We’re happy for Lakeview, a small town with economic challenges not so dissimilar from Baker City’s, but we must admit to also feeling a twinge of jealousy when we read about the Southern Oregon community’s latest venture.
Red Rock Biofuels will build a plant in Lakeview, population 2,300, that will turn forest “waste” into fuel for jet engines.
The factory, which will cost more than $200 million, will create about 30 jobs at the plant, and another 75 to 100 people will be hired to gather the logging slash and other material and haul it to Lakeview.
We’re envious of Lakeview because Baker City boasts many of the attributes that attracted Red Rock Biofuels back in 2013.
These include Lakeview’s position along a rail line and highways, and proximity to material from the pine forests in the nearby Fremont-Winema National Forest.
The Union Pacific Railroad runs through Baker City. Our road access is more robust than Lakeview’s — four-lane Interstate 84 compared with a pair of two-lane routes — Highways 140 and 395.
And we have a considerable amount of forest within a 100-mile radius — more acreage, indeed, than within the same distance of Lakeview.
The idea of building a plant in Baker City that would transform forest debris, which now is typically burned or left on site, into a valuable product is hardly new.
Randy Joseph, who built the first windfarm in Baker County several years ago, has been touting the area’s potential for processing so-called “forest biomass” for years. And in 2016 a Forest Service official told the Herald that the agency could increase its supply of biomass if only there were a willing buyer.
We’re not suggesting this is an easy, or a fast, opportunity. The Lakeview plant is slated to open in 2020 — seven years after Red Rock first expressed interest in the town.
But it’s a real possibility, and one we hope local officials will investigate thoroughly.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.