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The Daily



09-19-03: Decision near on manure-burning electric plant


A decision on whether to build a proposed biomass facility in Mercer County that burns poultry and livestock manure to generate electricity could be made in 30 days.
Paul Felger, president of Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Commodity Drying, a 5-year-old company developing biomass generating facilities, told The Daily Standard this morning he will be the person who makes that decision.
Felger also said if he decides to build a plant in the county, the announcement of the specific site would soon follow.
Members of the Wabash Watershed Alliance (WWA) learned the project is back on track during the group’s regular meeting on Thursday. The WWA, a group concerned with improving water quality in the Wabash River and in the watershed area that drains into the river, first learned of Commodity Drying’s interest in building such a plant in February.
Biomass is all non-fossil, organic materials that have an intrinsic chemical energy content. They include all water- and land-based vegetation and trees and all waste biomass.
Felger confirmed he is looking at the Fort Recovery area as a possible site for the 12 megawatt plant and plans to meet with Fort Recovery Village Administrator Randy Diller and other county officials next week to discuss it further.
Felger said the plant could burn poultry, cattle/dairy and hog manure. The southwest part of the county near Fort Recovery is an area central to most of the county’s large poultry and livestock operations.
WWA Coordinator Lance Schwarzkopf said Felger told him Commodity Drying has a letter of intent signed by a power broker to purchase electricity from such a biomass facility if it is built, which Felger also confirmed this morning. Felger would not divulge the name of the power broker nor a price tag for the facility. He said he still needs more information before he puts an exact cost to it.
The WWA has encouraged the plant’s location in the county because it may decrease the amount of livestock manure that gets into watershed creeks and streams feeding into the Wabash River.
“We would look at turkey, chicken, cow and pig manure,” Felger said. “Not all manure burns the same, so it would be blended to achieve the best combination needed to generate electricity.”
Right now Felger said he is still talking with local poultry and livestock producers to lock in his fuel supply.
“If that goes, it will go. If we can’t do that, it won’t go,” Felger said.
Under other matters, WWA took baby steps toward looking into making the WWA a nonprofit entity after learning from ODNR officials recently that the WWA is not an officially organized entity. Therefore, the group is not eligible to continue as a signatory of the Wabash watershed coordinator grant.
The news was delivered to WWA officials in the form of a letter from ODNR Division of Soil and Water Conservation Chief Dave Hanselmann.
If the WWA wants to continue receiving the grant funds, it must obtain appropriate legal status such as becoming a 501(c)3 (nonprofit) organization or find an eligible and willing entity to employ the coordinator and provide necessary in-kind matching services such as office space and supplies, Hanselmann stated.
Those entities could include non-profit and non-governmental organizations, all local units of the government and regional planning commissions. The employer also should be aware of the declining nature of the grant and should have a plan to supplement the watershed coordinator’s salary beginning in the second year of the grant.
Hanselmann in his letter gives WWA officials an Oct. 1 deadline by which to take the necessary steps, including incorporation and submittal of an application to become a non-profit organization, or find an entity with appropriate legal status to employ the watershed coordinator. A contract would then be completed between ODNR and the entity. If a resolution has not been reached by that time, ODNR may pull the contract.
WWA officials plan to discuss the matter further.
WWA Chairman Gary Stein-brunner characterized the support from the Mercer Soil and Water Conservation District to act as the signatory of the WWA’s grant as weak and “minimal at best.”


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