April Meeting Cancelled

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak the ABC April meeting is cancelled.  Even though Turtle Rock Park is big enough to maintain the required separation between attendees, travel restrictions for agencies and the age of some of our participants is such that it is best to cancel the meeting.  Once things settle down we will regroup, and I hope to be able to have the May meeting but that will depend on how things go.

March Meeting Summary

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Photo by Mary Rawson

Our meeting on March 3rd, 2020 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 24 members of the public and agencies.  High Sierra Community Economic Development Corporation (HSCEDC) presented the results to date of the scoping study on how best to utilize the excess biomass in our forest and improve local economic development.

The presentation was made by Meagan Hartman and Andrew Haden of HSCEDC.  There are approximately 41,000 bone dry tons (BDT)/year of excess biomass practically available on a sustainable basis.  HSCEDC considered 27 possible uses of the biomass and the uses that rose to the top were biomass-to-bioenergy, either to generate district heating or electricity.  Pro-forma financial analyses were performed for district heating at Kirkwood and a gasification facility to generate electricity along with solar panels and battery backup in the Woodfords area.  In addition to consuming a significant amount of excess biomass, this second option would also serve as a micro-grid which could supply electricity to eastern Alpine County in the event of a power failure.  As soon as the final report is received it will be posted on ABC’s download page.

The ABC approved submitting a letter of support for the Intertribal Stewardship Workforce Initiative (ISWI) efforts to require FEMA to engage tribal and local crews in forest restoration after the Camp Fire.  Almost all the funding has gone to a select group of corporations closely aligned with FEMA.

Organization Update:  A MOA signing ceremony is planned for the April meeting.  Agencies and organizations will have one representative, but individuals who belong to a particular agency or organization may also sign as individuals.  Please check with your organization or agency to determine who will be signing, or whether you need to sign as an individual.

Hot Springs Road Corridor Update:  It is expected that CALFIRE will be announcing the awards this month.

Participant Updates:  (Updates that were not related to the ABC mission statement are not included).  David Griffith reported ABC’s financial statements are complete and tax returns will be filed in the next few weeks.  CALFIRE’s programmatic EIR for fuels reduction should help fuels reduction projects move through the environmental process more quickly.  CALFIRE or CARB will have a smoke app for phones available in June.  Coreen Francis reported that the Aspen Training has been tentatively scheduled for June 8th-9th.  BLM has grant opportunities; Good Neighbor Agreements are a focus.  The link will be posted on ABC’s website.  Applications are due April 28th.  Steve Wilensky reported CHIPS has certified 20 Washoe Tribal workers for hazard tree removal.  Washoe crew members visited the Camp Fire and trained 50 people.  CHIPS has signed a power purchase agreement with PG&E.  CHIPS has been awarded $3 million for work on Highway 4 and $2.5 million for work on private lands in Calaveras and Amador Counties.  Thurman Roberts reported CHIPS is hosting a job fair on March 7th from 9:00 am- 5:00 pm at the Hung-A-Lel-Ti Tribal Gym.  30 more workers are needed.  Training will include chainsaw safety.  Greg Bennett reported training CHIPS crew members has been a fulfilling experience.  Irvin Jim (CHIPS) reported the unemployment rate at the Hung-A-Lel-Ti has dropped from 78% to 49% as a result of CHIPS.  Matt Driscoll reported SNC’s Watershed Improvement Program will be held on March 4th in Sacramento from 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm and SNC’s Board meeting is on March 5th in Sacramento.  Mo Loden reported the AWG will host a meeting to share its water quality monitoring data on March 10th at the Hung-A-Lel-Ti Education Center from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Volunteers for water monitoring are needed and there will be a refresher training at the March 10th meeting.  Mark Schwartz recommended www.purpleair.com and www.weatherunderground.com for local air quality information in real time.  David Griffith cautioned that the Purple Air units are not certified and recommended simply looking out the window to determine whether it was necessary to take precautions due to smoke.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday April 7th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  The meeting will feature the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Agreement and presentations on prescribed and managed fire.  Presenters are Rich Adams, CA State Parks, Matt Zumstein, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and Phil Kiddoo/Ann Logan, Great Basin Air Pollution Control District on the District’s Smoke Management Plan.

