Let Us Hope for Loyalton 100511
A giddy Fringe Report
If I could have had two wishes for Loyalton, the first and most important would have been to see an intelligent, community driven organization take over the Sierra Pacific Industries cogen plant. Well, perhaps first would have been to see the mill in place again, busy with logs, but that was the way of the past. For Sierra County, the way of the future is BIOMASS.
The county has plenty of 2 things: biomass and out of work alcoholics. If the right circumstances could put those two together, the lights would come back on in Loyalton and Sierra County. For the East Side, it would mean long term, stable jobs, which are the heart and beat of a living town. For the West Side it would mean all that dangerous understory and overgrowth would be worth enough to harvest, making the canyons and hills safer to live in. And it would actually create jobs.
Plumas Rural Services provides social services in Plumas, Sierra, Lassen and Modoc counties. Michele Piller captains the agency, and her vision for the Loyalton site is infectious. It’s a given for her that the plant will spin and sparks will fly, for her the exciting part is the unknown of what else can go in to the industrial park. Heat for green houses and drying rooms; space for processing and packaging. The possibility of value added wood products. We have confidence that someday the economy will actually start to recover; by then, with luck, work and perseverance, Loyalton will be ready.
Right now, it seems PRS is the right coordinator for a project like this. In fairness, the Prospect criticisms of Sierra Pacific Industries have always centered on the fact that cogen is largely secondary for the company. Piller’s glowing praise for SPI’s willingness to talk reclaims some of the regard the community used to have for the company, back when Red Emmerson would fly in to town, and the mill gave lumber to community projects. SPI really is a rural Northern California company, Piller assured the Prospect, they truly do want what’s best for the site and Loyalton.
PRS will have the same problems SPI did: high fuel transport costs, buyer reliability and rate agreements, and some whiney neighbors. Product development and agreements with, for example, Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council, will help with the first problem. Good partners (perhaps PSREC?) and market demands for green energy will take care of the second. The community, by and by, will take care of the third.
My second wish for Loyalton? Do something with the old hotel. It’s a husk, a shell, a dead presence in the middle of town. Fix it, tear it down, or give it to the city. Loyalton has worried and fretted over the middle school, and spent grant money on gewgaws, but it should have focused its efforts on the hotel, which casts a pall over the town no matter which direction you come from.
Maybe, when the cogen plant is running and the industrial park is filled, someone will finally do something with the old hotel.
That’s when we’ll know Loyalton is on its feet again.