It takes a team

Dear Editor:

Thank you to Ashley Lodato for her kind words (March 22). I am humbled.

I would like to also offer a “tip of the hat” to the whole team at Methow Trails. From the mechanics and trails bosses to the guy in the control tower and everyone in between — together we are able to provide the trails, recreational opportunities, and events year after year. It is a privilege to be part of this team.

Mike Pruett, Winthrop

The Enloe follies

Dear Editor:

Capital ventures that reach the “point of diminishing returns” are always terminated because they are losing money. These are ventures that at some point require more money to sustain than they will ever produce. This point was reached in 1958 when the Enloe Dam was the decommissioned. Power generated at the Enloe Dam will cost three to four times more than power provided by the Wells Dam. Electricity is a commodity like any other. Does anyone want to pay three to four times more for rent/mortgage, groceries, gas or other commodities?

At the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) meeting on Feb. 21, 2017, a staffer stated the cost of the project could be in excess of $100 million, interest payments not included. That money could provide PUD’s 15,000-plus customers with about $6,500 worth of solar panels for every household in the district. In addition, the jobs that this would create could help lower our 7-plus percent unemployment rate.

Enloe Dam was completed in 1920 when hydroelectric power was all the rage, as were dressing funny, dancing the Lindy Hop and flagpole sitting. Nearly 100 years later some people still dress funny but we’ve developed smarter, less-obtrusive and more cost-effective ways to generate power. Even if our current commissioners were able to climb a tall flagpole and sit on it, they would be hard-pressed to spot any substantial public support for this proposal. I have not personally found one person in Okanogan County who supports the Enloe Dam Electrification Project.

Mike May, Oroville

Mission Project benefits

Dear Editor:

“Either we thin the forest or nature will do it her way” is the answer I gave to Stehekin locals as their newly arrived backcountry ranger, back in 1983. What subsequently played out in Stehekin parallels the Mission Project. Appeals by some environmentalists were to barge firewood up to Stehekin, so that no firewood would be cut up there. Luckily, the Fire Management Officer for North Cascades National Park was able to get a science-based fire and firewood plan implemented, and the barge nonsense died.

Meg Trebon and Mike Liu have likewise already implemented an excellent start at thinning in my “back yard,” up here in the Driveway Butte-Lost River area. Our local landowners encouraged this.

Fires are so foreign to most people that their responses are often simply emotional. “Save that tree” became a fantasy to “save the forest” by stopping all “commercial cutting on public lands,” to paraphrase the Sierra Club’s official position.

David Hopkins was correct in pointing out that if the Mission Project fails to be approved, the political and budgetary fallout could be disastrous. As long as tree crowns are touching, crown fires can turn into firestorms, making their own winds and weather. Firestorms will take out homes no matter how much “defensible space” surrounds them. “Defensible space” will usually only work with ground fires, and the surrounding — even somewhat distant — forest must also be thinned if survival is to be at all a possibility with crown fires.

As a former smokejumper, I agree with Robert Rivard and the Mission Project write-up in the Methow Valley News publication “Living with Fire.”

Eric Burr, Mazama

Carlberg for co-op board

Dear Editor:

We endorse Sara Carlberg for the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative board. She has the desire and energy to serve, the technical ability to analyze operations, the focus to listen to the concerns of co-op members and bring those concerns to the board, the intellectual openness to review creative solutions to co-op challenges and the communication skills to explain potential board actions to the membership. The co-op board, along with management, have worked hard over the past few years to bring credibility and stability to the organization. We firmly believe Sara will be a valuable addition as the board works to continue these fine efforts.

Mark and Karen Endresen, Winthrop

Forest Service facts

Dear Editor:

In her March 22 letter to the editor, Joanne Cooper states that the U.S. Forest Service should be “thinning the forest adjacent to homes and community infrastructure, not in the remote forest where wildfire should be allowed to burn.” That is precisely what the Forest Service has been doing! The areas where thinning is prescribed in the Mission Project are all in the Wildland Urban Interface (areas near development). Fires are allowed to burn in areas that are “remote,” i.e., wilderness. Wilderness is abundant on the Methow Valley Ranger District, as over half of the 1.3 million acres of land managed on the district is designated as wilderness. 

Ms. Cooper also states that Forest Service has no intention of altering their management practices of “fire suppression, cattle grazing and large-scale commercial logging.” This is just plain silly. Forest Service management practices have drastically changed in the last 25 years. Both the timber harvesting volume and the harvest methods are greatly different than what they were. Past harvesting methods often involved either selectively logging the larger trees in a stand or clear-cutting whole stands of trees. After logging, the once well-spaced large trees were replaced with many small trees. The combination of over-crowded stands and fire suppression has created an extreme fire risk. Timber management today mainly involves thinning small-diameter trees in overcrowded stands. The combination of thinning these stands along with prescribed fire can reduce the risk of the massive wildfires that are inevitable.

Fire suppression has also changed as fire is generally not suppressed in wilderness areas anymore. Cattle grazing practices have changed/improved over the past 25 years, but there is no space here for discussion.

Twenty-five years ago, I was opposed to many Forest Service timber harvesting practices and helped start a grass-roots organization (Forest Watch) to lobby for change. That was a good time to question timber management practices. Recent timber harvesting projects on our district have been beneficial both ecologically and, in my opinion, aesthetically. I am sympathetic to folks who don’t want logging activity near their homes, but accuracy and objectivity seem to be lacking in many of their arguments.

