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Gov. Lynch makes farewell tour of biomass plant'



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Cate Street Capital forester Matt Grader, left, and Cate Street’s Managing Director for Government and Community Relations Alex Ritchie explained to Gov. John Lynch some of the details of how the automated equipment (seen behind them in the woodyard) will work. The highly automated plant is expected to employ 40 workers once it is operation in Oct. 2013. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
December 19, 2012
BERLIN — Gov. John Lynch and interim director Chris Way of DRED's Division of Economic Development spent time on Tuesday morning, Dec. 11, touring a small portion of the very busy site Burgess BioPower site. The governor had not visited the site, dominated by a 330-foot-high stack, since early July.

Some of the more than 400 hard-hat-wearing on-site workers could be seen as the two men walked from the Cate Street Capital construction trailer downslope toward the Burgess BioPower plant, now under construction.

All the foundations have been poured, explained Cate Street's on-site manager Carl Belanger. Two of the turbine room's wall have had vinyl siding installed, and pedestals have been poured for the turbine, generator and condenser, he said.

The $275 million project is on time and on budget with an expected operational date of October 2013, said Cate Street Capital Managing Director for Government and Community Relations Alexandra Ritchie. Cate Street's contract with Babcock & Wilcox Company called for a 100 percent "turn-key" project, but intermittent firings will take place before the Oct. start-up date.

When asked if anything unexpected had turned up, both Belanger and Ritchie replied, "Foundations and ledge!"

Enough workers have been available, and Joe Casey of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has done a tremendous job, said Cate Street officials, who praised the collaborative efforts of both the city and state.

In addition to local workers, many come "from away" and rent apartments and houses. Others are staying at the Town and Country Motor Inn in Shelburne that has had made 89 rooms available at low-season rates. These out-of-area workers are buying food, eating out in restaurants and buying other goods and services during the typical four-day work week of 10-hour shifts that allow them to return to their homes on the three-day weekends.

The 25-and-a-half-month construction period must be having a substantial multiplier effect in the region, and a study will soon quantify that favorable impact, Ritchie explained.

Burgess' forester Matt Grader of the Sunapee area was on site. Richard Carrier of Skowhegan, Me., a large-scale logging contractor and forestland and sawmill owner who among other assets owns the Milan Lumber Company and sawmill in Milan holds the wood supply contract. Grader and Ritchie explained that Carrier expects to sign up 100 contractors to secure the plant's needed low-grade wood that will be converted to clean wood chips within 100 miles radius — a three-hour drive — from New Hampshire, western Maine, Quebec, and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

"We have a lot of low-grade wood," Grader said. "Nine out of 10 trees is a dog. Wood will be on site this summer (2013)." The Cate Street forester said that a 30-day supply will be kept on site, with a 45-day supply on hand in the two mud seasons — spring and fall — that thanks to climate change are now typical in both spring and fall.

The plant will annually burn about 750,000 tons of low-grade wood, pumping some $25 million into the North Country's economy, as loggers, chippers, and foresters, work to meet the demand for the fuel stock. Truckers, heavy equipment mechanics, and others who provide ancillary services will also be employed.

Lynch played a major role in keeping contentious parties, including the state's independent biomass operators, on task during the negotiations that allowed John Halle, president and CEO of Cate Street, to move forward on realizing his vision of converting an existing boiler remaining at the Burgess Pulp Mill site into a modern electricity producing facility.

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