By Marcy Stamper
Recovery from the summer’s fires and floods—and being better prepared for future natural disasters—is a long-term project demanding long-term planning. The valley’s own group, Methow Valley Long-Term Recovery, has been launched, with Hank Cramer at the helm as executive director, and office space on Third Avenue in Twisp donated by The Cove.
The group grew out of meetings between existing social-service agencies, emergency responders, faith groups and concerned citizens who responded just days into the wildfires. They began by addressing immediate needs for emergency supplies and housing, and have now taken the next step as an organization that will guide recovery over the next year or two.
“The most pressing concern is housing,” said Cramer. In the Methow Valley School District, three dozen households have been displaced by the fire or mudslides, and only half had insurance, he said.
MVLTR’s housing committee is already researching options so that everyone has adequate housing by winter. The committee has been investigating possible solutions including rentals of vacation homes and motels with kitchenettes, said Cramer. Owners of motels and vacation rentals, some of which were hard-hit by the drop in tourism connected with the fires, seem to be open to long-term rentals, he said.
“We’re looking at the gamut while permanent housing is being built. I think we can absorb most of the needs,” said Cramer.
MVLTR is also focusing on public safety, including notification systems for future disasters and technological solutions to prevent another situation where all phone service and 911 lines are not functional, said Cramer.
Another focus is on infrastructure and a more-reliable power-distribution system, including back-up generators. Even if the power is out for an extended period, MVLTR wants to ensure that businesses can continue to operate or can reopen without a delay, said Cramer.
The group is also working on business continuity and economic development so that hotels and restaurants can stay open, and also to accommodate people who cannot remain in their own homes because they have no heat, for example.
Another committee is concentrating on agriculture and land restoration.
There are three long-term recovery groups in the county, organized by school district — one in the Methow Valley, one in Pateros, and one in Okanogan — although people can get assistance from the one that is most convenient.
Room One has offered to serve as MVLTR’s fiscal sponsor for at least three months, and contributions from several anonymous donors will cover administrative costs for the first year. Cramer, who has extensive professional experience in emergency and disaster management, will serve as the executive director for at least six months.
MVLTR is being guided by a steering committee composed of Cloudbird Bonin (Carlton Complex Response Network), Cindy Button (Aero Methow Rescue Service), David Gottula (Okanogan County Electric Cooperative), Soo Ing-Moody (mayor of Twisp, who is representing local governments), Adrianne Moore (Room One), Julie Muyllaert (Winthrop Chamber of Commerce), Jason Paulsen (Methow Conservancy), Glenn Schmekel (The Cove), Amy Stork (TwispWorks and the Twisp Chamber of Commerce) and Tom Venable (Methow Valley School District).
MVLTR welcomes community volunteers with expertise in fields such as architecture or planning, or those who simply want to help.
For additional information, contact Cramer at MethowLTR@gmail.com or visit 209 Third Avenue in Twisp. The office does not have a phone yet.