To contact us you can either leave a comment on this blog, or for a private comment, visit our contact us page.

Scoping Study Presentation

The March meeting will feature a presentation of the results of the scoping study on how best to utilize the excess biomass in our forests and improve the local economy.  Removing excess biomass from the forest will improve forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

The scoping study presentation will be by High Sierra Community Economic Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Wisewood Energy.  The scoping study has shown that there is a more than adequate supply of excess biomass on a sustainable basis to support a small scale power plant near the junction of highways 88 and 89 as well as potentially supplying a thermal heating system at Kirkwood.  The scoping study recommends Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) / Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS) encourage possible partners to further evaluate the opportunity.  It was funded by an $80,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration and a $20,000 non-recourse interest free loan from Community Vision (formerly Northern California Community Loan Fund).

The reports on biomass supply and screening of 27 possible uses of the biomass are on the downloads’ page of the ABC blog/website.  This economic analysis report will be posted as soon as received, but may not be available before the meeting.

A signing ceremony for the MOA is tentatively scheduled for the April meeting.  The Hot Springs Road Corridor work group is awaiting a decision by CALFIRE as to the success of the Fire Prevention Grant which is expected sometime in March.

Our March meeting is scheduled for Tuesday March 3rd at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

February Meeting Summary

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Photo by Mary Rawson

Our meeting on February 4th, 2019 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 18 members of the public and agencies.  There was a presentation on things that need to be taken into account when considering owning and operating a biomass-to-bioenergy facility.  The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was approved and the signing ceremony is planned for the April meeting.  Updates were given on the scoping study, and the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP).

Steve Brink of the California Forestry Association gave a presentation on what needs to be taken into account when considering a biomass-to-bioenergy facility.  He reviewed biomass supply, typical capital and operating costs for different types and sizes of facilities, and the challenge posed by competition from subsidized solar and wind energy.  His presentation is available on ABC’s download page.

Organization Update:  The MOA was approved and a signing ceremony is planned for the April meeting.  Agencies and organizations will have one representative, but individuals who belong to a particular agency or organization may also sign as individuals.  Please check with your organization or agency to determine who will be signing, or whether you need to sign as an individual.

Scoping Study Update:  High Sierra Community Energy will be presenting the scoping study at the March 3rd meeting, and will also be making a short presentation at the Board of Supervisors March 3rd meeting.  It will also be posted on ABC’s download page as soon as it is received.  The two preliminary reports are already posted on ABC’s download page.

Hot Springs Road Corridor Update:  It is expected that CALFIRE will be announcing the awards in about a month.

ESSRP:  The Gateway Community Workshops have started and the one for Alpine County and northern Mono County is scheduled for July 16th in Walker.  Project ideas are being solicited and as soon as the project idea forms are ready they will be posted on ABC’s download page.  Current informal proposals for Alpine County include applying for a National Scenic Byway designation for Hwy. 89 from US 95 to the Tahoe Basin, public washrooms in Markleeville, an RV dump station, electric vehicle charging stations in Markleeville, and trail improvements or new trails.  The emphasis needs to be on improving the visitor experience with regard to outdoor recreation and have a benefit to the region as a whole.

