Placer biomass plant for Kings Beach hits major stumbling block

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A potential move by Placer County to build a biomass power plant at Kings Beach on Lake Tahoe’s north shore has been rejected by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s executive director. In a development that signals a shift in studying potential locations to the Cabin Creek alternative outside the Tahoe Basin, the Planning Agency’s Joanne Marchetta has made it clear in a letter to the lake area’s governing board that the controversial Kings Beach location should no longer be considered as an option. For Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who represents the Tahoe area, the decision leaves the county no other option than to move forward with studies on the Cabin Creek location or find another workable location. “Having served on that board I understand that anything proposed in that basin has to have the approval of the TRPA,” Montgomery said. “The executive director has stated that Kings Beach is unworkable and that means it’s off the table.” A biomass plant uses waste from the forest – mostly wood chips and smaller tree branches that can’t be milled for lumber – and converts it into energy. Montgomery said she supports the concept and sees Cabin Creek – the location of the county’s Eastern Regional Materials Recovery Facility – as a more suitable location. But the location still must undergo environmental analysis, she said. Supervisors heard an update on the biomass project at Tuesday’s board meeting in Squaw Valley – including the Marchetta statement regarding the Kings Beach site being unworkable. Board Chairman Robert Weygandt said the county continues to support the goals underlying the biomass plant, which include reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires and improving air quality by curtailing the number of open, burn-pile fires in Sierra forests. “Work leading to this point indicates that a small biomass facility in eastern Placer County may be economically sustainable with increasingly efficient technologies,” Weygandt stated. Weygandt said the environmental review process is continuing “as designed and identifying environmental or other issues that may prevent a project going forward.” He added that the county is dedicated to a “fair and full analysis.” In her statement, Marchetta said that it is within her discretion under the agency’s rules to recommend that the Kings Beach site no longer be analyzed in detail and be identified as “an alternative considered but rejected.” Marchetta cited widespread community opposition to the Kings Beach location, potential noise impacts that couldn’t be mitigated, truck-traffic increases and “potential incompatibility with surrounding uses,” as factors entering into her recommendation.