Vernonia stakes future on new school

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Linking: forests, energy and health care

1011_Vernonia_Linking








One of the most innovative partnerships to emerge from the Vernonia school project, and another one of those “right place at the right time” moments, is with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, a forest conservation think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Catherine Mater, a senior fellow with the Pinchot Institute and president of Mater Engineering in Corvallis, was a member of the Oregon Way advisory group when the Vernonia Oregon Solutions team approached it seeking federal stimulus money for the new school.

Mater had been involved in studying for several years the issue of rural forest owners selling off their land to pay for unexpected health-care expenses. “I noticed they were surrounded by lush forestland, and didn’t have any biomass ideas. So I told them about this other idea,” says Mater.

From that has come the idea for a “thermal energy center” that would heat the Rose Avenue social services hub using local wood biomass — the new K-12 school is also to be heated by a similar biomass system — and the Western Oregon-Vernonia Forest Health/Human Health Initiative, a pilot project that Mater says is the first of its kind in the U.S. The pilot project is evaluating how to pay landowners for not selling or developing their property in exchange for carbon credits that they could sell to get health insurance; 20% of the proceeds would fund Vernonia’s community health clinic, which would then contract with local landowners for biomass for the thermal energy center. Pinchot says there are 700 private non-industrial forestland owners in Columbia County.

“It will fundamentally change the way we manage our forests, the way we finance health care and the way we handle health care for our families,” says Mater.

Funding has come from the Kelley Family Foundation, Pinchot, $50,000 from the USDA, and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon.

In early September, Pinchot and forest scientists from Oregon State University tested in Vernonia a new ground-based light detection and ranging technology to evaluate cost-effectiveness to measures biomass and carbon volumes, necessary when paying landowners for their forests’ carbon storage. In mid-September, interviews with Vernonia and area forest owners and their children showed enough interest in the idea to move forward with a business plan finalization. American Carbon Registry was selected to serve as the global carbon verifiers. Woodlands Carbon will serve as the lead state carbon developer, and L&C Carbon will help guide the Vernonia project. Next steps include finalizing carbon contracts with Columbia County landowners, securing a lead health-care sector carbon buyer, and securing the organization that will administer carbon deposits into landowner health-care debit cards.

Local realtor Sharon Bernal, Vernonia's economic development chair, is one of those local timber families. Her great-grandfather homesteaded 160 acres in Vernonia; her grandfather bought 300 acres in 1932, and then gave 150 acres to Bernal’s father. Bernal, who has two adult sons, will inherit about 80 acres. She pays $629 a month for health insurance, so health care costs worry her.

“I’m getting a lot more involved with Mater and want to understand it before my dad passes because it’s important to me to keep that land,” says Bernal, whose father and landowner uncle do not support the idea. “We don’t want to sell.”

Robin Doussard

 



 

More Articles

6 key things to know about summer baseball in Oregon

The Latest
Friday, June 05, 2015
basedthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

As temperatures in Oregon creep into the 90s this weekend, Oregonians' thoughts are turning to — summer baseball.


Read more...

Reader Input: Rx for Health Care

July/August 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers how Obamacare has impacted their business.


Read more...

Urban benediction

Linda Baker
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
072215 THUMB Credit-PontificalAcademyofSciencesBY LINDA BAKER

Charlie Hales has long viewed sound urban planning as the route to salvation: social, economic and environmental. This week, the mayor's city design philosophy got the nod of approval from a bona fide spiritual authority, Pope Francis.


Read more...

Oregon needs a Grand Bargain energy plan

Linda Baker
Monday, June 22, 2015
0622-gastaxblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Clean Fuels/gas tax trade off will go down in history as another disjointed, on-again off-again approach to city and state lawmaking.


Read more...

Store Bought

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Market of Choice is on a tear. In 2012 the 35-year-old Eugene-based grocery chain opened a central kitchen/distribution center in its hometown. The market opened its third Portland store in the Cedar Mill neighborhood this year; another outpost in Bend broke ground in March. A fourth Portland location is slated for the inner southeast “LOCA” development, a mixed-use project featuring condos and retail. Revenues in 2014 were $175 million, a double-digit increase over 2013. CEO Rick Wright discusses growth, market trends and how he keeps new “foodie” grocery clerks happy.


Read more...

Preserving the Legacy

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A New York floral and gift business takes on the iconic Harry & David brand.


Read more...

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS