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(Klamath) Tribes receive development grants

Biomass, solar project studies would be funded

The Klamath Tribes have been awarded two grants to assess the feasibility of creating dozens of living-wage jobs for tribal members and other Klamath County residents.

The studies will be funded by two Bureau of Indian Affairs Energy and Mineral Development Program grants awarded to the Tribes in September.

The grants are part of $5 million awarded to 34 nationwide tribal projects to assist in developing energy and mineral resources on tribal lands.

“We want the community to know that Klamath County as a whole is only as strong as the sum of its parts,” said Klamath Tribes Economic Development Director Jared Hall. “We feel like Chiloquin and the Klamath Tribes are one of those parts. So, if we thrive economically, the rest of the county will as as well.”

Biomass, solar

A proposal for an inventory and market assessment for a tribal timber and wood biomass resources was awarded $113,832. Another proposal for a pre-development study for two large solar installations was granted $118,500.

“(The solar project) fits squarely within the Tribes’ goals for energy independence and protecting the environment,” said Tribes Strategic Planner Shayleen Allen.

According to Allen, the solar feasibility assessment will explore whether a community-scale or a commercial-scale solar installation will be most beneficial to the tribal community in Chiloquin. She said some preliminary solar installation sites on tribal-owned land have been identified, but nothing has been solidified yet.

If a commercial solar array is built, up to four permanent positions could be created, Allen said.

Giiwas Mill site

As part of a comprehensive regional plan, Hall said, the Tribes will also study the feasibility of opening a wood biomass facility at the Giiwas (ge-waas) Mill site north of Chiloquin.

Before the Klamath Tribes purchased the 128-acre Giiwas parcel in 2008, the site was known as the Crater Lake Mill. Even back in 2008, the Tribes were eyeing the potential for opening a biomass site. According to a story published that year by the Associated Press, the Tribes were seeking partners for a biomass facility, which at the time was estimated to cost between $8 million and $12 million.

Hall said the mill site has been empty since 2004.

Based on similar biomass operations in the state, 15 to 20 jobs could be created at the biomass facility and another dozen or so harvest-related positions could be created in the woods, according to Hall.

“One thing I think is really unique about this is for long time we’ve been hearing that the workforce needs to be trained in order to expand economically in Klamath County. We feel the workforce is already trained for these jobs. A lot of people will be able to move into these positions and succeed,” Hall said.

Site condition

He noted that although the mill site is located near forests where the trees will be harvested, and it’s on Highway 97 — making it prime for shipping wood products — only be a few salvageable skeleton structures may exist.

“It has a lot of things going for it, but it will need some investment,” Hall said.

As part of the assessment, a full site plan will be developed, existing equipment will be analyzed, and experts will estimate how much it will cost to get the shell structures in place.

Hall said the biomass facility will mostly process lodgepole, but timber within a 50- to 100-mile radius of the mill will be managed according to the Tribes forest management plan.

“We’re not going to be processing saw logs. I want that to be clear,” Hall said. “Right now, in this immediate project we are not scoping that kind of effort.

“The whole scope of the project is to develop multiple outlets, develop multiple products from lodgepole and to try to expedite the marketing process so we can create revenues, plus put people to work.”

Cogeneration facility

Hall said initial project phases will include building an on-site cogeneration facility to generate steam or electrical power for the property.

“This particular option could set the stage for biomass, and possibly biofuels, generation down the road,” Hall said. “We do have a couple interested parties that are looking at exploring those projects as well.”

Hall said once the assessments are complete and strategies for both plans have been developed, they will be submitted to the tribal council and the general council for approval.



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