The Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) board meeting on July 13 left many of us scratching our heads. After halting the rush toward electrification in order to explore other options last February, the PUD seems to be considering electrification of Enloe Dam once again. Faced with the high cost of producing power at Enloe, the PUD asked for a large federal agency with deep pockets to assume all liability and expenses for the alternative to electrification of Enloe.
After many months of work, meetings and conference calls by ratepayers, biologists, federal and state agencies, tribes, nonprofits and non-government organizations, an interested lead agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have come forward.
On June 30, NOAA and NMFS representatives met with PUD Commissioner Scott Vejraska, General Manager John Grubich, Director of Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Dan Boettger, and PUD attorney Mick Howe to discuss NOAA becoming the lead federal agency. Unfortunately, the PUD wanted more than NOAA could give. The major stumbling block is the sediment behind Enloe Dam.
NOAA is being asked to assume all liability for the sediments behind Enloe Dam. NOAA would like to know what metals and toxic materials are present before assuming all liability. A sediment study was scheduled to take place in August. The PUD canceled the study. One commissioner expressed his fear the utility would be sued if the sediments contents were known by the public. Is it better to know or not know? Would anyone take on this liability without knowing what those sediments contain? Is the PUD being rational or is the management of the PUD intent on scuttling this potential partnership with NOAA?
NOAA considers the Similkameen River the “crown jewel of steelhead recovery in the Upper Columbia Basin.” Upstream of Enloe is 166 miles of steelhead habitat capable of sustaining 100,000 spawning adults. Our local economy needs the boost a wild scenic river and a strong, abundant steelhead fishery would create. Take a look at Pateros and Brewster when the fish are running and those two towns are buzzing. You can see what we are missing.
Joseph Enzensperger, Oroville
Misleading about ’Nam
This is in response to the “nefarious character” Dana Visalli and his written comments on our military conduct during the Vietnam War.
The one major difference between Mr. Visalli and myself concerning the war in South Vietnam is I was actually there and saw, heard and participated in it, so my comments are not second- or third-hand or heard from a friend of a friend.
While in South Vietnam, I was a U.S. Marine forward observer attached to an infantry company southwest of Da Nang from September, 1967, to October, 1968, and never during my time in country were there any orders given or hinted at that we Marines were to kill innocent men, women, children or babies to jack up the body count “competition” in our large operational area for extra beer or days to lay on the beach near Da Nang.
Anybody that served in an infantry position knows the body count numbers were meaningless and paid very little attention to them. A great many of the numbers were just made up on the fly.
What most people do not know is very few of the Vietnam veterans served in a combat role. Most were support personnel stationed safely in the rear. Less than 15 percent of the military personnel in South Vietnam at any one time were in a potential combat role. In 1968 for example, the number of U.S. military in South Vietnam was around 550,000 — less than 80,000 of these were in a role where combat would be required.
I could go on and on why Dana’s comments are misleading as usual, but space is limited. I am sure we will hear his squawking again concerning the Vietnam War and the evil U.S. government. He has been doing it for 50 years. Can’t wait.
Tom Larson, Mazama
Re: proposed Army military helicopter training. In 2012, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) created new rules and off-base air routes and allowed new arriving helicopter crews to fly over civilian communities illegally. Later, after many noise complaints, helicopters were pulled back on base. In one notable incident, four Chinooks and several Black Hawks flew night training exercises over Port Angeles, without prior notice, generating dozens of 911 calls from concerned residents and drawing national headlines. Mayor Charlie Kidd told a local newspaper the Army “terrorized my city.”
It appears that the scoping document needs some changes and additional information, and that the final comment date of July 30 should be extended. Some items of particular concern are:
• There would be no set flight path and pilots will generally take the most direct flight path to the training areas, flying at an altitude of 500 feet and higher, and low-level training from 25 feet above the ground to 500 feet above treetop levels.
• That the fly friendly/fly neighborly guidelines and mitigation measures/best management practices which are a part of the proposal are largely optional; and low-level and night flying are particularly dangerous.
• There is no end date.
Public health, safety, and welfare are at severe risk from the Army’s proposal. The scoping document should include information such as the number and size of other military units besides JBLM that are anticipated to be approved to use the training areas in the future and the final cumulative effect; the decibels that currently apply to the current helicopters at various speeds and intensity of military operations; a set flight path; a minimum of 1,000 feet flying elevation over sensitive areas; rules that better protect the public’s health, safety and welfare and wildlife including endangered species; and an end date.
One may ask how such a proposal can be allowed. One answer: There are less-restrictive rules for non-set flight paths and areas of low population, and helicopter rules sometimes differ. The new training route would allow aircraft to fly to and from the new training site following best management practices and mitigation.
L. Simpson, Twisp
Copter flights limited
Recent reports of the U.S. Army’s proposal to do helicopter training in the Okanogan Military Operations Area have stirred fears. The scoping is so broad as to suggest the Army might come here flying swarms of black copters 365 days a year at any hour day or night.
I find that several facts quickly limit how many flights we can expect to be visible from the Methow Valley. There are about 100 helicopters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord where Army pilots are trained. The aircraft do not fly every day and could only make a trip to our area once in a day in any case. The pilot training syllabus has only a small part which uses mountaintop landing zones. Flights would come and go from the west so only one of the landing zones at 7,958 feet near Tiffany Mountain would have traffic crossing over the valley. Flying at 8,000 feet, the Army aircraft will be less noisy than the civilian traffic we already have at 1,000 feet above the ground. Far less noisy than the Navy’s fighter jets which are frequent visitors.
Finally, not all the helicopters are black, some of them are desert tan.
