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Downed trees from across Jefferson County could be heading to biomass plant

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FORT DRUM — Fallen tree limbs and other debris from recent storms across the north country may get new life as fuel at ReEnergy Holdings LLC’s Black River biomass facility on post.

The company is in discussions with the city of Watertown to pick up its debris, and a meeting will be held next week for the company to talk with highway superintendents across Jefferson County. The company also planned to reach out to St. Lawrence County municipalities to discuss collecting their debris.

Anthony J. Marciniak, facilities manager for the company’s site on post, said the company will work to set up consolidation points to bring materials that would be ground and taken to the site. Municipalities also could be paid per ton of debris if they take it to the site.

“Their alternative to this would be landfilling this at a much higher cost,” he said. “This is giving a low-cost disposable alternative, and it gives the added benefit of the energy it produces.”

The products will be needed at the facility, which goes through a massive amount of wood products and forestry residue.

Mr. Marciniak said that when all three of the plant’s boilers are producing at its approximately 55 megawatt full capacity, it consumes about 75 tons of wood material per hour, more than the average weight of about 10 adult elephants.

In order for the pickups to be feasible, Mr. Marciniak said, the combined material would have to fill at least 10 truckloads, each carrying about 25 to 30 tons.

He said the plant, which opened in June, supplies power to about 55,000 homes in the area outside of the post.

Many superintendents interviewed said they were still trying to assess the level of debris in their municipalities.

“Hounsfield got hit hard; Sackets Harbor got hit hard,” town Highway Superintendent Bruce C. Alcombrack said. He said it may not be until spring or early summer before all of the debris is picked up.

The conditions around the area have presented challenges for many crews looking to clear debris.

“We haven’t picked up anything,” LeRay Highway Superintendent Bruce E. Shawcross Jr. said. “We’ve gone right from the ice into the snow.”

In Henderson, highway crews are looking for places to store the debris they’ve already collected. Highway Superintendent Harold J. Nelson said he liked the idea of the debris being used at the plant.

“If everybody’s got debris, why not let them burn it?” he said. “I don’t like it sitting in my hands.”

Mr. Marciniak said the company has experience reaching out to municipalities with storm-related debris; he said the company’s plant in Lyons Falls collected material from Connecticut following Hurricane Sandy and other major storms.

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