COUNCIL -- Logging in the nearby Idaho forests used to fuel the economy in Council and Adams County.
Today, the forests are a potential source of an economic revival, this time in the form of renewable energy.
Piles of wood chips already add up to piles of energy savings for Council's elementary and junior-senior high schools.
Superintendent Murray Dalgleish says the district used to spend $50,000 each year on energy, before it replaced its oil-powered boiler with a wood fuel burner five years ago.
The bill is down to about $4,500 per year, plus the cost of using a backup propane system when the wood fuel burner is down for repairs.
Now, Adams County is working on a much-larger, 10-megawatt biomass power plant, which would use about 300 times the fuel than what the schools use now.
Biomass coordinator Pete Johnston says it is about more than heating and electricity, it is about re-energizing a community that has suffered from high unemployment since the local sawmill closed more than 15 years ago.
By creating living wage jobs, we can bring young people back into the community so they can stay here with their families, increase the school population, maintain the clinic that we have here for health care, and perhaps repopulate some of the vacant storefronts on Main Street, said Pete Johnston, Adams County Biomass Coordinator.
Once the plant is running, it will provide 20 to 25 jobs for people operating the plant, and another 75 for people who will gather wood fuel in the forests.