Plugging the leaks
Dark skies have been a delight ever since my boy scout astronomy merit badge. Satellite imagery shows that Twisp and Winthrop are leaking lots of light, each punching a hole 3 miles wide in what is otherwise a vast pool of dark.
Okanogan County already has a glare ordinance. It says in part, “No exterior light with a direct source visible from a neighboring property shall be installed.” We already agree on the principle but there are problems with the practice.
After the 911 terrorist attacks, many federal buildings were required to have outdoor security lighting. With a heavy regulatory hand the lighting was denominated in watts instead of lumens. As a result the lights at the Post Office and the U.S. Forest Service burn bright and hot. The lighting on the state highway maintenance facility south of Twisp is another huge light leak which is beyond the reach of the county ordinance.
Imagine light shades as an art medium. At our house we have shielded our outdoor jelly jar lights with galvanized buckets and lids. The glare ordinance covers new installations. Maybe there is a place for a Methow Dark Sky Retrofit Club. The volunteer club would install simple shades and shields at no cost to the homeowner. I would like to see high resolution nighttime overhead imagery of Twisp and Winthrop to identify where we can best plug the leaks.
Dan Aspenwall, Winthrop
Defend the ESA
Ever since President Richard Nixon signed the bill on Dec. 28, 1973, declaring the Endangered Species Act (ESA) the law of the land, subsequent presidents (mostly his fellow Republicans) have tried to weaken, undermine or undo it. Not to be outdone, our current president (businessman Donald Trump) has taken a stab at revamping it –not that the law needed improving, as dozens of species saved from extinction, such as the peregrine falcon, the whooping crane, the American alligator, the gray, red and Mexican wolves, grizzly bears and California condors can attest.
Of course, bald eagles — our national symbol — may not even be here if not for the ESA (a fact you’d think would mean something to a currently sitting president of the United States of America).
So what would this planned (but unnecessary) “revamping” do exactly? What sort of revisions to the ESA do Donald and the Trumpetts propose? The Department of the Interior (namely the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service) has introduced new rules that would make it easier for them to remove a species’ ESA protections, limit any protections to guard against climate change and allow agencies to prioritize would-be developers’ or other destructive corporations’ economic factors over an animal’s population status.
An outspoken climate change denier, it’s likely that Trump is not listening to the science around our ongoing mass extinction event either. If there were ever a time in history to defend the Endangered Species Act, we’ve reached it.
Jim Robertson, Twisp
21st century planning needed
I was taken aback when I read about former County Commissioner Ray Campbell’s remarks on the draft comp plan at the Aug. 19 public hearing. Apparently, he thinks we shouldn’t do much planning for growth, since the first homesteaders prospered because they weren’t hobbled by government regulations.
Hmm . . . let’s see: Do you think it would it make a difference in the need to plan where and how growth should occur, when the population of Okanogan County was under 5,000 in 1900 and is currently over 42,000? And I doubt that the homesteaders had to think about limited water to serve both large agricultural enterprises and scores of residents, second homes for city dwellers, and added seasonal populations of tourists — to name just a few changes from the turn of the 19th century.
Mr. Campbell’s reasoning goes a long way toward explaining why the current plan, adopted in 2014 when he was a commissioner, is grossly inadequate to plan wisely for growth in our county in modern times. I believe the current county commissioners can — and will — do a much better job, with help from all of us.
Mr. Campbell is to be commended for expressing his views at the public hearing. The commissioners need to hear from the community! Please do yourself and the Methow Valley a favor and submit comments on the draft plan by the Sept. 19 deadline. If you’d like more information to help you comment, see the Methow Valley Citizens Council website, http://mvcitizens.org.
Melanie Rowland, Twisp
I’ve just returned from three weeks travel outside the United States with limited internet access. It was quite a relief to be disconnected from the news for a while.
If someone had told me that Trump had proposed buying Greenland, I would have been sure they were joking. That would be too ridiculous, even for Trump. Then again, he also started a trade war. And he is strongly supporting the new Brazilian president, who is encouraging cutting down the Amazon rain forests that provide 20% of our atmosphere’s oxygen.
I went to Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Once there, I also learned a lot about the country’s history and how it recovered from a mass genocide in 1994. Nearly a million people were killed.
Rwanda put itself back together with an almost inconceivable process of justice through community courts and reconciliation. The process was criticized by some as inadequate in the severity of punishments. Yet over two million cases were heard. Contrast this with fewer than a thousand Nazis tried in German post-war courts.
Rwanda seems to be thriving. Health care and education are improving dramatically, though still far below our Western standards. Crime rates are much lower than in the United States. Parents aren’t afraid to let their children walk alone, even in the largest cities.
