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A federal budget bill signed into law by President Barack Obama March 11 contains more than $2.5 million for three Placer County projects.

The 2009 omnibus appropriations bill includes: $1,427,250 for the design and construction of a biomass plant at North Lake Tahoe, $957,000 for a proposed regional wastewater treatment system. The federal funds would help finance construction of a transmission line that would run from Auburn to the city of Lincoln’s new wastewater treatment and reclamation plant and $143,000 for the second phase of the county”s new Children’s Emergency Shelter.

‘We appreciate the efforts of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former Rep. John Doolittle and the rest of California’s Congressional delegation to help us fund these vital projects,’ said Chairman F. C. ‘Rocky’ Rockholm of the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

‘Our Congressional delegation works hard on our behalf, and we work closely with our lobbyists to keep federal officials informed about high-priority county projects that need federal support. That’s why the board’s annual trips to Washington, D.C. are so critical.’

Supervisors Rockholm, Jim Holmes, Robert Weygandt and Jennifer Montgomery and County Executive Officer Thomas M. Miller spent four days in the nation”s capital earlier this month meeting with federal officials about Placer County’s federal funding and regulatory-reform priorities.

Placer County has launched several initiatives focused on biomass- organic material such as downed trees, branches and pine needles that winds up on forest floors. Removing biomass from forests can help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in areas such as the Tahoe Basin. Biomass can be used to generate heat and electricity at plants such as the facility planned for North Lake Tahoe.    

Placer County is proposing to build a biomass plant that would become a research and demonstration project where Placer County could team up with universities, federal agencies and state officials to demonstrate the potential of biomass programs for reducing wildfire threats and producing commercially viable forms of energy.

‘Placer County has led the way in promoting biomass technology due to our extensive forested lands,’ said 5th District Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. ‘We are very excited by the federal government’s commitment to our biomass waste-to-energy program. The potential benefits from the technology of this pilot program are far-reaching, including fuels reduction, watershed protection, improved air quality, investment in renewable energy, job creation and much more.”

‘I am a strong supporter of the county’s biomass programs because of their potential to help protect our communities from wildfires and to supply us with clean, renewable energy,’ Supervisor Holmes said. ‘We hope the proposed North Lake Tahoe facility will become an important testing ground to help guide development of biomass programs across the country.’           

Placer County has been working with the cities of Auburn and Lincoln, Newcastle Sanitary District and South Placer Municipal Utility District to create a modern regional wastewater treatment system and close several small, outdated treatment plants.

About $18 million in local funds have been invested in regional infrastructure for the project. In previous years, Congress has appropriated more than $8 million for planning, environmental review and preliminary design work.

‘We are at a critical moment in time with this project,’ said Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt, reacting to news that funding for the project was included in the 2009 federal spending bill. ‘This grant is timely and greatly appreciated.’

The county is faced with deciding this year whether to upgrade existing treatment facilities or to continue to pursue the regional project.

Opened last year, the 16,300-square-foot Children’s Emergency Shelter can accommodate up to 30 children at a time. It primarily serves children who have been removed from their homes because they are victims of abuse or neglect.

The first phase included on-site medical facilities and two modular classrooms.

In the second phase, the county will build a multipurpose building where a variety of education, mental health and other programs will be offered. Phase-two costs are projected to be about $3.2 million.ย 

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