Albany Democrat-Herald from Albany, Oregon on February 24, 1999 · 1
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Albany Democrat-Herald from Albany, Oregon · 1

Albany, Oregon
Issue Date:
Wednesday, February 24, 1999
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, . , 1 !JU 1 Vu :'i I T i Of I..'''-' I U'KAP.Y I'LL: ... '' "(:v 'fr:: : f "V:- iJ - "Kl Y - . 7H'i - ,rt, 1 L" Flash flood warning puzzles mid-valley television viewers A "flash flood" warning broadcast on the TCI cable system in the mid-valley left viewers puzzled Tuesday night. The warning interrupted regular programs several times. It referred viewers to Channel 4 for details, but there were none on that channel. Dan Keeton. warning program meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, explained that broadcast and cable systems have had to install equipment that picks up and passes on NOAA Weather radio warnings automatically. The NOAA warnings are digi r Auocidtd Prm The bow of the New Carissa looms behind workers on the beach at Coos Bay as they move a cable next to the towing hawser. Inquiry examines captain's actions BY WILLIAM MCCALL Associated Press Writer PORTLAND (AP) - Investigative records about the grounding of . the New Carissa indicate that the : crew realized the anchored ship was drifting toward shore only an hour before the vessel hit the beach. With the ship anchored only 1 12 miles offshore and a furious storm kicking up, there was little time to act on the morning of Feb. 4 as crews scrambled to raise the dragging anchor. "Since the wind was so strong and the swells were too big, it took time to fully heave up the anchor, and the vessel was slowly dragged into the shallow water," the captain, Benjamin M. Morgado, later reported to the ship's operating company in Tokyo. After the crew spent 50 minutes trying to raise the anchor, the ship went aground about 8:28 a.m. Fuel GOP lawmakers propose state gas tax increase; Demos critical : SALEM (AP) - The Legislature's Republican leaders are proposing a road funding plan including a 4-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase that Democrats immediately assailed as inadequate. T The plan by Senate President Brady Adams and House Speaker Lynn Snodgrass, unveiled Tuesday, is smaller than the 6ent-per gallon gas tax boost advanced by Associated Oregon Industries, the state's largest business lobby. Adams said AOI backs the scaled-down plan as do city and county organizations. But the top Democrat in the House called the Republicans' plan a "two-year approach to a 20-year problem." "It's like their Band-aid approach to school funding," said House Minority Leader Kitty Piercy of Eugene. "It is time to step up to the table in a bipartisan fashion and do long-term planning for Oregon." Piercy was a referring to a provision in the GOP plan that would end the gas tax increase after two years unless the 2001 Legislature extended it. Adams said that provision is designed to make sure the Oregon Department of Transportation "has done the things we asked them to do." tally encoded, and only tornado, tsunami and flash flood warnings are supposed to interrupt regular programs. Keeton said the "flash" part of the warning Tuesday was in error. The warning was only for regular flooding on the Luckia-mute, Clackamas and Tualatin rivers. Laura Bewley of TCI in Cor-vallis said the company was checking today why the flood information did not show up on Channel 4. It was the first time the warning equipment was used. oil began' leaking from the ship four days later, and an estimated ,70,000 gallons i has spilled into the ocean and onto Oregon's beaches. r The details emerged Tuesday on the first day of a Coast Benjamin Morgado Guard inquiry into the grounding, which is determine the cause of the grounding and whether the Filipino captain tried to anchor the 639-foot ship too close to shore. ! Records submitted into evidence include a note of protest that Morgado wrote hours after the wreck, claiming he had "done whatever was expected of a master mariner to prevent, minimize or otherwise save the vessel." ' Adams and other Republicans want to require ODOT to come up with various efficiencies and considerable savings as part of the gas tax plan. The gas tax proposal was pared to 4 cents in part to avoid a citizen referendum effort to put the measure on the ballot and have it possibly fail. But Bill Sizemore, Portland's leading anti-tax crusader, said it's possible his group still might lead a signature drive to force a statewide vote on the 4-cent increase. The gas tax and license fee increases would take effect next Jan. 1 and raise an estimated $159 million in the 1999-2001 budget period. The package also would replace the weight-mile tax, disliked by many truckers, with a diesel fuel tax. That provision would be designed not to raise additional money. The plan requires the agency to