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DNR selects University of Washington for biomass study

The University of Washington’s Forks-based Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) is a likely candidate as a base for research for a study on the “economically and ecologically available forest biomass in Washington’s working forests.”

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced the selection of the University of Washington’s School of Forest Resources along with Sacramento, California-based TSS Consultants for the project.

Such a study was mandated earlier this year by the Legislature who passed the Forest Biomass Supply Agreements Bill (2SHB 2481).

The study is to look at and evaluate factors including environmental protection, road access, existing infrastructure, and travel distance to a facility, according to the DNR.

ONRC Director John Calhoun and City of Forks Attorney/Planner Rod Fleck were the main proponents for a $1 million grant approved by the Legislature used to help build the $2.5 million Quillayute Valley School District biomass furnace facility at Forks High School. The biomass furnace is scheduled to begin burning wood chips culled from Wests End mills and forests by early 2012 to heat the new addition to Forks High School as well as sections of Forks Middle School.

The school-based biomass plant is the first of its kind in Washington state and is a pilot program for other rural school districts with supplies of woody biomass available to study.

Some of the federal funds from a grant of about $1 million received from the U.S. Forest Service by the DNR will pay for the project.

The DNR is calling the study the first of its kind in nation.

A statement on the TSS Web site describes the project:

“The assessment will estimate woody biomass volume, throughout the State of Washington, from forest operations on a long-term, sustainable basis to be used as feedstock for energy production. The assessment will utilize various filters, such as operational feasibility, as well as financial and environmental hurdles to determine suitable prospective woody biomass volumes.

“It is anticipated that assessment results will provide forest resource managers with data and tools (e.g., biomass calculator) to generate reasonably accurate estimates of woody biomass material available for energy production. In addition, this assessment will provide potential bioenergy project developers with a regional overview regarding biomass feedstock availability within the state of Washington. It is anticipated that a final report providing detailed results will be issued by September, 2011.”

“I am confident that the team at the University of Washington will apply the necessary scientific rigor to this study,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “It is important to me that we continue to move forward with the forest biomass initiative thoughtfully. Understanding what is actually available in our forests will help ensure that bioenergy facilities in Washington are appropriately scaled to our resource base.”

For more information about DNR’s Forest Biomass Initiative and the original RFP for this study, please visit: DNR biomass Web site

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