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Wallowa Co. investigation continues in baby’s death

ENTERPRISE — Rumors are running rampant in Wallowa County about the identity of the mother of the newborn baby found dead near Minam State Park Monday, but officials are remaining mum.

Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen said that he can neither confirm nor deny a rumor that the mother is a 21- year-old woman who lives in La Grande but has ties to Wallowa County.


Wallowa-Whitman National Forest preparing to start prescribed burning

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest will begin spring prescribed burning as snow melts and warmer, drier weather arrives.

Forest workers light prescribed fires to accomplish a variety of goals, including:

• Reduce dead and down fuels

• Selectively thin understory trees in dense forest stands

• Stimulate fire-resistant plant species

• Enhance forage and browse

• Reduce the risk of large stand-replacement fires

• Restore fire, under controlled conditions, to areas where natural fires happened often in centuries past

Prescribed burns can range from a few acres to several hundred acres.

In most areas, prescribed burning is the last of a series of treatments that include logging and cutting of trees too small to be sold to mills.


School, police team to arrest fugitive on N.C. warrant

A 19-year-old man is in custody today on a nationwide warrant charging him with statutory rape in North Carolina after Baker High School officials became suspicious when he attempted to register for classes.

Baker City Police arrested Brenton Lynch of Spring Lake, N.C., at 2:30 p.m. Thursday as he was walking at First and Madison streets, Sgt. Kirk McCormick said today.


School, police team to arrest fugitive on N.C. warrant

A 19-year-old man is in custody today on a nationwide warrant charging him with statutory rape in North Carolina after Baker High School officials became suspicious when he attempted to register for classes.

Baker City Police arrested Brenton Lynch of Spring Lake, N.C., at 2:30 p.m. Thursday as he was walking at First and Madison streets, Sgt. Kirk McCormick said today.


Kiwanis carnival Saturday

The annual carnival of the Baker City Kiwanis Club happens from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at South Baker Elementary, at Third and Grace streets.

This event is a fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club and K-Kids, a Kiwanis-sponsored service club for sixth-graders.


A plea to the pregnant

Statistic showing 30 percent of pregnant women in Baker County smoked in 2007 prompts medical student to start a public awareness campaign about the dangers

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Jennifer Lint reviews information gathered during her research into health risks associated with pregnant women who smoke. She is a third-year medical student at OHSU. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
Jennifer Lint was perusing health statistics for Baker County when she found the ideal subject for her research project.

“One of the most staggering statistics I found was women who smoked during pregnancy,” she said.

Lint is a third-year medical student at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland, and this week she finishes her four-week rural rotation at Eastern Oregon Medical Associates in Baker City.

Part of that rotation is to design a project focused on the community.

In those health statistics she found that, in 2007, Baker County’s rate of pregnant smokers was 30 percent, as opposed to 12 percent for Oregon. The county figure is a little lower for 2009 — 25 percent according to the DHS Tobacco Fact Sheet — but Lint still saw it as a huge public health issue.


Baker anglers find baby’s body at Minam

Three Baker City residents discovered the dead body of a newborn baby Monday beside a dirt road near Minam State Park as they headed home after a day of fishing.

Mitch Johnson, 48, and his brother, Scott Johnson, 43, had taken a day off from their jobs at the Baker City Post Office to go steelhead fishing on the Minam River.

The brothers were accompanied by Mitch’s 12-year-old, Shakayla.

After a cold and wet day that produced no fish for dinner, the three turned toward home.

While the trio was driving out of Minam State Park Mitch spotted what appeared to be a baby lying about five yards from the road.

He said his brother had stopped a couple minutes earlier to urinate by the side of the road. They were driving away slowly, and had gone only about 20 feet, when Mitch saw the baby.

“I saw the baby out the window of the pickup just laying there,” he said this morning. “I said, ‘stop, back up.’ I knew what it was when I saw it.”

Scott Johnson, who along with his brother grew up in Baker City, said Mitch said to him: “I hope I didn’t see what I think I just saw.”

The brothers got out to get a closer look and check to see whether the baby was alive, although Mitch said it was pretty clear that the naked newborn could not have survived in the freezing temperatures.


Brownlee owners seek help from Congress, county

Landowners on Brownlee Reservoir who have been told by Idaho Power Co. that they must move mobile structures or sign leases limiting their ability to sell homes and other permanent buildings are asking the Baker County Board of Commissioners for help.

Andy Mitchell, whose family owns a cabin built in 1961 along the reservoir near Huntington, is among a group of more than 35 landowners who have formed a group and are asking county commissioners and Oregon’s congressional delegation for help.

“This is going to be bad publicity for Idaho Power and FERC,” Mitchell said.

FERC is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that is mandating Idaho Power deal with 31 instances in which a cabin or other structure was built on the property Idaho Power owns within eight feet of the reservoir’s high water line.

Of the 31 properties, 28 are on the Oregon shore.

FERC ordered Idaho Power to resolve those encroachments as part of the company’s application for a new license for its Hells Canyon Complex, which consists of Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams and their reservoirs.

In response to FERC’s order, Idaho Power has sent letters to the 31 property owners who have cabins, mobile homes or other buildings within eight feet of the reservoir’s high water line.


Judge imposes conditions on Cole

Circuit Court Judge Garry Reynolds issued an order Tuesday imposing conditions under which Brian Cole will remain out of jail until pending criminal charges are resolved.

Cole, 47, of 17507 Deer Park Loop, a former chairman of the Baker County Commission, has been charged with two counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and four counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a 17-year-old girl. All six of the Class A misdemeanors involve the same girl.

During a pretrial conference Monday at the Baker County Courthouse, the state asked Reynolds to impose release conditions for Cole, who was first cited and released on one count of furnishing alcohol to a minor on Oct. 31. The other charges were filed on Feb. 12 as the result of further investigation.

Cole has not been jailed on any of the charges.

In a letter filed in Circuit Court Feb. 16, Cole’s attorney, Bob Moon of Baker City, wrote that Cole has waived his right to be formally arraigned on the charges and asked the court to enter a not guilty plea and to set a trial date.


Warner, Stiff both draw one opponent in race for county commission

Dick Fleming will challenge Warner for the chairman’s seat, and Roger Kinney is seeking to replace Stiff

The two Baker County commissioners whose four-year terms end this year drew last-minute challengers in their campaign for re-election.

Well, last day anyway.

Incumbents Fred Warner Jr., a Democrat and chairman of the three-member board, and Republican Carl Stiff both filed for re-election last October.

No one had signed up to oppose either incumbent until Tuesday, which was the final day to register as a candidate.

Republican Dick Fleming of Baker City is seeking Warner’s seat, position No. 3.

Democrat Roger Kinney of Baker City will run against Stiff for position No. 2.

Fleming, 60, is a civil engineering consultant who moved to Baker City in 1999 to work as the city’s public works director.

Fleming said he decided to challenge Warner in part because he believes the county could strengthen its political position, relative to the federal government, by taking advantage of “coordinating agency” status.


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