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03-22-03: Manure plant study still in limbo
The Daily Standard
    Wabash Watershed Alliance (WWA) officials still are interested in pursuing a feasibility study to look at a potential biomass electric plant that would burn livestock manure, but the study is not any closer to fruition than when it first was discussed a month ago.
    Alliance Coordinator Lance Schwarzkopf said he did not proceed with a plan to seek a grant to pay for half of the study. After further investigation, Schwarzkopf said he did not believe the grant opportunity was worth the alliance's time and expense. Instead, alliance officials now plan to pursue a second grant to help fund the study.
    The $10,000 Ohio Department of Development grant would have provided $10,000 - about half of the cost of a comprehensive study. Schwarzkopf would have needed to spend abut two weeks compiling the grant application.
    "As we started looking into it, it just wasn't going to be the amount of money we needed to come up with anything of value," Schwarzkopf told WWA board members who met Thursday.
    A private company, Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Commodity Drying, is also interested in pursuing the study of a plant that would burn poultry manure to create an ash byproduct that could be turned into a pelletized fertilizer. WWA officials embraced the idea because it would remove a lot of animal waste from the watershed and ideally lead to cleaner water. The plant also could possibly be built to generate electricity.
    WWA officials will now consider a new grant opportunity that could fund the feasibility study. However, this grant would put the burden of data collection on local livestock producers. WWA officials agreed to seek out livestock farmers who may be willing to serve on a steering committee.
    No specific dollar amount was discussed concerning the United States Department of Agriculture grant. The grant is not available yet, Schwarzkopf said.
    WWA officials have mixed feelings about whether the organization should be funding the study. Some argue that if a private company wants such a study done, the company should pay for it. But others point to an extra benefit to the WWA.
    "It may never pan out, but we'd be foolish not to look at it," Mercer County Commissioner Jim Zehringer said.
    "We'd be crazy not to pursue it," board member Oscar Jutte said, adding that the sooner a watershed plan is in place, the sooner the group can begin working on specific methods to clean up the watershed.
    A feasibility study would help WWA officials compile an "inventory," of livestock and other contributors of waste to the watershed. Such an inventory is a necessary part of a watershed plan the WWA received an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency grant to help fund.
    Also Thursday, board members heard from Susan Benner, executive director of the Wabash Heritage Corridor, a conservancy group that covers 19 counties in Indiana where the Wabash River flows. The group is particularly interested in historical and preservation issues, but also has become active in recent years in water quality issues, Benner said.
    "Let them know we're working to send them clean water," WWA Chairman Gary Steinbrunenr told Benner.


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