Dave Hopkins, Twisp

More info needed

Dear Editor:

After several months of repeated phone calls to Representative Newhouse’s staff, I finally received confirmation that he will be scheduling a constituent meeting during the April in-district work session (sometime between April 10 and April 21). This meeting will likely take place in Yakima, but all from the 4th district who want their voice heard by Newhouse should plan to attend! Meeting directly with our elected officials is the most effective way to make our voices heard and our beliefs represented in our democratic government.

Unfortunately, we have yet to receive specifics on the exact date, time and location the constituent meeting will take place. For those of us who will have a long day of travel for the event, this is quite frustrating. In the professional world, a meeting such as this would be scheduled months in advance and advertised widely. For such an important component of democracy, I would expect our representatives to extend us the same courtesy.

Representative Newhouse, please publish the time, date, and location of your April constituent meeting as soon as possible!

Brad Halm, Winthrop

Don’t electrify Enloe

Dear Editor:

The Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) advertised to hire a firm to design-build a new powerhouse on left side of Enloe Dam along the Similkameen River.

The PUD would own and operate the new powerhouse. Based upon the PUD estimated cost of construction and operation, the resulting cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) ranges from 8.8 to 10.6 cents per kWh.

The PUD application to the Project Review Committee (PRC) to use the design-build method requires a public comment process, as set forth by Washington state law.

Construction of a new powerhouse will require extensive borrowing that will more than double the annual payments on principle and interest carried by the PUD.

The PUD has a memorandum of understanding with Douglas County PUD to purchase up to 22 percent of Wells Dam Power in addition to the 8 percent we now receive. The total amount of power available in 2018 from Douglas County PUD will be 170 megawatts (MW), more than double the current average daily-load of Okanogan County, 77 MW.

The projected cost for power produced at Enloe Dam is between 8.8 and 10.6 cents per kWh. The power will be purchased from Douglas County at 3.4 cents per kWh.

The cost of energizing Enloe Dam is projected to be $39.1 million to $45.5 million, according to the PUD. Now they claim it is only $31 million.

The #DontElectrifyEnloe Campaign is asking Okanogan County citizens to contact the PRC with your opinion regarding this proposal to build the new powerhouse.

Email your comments to Ms. Talia Baker, PRC,

Or send your comments to Talia Baker, PRC, P.O. Box 41476, Olympia WA 98504-1476. Send comments prior to April 17. Thank you for standing up!

Roberta Hackett, Oroville

Commending the commissioners

Dear Editor:

I commend our county commissioners for recently taking the time to meet with the judges, administrator and staff of Superior Court and Juvenile and Family Services. I was present at the commissioners’ meeting that day, and tagged along out of curiosity. Interestingly, Judge Chris Culp noted that in 30 years he had never seen all three commissioners visit the court. 

Although the entire program was interesting and informative, Administrator Dennis Rabidou’s presentation on the Juvenile and Family Services programs was, frankly, inspiring. Turns out, in the 1990s, the state Legislature realized that continuing to build prisons so that more criminals could be incarcerated was extremely expensive and relatively ineffective in reducing crime. So, they undertook to identify evidence-based approaches to getting better results in criminal justice. The resulting non-partisan research has led to investment in programs that reduce crime and the need for building and operating new prisons — saving both lives and taxpayer dollars. The study showed that investing in programs for juvenile offenders is by far the most-effective and least-costly means of reducing future crime. 

In the county juvenile justice system this approach has translated to coordinated case management emphasizing youth accountability, public safety, restorative justice and rehabilitation. Programs involving family therapy and aggression replacement training help troubled youth get their lives back on track. Statewide, evaluation of the effectiveness of programs is ongoing. A 2013 report shows family therapy yields $18 of benefit for every $1 spent; aggression replacement training yields $37 of benefit per dollar spent. Programs that haven’t proven to be effective have been replaced.

Most striking to me that day was the obvious passion and dedication of everyone involved in helping troubled youth, and the pride they take in positive outcomes for both individuals and society. It is so encouraging to see sensible collaboration between state and local government to reduce crime, save taxpayer dollars, and give troubled kids the support they need to become productive adults. My respect and appreciation go to all the public servants involved in this great work. And kudos to the commissioners for their interest.

Gina McCoy, Winthrop

Outstanding candidate

Dear Editor:

We are so fortunate to have so many talented people in the valley who take initiative and contribute. Sometimes, it is difficult to choose when there is an election. This time it is not; I am going to vote for Sara Carlberg for the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative (OCEC) board. Sara has taken the initiative by attending the co-op board meetings, listening to members concerns and raising issues with the staff and board. She has been meeting with the co-op staff and board members and learning the co-op business. She has a strong and varied business background.

I have known Sara since she moved to the Methow Valley and joined our hiking and cross country skiing group. She finds time to enjoy the out of doors while also giving back to the valley through her work with Methow At Home, Frontier Hospice and I am sure other ways I am unaware of. Her energy around learning as much as possible about the OCEC tells me we could elect no finer candidate. She will not just hold a position. She will be an active team member.

The OCEC board deserves much appreciation for their work to bring OCEC back from “the financial precipice” of 2009. I know Sara will give 100 percent to this position. Her career-tested organizational, research and business skills, along with her commitment to the continual improvement of services for OCEC members, make her an outstanding candidate for this position.

Gay Northrup, Winthrop

Great team

Dear Editor:

As a part-time resident and a long-time reader, I wanted to comment on your recent editorial about the content of your Valley Life (and Hello!) authors. Hello! Your current line-up is the best I have ever read. Solveig Torvik could write for any national paper. She is awesome! And I now spend more time on the back page with Valley Life than I ever have. Congratulations for putting together such a strong team. I wished they all worked for my local paper in Kitsap County!

Jim McDonald, Edelweiss and Bremerton