It is inspiring to see a country whose government and people seem to be working together to improve the quality of life for everyone. Contrast this with the United States, where our government is working hardest to benefit the wealthiest, and to keep the country divided.
One of the smaller stories of modern-day pride is the way that once a month, Rwandans join in public service to keep their country clean. Anyone who has traveled in other developing nations, or even in the United States, would be amazed at how much cleaner Rwanda is.
Back home, we can do our share to make the Methow more beautiful. If you see trash on a trail or road, please take a few seconds to pick it up.
Randy Brook, Twisp
More work to do
If anyone thinks the Methow River has been fully protected through the passage and signing into law last March of the Public Lands package which included permanently withdrawing 340,079 acres in the Methow Headwaters from new mineral exploration and mine development — well, think again. Not even a pair of hip waders will keep the waist-deep irony from getting to you once you realize the Lower Methow Valley is still open for environmental and scenic degradation if the Okanogan County Comprehensive Plan and associated Environmental Impact Statement Plan are not updated.
Without any Land Use Element playing a central role in guiding land use patterns and decisions for the county, permitted uses in the Lower Methow Valley differ greatly from those permitted in the Upper Methow Valley and — as presently listed in the county’s District Use Chart — include air cargo facilities, aircraft sales repair and services, aircraft salvage, light industrial, manufactured home sales facilities, petroleum service stations, wholesale establishments, acid manufacturing, air passenger services, fertilizer manufacturing, as well as sawmills and pulp mills. So much for protecting the pure waters this community fought so hard to preserve. Or creating an appealing gateway to the valley.
I hope you agree the entire Methow Watershed should be expanded to include the Methow Valley More Completely Planned Area (MVMCPA). I also strongly recommend the adoption of many of the elements included in Alternatives 3 and 4 of the Comprehensive Plan which concentrate growth closer to towns, take a conservative approach to addressing water supplies, conserve natural resources and promote land uses that support local agriculture and minimize conflict between residential and other uses of rural lands.
There’s still time to submit comments to the county Planning Commission but you’d better hurry. I might also suggest contacting Andy Hover, the county commissioner whose district spans the entire length of the Methow River from its headwaters to its confluence with the Columbia River. It’s all one watershed.
Jim Brennan, Twisp
Let’s talk facts
I’m happy to see that the anti-Brandenburg, anti-fire-station forces are recycling the same old information, as opposed to coming up with something new: It means their stale arguments are all they’ve got. To argue that Okanogan County Fire District 6 receives 11.2 times more tax revenues than the average of other Okanogan County districts merely points out that our property values far exceed those of other fire districts in our county.
Yes. The District 6 budget is big because the value of real estate in the district is about 45% of the total real estate value in the entire county.
But our tax for fire protection is actually comparatively small: At $0.65 per $1,000 of real-estate valuation, it is about 13.5% below the average for Okanogan County fire districts; out of 16 fire districts, 10 are more expensive than District 6.
So a homeowner in District 6 pays 43% less than a homeowner in Pateros (District 15), 11% less than in Tonasket (District 4), 53% less than in the Aeneas Valley (District 16), and so on. Some smaller fire districts in the Okanogan Valley pay less because they have mutual aid available from other rural and city fire departments nearby.
District 6, on the other hand, is big — 300-350 square miles — and isolated. That’s one fifth of the total private land in Okanogan County. District 6 is also “long and skinny:” It takes over an hour to drive from one end to the other, so we have to maintain four stations, with a correspondingly large quantity of equipment and vehicles, in order to ensure rapid response.
It’s not clear to me how a big budget based on low taxes, to support a high level of response by well-trained personnel, is a bad thing.
If you read a letter from supporters of Brandenburg’s opponent please think about this. Oh! And by the way, Winthrop voters have the right to vote on Fire District 6 issues since they joined District 6 in 2017. Please vote!
Pat Leigh, Winthrop
Vote for Brandenburg
On Saturday I found a letter in my post office box recommending that Okanogan County Fire District 6 taxpayers beware. I agree, beware of folks who are obstructionists and spend their time complaining instead of advocating for our volunteer firefighters and the community they serve. As Darold Brandenburg said at a meeting yesterday, there are do-ers and there are complainers and critics. Darold speaks for himself rather than letting others speak for him. He can capably and accurately explain how our tax dollars are spent. He works for the firefighters and for the entire valley, as a fire commissioner, a business owner, and an advocate for Methow Valley youth. I urge all eligible voters to re-elect Darold Brandenburg.
Allison A. Fitzgerald, MD, Winthrop