Thanks for the memories
Thank you for the Oct. 15 “No Bad Days” column, “The Boats of Summer.” You bring back amazing memories. I remember so well many of those races, particularly in the early 1950s, watching with my parents had friends who had a home in Mount Baker that overlooked the hydroplane race course on Lake Washington. All of the boats, the drivers’ names and the colorful histories were brought back by your sharing of your memories from your Lake Chelan visit.
I well remember waiting with bated breath for the Slo-mo-shun boats to come roaring out from under the floating bridge in their “flying starts,” with all of the thrills provided by Stan Sayres and others for the thousands that lined the course in their boats and along the shores. I also remember the gasps, followed by the silence, in seeing the Quick Silver fly into the air in 1951, and then come nose-down into the lake, taking its two drivers to their demise — one of the hazards of the sport before they had quick response teams to come to help drivers in distress. Again, thanks for bringing a fascinating era to my and your readers’ attention.
Burton E. “Bud” Bard Jr., Lake Forest Park
Get livestock out of watersheds
Today I read a note regarding $10 million in Methow Valley projects to increase flows in the Twisp and Methow Rivers. The objective is to “provide a reliable supply of water for the irrigation district and the town of Twisp.” Concern was also expressed for endangered and threatened fishes in the watershed; the area has “some of the best fish stocks and habitat for upper Columbia River salmon recovery.” The project is to accomplish a “top-to-bottom redesign of the irrigation district’s infrastructure” with more than 12 miles of pipe carrying gravity pressurized water, as well as new wells. The state and county public utility districts fund the project.
There was nothing in the article to indicate that the upper watersheds on U.S. Forest Service lands would begin to be managed for their most valuable resource — water. Cattle grazing allotments in the headwaters are now resulting in trampled springs and meadows, decreasing their water storage capacity to increase summer flows. In addition, streamside vegetation that should be providing shade and cool water temperatures, as well as food, for rearing juvenile salmon are providing economically inefficient forage for cattle.
The cattle are also consuming willow and aspen regeneration that otherwise could support the restoration of beaver colonies, the most efficient watershed managers.
Improved watershed management of Forest Service lands would provide more downstream water for fish and irrigators than the $10 million actions described. The best approach would be to combine these efforts by removing domestic livestock from upper watershed lands that provide the downstream flows. Electric ratepayers may also qsuestion their need to subsidize irrigation.
Don Johnson, Fisheries scientist emeritus, Member of the Libby Creek Watershed Association, American Falls, Idaho
Misinformation about levy
There is some misinformation out there about our levy lid lift to build a new fire station in Winthrop. The fact is that a new fire station will help us better serve people and families in the Methow Valley and provide a safer operating environment for our firefighters, more than 90 percent of whom are volunteers. If you have any questions, please visit our web site at www.okanogancountyfd6.com to learn what we are proposing. I also invite you to contact me personally at (509) 997-2981 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donald R. Waller, Fire Chief, Okanogan County Fire District 6
Wolves belong to everyone
I recently attended a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wolf management hearing to find out how far they ultimately plan to go with wolf hunting, once wolves are inevitably removed from the state’s endangered species list. It turns out the department was only there to talk about a few cases of sheep predation, and the WDFW’s subsequent collusion with aerial snipers from the federal Wildlife “Services” for some good old fashioned lethal removal.
For over 20 years I lived in a cabin well upriver from Twisp, but moved away before the whole poachers’ bloody-wolf-hide-bound-for-Canada fiasco. Since then, I’ve had numerous positive experiences with the wolves themselves. I photographed them in Alaska and Canada as well as in Montana, where I lived a mile from Yellowstone National Park, and got to know the real nature and behavior of wolves.
I’d like to think that if ranchers knew the wolves the way I do, they wouldn’t be so quick to want to kill them off again. Folks shouldn’t have to be reminded that wolves were exterminated once already in all of the lower 48 states, before the species was finally protected as endangered.
Although I personally believe that wolves belong to no one but themselves, to use game department jargon, wolves and other wildlife belong to everyone in the state equally — not just the squeakiest-wheel ranchers and hunters. Most of Washington’s residents want to see wolves allowed to live here and don’t agree with the department’s wolf “removal” measures, that no doubt include plans for future hunting seasons on them.
What’s to stop Washington from becoming just like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in implementing reckless wolf-kill programs that eventually lead to the likes of contest hunts (as in Idaho), or year-round predator seasons that ultimately result in federal re-listing (as in Wyoming)? What guarantee do we have that Washington’s wolves will be treated any differently?
Food for thought: If we don’t speak out now, the next disgusting dump you find deposited along a hiking trail well might belong to a legal wolf hunter.
Jim Robertson, Roseburg, Washington
What if …
What if Proposition 1 passes and a new Okanogan County Fire District 6 fire station for Winthrop is built at Horizon Flats? Well, for one thing the residents of downtown Winthrop will not be awakening to sirens, flashing lights and the rumble of large vehicles headed out to protect someone’s life or property. After all, the majority of District 6 fire responses are to the south, not through downtown.
But wait a minute! What happens to the old fire hall which belongs to the Town of Winthrop? What a great place for the town marshal, who now lives in a cave below Town Hall. This gives her a place for a decent office, off-street and maybe inside parking (instead of crammed in at the four-way stop), and room for other town offices and activities that are currently languishing in barns and sheds within the city limits.
Proposition 1 is definitely a plus for the Town of Winthrop!
Karen and Dick Evans, Rendezvous Road
Let’s do our part
Here’s what we’ve been told by the critics of the proposed new fire station: Nobody wants to pay higher taxes. Fire stations cost too much money. A new fire station won’t improve response times. We should have all the facts before we decide on a new station. We don’t know if we can trust the Okanogan County Fire District 6 leadership. A simple “thank you” should suffice for our volunteer firefighters.
The critics are certainly wrong on the last one. A simple “thank you” is never enough for those who put themselves in harm’s way for our benefit. This summer our volunteer firefighters were at extreme risk, especially during the Rising Eagle Road Fire. Every time they’re called out for a fire or car accident they’re in potential danger. With a new fire station, the improvement in firefighter safety and training will be huge.
The cost of the proposed fire station — a fire station we won’t outgrow overnight — is not out of line. Yes, it’s expensive, but are we really surprised by this fact? It’s a fire station, not a fruit shed. If we could build it in Moses Lake it would probably cost less. But we live all spread out in a big beautiful valley with high property values. It’s not cheap to buy land or build here.
More facts would be great. But let’s be honest. What we would really like is certainty, and we’re not going to get that. Why? Because good people can disagree about the facts and how to get things done. Many of us know one or more of the fire commissioners, and some of the other people involved. We know they’re pretty much just like us. They might make some mistakes along the way with our extra 17.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. But these people are our neighbors. They aren’t “the man” in Olympia or Washington, D.C. We can keep an eye on them.
Please, everyone, let’s pay for a new fire station. Our neighbors who are fighting fires for us are already doing their part. Let’s do ours.
Hal Scogin, Winthrop
Where’s the blame?
Looking over the Methow Valley News stories of the past month gave me an idea for a new board game: “Whom Do You Blame?” Let’s start with the Carlton Complex Fires.
FEMA gets a blame square for not allowing compensation for private, uninsured losses. Next square is for the people who fought to keep FEMA and other government agencies underfunded. Wait, give them a second square. They’re mostly the same right-wingers who fought and crippled Obamacare. Many people couldn’t afford home insurance because of exorbitant medical bills. Thus, they need FEMA assistance.
Some people would give a blame square (and a lawsuit) to the state Department of Natural Resources for not doing a good enough job fighting the fires when they first started. At the same time, I’d give a square, and a “go directly to political oblivion” card, to the congressional Republicans who fight tirelessly to deny federal funds for fire prevention.
