Supervisors Hear Update on Placer County Biomass Project

The Placer County Board of Supervisors, at its regularly scheduled Tahoe area meeting on July 26, 2011, heard updated information regarding the proposed Eastern Placer County Biomass Project.

The Strategic Plan for the Wildfire Protection and Biomass Utilization was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2007, and its goals are to:

Reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in Placer County;
Protect Placer County citizens and visitors from the consequences of catastrophic wildfire;
Find one or more beneficial uses for excess biomass in Placer County; and
Improve air quality in Placer County.

Woody biomass material is pushed into a large pile.
As a component of the Strategic Plan, the Board previously determined that the study of a small biomass energy facility in Eastern Placer County was consistent with the Plan’s goals. To that end, staff was directed to evaluate the technological, economic, and environmental aspects of a potential facility and multiple sites were selected for study. This effort has been consistent with local, state and federal initiatives and has been partially funded using federal grant money.

Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) are currently processing a joint Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), which is expected to be released to the public late this summer. The project has identified potential sites in both Kings Beach and at the County-owned landfill site near Cabin Creek on State Route 89 between Tahoe City and Truckee.

The studies and analyses being prepared in conjunction with the EIR/EIS have identified one or more environmental impacts that could be considered significant and unavoidable if the project were to be constructed at Kings Beach. Although a public draft of the EIR/EIS is not complete, Placer County concerns about these potential environmental impacts led to a meeting with Placer County and TRPA officials to discuss the feasibility of the Kings Beach site.

Following the Placer County/TRPA meeting on July 18, 2012, TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta prepared a memorandum to the TRPA Governing Board, in which she stated that staff has determined that the Kings Beach site is “unworkable” and should be removed from consideration in the project’s environmental review process.

This information was presented to the Board of Supervisors by County staff at the July 26, 2011 meeting.

“Placer County still supports the underlying policy and the goals of the Strategic Plan approved in 2007,” said Board Chairman Robert Weygandt. “Work leading to this point indicates that a small biomass facility in eastern Placer County may be economically sustainable with increasingly efficient technologies. The environmental review process, which is not complete, is working as designed and identifying environmental or other issues that may prevent a project going forward is an integral part of that process. Placer County is dedicated to a clear and above-board process and is committed to a fair and full analysis.”

The project is divided into two phases. The first phase, which is currently under way, includes preparation of environmental documents, preliminary design, land use entitlements, technology integration, and power purchasing agreements leading up to permit approvals. This project is still in the first half of the first phase. Should a site be identified and approved as part of the first phase, the second phase would include detailed design, system purchase, testing and integration of the project on the selected site.

Placer County staff was directed to return to the Board as soon as possible, at either of the two regularly scheduled August meetings, or potentially at a special Tahoe area meeting. At that meeting, the Board is asking that staff present an actionable item on a biomass plant in Eastern Placer County. This week’s item before the Board was an informational item; no action was requested. The Board also asked staff to report back if and when the TRPA Governing Board takes confirming action on Marchetta’s request that Kings Beach be removed from consideration as an alternative site for a biomass plant in the Lake Tahoe Basin.