Out of My Mind, May 31, 2012

New Nighthawk Port of Entry is nice, but…

The new U.S. Port of Entry facility at Nighthawk is a technological wonder and features some nice touches, especially when it comes to renewable energy. The remote border crossing is the perfect place to take advantage of solar and wind energy. And to me the idea that the federal government will be able to sell back excess electricity into the grid makes a lot of sense – just as it did when the Oroville Housing Authority board voted to use the money it saved on construction of the new farmworker housing to put solar panels on the roofs. This actually reduced energy costs and even makes the OHA a little money by selling what we don’t use.
Of course solar panels have been tried before at the Nighthawk Port, unfortunately the technology back in the seventies or eighties just wasn’t what it is today. While the new solar panels tilt and turn to follow the sun, the old panel spent most of its life in need of repair until one day it was scrapped.
Unfortunately new, more modern border crossings are what seem to be needed in the shadow of 9-11. Europe has relatively open borders and crossing from one country to another now is as easy as when we cross from state to state. In the U.S., our once nearly unguarded border with our good friends in Canada is now a place with hidden video surveillance, vibration sensors, helicopters patrols and lots of U.S. Border Patrol agents. Where once we considered having a cardlock or video check-in type system at these kind of remote border crossings like Nighthawk, now we’re more likely to be watched by drones like we were in Afghanistan or something.
It’s the new reality, but one can’t help but wonder how many new school roofs we could have gotten for just a fraction of that $6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that were used to create what to some might seem like overkill at Nighthawk — a place where fewer than a dozen vehicles cross each day.
The new border crossing is pretty amazing and makes the old little brick building that used to serve the crossing’s needs seem out of place. And of course it is, and just like the 1930s era building that was taken down when the new shared Oroville/Osoyoos POE was built, the old Nighthawk Custom House will soon be a thing of the past. It’s too bad we couldn’t move it somewhere, then we could have a second historic Custom House for the Okanogan Borderlands Historical Society folks. But like lots of things that have outlived their usefulness the old facility will be torn down. Maybe I can get a brick or two, I still have one of the terra cotta roof tiles from the old Oroville Custom House.
If you get the chance to cross at Nighthawk it is worth the drive just to see the new solar panels and what I believe are the only sizable wind-powered generators in the county.