Here’s a tough square to name: When we have major contested elections, particularly statewide, it’s all about “Big Money.” Maybe there should be a blame square for the U.S. Supreme Court. The ultraconservative majority decided that corporations are people and allowed virtually unlimited and unidentified spending to influence elections.
Give many political candidates (not so many locally) a square for using negative, often vicious campaigns focused on irrelevant issues. Give a square (or two!) to ourselves, for buying into those negative ideas or voting for officials whose stated goals are to block real solutions to our problems. Give a square to all those people who then blame “the government” they elected for every real or imagined problem.
Finally, there’s a special, extra-large square for those who blame “X” for all their own problems. Use a spinner for “X”: Immigrants, poor people, Native Americans, African-Americans, gays, Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc. Bonus points if you blame “X” while you rake in big corporate or agricultural subsidies from the government you supposedly hate.
Randy Brook, Twisp
About our safety
It’s unfortunate that the opposition to the critical vote on Proposition 1 has chosen misrepresentation of the facts and negative comments directed at Okanogan County Fire District 6 commissioners and chief as a means of misdirecting the focus on what this issue is about. This proposition is about the safety of the community and its firefighters now and in the future.
Please join me in voting Yes on Proposition 1.
John Owen, Volunteer firefighter, Winthrop station
After last summer it is hard to believe that there could be any doubts about improving the infrastructure of Okanogan County Fire District 6. Hearing sirens around the clock and seeing fire and emergency vehicles racing back and forth throughout the valley brought home how much we depend on these volunteers to protect our homes and safety. As first responders, they need an up-to-date and efficient facility to enable rapid responses to not only fires but also a wide scope of emergencies from car accidents to floods. Because the need to be ready and prepared is so painfully evident, we support Proposition 1.
Pam and Terry Hunt, Twisp
A few facts
I want to thank Okanogan County Fire District 6 for having a Citizen Advisory Group last year, of which I became a member. I learned a lot about district operations and capital needs including the new fire station in Winthrop. The advisory group had some constructive members and some detractors, but the district opened its doors to the public to help us understand some of the issues it faced. I was grateful and found this helpful.
Our fire district serves 5,327 residents, 8,477 structures, and over 350 square miles. This area includes $1.2 billion of assessed property including Twisp and Winthrop. We are lucky that 90 percent of our firefighters are volunteers, which saves us millions of dollars. Given our population, area, and property values, we require some full-time firefighters. I support the five we have. Divide $1.2 billion and 350 square miles by five paid firefighters, and that equals nearly $250 million of property and 70 square miles per full-time firefighter — not an excess in my opinion.
Our tax rates for our district are not high by any means. From the Okanogan County assessor’s website, there are 15 fire districts in Okanogan County with tax rates ranging from $0.28 to $0.95 per $1,000 of assessed value. Fire District 6, at $0.615, is the fifth-lowest tax rate. With the passage of Proposition 1, an increase in the levy of $0.175 for a total of $0.79, District 6 would still be mid-range, with six districts still at higher rates.
The new fire station in Winthrop will support the health, safety and training of our local firefighters and the level of professionalism they bring to the table. The station will provide a needed critical infrastructure facility to better serve and protect the residents and property of our large valley. For a house/property assessed at $300,000, the cost of Proposition 1 would only be $1 a week or a tank of gas per year.
We are asking the firefighters to risk their lives for us and the least we can do is provide them with a professional and adequate facility. I voted yes.
Ray Peterson, Winthrop
I am writing in support of the Okanogan County Fire District 6 levy request. I appreciate all those who have written in, which helps one to ponder all perspectives. To me, it boils down to wanting a top-notch emergency response team — not mediocre, but top-notch.
The new fire station offers the opportunity to attract many generations to come of passionate, skilled personnel, and the work space to help them excel in their field. I feel the same about our Aero Methow Rescue Service team. Both emergency response entities are by far worth supporting!
Vicki Simmons, Mazama