Getting steamed over biomass

The idea of biomass is to truck in forest byproducts that burn at a super high heat, creating steam heating power. Depending on who you ask, and right now that’s Clark County officials, it’s sustainable and everyone’s favorite environmental color — green.

But the Vancouver City Council wasn’t so enthused about the idea when County General Services Manager Mark McCauley updated them Monday on the county’s study of putting in a biomass plant downtown.

The biomass plant would be on Harney Street between 12th and 13th streets, near several county buildings, and would provide sustainable central heating and cooling to those buildings.

It would also be some 40 to 60 feet high, with a smokestack that is 50 to 70 feet off the ground.

While Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilor Jeanne Harris gave tentative support to the plan, with Harris noting that sustainability is a goal for both the county and the city.

“I think there might be an opportunity here,” Leavitt said, but pointed out potential problems with land use (the city council would have to approve a rezoning of the area to allow the biomass plant), traffic and possible air issues.

But other councilors seemed downright against the biomass movement, particularly Councilor Pat Campbell.

He called biomass “green coal,” noting that it takes lots of man power to collect biomass and “truck it down.”

“You’re kind of spinning this, I believe,” Campbell said. “I think we have gotten caught up in the enthusiasm for this. I don’t think this place is ready to experiment.”

The county is moving into a second, more detailed level of study on the biomass plant. Share your views at the county’s open house, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the county elections office, 1408 Franklin St.

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