Sierra Nevada Conservancy Symposium Report
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy held a web symposium on Thursday, October 29. The symposium was held in nine locations; the Prospect attended in Quincy along with about 18 other participants.
The symposium was broken into four segments:
Steve Wilensky, Supervisor, Calaveras County
Brett Storey, Placer County
Steve Frisch, President, Sierra Business Council
Jay Francis, Forest Manager, Collins Pine
Craig Thomas, Sierra Forest Legacy
Richard Forster, Supervisor, Amador County
Malcolm North, Research Plant Ecologist, USDA Forest Service Sierra Nevada Research Center
Pam Giacomini, Board of Forestry and Fire Protection
Steve Kaffka, Director, California Biomass Collaborative
Jim McKinney, Emerging Fuels Unit, Fuels and Transportation Division, California Energy Commission
The symposium discussed very little that was new to Prospect readers. Here’s what we know:
Infrastructure is the key; cooperation is necessary; solutions are possible but difficult to achieve; failing is not an option for our communities.
By far, the most valuable section was the local discussion. John Sheenan from the Quincy Library Group, Christina Prestella from Sierra Business Council and Jerry Hurley from the Plumas Fire Safe Council, along with knowledgeable Forest Service employees and concerned citizens contributed.
Prospect Nutshell: We have a problem and we’re going to have to be part of the solution ourselves.
There really were no "gee whiz" moments in the symposium. What we care about is turning the excess carbon in the woods into electricity instead of catastrophe. Cogen plants work most efficiently as burners of local waste; agricultural and animal waste, in particular. This waste is already on site and has to be disposed of somehow; cogen is a great solution. Forest biomass is good fuel, but unless you use lumber mill waste, it is difficult to offset transportation and handling costs.
Green waste can be processed into fiber, biodiesel, furniture, alcohols, esters and more.
We are over-regulated; new timber harvest plan types are in the works which might help.
The system currently lacks 2 things:
What it shakes out to is this: SPI or someone will open the cogen plant again if we do all the work for them, and make cheap fuel readily available. We will do this because if we don’t our communities will die and literally burn up.
We also have to become politically active, insisting that our carbon fuel be given the same advantages that coal and oil got when they were infant technologies. We have to force power consumers to pay a decent price for biomass electricity. Biomass power is worth the extra cost because it is renewable, and over-all much greener than having the woods burn up. Keeping the watersheds healthy has a value, and consumers should pay for it.
Somebody has to work in the woods to harvest this biofuel, and we have just the people for the job in our county.
If you live in Loyalton, your primary concern might be the jobs lost when the plant closed. If you live in the canyon you can’t ignore the fact that you are living in a situation that is not unlike living in a house of crumpled newspaper; if someone drops a match you’re in hot stuff. Either way, biomass is a concern to everyone in our county.
Symposium Rating: Eh. It was good enough, and it was nice to have so many "experts" in one place, but much of it we already knew. Would we go again? Yes.