Jan. 29, 2014 - Letters to the Editor

Credit: Joe Heller

Mill takes air quality seriously

Last week, a letter writer expressed concern over air quality impacts from the Omak Wood Products mill, which was restarted last fall after being down since 2009. 

In his letter, he asked if the price of bringing back jobs must be unhealthy and dangerous air quality.  The answer to that is unequivocally no. 

Omak Wood Products is committed to protecting the environment, and meeting the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency and Colville tribal regulations.

It is true that there were some problems that resulted in unacceptable emissions when we first brought the boiler up in the fall of 2013. After a few days, it became clear the system was not functioning properly and we shut it down. We repaired faulty equipment before bringing the system back up, and it has been functioning well since then.

We have been in contact with the EPA and tribal authorities during this period, and we are complying with the requirements of our permit and the Clean Air Act.

The Colville tribe does have an air quality monitoring station near our mill. However, the station measures much more than just our emissions. 

There have been numerous occasions when we have been alerted to high readings when the mill was down or the wind was pushing our emissions away from the meter. High readings are common in the fall, when yard debris is being burned, and in the morning when wood stoves are being restarted. 

During periods of inversions, air stagnates and smoke from these sources can build up throughout the valley.  While our emissions undoubtedly contribute, woodstoves and other sources emit smoke nearer the ground that can easily get caught in an inversion.

Omak Wood Products is committed to being a responsible member of the community, and we will do all we can to avoid any adverse impact on air quality. We appreciate the concerns, and I hope this letter will help reassure everyone that we take our responsibilities seriously.

David Niessner

Omak Wood Products

Similkameen has a higher purpose

The Okanogan County Public Utility District plans for a new Enloe Dam powerhouse continue and the money we don’t have just keeps flowing down our collective drain.

In over two years of discussion, the utility has never acknowledged the hard economic truths. It continues to borrow and spend, budgeting another $3.1 million for Enloe in 2014.

Estimated annual production of electricity at Enloe Dam is to be 45 GWH annually, worth approximately $1.1 million in today’s wholesale market. The utility estimates the annual cost of Enloe operations at $2.6 million. We cannot afford to lose $1.5 million each year for power we don’t need. And $50 million plus interest is too much to pay for production of just 5 percent of the energy we use as a utility.

The majority of people living in Okanogan County do not want the utility developing Enloe Dam. Economics aside, many would prefer a wild, scenic, Similkameen River.

When the PUD withdraws its license, the river can be rehabilitated as recommended by the Bureau of Land Management, National Marine Fisheries, Fish and Wildlife, Intertribal Fish Commission, and other agencies and individuals going back to 1976. It will be a big project, over many years, with lots of people coming to town to help the various agencies and contractors get the work done.

It will bring dollars, workers and good results to North County. It won’t cost ratepayers a dime.

The north half of Okanogan County has great outdoor recreation opportunities. Attractions like Lake Osoyoos, Whistler Canyon Trail and the Similkameen River Trail are high-value destinations bringing guests, visitors and potential customers to local businesses. Our fisheries, lakes, rivers and streams, trails, wildlife and open spaces can keep our businesses open and Main Street thriving.

Let us hope the PUD sits down with other agencies and realizes the Similkameen has a higher purpose, and all that lawyer and consultant money can stay with the ratepayers.

Joseph Enzensperger


Tonasket levy passage necessary

As most Tonasket-area residents are probably already aware, we will be voting on an important bond and levy soon.

The capital improvement bond would replace the expiring bond passed in 1993. It is the bond that built the current school facilities.

The proposed tax rate represents a decrease from the previous one. The approximate tax rate is $1.48 per $1,000 of assessed valuation compared to the previous bond rate of $1.77 per $1,000.

The bond will also address overcrowded class sizes coming up through the elementary and on into middle school. The classes are larger than in the past and there is a huge need for additional classrooms and space in both buildings.

Another exciting project funded by the bond is constructing new classrooms for the alternative school and outreach program, agriculture science and shop areas.