achieve $63 million in efficiencies plus other savings to help bolster funds for highway work. The aim is to maintain the current status of roads with 77 percent in fair or better condition and one-third of new construction needs addressed. Pf! f. V r- K . S iU BY CATHY INGALLS Albany Democrat-Herald The mid-valley is coming close to breaking a rainfall record that has stood for 110 years. So much rain has pelted the area since Oct. 1, the beginning of the weather year, that the rainfall total is the second highest amount recorded since 1889. So far, 46.63 inches of rain has fallen in the area, with a normal for this period of 28.77 inches, said state climatologist George Taylor, based at Oregon State University. The most rain recorded from October through February was 52.49 inches in 1973-74. In the 24 hours ending at 8 this morning, 0.77 inches fell at Hyslop weather station off Highway 20 between Albany and Corvallis. More rain and mild temperatures are in the long term forecast. But skies could clear for a while on Thursday and Friday. The tremendous amounts of rain coupled with the biggest snow pack on record since elec 1 I- A Navy explosives team set the ship afire a week after the grounding in an effort to burn off most of the 400,000 gallons of fuel oil, but about 135,000 gallons remained aboard. Plans to tow the wreckage to sea to be sunk have been repeatedly delayed, mostly by bad weather. Testimony from the first day of the inquiry indicated that a decision to drop anchor to ride out a storm is nearly always risky. "The nature of this business is that it's not that hard to do, but when something goes wrong, the consequences can le severe," said John Betz, a former supertanker captain. Betz said it is standard procedure to anchor in shallow water to reduce the distance a vessel can drift around the anchor and ease stress on the anchor chain. "Shallower water is more favorable," said Betz, now an attorney tronic recording devices were installed 27 years ago has Taylor worried about the possibility of a major flood. "This series of big, wet, mild storms like the one we're getting right now with the high freezing levels could cause the snow in the Cascades and Coast Range to melt quickly," he said. "The resulting runoff could lead to flooding, particularly on the west side of the Cascades." Statewide the snowpack is 160 percent of the average snow depth. In the Willamette drainage area, the total is 174 percent. The total at the Santiam Junction is 205 percent. In the highest part of the Coast Range, snow totals vary between 200 and 300 percent. "And that's my other concern," Taylor said. "The snow's going to melt eventually, even if there is no flooding now. It will melt in the spring, and if there is a rapid melt, we could have significant flooding problems in a few months." The good news, he said, is that there will be ?-4 i J t , and maritime consultant. "Everybody wants to get into shallower water if they can." The anchor of the New Carissa apparently lost its grip on the sandy bottom and the ship swung broadside into winds that had reached gale force only hours before the grounding. Betz said the decision to drop anchor amounts to a judgment call based on a captain's experience. The only other choice is to steam around in circles, which increases demand on the crew and the engines, wastes fuel and creates sea traffic hazards, especially in bad weather. Other witnesses set to testify today included a Coos Bay maritime pilot, Steve Sweet, who already has told investigators he was surprised to see the New Carissa anchored in an area off-limits without a licensed pilot aboard. Towing delayed, A4 ERIC J. HANSEN The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife offers volunteers to be neighbors with nature. See People, B1. Inside 134th y.rNo. 47 Comics A7 Crossword B9 Legal Ads B9 Markets A9 Movies A3 Obituaries A9 Opinion A8 PeopleB1 River Levels A2 Sports B2 TVB4 .. Weather A10 Chack out our wb sit: http www "Fx?' t ---f - - I , i rv Grandmother fights for right to visit grandson BY LES GEHRETT Albany Democrat-Herald Liz Gatliff has a simple request: She wants to see her grandson. But the events that have separated her from the child, Dane Raymond Lee Sisson, 4, are anything but simple. Her son and Dane's father, Billy Raymond Sisson, 36, is serving a nine-year, seven-month prison sentence for assault and kidnapping stemming from a Nov. 6, 1996, incident involving his estranged wife, Victoria Sisson, 43, and the child. Gatliff, of Lebanon, doesn't condone her son's actions but feels that she has been unfairly punished. She has not seen her grandson since the criminal incident and has been working for more than a year to win visitation rights through the courts. "The first year of his life, I babysat to help them. We bonded. I couldn't love him any more if I gave birth to him," Gatliff said. But maintaining