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Power plant could come back to life

Glenn Zane, co-owner of Big Valley Power, has guided efforts to put the power plant back on line and to reopen the mill.

"The first thing is to get the power plant on line and start producing power," Zane said. "As far as we know, we are absolutely on board with all permits that we need to have."


The Big Valley Lumber mill closed in 2001, leaving more than 100 people out of work. Much of the equipment was sold later that year at an auction. The negative impact on the Big Valley economy was devastating.

The adjoining cogeneration power plant, however, remained largely intact, setting the stage for its purchase and renovation along with the rest of the 120-acre site near Bieber.

Zane and his partner, Brad Seaberg, joined forces with National Power, a power plant development group with projects in several western states and Australia, to complete the purchase last April.

National Power is the same firm that recently proposed the construction of a 25-megawatt power plant, three or four times as large as the Big Valley power plant, near Alturas.

Zane said the new company purposely did not announce its plans until now to avoid raising expectations among Big Valley residents.

"What we don't want to do is overstate what we're capable of doing," he said. "We're trying to be very cautious."

Glenn Zane, left, co-owner and manager of the Bieber power plant, credits two former employees who have returned to re-start the operation, Bob Pauley, center, and Bob McDonald.

With resumed operations imminent, Zane said his company is interviewing prospective employees for selected jobs. The reopening could add 50 to 60 jobs by late 2005.

"We think there's an opportunity here," said Zane, a career forester and timberland manager for more than 30 years. "You don't put this sort of investment of time and money into a project like this unless you do think there's an opportunity. We know that there are a lot of difficulties, and we believe that we have figured out a way to meet those difficulties."

One of the past difficulties was a lack of timber from the Big Valley Sustained Yield Unit, about 105,000 acres of Forest Service land in the Modoc National Forest, even though timber from the unit is specifically directed by law to the Big Valley timber industry.

"We intend to start operating a sawmill so that we can meet the commitments that are incumbent on anyone who operates in the Big Valley sustained yield unit," Zane said, noting future plans envision a small, low-production sawmill. "We believe that if we are going to be successful, we must operate within the constraints that are put on us by supply and economics."

To avoid future timber shortages, Big Valley Power has secured two timber sales from the Forest Service, including one in the sustained yield unit. The sales, he hopes, will supply biomass for power generation and saw logs for "a very small sawmill."

"For the next decade we anticipate that, from the sustained yield unit, there will be some, but not much, merchantable-sized timber offered for sale," Zane said. "We're going to see the Forest Service sell more of its timber with an emphasis on fireproofing what is being left in the forest. We believe that we have an almost unique situation here so that we can take advantage of that."

Zane credits Bob Pauley, former plant manager from Lookout, and Bob McDonald, the former sawmill manager and an Adin resident, with working diligently to bring the plant back into operation.

"They have done some heroic things around here to make that happen," Zane said.

It's expected the power plant will eventually produce about seven megawatts of power, enough electricity for about 7,000 homes.






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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