By Nick Worth
The Snowflake Power Plant is the latest victim of the Catalyst Paper Mill closure.
Snowflake Power, which runs a biomass power boiler on the site of the old Catalyst Paper Mill outside of Snowflake, is shutting down in middle to late March, according to Heath Hildebrand, vice president of opera-tions for the power company.
“It all leads back to the Catalyst Paper Mill shutting down,” said Hildebrand. “We have been unable to reach a long-term agreement on the equipment and services we need to continue running from the Hackman-Brophy group that bought the paper mill.”
“We had a symbiotic relationship with the paper mill,” Hildebrand said.
As part of its fuel, the power plant burned paper mill sludge, which had been put in a landfill prior to 2008 when the biomass boiler was built. The remainder of the biomass boiler’s fuel was made up of wood.
In addition to the burnable sludge, the paper mill provided the power plant with water for their boiler. Now that the mill is no longer running, Snowflake Power has had to provide its own water.
Hildebrand said the plant has fuel enough to run at least through the middle of March.
“We’re going to continue running until we run out of the wood we have stored on the property,” Hildebrand said.
He said the plant closure would have an effect on the area’s jobs that reached beyond the power plant employees.
“We employ 35 people at the power plant and another 60 to 70 jobs indirectly through logging operations,” Hildebrand said.
In a joint statement issued by Navajo County District III Supervisor Sylvia Allen and District IV Supervisor David Tenney regarding the closure of the Snowflake Power Plant, the two expressed their “support and heart-felt sorrow” to those affected by the decision.
“Since the announcement by Catalyst Paper last summer, there have been numerous attempts by a deter-mined and talented collection of private individuals and public officials to save the jobs that are tied to the paper mill in Snowflake, but it seems that even those efforts have now been overwhelmed by the economic forces at work.
“The loss of the Snowflake Power Plant for the families and communities involved is tragic, but we are committed to helping in any way we can. We feel it is our duty to help lead in the effort to keep pushing for economic opportunities in the region, and we will continue to work with members of the business community to keep the environment as favorable to new and existing business as we can.”
Hildebrand said there is a chance something might change. He said other parties have expressed interest in the plant.
“We’re hopeful a new owner will emerge for the power plant,” said Hildebrand. “The present owner would prefer to sell it as a going operation.”
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By Nick Worth