8 Sep 2010, 11:21pm
Latest Forest News
by admin

It’s a case of biomass catch-22

By Scott Sandsberry, Yakima Herald-Republic, September 04, 2010 [here]

YAKIMA — The people who manage Washington’s public forest lands desperately want to return them to a healthier, less-congested state before catastrophic wildfire reduces that overabundance of fuel to a landscape of ash.

But those land managers have a problem.

They need to put the cart before the horse.

They must make profitable the very timber-thinning operations intended to reduce that congestion in multi-tiered, grand and Douglas fir-laden forest, the very low-level fuel that can so easily turn a small fire into a fast-spreading, landscape-leveling wildfire.

There’s a potential market for the smaller trees and underbrush in forests. Eco-friendly businesses are converting those timber-cutting byproducts — the “biomass” that used to be burned in slash piles or hauled to landfills — into renewable energy. But those customers say they can’t build boilers and processing plants until they can be guaranteed a steady, substantial supply of those timber byproducts.

Such a guarantee requires sawmills that no longer exist. Logging companies went under or left the Pacific Northwest by the hundreds over the last three decades, and they’re not coming back without a guaranteed customer base.

Central Washington University could very well become one of those customers. The university wants to convert its natural-gas boilers to biomass boilers, something that could pay for itself over the next decade and become a profit-producing model in the second decade.

But …

“The university’s in a Catch-22,” said Bill Vertrees, CWU’s vice president for business and financial affairs. “The problem is, I can’t commit to it until I have a firm supply of fuel. “I’m a client, and they need clients.

“But they’re not ready for us yet.”

Last year the state Department of Natural Resources laid off a significant portion of its timber-related staff in Chelan, Kittitas and Yakima counties. Over the last six years, lumber mills in Yakima and Naches have closed their doors. Central Washington’s timber industry has essentially become, in the words of one timber expert, “a real dead zone.” … [more]



web site

leave a comment

  • For the benefit of the interested general public, W.I.S.E. herein presents news clippings from other media outlets. Please be advised: a posting here does not necessarily constitute or imply W.I.S.E. agreement with or endorsement of any of the content or sources.
  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent News Clippings

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta