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Jeff County Chamber endorses Cogentrix

Crook County's Chamber of Commerce has not taken a stand on the controversial power generation plant which would sit near the county line
The electric power generating plant proposed for a site near the Jefferson and Crook County line has been endorsed by the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.
   Voting unanimously, the chamber's board of directors gave their approval for the Congentrix Energy Grizzly power plant. That approval came after more than 18 months of reviewing the proposal and was based, the announcement said, on the merits of such a project and whether such a plant should be built in Jefferson County.
   "We feel confident that the Grizzly project will benefit the citizens of the county while meeting all environmental and regulatory requirements of the state," Chamber President Wayne Fording as quoted as saying. "We will continue to work with Cogentrix as well as community interests to monitor and review issues and concerns as the site certification process goes forward."
   In reaching their decision, board members said they were being consistent with the chamber's mission statement. That statement reads, "to enhance the economic vitality and livability of our culturally diverse communities."
   Board members believe the economic impact of the proposed generation plant will be substantial for the county, while the impacts on resources and the environment will be minimal. "We think the plant can be a win-win situation for us and central Oregon," Fording said.
   Not everyone in Jefferson and Crook counties is in favor of the proposed 980 megawatt electrical power generation plant, One national conservation organization has singled out central Oregon as a particular "Last Chance Landscape" - an endangered place of beauty that faces immediate threat due to rapid growth and lax local regulatory standards.
   The most heinous threat now facing central Oregon, a group formed to stop the Cogentrix proposal claimed, is the 980 megawatt Cogentrix power plant. This proposed plant would have 90-foot buildings that cover 33 acres, smokestacks 175-feet in the air, a spokesperson for the group said in a recent release. Water cooling towers belching steam mingled with pollution thousands of feet above and across delicate desert ecosystems is also an issue.
   Water, as well as air and noise pollution, have been the bone of contention since the proposal was first made. According to a Cogentrix spokesman, the plant will need a lot of water to make steam for the steam turbines and to cool the steam back to water. According to the answers provided by the company, the annual average consumptive water need is expected to be about 5,320 acre feet. Broken down, that equates to approximately 4.75 million gallons per day.
   However, the question of what impact that would have on the surrounding area will be part of the study currently being conducted by various state agencies as part of the permitting process.
   Jefferson County and Madras officials have welcomed the proposal, hoping the estimated 25-30 jobs the power plant will create will be a boost to the local economy. The entire tri-county area, a Cogentrix official has said, will benefit from the 400 or so jobs that will be available during the construction period. Jefferson County officials have also offered Cogentrix a 5-year tax break incentive to draw their business to Jefferson County.
   Crook County officials are not so sure there will be any benefit to the local area and with at least one exception, have not yet announced an official recommendation.
   A spokesman for the power company met with County Commissioner Jerry Crafton's economic committee last month to talk about the project. That committee appeared to accept the proposed plant as being good for Crook County as well as Jefferson County.
   The Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce has yet to make any show of either being for or against having the generation plant near the county line. When commenting on the Jefferson County chamber's formal position on the proposed Cogentrix Plant, the response was, "The (Prineville-Crook County) Chamber is willing to refer members to resources to help them make an informed decision."
   Diane Bohle, executive director of the local chamber explained that the board of directors had not had time to talk about it or reach any decision. Members of the board, she said, have voiced their concerns about the amount of water that would be used and the possible impacts are a concern. But having said that, Bohle pointed out that the chamber is interested in any development that would have a positive impact.
   Cogentrix announced recently that the permitting process has begun with the application being made to the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC). It is expected to take three to four months for the EFSC staff and relevant state and local agencies to complete the review. It is anticipated that it will take nine months from the Completeness Determination for the EFSC to complete its review of the project and issue a Siting Certificate.
   With that certificate in hand, work could begin on the construction phase as early as late next year and the plant could begin operation in 2004.