Letters to the?editor

The environment

Relics cool, pollution not

I have to agree with David Dunlap’s letter in last week’s Sounder entitled “Generators a blast from the past,” about the important and forgotten history of OPALCO’s power plant on Mt. Baker Road.

However, I have to inform Mr Dunlap and others that the diesel generators were removed from the powerhouse over this past summer and sold for scrap.

They had not been run in many years and I’m afraid the chance of them “throwing a shower of blue/white sparks” ended some time in the early 1990s.

Yes, those massive diesel generators were cool historical relics but they represent an inefficient, noisy and polluting history of power generation that is best left behind.

The future of electricity generation will be from renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro, and distributed across the landscape on rooftops and in fields everywhere.

The OPALCO powerhouse is pretty much empty now, its future uncertain.

The metal building is in good condition and retains the character and style of a 1938 rural electrification project.

I agree with Mr. Dunlap that the power plant site is a “heritage asset” to our community and should be preserved and its history celebrated.

I encourage OPALCO’s membership and board to explore options for renovation and restoration to save this historical treasure.

Renovating the powerhouse to make it energy efficient will be important because there won’t be big diesel engines running 24/7 to keep the place warm. Good windows, insulation and air sealing are mandatory.

Once that and a thousand other important and expensive improvements are done it would be a great big space for some kind of productive activity.

Educational programs and/or small businesses related to clean energy and/or electric vehicles would be a great way to celebrate the history of the island’s first power plant while also moving forward into a clean energy future.

Eric Youngren


The economy

Support your local merchant

It was standing room only. The attendance at the recent Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting was the best in years. Over eighty Chamber members helped fill New Leaf Café and The Outlook Inn’s Victorian Room that evening.

There were greetings from old friends, and introductions made to those new to the Chamber. From the buzz that evening you could have sworn all was right with the world.

But our beautiful island is being rocked by unexpected forces. Both local and global issues are having an affect on our economy – and on each one of us.

The recent sale of Rosario Resort was a difficult event to endure, especially if you lost your job in the process. Long-time residents aren’t surprised by the ownership change; it’s proven very hard – and very costly – to make Rosario a year-round success.

There can’t be a resident on the island who doesn’t want to see the Resort up and running, in a successful fashion, before too long. It’s not only an economic engine for Orcas Island; it’s part of our history.

But if we thought the closing of Rosario was something, we’ve been rocked by the economic straits were in now.

Are we in a recession yet? That’s uncertain, but home foreclosures, a stock market decline, and financial insecurity are all around us and not up for debate. State and local governments are being squeezed like never before, and making decisions that impact us all.

Will Washington State find a way to make our transportation system (ferries) viable in the long-term, without making the trip from the mainland prohibitively expensive for residents and visitors alike?

San Juan County’s budget is being cut like none before it. Are the proposed decisions fair? Depends on who you speak with, but the simple prospect of no public restroom on Orcas Island (one of the proposed budget cuts) is hard to fathom on an island considered one of the world’s top destinations.

And where does all this gloom and doom take us? For the Chamber, it takes us to our members – your family, friends and neighbors – who are the owners, managers and employees of the businesses and organizations on Orcas Island.

We have an opportunity to put into effect one of the Chamber’s campaigns: “Think Local, Buy Local, Support Your Island Neighbor.”

More than ever, we need to take a window sticker message and put into action. Spending your dollars locally this holiday season (and beyond) has become critically important.

Is this the end of online, Costco or Wal-Mart purchases? Honestly, probably not. But Orcas Islanders need to think about the power of their dollar these days. We are spending less of them, making where they are spent even more important.

And don’t forget that paying sales tax in “our” county means those dollars remain in our County, not Skagit or King County. And our businesses need to do all they can to make sure locals are happy buying locally. It’s a two-way street … businesses need to make their goods and services attractive to residents, and shoppers need to think twice (or more) about where their valuable dollar is being spent. After all, it takes an island to spur an economy.

Lance Evans

executive director

Terri Gilleland

administrative assistant

Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce