Axios Portland

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🌲 Howdy, Thursday. It's International Day of Forests.

  • Spend some time among the trees (Oregon is home to about 30 million acres of forests).

Today's weather: Showers likely. High 60, low 46.

ğŸŽ§ Sounds like: "Deeper Well" by Kacey Musgraves

Today's newsletter is 878 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Future wildfire funding remains uncertain

Firefighters respond to the Grandview Fire in 2021. Photo: Oregon Department of Forestry via Getty Images

As wildfire season approaches, the Oregon Department of Forestry faces ongoing budgetary concerns after lawmakers failed to pass any additional funding for the agency during the short legislative session.

Why it matters: Fighting wildfires is expensive and largely unpredictable. Oregon has yet to find a sustainable method for funding fire protection and suppression, even as wildfires are likely to become larger and more volatile because of climate change.

Between the lines: Wildfire costs routinely exceed ODR's budget, a problem both lawmakers and fire officials have cited in seeking a remedy.

  • When that happens, fire agencies are allowed to allocate funds from different areas within their budgets or apply for emergency assistance from the state and federal governments.
  • In 2021, $220 million of the Oregon general fund went to filling the gaps in the fire budget after 1,000 wildfires devastated large swaths of the state.

Driving the news: A handful of bills meant to address ODF's funding shortfalls by finding new sources of revenue failed in the Legislature earlier this month.

  • Democratic lawmakers proposed two somewhat opposing ballot measures that died in Senate and House committees.

Zoom in: One bill recommended raising property taxes for Oregon homeowners to fund fire protection, and the other measure would've reintroduced a severance tax on timber harvests similar to what is done in Washington state.

  • A separate proposal, backed by Gov. Tina Kotek, would've adjusted the state's current timber harvest tax for inflation, and reduced fees paid by timber landowners for fire protection.

Zoom out: While ODF requested $232 million for fire protection through 2025, the Legislature only allocated $196 million, according to spokesperson Joy Krawczyk, slightly less than the agency's previous biennium budget of $198 million.

The latest: Lawmakers have instructed the fire agency to work with the office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal to find sustainable funding methods ahead of the 2025 legislative session when a new two-year budget will be adopted.

  • Right now both agencies only have $87 million to work with for the next two seasons, per the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

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2. 🔌 The cost of charging EVs in Oregon

Average EV charging station prices, January 2024
Data: Stable Auto; Note: Does not include Tesla charging stations; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Oregon is average when it comes to the price of charging an electric vehicle, but maybe not for long.

Why it matters: The push toward electric vehicles means Portlanders need to keep their eye on electricity prices if costly electric cars are to keep their cheap fuel advantage.

Between the lines: The city has a goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 and Oregon will ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

Driving the news: The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality just announced that its Clean Vehicle Rebate program will reopen from April 3 to June 3.

  • However, Portland General Electric raised residential rates by 18% in January and has proposed another 7.4% increase for 2025.

By the numbers: It costs an average of $0.43 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to charge an electric car at a public charging station in Oregon, writes Axios' Alan Neuhauser.

  • The national average is $0.45 per kWh.

Context: A typical EV with 300 miles of range usually takes about 75-100 kWh to go from empty to full, according to Stable Auto, an EV charger software developer.

  • That's like paying $50 for a tank of gas in the more expensive states such as Arizona.

The big picture: Charging an electric vehicle costs three times as much at a public charging site in West Virginia than in Nebraska — a gap that suggests EV charging companies are still figuring out how to price a top-off.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that fast-charging an EV's battery to full in a state like Arizona may cost as much as $50 (not $5).

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3. Rose City Rundown

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

💾 The Biden administration awarded Intel $8.5 billion in federal grants to help build new facilities across the country and expand its foothold in Oregon's semiconductor industry. (Axios)

🤯 A family in St. Johns has yet to figure out why they received a $17,000 water bill from the city even after multiple plumber visits failed to find a leak. (The Oregonian)

🐟 Over 160,000 rainbow trout from hatcheries in Elk River, Rock Creek and Klamath Falls were killed after wildlife officials detected a fast-spreading parasite they'd never seen before in the water. (OPB)

⚽ The Portland Timbers signed Jonathan Rodriguez as a center striker through 2026. With a reported transfer fee of about $4.3 million, he'll also be the highest-paid player on the team. (Stumptown Footy)

4. 🪠 Art Snack: Anna Von Mertens, emoji queen

"100 Emojis" by Anna Von Mertens is in Portland through April 27. Photo: Courtesy of the Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Anna Von Mertens draws emojis in colored pencil on black paper. She was surprised at how detailed they are, blown up on a phone: The toilet plunger is glossy, and the paper clip has a metallic sheen.

The latest: Her work is on display at Elizabeth Leach Gallery through April 27, in two sections.

  • In "100 Emojis," Von Mertens drew emojis over and over, in patterns taken from quilting.
  • In "Remnants," Von Mertens placed jewelry on light-sensitive paper and used metallic gold and silver pencils loved by middle schoolers to craft drawings.

Zoom in: "Remnants" is meant to capture the formation of elements in exploding stars.

Between the lines: Both series were inspired by Von Mertens' middle-school-aged daughter, who loves her phone and colored pens.

If you go: Tell us which series you're most drawn to.

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🪐 Meira is reveling in her Saturn return.

☕ Joseph is in search of the $1.50 cup of coffee in Portland.

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Steven Patrick and Anjelica Tan.