Dan Aspenwall, Winthrop
I read your recent piece on the proposed military helicopter training sites with interest (as well as companion pieces on the same subject elsewhere). I find it amusing that no one seems to be asking a question that I guess only us old gophers wonder about.
The various branches of the military have been using helicopters a great deal since at least the Korean War. How in the world did they manage to train those pilots? Were they using the Cascades’ summits all along for practice, and no one noticed?
Could the new need be related to likely new adventures in the Middle East, driving up the need for special skills?
Bob Pfeifer, Tonasket
No money for streets
I see Twisp managed to get included in all the pork barrel grants approved in the state budget session this year — $199,504 was allotted for a trail along the river, and $34,025 for tennis courts. Both are non-essential projects that only a few will use and probably not at all by tourists.
A few years ago, we had tennis courts that got replaced by grass that someone gets paid to mow and uses that precious water the town keeps trying to conserve.
For 12 years now I’ve had to drive almost every day on the street down by the low-income apartments that gets a little worse and rougher each year. They’ve given up wasting asphalt on it and are now filling the potholes with gravel.
It’s agitating to keep putting up with that street because no grant money is available but money can easily be gotten if it’s recreation- or tourist-oriented. I wonder what impression tourists would have of this town if they were to happen to drive on that street and some others just as bad!
Al Ames, Twisp
It is easy to be critical about the war in Vietnam, even for me, who served (sergeant, 101st Airborne Division, 1967-68). It sounds foolish to me, and my fellow veterans, that someone could consider themselves an expert after traveling to Vietnam long after the war and reading a controversial book. Unless you were there during the war, you really don’t know the truth. A lot of bad decisions were made during that time, and Agent Orange was one of them.
Who are the veterans of the Vietnam War? We are the baby boomers. Our fathers and uncles fought in the “big war.” Our choices were limited. Some went to Canada, some to jail, and that took a different kind of courage. There was the college deferment — if you had parents who could put you through college you didn’t have to answer the draft. I think African Americans were about 12 percent of the population in our country at that time, and I’m sure it was way more than 12 percent represented in Vietnam. This is not something our country should be proud of.
Attacking and disrespecting the men and women who answered the call to arms is inexcusable. How ridiculous to say that women and babies were killed to fill a body count. There were enough North Vietnamese regulars trying to kill us to fill that count.
How the Methow Valley Farmers Market became an arena for personal political opinions is beyond me. I think the American Legion booth would be more appropriate.
Jack Berg, Twisp
I would like to thank Solveig Torvik for her especially well thought-out column on subjects that are relevant to what’s happening in the world today. I was particularly impressed with her analysis of the situation in Greece and how it is being handled (July 22). She did her homework on the historical backgrounds of the participants pointing out the fact that Germany not so long ago was in a similar situation to Greece financially and got a much different treatment than it is dishing out. How short our historical memories are!
As she does every month, Solveig continues to tell it like it is and backs up what she says with source and reference. She reminds me very much of the great Molly Ivins and, if you remember who she was, you will realize that is praise indeed. Thanks again, Solveig, for sharing your thoughtful insights with us!
David Harris, Winthrop
Lots of red flags
Red flags adorn the new 35 mph speed limit changes on the Twisp/Winthrop Eastside County Road, East Chewuch Road, to Bear Creek Road, and on to Pearrygin Lake. The speed limits on these roads were previously 40 and 50 mph. The petition from the North Central ATV Club to the county commissioners states, “We would like you to consider changing the speed limits to 35 mph on the following pieces of road for safety concerns and ATV use.”
Red flags indeed. The ATV club used the ploy of safety to petition to open roads for ATV use. The county road department gave testimony that the roads in question have 35 mph warning signs at curves, they are hilly, and that farm machinery, cyclists and pedestrians also use the roads. If that is the criteria for changing speed limits to 35 mph, then we are in big trouble, since most of the county roads in the Methow fit that description.
Opponents to the speed limit change asked about how and why the roads suddenly become unsafe, and why should the roads be changed to 35 mph for special interest groups?
Red flags on commissioner integrity: Commissioner Kennedy voted to change the speed limits to 35 mph. She didn’t say the roads were unsafe, just that she is all for ATVs. Commissioner Detro thought he would take some heat for voting to change the speed limits to 35 mph on East Chewuch because he had voted against that in 2013. Again, what changed his mind? Certainly not safe roads.
Commissioner Ray Campbell from the district that includes the Methow Valley voted nay. He stated that he did not believe drivers should be inconvenienced to accommodate ATVs. His vote reflected a willingness to listen to the folks in his district. Thank you, Mr. Campbell.
Red flag note: Now that the speed limits are changed to 35 mph, the ATV club will go before the commissioners to ask that the above-named roads be opened to ATV use. Watch your paper for public notice of a hearing concerning ATV use on ever more roadways in the valley.
Roxie Miller, Winthrop
Loud and intrusive
What part of “wilderness” does the U.S. Army not understand?
We live in Olympia, which is about 15 miles from Joint Base Lewis/McChord. We do not have regular training flights pass over us, thank God! Because when the occasional Huey, or whatever their larger-size chopper is, passes over Olympia, the noise is unbelievable. They usually fly in a straight line, sometimes two together, but it really doesn’t matter — they are very loud and very disruptive. When they pass directly overhead you can almost feel the noise.
I strongly recommend you fight the Army helicopter training proposal with all you have. An occasional fly-over is very disruptive, but a steady flow of military helicopter traffic is nothing less than noise pollution.
This Army proposal is just plain wrong, intrusive and ruinous.
Phil Andresen, Olympia