Placer County scuttles Lake Tahoe biomass plant effort

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County has pulled the plug on any plans to build a biomass power plant at Kings Beach on Lake Tahoe’s north shore. The plant was rejected by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency last month, leaving Placer County without a partner on a proposal that had won federal funding but little community support in Kings Beach. If it had moved ahead, the county would have built biomass-burning energy plant in the Tahoe Basin, trucking in forest debris from the area in an attempt to lesson wildfire dangers. But the county Board of Supervisors, bolstered by a recommendation from Community Development Resource Agency Director Michael Johnson, voted Tuesday to scuttle what had been a joint effort with the Tahoe planning agency to develop a Kings Beach site. Instead, the county will now be looking at Cabin Creek off Highway 89 – the location of the county’s Eastern Regional Materials Recovery Facility – as a potential site. With Kings Beach now officially off the table, the development resource agency will be preparing a new contract to conduct an environmental study for a biomass plant at Cabin Creek and estimating costs to move forward without the Tahoe body. Supervisor Jim Holmes, who recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive an award on behalf of the county for its biomass plant efforts, said he was disappointed in the turn of the events spurred by misinformation and scare tactics from opponents in Kings Beach. Holmes said that the plant and the biomass effort are meant to reduce the threat of wildfire, prevent erosion into Lake Tahoe and produce alternative energy. Local residents expressed concerns about air pollution and noise from truck traffic bringing in wood debris from a 30-mile radius. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who represents the Tahoe area on the board, said she too was disappointed but believes the Cabin Creek site has the potential to meet the county’s goals. “One of the parts of the process is to identify problems and determine if they can be mitigated,” Montgomery said. “If they can’t, you move forward in a different direction.” In recommending that the supervisors move on with the Cabin Creek project, Johnson said that the environmental analysis determined that noise from the Kings Beach site couldn’t be mitigated to a less-than-significant level. Supervisor Jack Duran was in favor of taking a turn in a different direction – and without the county’s former partner in the biomass effort. “The one thing we need to focus on is we still have a project and it’s not in the TRPA jurisdiction,” Duran said.