Participant Updates:  (Updates that were not related to the ABC mission statement are not included)  Mark Schwartz reported on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce that registration for the 40th Anniversary Death Ride is open.  The ride is Alpine County’s biggest fundraiser; it generated $90,000 last year.  Jerry Lloyd, AWG, shared a warning about toxicity from algal bloom at Wet Meadows, Indian Creek and Red Lake.  Warning signs are not always visible.  Anna Belle Monti reported the Humboldt-Toiyabe is adding onto the Markleevillage Fuels Reduction Project next summer.  Future work includes aspen stand restoration and prescribed fire on Monitor Pass.  Helen Fillmore, Outreach Coordinator for the AWG, reported that she is recruiting two volunteers for water monitoring March 12th – 14th.  She can be contacted at awg.helen@gmail.com.  Thurman Roberts reported that there will be a job fair on March 7th at the Hung A Lel Ti gym.  Successful candidates will demonstrate a passion for forest restoration and an ability to perform demanding physical labor.  He also reported that he is doing outreach to expand the work of the CHIPS crew.  Corinne Francis reported she is working on coordinating an Aspen Restoration Training.  The training date will be announced at the next meeting.  She also reported that the BLM is prioritizing Tribal Biomass Demonstration Projects and that she will send detailed information to David Griffith to post.  The BLM was awarded a $4.5 million Forest Health grant form CALFIRE for a thinning and understory burning project in Tulare County.  The NEPA and cultural surveys have already been completed.  David Griffith reported that the Forest Management Task Force is slowly moving towards identifying projects.  The SNC has funding for capacity building grants which the ABC may qualify for.  Tuolomne County is trying a new strategy to shorten the CEQA process and Alpine County may join this effort.  Home Hardening can increase a home’s chance of surviving a catastrophic fire and the cost is roughly $25,000 per home.  Financing is available.  CALFire is hosting a Forestry and Resource Management Course for private landowners.  Participants will be able to create their own timber harvesting plan with oversight by a professional forester.  David Griffith also reported that the California Insurance Commissioner’s Office is changing rules regarding policies; rates will increase.  Avery Hellman reported she and Andy Hellman attended the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Resources on using grazing for fuels management, including a list of providers in California, will be posted online. Avery and Andy Hellman are sponsoring a folk music festival on their property on Carson River Road. The event is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of August 28th. There will be a low ticket price for locals and local musicians will participate.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday March 3rd at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  The scoping study on what, if any, productive use can be made of the excess biomass in our forest, which will improve forest health, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and improve the local economy.

To contact us you can either leave a comment on this blog, or for a private comment, visit our contact us page.

Biomass-to-Bioenergy Primer

The February meeting will feature a presentation by Steve Brink of the California Forestry Association on what needs to be considered in owning and operating a biomass power plant.  In addition there will be updates on the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and Scoping Study.

Steve Brink graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in civil engineering and later completed post graduate studies in Forest Engineering at Oregon State University (1981).  He retired in 2005 from the U.S. Forest Service after 37 years, including ten assignments in Regions 4 and 5, the National Office, and was Region 10 (Alaska) Deputy Regional Forester-Resources.  His Forest Service career focused on engineering and land management planning.  He has been with the California Forestry Association as Vice President for Public Resources since July, 2005.  He focuses on wood supply from California’s National Forests, forest-related national statutes, regulations, and Interior appropriations, California diesel engine rules, and carbon accounting for cap-and-trade and carbon offset programs.

Six critical things to focus on when considering a biomass power plant are:

  1. Forest biomass feedstock;
  2. Mechanical thinning acres required to create the annual feedstock need;
  3. The advantage of a biomass power plant over open-field pile burning;
  4. The types and sizes of biomass power plants;
  5. The cost stump to power plant for the feedstock;
  6. Conclude with the total cost.

The MOA work group met with the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Deputy Forest Supervisor and agreed on the final wording of the MOA, which is appended to the meeting agenda.  A signing ceremony is tentatively scheduled for the April meeting.  The final phase of the scoping study is expected to be completed in February with a presentation at the March meeting.  The Hot Springs Road Corridor work group is awaiting a decision by CALFIRE as to the success of the Fire Prevention Grant which is expected in March.

Our February meeting is scheduled for Tuesday February 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.