For the past couple of years my local paper here in Coulee Dam has been flooded with editorial opinions from four or five Methow Valley individuals on Okanogan County commission races, state Representative races and of course on the president. I feel compelled, in the “spirit of reciprocity,” to follow suit. I would encourage the city councils of Twisp and Winthrop and the chief of police of Twisp to join in with the police chief of Republic and refuse to enforce Initiative 1639. Okanogan County rejected I-1639 by 63 percent to 36 percent and the Grand Coulee City Council has unanimously decided to support the Republic police chief. A show of support from the Methow would send a clear message to wealthy west side interests and King County that our state and federal constitutional gun rights cannot be taken away at the ballot box.
John Overby, Belvedere
Mike Newman claims the Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) science is questionable (Methow Valley News, Nov. 28). Many of his claims are false. As an example, his claim that the actions of Ecology have resulted in no increased stream flows. The Methow Valley Irrigation District no longer diverts water from the Twisp River. How can that not result in increased stream flow?
Beaver Creek is literally a stone’s throw from my front door. Before the removal of an upstream concrete dam, its replacement with a stone weir, and improved irrigation systems, Beaver Creek often ran completely dry. That has not occurred in many years now. The removal of the dam and the new culvert under Highway 153 has resulted in an obvious increase in returning steelhead and salmon species.
He goes on with other questionable statements: “How many fish species have been listed under the ESA (Endangered Species Act) since Ecology took over management of our watersheds? Too many for me to count.” Ecology did not take over. It is one participant in the management of our watershed. There are only three species of fish listed, and they have been listed for decades.
Gary Ott, Lower Beaver Creek
Comp plan commentary
Major developments are underway that will affect the future of Okanogan County. The county government is revising its planning documents and ordinances that address future development.
First up is the Comprehensive Plan. The “Comp Plan” sets forth the vision for countywide land management and development. Once that is updated, county planning ordinances — such as zoning and critical areas — will be revised to be consistent with the vision.
Each step of this process includes opportunities for public input. This is your chance to help guide the direction the county takes for the next 20 or so years. An example of why this matters: efforts by concerned citizens who banded together in the 1970s to oppose a proposed ski resort ultimately resulted in establishment of the Methow Review District with its own special zoning. Whether you are for or against that special zoning, citizen participation then has made a big difference ever since.
We are in the scoping period for the Comp Plan’s Environmental Impact Statement. The environmental effects of three alternative development scenarios will be compared. One of those alternatives will likely become the basis for the future Comp Plan. This is your opportunity to help the county government identify the issues that should be addressed in the EIS. The county has already identified three: groundwater, transportation infrastructure and critical areas. Please think about the things you hold dear to your way of life in Okanogan County and how they may be affected by future management and development.
For me, public safety and property damage in the face of increasing wildfires, air quality and surface water quality and quantity come quickly to mind. Jot your ideas down and send them to the county planning department. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org.Your opportunity to identify issues ends at 5 p.m. on Jan. 4. Please don’t wait. As a recent appointee to the Okanogan County Planning Commission, I will be relying a great deal on the input you provide as this process goes forward. Please advocate for the vision you have for our future.
Gina McCoy, Winthrop
What’s wrong with initiatives
I share with Solveig Torvik her mixed reviews of the recent elections, with one reservation. Big Oil did indeed put on a good show to stop I-1631, but that isn’t why I voted against it.
I make it a very near absolute to vote against all initiatives. The reasons are pretty straightforward. They are always poorly written. Legislation in our state goes through a crucible of reviews to assure that the negative aspects are muted. That review process is done by the naysayers and opponents of the idea. If it passes through that gauntlet, then it may be worthy of becoming law. Initiatives are authored by proponents only, sitting around and excitedly imagining the nirvana that will result from their efforts and blind to the faults.
Initiatives seldom mesh well with existing statutes. Our state laws are an accumulation of work over more than a century. The result is a mostly smooth set of curves that are recognizable. Initiatives, in the same figurative vein, are gashes and spikes that create awkward results and confused or failed enforcement. I-594 (the initiative that “required background checks on all transfers of firearms) is an excellent example. Many jurisdictions in the state have publically announced their refusal to enforce it.
Initiatives are long-term thorns. Under Washington state law, it requires a supermajority of both houses to modify at all any initiative within the first two years (so much for the idea of “legislatively fixable”). Whatever passes as an initiative we’re stuck with, warts and all. Constitutional review has saved us on rare occasions.
Initiatives seem, more so than legislation, to pass or fail based on the emotional content of the message rather than any cool, rational thought. Remember $30 car tabs? Sounds good until you realize that you just cut nearly all of your revenue from the state transportation budget. The emotion won out.
There have been some narrow conditions under which I have voted for an initiative in the past, and it is possible that I may again do so in the future. That does not change the fact that the initiative process is bad lawmaking at its worst.
Bob Hunt, Twisp
Snow blower safety
To my fellow snow country folks — Now that it looks like winter is showing her face, I feel moved to pass on some annual advice.
Almost 25 years ago I had a moment of brain-deadness and ended up turning off a snow blower with my left hand, and being flown to Harborview Hospital in Seattle where three hand surgeons spent 21 man-hours rebuilding my hand. I write to remind all of you snow blower operators this winter season to not repeat my stupidity!
Even with new designs and safety features on today’s machines (mine was 20 years old) blowers can still jam with wet snow or “yard” objects. Due to the potential kinetic energy stored in the engine compression and belt tension when jammed, the impellers in a blower can rotate slightly when a jammed or clogged machine is freed up. There is very little clearance in the impeller housing — if your hand is the “freeing” agent you can lose fingers or an entire hand. Never use your hand or foot to clear a clogged or jammed snow blower. Use a broom handle or long, stout stick. All new blowers come with a plastic paddle used to clear jammed blowers. Some even advise removing the spark plug to release any engine compression before working on a machine.
Snow blowers, like many powered devices, are in and of themselves not dangerous. They do need to be respected and operated with care and attention. Fatigue, being in a hurry, distractions, objects left out in the snow, etc., are the real dangers. Hopefully you will remember my story every time you operate a snow blower and not create your own story. Have a safe winter season.
Barry Stromberger, Twisp