contact with Dane has always been difficult. Soon after Billy and Victoria Sisson were married in December 1993 - it was his first marriage and her fifth - he served 17 months in prison for a prior assault on a girlfriend. Not long after he was released in the spring of 1996, the couple separated and he filed for divorce. It was at this time that Gatliff began having problems getting to see Dane, She would go to the house to pick him up, only to hear one excuse after another why it wasn't possible, she said. Since the assault occurred, Gatliff said an impenetrable wall has been erected around the child. Unusual events surrounding her son's prosecution are partly to blame, she believes. Before the case went to trial, Victoria Sisson developed a relationship with and subsequently married Don Kalbach, who was working as a volunteer with the District Attorney's Victim Assistance Program and was assigned to her case. When District Attorney Jason Carlile learned of the relationship, and that members of law enforcement may have attended the wedding, he fired Kalbach and asked Benton County to provide a special prosecutor. "Finding out that he (Kalbach) had this relationship, it was clear that he could no longer be associated with this office," Carlile said, adding that the relationship violated clearly established guidelines within the Victim Assistance Program. In the end, the case didn't go to trial because Sisson accepted a plea bargain offered by the prosecutor appointed by Benton County. Glenn Packard, Billy Sisson's half-brother, thinks Victoria Sis-son's relationship with Kalbach kept his brother from getting a fair hearing and is now prolonging the visitation-rights process; - "I really feel that is a big part of why this has gone on so long. Being in that type of business, no shortage of water this summer. In Scio, City Recorder Joyce Morse and Fire Chief Larry Tucker were up several times during the night checking on Thomas Creek. After hearing about a possible flash flood, the two monitored the river in case the creek spilled over its banks. The city has a procedure in place now if the town is about to be flooded. If there is a danger, a fire siren will blow for a minimum of five minutes straight. The creek still has about 6 feet to climb before it leaves its banks, Morse said. About 350 Pacific Power customers in Millers-burg were without power from about 11 p.m. Tuesday to 7 this morning, said Dick Ebbert, the utility's Albany general manager. The outage occurred when an oak tree crashed through power lines. More weather, page A10 you have friends, you know peo-pie," K j said. i V' Before the criminal process was complete, Gatliff filed a petition in circuit court to gain visit Liz Gatliff ing rights to Dane. . The Kalbachs opposed the petition, arguing that their family's future safety depended on keeping their current residence hidden Dane Sisson from Sisson. . A hearing was held Feb. 28, 1998, before Judge Glen D. Baisinger. On June 18, 1998, the court granted Gatliff visiting rights. Those rights were also extended to Bill J. Sisson, Gatliff s former husband and Dane's grandfather. In his decision, Baisinger acknowledged Victoria Kalbach's genuine fear of her ex-husband but felt the rights of the grandparents still deserved recognition: "In this case, however, two loving grandparents have been, through no fault of their own, deprived of any relationship with their grandson. Likewise, Dane has been denied any relationship with the only grandparents he has ever known. ... He will be 12 years old when his father gets out of prison. It is simply unreasonable to completely deny visitation to these grandparents, at least for those eight years." The court established a visitation schedule and imposed conditions intended to protect the location of the Kalbachs' new home. The conditions prohibit any contact between Dane and Billy Sisson and require that the grandparents "use their best efforts not to allow Billy Sisson to learn the whereabouts of" the child or his mother. The Kalbachs have appealed the decision. Their attorney, Lorena Reynolds of the Albany Legal Aid Service of Oregon office, thinks the conditions fail to provide adequate protection. "She (Victoria Kalbach) has changed her identity and had to -leave everything in her life behind because of the actions of this man," Reynolds said. "The judge has done nothing to protect the safety of this mother. That has just been ignored." The Kalbachs now live out of state at an undisclosed location. They could not be reached for comment. No date has been set for the Oregon Court of Appeals to hear the Kalbachs' appeaL In the meantime, Gatliff is still waiting to see Dane. "I can't even imagine what he looks like. He won't even know me. The longer they wait, the memories go away - you have to start over," Gatliff said. Lii J

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