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Smith family plans memorial Saturday for plane crash victims

The Steve and Terri Smith family and the Baker City LDS Church have scheduled a community memorial and reception on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. at the LDS Church on Hughes Lane in Baker City.

The Smith family lost five of their family members in an airplane crash in Valley County, Idaho, as they were traveling from a Thanksgiving visit in Baker City. 

The Smiths would like to show their appreciation to the community for their support of the family during the December search and recovery of the airplane and occupants.

 A brief memorial of the victims will be followed by a community gathering with refreshments and the opportunity for the Smith family to thank Baker County residents.

 For more information contact Sel Mastrude, 541-403-0366. 


YHEC sign-ups scheduled Feb. 18

Sign-ups for the Baker City National Rifle Association-sponsored Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) will begin at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Powder River Sportsmen’s Club meeting room at Eighth and Broadway streets.

The registration fee is $25. Prospective students must already have been through a state-mandated hunter safety program or be already enrolled in one.

For more information, call Buck Buckner at 541-523-6108.


Avalanche risk is minimal at area ski resorts

The potential danger of an avalanche resonated tragically last week after two skiers died in the rugged back country of the Wallowa Mountains near Cornucopia.

One area where the avalanche danger may seem obvious is the steep slopes of regional ski resorts. Yet for many of the most popular winter recreation destinations in the region the avalanche danger is either minimal or nonexistent.

Some ski resorts — such as Bogus Basin near Boise — do not boast the kind of terrain that typically helps spawn avalanches while other winter getaways spend a great deal of time alleviating the potential threat.

“It is just not an issue with us,” Bogus Basin General Manager Alan Moore said.

The Boise-area resort — which along with ski runs also showcases Nordic trails and condominiums — is fortunate because of the type of terrain and the climate around it.

“We just don’t have the kind of slopes and snow that lead us to have avalanches,” Moore said. 

“I’ve been here 13 years and I know there haven’t been any avalanches.”

At Anthony Lakes, the staff expend a lot of time ensuring the groomed areas of the resort are as safe as possible, marketing director Chelsea McLagan said.

“Our ski patrol goes out early and patrols the entire mountain and skies every run to ensure safety,” McLagan said. “There is no history of slide here.”


Guides from ski touring company recover avalanche victims' bodies

Guides from Wallowa Alpine Huts of Joseph have recovered the bodies of Jake Merrill, 23, of Bellingham, Wash., and Shane Coulter, 30, of Seattle, the two backcountry skiers killed in an avalanche Tuesday in the southern Wallowa Mountains northwest of Halfway.

Both men's bodies were taken to Gray's West & Co. Pioneer Chapel in Baker City, according to a press release from the Baker County Sheriff's Office.

Coulter and five other clients of Wallowa Alpine Huts were on a multi-day skiing tour when the avalanche struck.

Merrill was one of the two guides for the Joseph company.


Bill could limit city's ability to ban medical marijuana dispensaries

By Pat Caldwell

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A legislative edict originally intended to allow Oregon cities and counties to ban medical marijuana dispensaries cleared the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday in Salem.

Yet Senate Bill 1531 departed the Judiciary Committee with fewer teeth and a softer bark than the version first sponsored by Sens. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) and Rod Monroe (D-Portland). That early version gave cities and counties the power to “regulate or restrict” the operations of a medical marijuana dispensaries.


Perfectly Polished

Volunteers Paint Fingernails At Settlers Park

Photo by Lisa Britton Danielle Collard, left, shares a laugh with Marilyn Cummings as she puts a new layer of polish on Marilyn’s nails. Collard and her mother-in-law, Mary, are part of a group of volunteers who paint nails every Monday night at Settlers Park.

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

What with the chatter, giggles and scent of nail polish remover, you’d think a slumber party was in full swing at Settlers Park every Monday night.

Except for the absence of pillow fights.

Every Monday evening volunteers arrive at Settlers Park to paint the nails of the residents at this assisted living home in west Baker City.


‘We risked 17 to save 6’

Baker County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue team leader describes effort to rescue survivors of deadly avalanche

By Chris Collins

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The effort to bring two injured backcountry skiers out of the Wallowa Mountains Wednesday was hampered by steep terrain, deep snow and ever-changing weather.

Chris Galiszewski, coordinator of the Baker County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team, said safety was the emphasis throughout the rescue.

“We risked 17 people to save six,” he said of the group that made its way on skis, snowmobiles and snowshoes into the mountains near Little Eagle Meadows, about 10 miles northwest of Halfway. “We did it as safely as we could. Risk management was very much on our minds."


National Weather Service issues flood watch for Baker County

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for Baker County.

The watch, which means there is the potential for local flooding but none has been reported, is in effect through Saturday afternoon.

A forecast for heavy rain over the next two days, combined with melting snow and frozen ground that can't absorb all the moisture, could result in minor flooding of creeks, ditches and areas with poor drainage, according to the National Weather Service.

More information is available online at http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/boi


Avalanche victims' names released

Jake Merrill, 23, of Bellingham, Wash., and Shane Coulter, 30, of Seattle, are the two backcountry skiers who were killed by an avalanche Tuesday in the southern Wallowa Mountains of Baker County.
Merrill was a guide for Wallowa Alpine Huts of Joseph, and Coulter one of six clients taking a multi-day ski trip with the outfitting company.
The Baker County Sheriff's Office included the victims' names in a press release this afternoon.
The two injured skiers who were rescued on Wednesday evening are Bruno Bachinger, 40, of Snohomish, Wash., and Suzan Polizzi, 60, of Wenatchee, Wash. Both were flown by helicopter to St. Mary's Trauma Unit in Walla Walla, Wash. 
Three skiers who were not hurt are Raymon Pinney, 32, Allan Ponio, 36, and Quinton Dowling, 26, all of Seattle.
The eighth member of the group, Chris Edwards-Hill of Enterprise, also a guide for Wallowa Alpine Huts, was not hurt.

Roadmaster warns travelers of rocks, high water

Photo by Lisa Britton/Crews had to remove ice from Settlers Slough near 18th Street in Baker City to prevent flooding

Baker County Roadmaster Jeff Smith warns drivers to watch for falling rocks and high water on local roads, especially the gravel Burnt River Canyon Road between Bridgeport and Durkee and the southern end of the Snake River Road near Huntington.

"We're having a heck of a time with rocks popping off," Smith said this morning. "That's the biggest issue we have right now."

No roads were closed this morning, he said.

At 10 a.m. he had just dispatched a crew to Deems Loop Road in Sumpter Valley, where a large-diameter culvert had plugged, causing water to flow across the road.

The combination of a rapid thaw and rain dislodges rocks from road cutbanks.

The same conditions have also clogged some local streams and ditches with foot-thick chunks of ice, said Jeff Colton, manager of the Baker Valley Irrigation District.

Colton said he, along with Baker City Public Works Department crews and a local farmer, worked from about 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to pull ice from Settlers Slough near 18th Street in west Baker City.

Tom Fisk of the city's public works department said that before the ice was removed, water had run across 18th Street and into the crawl space of a home on the west side of the street.

Fisk said city crews pumped the water out of that crawl space. 

Fisk said city crews also had to deal with a very unusual problem: frozen storm drains.

He said crews had to use the city's sewer jetter to clear clogged storm drains in an alley at Court Avenue between First and Main streets, and another on L Loop near Birch Street in northeast Baker City.

Colton said he is watching the Powder River to make sure no ice jams form. 


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