Sierra Pacific Industries said material was not usable as biomass

The smoke banners rising over Rainbow Ridge west of Mount Shasta last week raised concerns regarding air quality, the reason for the burns, and questions as to why the material was not taken to the Roseburg biomass electrical co-generation facility in Weed.

CAL?FIRE spokesperson Suzanne Brady said the grant funded project was a joint effort between CAL?FIRE, which collected and piled the material, and Sierra Pacific Industries, who owns Rainbow Ridge and conducted the burn. A timber harvest project was completed on Rainbow Ridge by SPI in 2006.

SPI spokesperson Mark Pawliki said the burn has been completed, but that there might be some residual smoldering.

“We take the air issue seriously,” Pawliki said. “We get the proper permits and we burn in a very narrow window.”

Siskiyou County Air Quality Control officer Eldon Beck said although there is no air control monitoring station in Mount Shasta due to funding cutbacks, “To my knowledge, there have been no complaints on air quality.”
“We have had good burn days,” Beck said. “They have to have a burn prescription that sets acceptable wind direction limits on when they can burn so the smoke does not drift into the city, for example.”

Pawliki said the burn material was brush and other material from fire fuel reduction, and that there was not enough woody material suitable for the biomass co-generation facility to make transporting the slash economically feasible.

“We went back through and cleaned out brush for the fuel brake and to reduce the fire fuel load,” Pawliki said. “The material was not suitable for the co-generation biomass plant. There was very little woody material the plant could have used. It just wasn’t economically feasible to separate out what little material that could have been used.”

Pawliki said the economics of  transporting material to biomass co-generation plants can be poor.

“Sierra Pacific Industries has five biomass co-generation plants that are next to our mills that we use with very low transportation costs. There is a huge benefit to having co-generation next to the mill,” Pawliki said. “The one standalone co-generation plant we have is closed. With the high cost of transportation and the low prices paid for biomass electricity, it just doesn’t pencil out.”
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Pawliki said material from the original timber harvest project was sent to the Weed plant."

“We did send limbs and tree tops to Weed,” Pawliki said. “There was chipable material from the project.”

Roseburg Resource Manager Arne Hultgren said although “we buy woody waste all the time,” bringing material to the Weed facility is “a market decision.”

“You only get paid for dry material. It’s bought on a bone dry basis,” Hultgren said. “We take a sample of the load and bake it for 24 hours. We weight the sample and the load and pay on the dry basis.”