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Forest biomass project slated for Camptonville

Yuba Water OKs funding for biomass, business center project

Yuba Water Agency recently approved a loan that will help build a new forest biomass plant as well as a business center in the Yuba County foothills.

As a result of the approval, a third loan of $70,000 was granted to the Camptonville Community Partnership to purchase 100 additional acres of land adjacent to a property where it plans to build a three-megawatt forest biomass plant and business center, Yuba Water officials said.

Through efforts such as the Yuba Foothills Healthy Forest Project, Yuba Water has been involved with thinning out forests in the foothills to help prevent the spread and severity of wildfires.

Yuba Water General Manager Willie Whittlesey has said that not only do these thinning projects protect against major wildfires, but they also protect and contribute to the success of the surrounding watersheds.

To help thin out the forests, workers must cut down trees with guidance from experts and then prepare those trees on site for removal through a chipping process, the Appeal previously reported.

As the agency continues to do these forest restoration projects, the need for a biomass plant has increased.

Once the trees are cut and prepared for transport in their final chip form, they are carried out on trucks to be hauled to a biomass power plant in Anderson where they are converted into energy for residents of the state to benefit from, the Appeal reported last year.

Zane Peterson, owner of Peterson Timber, previously told the Appeal that because of restrictions such as travel time to and from Anderson, the need to wait for the chips to dry out and the overall process of getting trees ready, his company can only do about two trips a day with 14-16 bone dry tons of chips per truck — in total it’s about 25 tons each the trucks are carrying out of these sites.

Madison Thomson, a forester for CHY, previously said because of the limited amount of biomass power plants that are available in the state, the time it takes to thin out any given forest area is restricted.

“We’re shipping these chips to Anderson, which is a really long way to send that material,” Thomson previously said. “We don’t have the number of biomass plants on the ground that are capable of taking chips and converting them into power that we need to be able to scale this work up.”

Yuba Water officials said the newly planned biomass plant would process biowaste from nearby forest restoration projects and use that biowaste to “generate clean electricity, creating a regional market for forest waste material.”

The loan and land purchase will allow the Camptonville Community Partnership to have full site control of the property, which is a requirement of many external grant programs, Yuba Water officials said. The partnership is currently applying for a $2 million grant through the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

“Building a biomass center in Yuba County ties in perfectly with the agency’s ongoing forest health efforts,” Yuba Water Vice-Chairman Randy Fletcher said in a statement. “When built, this project will be critical to our efforts to reduce the risk of a destructive megafire in our foothills.”

Yuba Water officials said that by owning the land, the Camptonville Community Partnership will be able to reduce insurance costs and “allow the partnership to plan, prepare and market the potential biomass business center to its full potential.”

Once the biomass facility and associated infrastructure are built, Yuba Water’s loan would then turn into grant funds, officials said.

To contact Regional Editor Robert Summa email, rsumma@appealdemocrat.com.


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