Gutting the comp plan
I first came to the Methow Valley 40-odd years ago to do fire research. Part of my job was to digitize every extant fire map of the area, and it quickly became clear to me that, to paraphrase Keynes, in the long run we are all toast. Anybody who doubts the inevitability of wildfire in their back yard and, quite probably, in their living room, is simply not paying attention.
Isabelle Spohn’s “My Turn” (Dec. 3) couldn’t be more right on. A comprehensive plan that doesn’t address the problem of wildfire in this county is, by definition, incredibly far from being “comprehensive.” But that’s not altogether surprising: The commissioners are doing their very best to turn the comprehensive plan into a joke. Indeed, word on the street is that their Seattle-based “out-house” counsel, hired at a price that would easily cover two, if not three, local in-house attorneys, was expressly brought in to gut the comp plan.
I get it: Folks around here don’t want anybody telling them what to do, with their land, with their time, with their money. That’s fair — almost. When your freedom to do whatever the hell you want bumps up against mine, or anybody else’s, there’s a problem. If your out-of-code stove sets fire to your too-small lot on your one-track approach-road and, because the fire-guys can’t get there, starts the next Carlton Complex Fire, there’s a big problem.
That’s what government is about, people. Good fences make good neighbors, and so do good contracts. The comprehensive plan is a framework for land-use law, and land-use law is effectively just a whole pile of contracts defining how I should stay out of your hair so you can stay out of mine.
It’s high time we got together and figured out that we don’t elect commissioners to pursue their pet peeves and ideological agendas. We elect them to represent their constituents and, if possible, occasionally perpetrate a little intelligent governance. I’ve been to a fair number of commissioners’ hearings and whatnot in the recent past, and it’s not clear to me that the current crop give a damn about either.
Alan Fahnestock, Winthrop
Plan for the long run
I was unable to attend the Nov. 24 Okanogan County Fire District 6 meeting. But I wanted to let the commissioners know that not only do I appreciate the work of the fire fighters, especially after last summer, I also appreciate the commissioners’ work to have an adequate fire station built. The current building on Englar Street is inadequate. It lacks decontamination facilities, and adequate space for training, storage and even suiting up to go on a fire call.
What I do not want is for the commissioners to be penny wise and pound foolish. If we end up with a building that’s just barely adequate now, what’s going to happen in 10 years? It’s not going to save any money in the long run, or even the medium run, to have to remodel and add on time and again.
Let’s support the volunteer fire fighters by building them a facility that fits their needs now and for years to come.
Emily Sisson, Winthrop
News not balanced
At the Dec. 1 Okanogan County Fire District 6 commissioners’ meeting, during public comments Chrystal Perrow stated that the newspaper hasn’t been “doing any favors” to the commissioners in its coverage of the debate over a new fire station. Many in attendance agreed.
Based on the Dec. 3 article, “Residents push back on District 6 fire hall plans,” that pattern seems to be holding true. During the meeting there were numerous comments from citizens, and firefighters Creighton, Crum, Owen and Fahnestock supporting the decision to move forward with building the station. Yet not one of those comments was included in the article.
A more balanced coverage would go a long way in giving both sides equal footing in this debate.
Eileen Owen, Winthrop
Enloe a lost cause
A recent meeting at the Okanogan County PUD centered on Enloe Dam and utility plans to generate power at the site. The updated estimate of construction cost is now $39 million to $45 million. The interest would add an estimated $30 million. Combined with the $11 million already spent, we have a project cost of $80 million to $85 million.
Our PUD is already $40 million-plus in debt. Currently, we are borrowing millions more to repair damage from the Carlton Complex Fire and will borrow still more to replace old infrastructure, aging poles, transformers and wire throughout the district. These costs cannot be avoided. With these growing mandatory expenses the proposed Enloe power plant is a dangerous and risky gamble on our ability to pay the bill.
The seasonal stream flows of the Similkameen River cannot produce enough power to justify doubling our debts and continuing to raise rates. The year-round output of the Enloe generators would average 5 megawatts, 57 percent of the 9 megawatts often quoted as output by the PUD. Oroville’s sub-station distributes 27 megawatts to our region. Electrification of Enloe Dam would provide less than 20 percent of Oroville’s sub-station and only 2 percent of the utility’s countywide requirement. This was the reason we abandoned the old powerhouse in 1958. This investment defies logic and common sense.
PUD officials have been meeting since May with state and federal agencies, tribes, conservation and nonprofit groups working to develop an alternative plan for the Similkameen River. The plan would be funded from sources outside the district and would include sediment studies, sediment removal and removal of the dam itself. It would take about five years and cost an estimated $35 million. Why does our PUD continue to say over and over again “dam removal costs would be paid by the ratepayers”?
This huge amount of risk will largely profit people who live outside our county. There will be no long-term gain to our local economy. It is time to cut our loses on Enloe and get back to serving the people of Okanogan County with affordable electricity.
Joseph Enzensperger, Oroville