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Haverstick: Fighting wildfires in the 21st century is fiscal insanity
To the Editor:
I recently hiked a portion of the Hells Canyon Wilderness only to discover the active suppression of fires by the Forest Service. The agency is out of control with nationwide suppression efforts and should not be flying fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and dropping retardant inside the canyon. Wilderness is a place where nature rolls the dice, where natural processes are supposed to occur. These forests evolved with fire, and they need to burn, especially in wild country like Hells Canyon. Besides all the machines and noise in the Wilderness, the fire retardant I observed was miles away from the fire and completely unnecessary.
The agency should not have men and women actively fighting these fires in the canyon either. Firefighters are being put in danger by deploying them in very rugged terrain. The Sheep Complex fire is burning in the canyon, far from any community, and does not pose a threat to anything or anyone. But the Forest Service continues to employ its Smokey the Bear policy at the detriment of firefighter safety, taxpayer dollars and ecosystem function.
As for the recent editorial “Our View: Price to fight fires too high” (The Observer, Sept. 18), the working title is true, but the rest of the commentary misses the mark. The words “weather” and “climate” were not mentioned once, despite the fact that the best available science says that both largely drive wildfires in the West. Warmer temperatures, drought and wind are largely what dictates fire behavior, including this summer’s. Hence, when the rains arrive and temperatures cool, fires become less active and dissipate. Season-ending events are always weather related.
The Forest Service can throw all the money and people it wants at fires (more than $2 billion in 2017), but our warming planet is really the one in control.
Cooper: Walden asleep at the switch about B2H
To the Editor:
He’s done it again. Having refused to hold a town hall in La Grande anytime in recent memory, Rep. Greg Walden secretly slipped into town and met with a small hand-picked audience at the Flying J (“Walden roundtable tackles economic development,” The Observer, Sept. 22).
Regarding the Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) power line, Walden’s constituents at the meeting hoped that “Union County could get a connection to the transmission line when it comes through the county and be able to support data centers” and other similar businesses. Walden said “he wasn’t sure how the transmission line would work and whether the county could pull from it.”
There is no excuse for such ignorance on Walden’s part. He is chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden’s own aide in La Grande, Jorden Noyes, told local citizens that he knew about B2H. Hardly top secret, it has been in Idaho Power’s IRP (Integrated Resource Plan) for at least 10 years. Public meetings have been held in this county since 2010, with his staff often in attendance. Walden should know full well that none of the power is intended to be delivered locally; as it is, 54 percent of the line will be owned by Pacific Corp, which has no interest in paying for more substations.
If Walden was concerned at all about how the B2H line affects this region, he would have gotten on it long ago. Having done nothing to oppose it, he should have had the courage to admit to his supporters that it is far too late for any plans to be changed in order to benefit Eastern Oregon.
This is not “tackling economic development.” Walden should be opposing B2H. Not only will Union County receive no power from the transmission towers scarring our skyline, but the line is likely to be obsolete before it’s completed and of no benefit to either Oregon or Idaho.
But since 60 percent of Walden’s campaign chest comes from PACs (including more than $131,000 from electric utilities), we should expect that he would represent big power companies — not local businesses or residents.
Hopkins: DHS using hotels is unacceptable
To the Editor:
I have to say I am absolutely livid hearing the news from Portland that the Department of Human Services is fostering children at hotels at great expense. It is my understanding that DHS could not give the reporters a running total of what the costs are for the program.
One child was evaluated at a cost of $1,348 per day. I noted from the form it was for a room at Oxford Suites, a high-end hotel, and there was a food allowance of $32 for dinners for the child and each of the two case workers. Obviously, they must be eating steak and lobster for their meals. It is estimated by the journalist that we (taxpayers) are spending almost $2 million for less than half a year for this practice.
These agencies must be held accountable for their expenditures. When DHS cannot even make an estimate on expenditures, the legislators are going to have to step in and evaluate the administration of the agency.
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