The maintenance and operation levy provides funding for staff to reduce the student-teacher ratio as well as staff to bring back programs such as elementary art, music and physical education programs. These programs were lost in the mid-90s due to severe budget cuts. The levy also provides funding to continue current custodial and maintenance personnel, materials and supplies, co-curricular activities, and special programs, to name a few.

I am merely scratching the surface of the purposes of the bond and levy.

The intent of my letter is not to inform voters of all the facts, but to encourage them to vote. Every vote counts. (Historically, there have been local issues won or lost by one or two votes.)

On Feb. 11, I encourage voters to support the excellent school district in which the children of our community are growing and learning. It can’t be done to the high-set standards without voter support!

For more information, visit the district website at www.tonasket.wednet.edu, the Vote Yes for Tonasket Schools Facebook page or call the District Office at 509-486-2126.

Kelly Buchert


Vote ‘yes’ on Omak School District levy

Omak School District voters are being asked to make an important decision by Feb. 11 – they are being asked to decide on a replacement levy.

This four-year replacement levy reduces the current tax levy by $600,000 over the next four years. This replacement levy would take effect when the current levy runs out this year.

Also, passage of the replacement levy allows the district to be eligible for matching funds from the state in excess of $3 million. Without passage, these funds will not be available.

These reasons alone should encourage voters to support the replacement levy, but, really, it is much more.

Our community is dependent on the vitality and education provided to our kids.

As a business owner and parent, I have seen in what the levy dollars do to provide and maintain programs, materials, instruction and facilities that help our kids succeed and be competitive in today’s market. Their vote is important in deciding the future of our kids and, basically, our community.

I am extremely proud of our community’s willingness to step up. Start this year with hopefulness and optimism … give our kids their best shot with your support of the replacement levy.

Peg Callaway


Enloe decision more than PUD’s

Deciding the future of the Similkameen River is a decision that should be more than just the Public Utility District’s.

Enloe Dam is on the state historical registry. In front of Enloe is one of the state’s first hydroelectric plants. The significance of this is: The state produces more hydro power than any other and Enloe was one of the state’s earliest efforts.

Even in its dilapidated condition, Enloe’s power plant is still a piece of aesthetic history that helps identify who we are. Enloe Dam, however, has serious problems. The real debate today is over should the dam be removed to restore fish habitat? 

With Enloe Dam removed, I see the community enjoying a better and brighter future, far more beneficial than what the PUD has in mind with its proposed new generator plant. A free-flowing Similkameen brings in an industry one could only hope for: Recreation.

Clearly, the land above Nighthawk is some of the most spectacular the state has to offer, and for selfish reasons, I’d hate to see the area overrun with tourism. But it would still be more appealing than watching one of the best remaining places go underappreciated and industrialized.

Leaving the historical power plant, but clearing out the dam, would open up new possibilities. It is the better choice.

Paul Stenshoel


Don’t sign onto Obama’s agenda

Like most backcountry dwellers, we octogenarians lived for generations in the rural outback. We live in our self-built cabin and keep our simple chicken house, barn and outhouse over these last 33 years. We faithfully pay land taxes, vote and support our civic causes.

We have never been persecuted or subjected to any shakedowns, intrusions, dictates or extortions. Now, after generations of benign governments, a threatening bureaucracy rules. It has criminalized privacy and property rights while pushing spiteful dictates.

Subsistence farmers, poultrymen, handymen and salvage workers here insist only on our rights to live within our means and resources and not be a burden on society or be shackled with intrusive dictates.

Since the outbreak of “Obamalaw” in Washington, D.C., politicized bureaucrats – with no work experience and no useful skills – extract their whole living by parasitism and predation.

Covetous bureaucrats are obligated by law to read our “Bill of Rights.” Lawless bureaucrats are bound by the Constitution. In my day, they gassed and looted 6 million Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, Poles, dissidents, protesters and handicapped. . Is today’s America trying the same thing under Obama?

In America just last year, Obama ordered 2 billion bullets to “suppress dissent.” Two billion bullets would holocaust every human on our entire continent—not just dissidents. Would patriots be the first to die?

Remember Nazi Europe. Don’t sign on to Obama’s agenda, and die.

Ward Hartzell



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