$80M biomass plant planned in White Swan

An $80 million wood waste-to-energy plant is being proposed for the White Swan area.

The plant, using woody debris from Yakama Nation forest lands, would employ about 30 people and be in operation by the fall of 2013, according to a business plan for the operation, which is headed by Tiin-Ma Logging owner Kip Ramsey of White Swan.

Ramsay created a limited liability company called Simkwii Energy LLC to develop the 20-megawatt complex.

Ramsey was unavailable for comment.

The project was announced in a presentation to Yakima County commissioners this week in their role as officers of the county public corporation.

Commissioners authorized Simkwii to seek the financing for the plant that would have access to the county's tax-exempt status.

The tax-exempt status offers the firm the opportunity to seek lower-cost financing because the bonds are exempt from income tax. Yakima County Treasurer Ilene Thomson said the county will not sell the bonds and is not responsible for repayment.

According to the business plan, Simkwii Energy would erect four 5-megawatt plants on an 80-acre site on Moses Road, west of White Swan. Each plant would be equipped with boilers and turbines to generate electricity from steam.

The plan said the plants will cost $3.8 million, and boilers, turbines and other equipment are estimated at $76.2 million.

In a letter of support for the project, Yakama Nation Tribal Chairman Harry Smiskin said the nation has entered into a long-term agreement for the firm to obtain wood from logging operations on tribal lands.

He said slash piles left over from logging pose a fire hazard and a breeding ground for pine bark beetles that are damaging reservation timber stands.

The business plan said the plant will have a capacity to handle 160,000 tons per year of ground-up woody debris. Tribal forest lands contain more than 1 million tons of wood debris, enough raw product to allow the plant to operate 350 days a year for 20 years, according to the plan.

Continued logging will provide additional supplies of wood to operate the plant, Smiskin's letter said.

Potential buyers of the power include Pacificorp and Puget Sound Energy. Tom

Gauntt, a Pacificorp spokesman in Portland, said the firm has not been approached about purchasing the plant's output.

Pacificorp is the parent company of Pacific Power, which provides electrical power to 130,000 customers in Yakima and Walla Walla counties.