids.

La Pine-area man held on murder charge

Lawrence Loeffler, 86, was arrested after he called police to say he'd killed his wife, Betty, 83
Lawrence Loeffler, 86, was arrested after he called police to say he’d killed his wife, Betty, 83

A La Pine-area man was arrested Monday morning on charges he murdered his wife after he called police to report he shot her at their home during a domestic dispute, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said.

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Deputies found Betty Loeffler dead on the back porch of the Loeffler home on Old Mill Rd. in La Pine, from an apparent gunshot wound.

Sheriff Captain Tim Edwards identified the victim as Betty Loeffler, 83, and her husband as Lawrence Hubert Loeffler, 86.

Investigation by Sheriff’s Office Detectives revealed the incident was a domestic dispute. Lawrence Loeffler was taken into custody at the scene.

Fish Restoration and Enhancement Board to meet in Salem

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fish Restoration and Enhancement Board will meet on Thursday, Jan. 31 and Friday, Feb. 1 in Salem.

On Thursday, the Board will meet from 1-5 p.m. at the ODFW Headquarters building at 3406 Cherry Ave. NE. The day’s agenda includes conversations with representatives of several ODFW program areas to discuss more efficient funding of ODFW-sponsored projects.

The meeting will reconvene on Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Best Western Mill Creek Inn3125 Ryan Dr. SEin Salem.  The Board will consider several project proposals for funding.

Meetings on both days are open to the public, and there will be an opportunity for public comment.

Reasonable accommodations will be provided as needed for individuals requesting assistive hearing devices, sign language interpreters or large-print materials. Individuals needing these types of accommodations may call the Information and Education Division at 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6002 at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

Created by the Oregon Legislature in 1989, the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program is funded by a surcharge on sport and commercial fishing licenses and commercial poundage fees. The program’s seven-member citizen board reviews fish restoration and enhancement project proposals and makes funding recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

For more information on the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program, or to view information regarding current R&E Program applications, visit www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/RE.