Biomass Plant in Tahoe: TRPA: Proposed site won't work

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KINGS BEACH - The community of Kings Beach is no longer an option as a potential site to host a biomass facility, officials said this week.

On Thursday, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency staff issued the agenda packet in advance of the July governing board meeting. In the executive director's report, Executive Director Joanne Marchetta wrote: "TRPA staff recently met with Placer County officials concerning the county's proposal to locate a biomass facility at a site in Kings Beach. On July 18, 2011, I informed the county of the TRPA staff's determination that the site is unworkable and recommended to them that the Kings Beach project site be removed from consideration as an alternative included in the detailed EIR/EIS for the county's proposed project."

The news comes two days after Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery - whose district encompasses the California side of Lake Tahoe's North Shore - told a crowded room of concerned residents at the North Tahoe Event Center that officials have heard widespread and vocal complaints relating to biomass plans for the northern Kings Beach neighborhood commonly referred to as "The Grid."

"For all intents and purposes, Kings Beach is off the table as a possible site," Montgomery said. "The Lake Tahoe Basin is a special place and I don't believe the biomass plant will pass muster."

Montgomery spoke at an informal meeting organized by Kings Beach residents Mike and Dawn Baffone, whose home they share with their young daughters sits about 100 feet away from the proposed site.

The Baffones initiated a grassroots movement months ago to oppose the development of biomass processing in their neighborhood and have garnered much support, evidenced by the roughly 200 residents who attended Tuesday's meeting. Most activists are not against biomass technology, but believe the basin is not a proper location for a variety of environmental and social reasons.

Montgomery's announcement Tuesday was not well-received, however. A few residents - including Sue Daniels, former president of the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors and current North Tahoe Public Utility District board member, and resident Leslie Saxe - spoke of the need to continue to raise awareness and momentum for the opposition to the facility.

"(Jennifer Montgomery) doused the flame and many people were pleased, but they doubted whether it was true, and they don't want to see the momentum slowly die," Daniels said in a follow-up interview on Wednesday.

However, Thursday's announcement from TRPA affirmed Montgomery's assertion. She expressed relief and excitement in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.

"This news allows me (finally) to be able to state publicly what I've been saying for the past 2.5 years - good science does not always mean good policy," she said.

Montgomery said she still believes a biomass facility is a good idea for Eastern Placer County, but a proper location needs to be identified.

"I look forward to working with all the various community groups on the viability of the Cabin Creek location," she said.


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