Forest Waste, Wildfires, Controlled Biomass Burning of Forest Waste,
Open Biomass Burning: Current Practices
Quite simply, forests produce wastes that can contribute to wildfires. This is not new but the recent Angora fire at South Shore revealed aspects of the problem. And, it is important to be concerned about the matter lest a wildfire become “catastrophic.” More importantly, however, the Angora fire also promoted a fear that has been exploited, as shall be explained, by those who support a biomass plant. And, this is in spite of there being a lack of a connection between the biomass power plants and wildfires.
The standard practice on the North and West Shores, for more than a decade and a half, has been to remove the forest waste that can be used as biomass fuel and transport it by truck outside the Basin to Cabin Creek. Cabin Creek is the road off Hwy 89 three miles south of Truckee that leads up to the Eastern Regional Landfill. The landfill has come to be referred to as “Cabin Creek.” There it is dried and processed to become biomass fuel, and then it is trucked to a large biomass plant owned by Sierra Pacific Industries in Loyalton, just north of Truckee. There it is burned to produce electricity. This procedure has worked well and we would like it to continue. This plant is rated at 20 megawatts. Still, while burning wastes collected from the Basin and from multiple other supply sources, it has been operating at only 50% capacity.
Building a biomass plant in Kings Beach will not alter hauling Tahoe sourced biomass to be burned in a biomass plant; it will only change which plant and where. The proposal to shift the location of burning biomass as a prerequisite to decreasing wildfire danger (fear) is fallacious because it is already gathered and hauled away. We certainly favor the continuance of funding to reduce the forest fuel supply, and plan to argue to Congress accordingly, but it can still be trucked to Loyalton, as has gone on for years.
Regarding the matter of open burning of wastes in the Basin, it has always occurred and shall continue to occur on about 28% of the forest that is either too steep and inaccessible for conventional removal or needed for ecological purposes. Open pile burning is minimized, carefully monitored, and occurs only during favorable meteorological conditions. A biomass plant in Kings Beach will not alter this situation of circumstance. Still, Placer County and TRPA would lead you to believe that this would be the case.
Friends of Lake Tahoe ardently supports a “reduction in open burning” for air quality purposes, and it also supports “cost effective forest fuels reduction” in order to limit wildfires. However, any claim that building a biomass burning power plant in the Basin, is simply not true. There is NO cause and effect connection and simply “saying it” doesn’t make it so.