Prineville Pieces Fall into Place


(Proposed 112-unit Ochoco Mill Apartments | Rendering courtesy of EDCO)

EDCO Event Hears of Major Infrastructure Plans & Potential Biomass Plant

Major infrastructure developments, completion of Meta’s sprawling campus and a potential biomass energy plant that could yield over 100 jobs were among the subjects aired during a recent update on Prineville’s current slate of economic projects.

Business and community leaders at Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) Prineville/Crook County’s new Quarterly Mixer networking event, held at Meadow Lakes Golf Club, heard news of progress on several fronts during a presentation from City of Prineville Planning Director Josh Smith.

The public forum was sponsored by Western Title and local EDCO manager Kelsey Lucas said it was intended to illustrate the benefits of local economic development, with a different topic to be explored at each session.

Continued efforts towards town center revitalization were first on the agenda, with Smith outlining an ongoing vision for upgraded street lighting and sidewalks as well as raising curb appeal through façade improvements via incentives in conjunction with Prineville Downtown Association.

Resources for electric vehicles will also get a boost with the installation of smart fast-charging EV stations, thanks to a grant from Pacific Power.

Infrastructure investment was a primary talking point including analysis toward a solution for the much-needed realignment of the Peters and Main intersection and the flagship $10 million Combs Flat Road extension project which will provide an alternate anterior route North-South through town to alleviate core congestion on Main Street.

Smith said the Barnes Butte Recreation Area is still being developed to its full potential but has preserved over 600 acres of land on the eastern edge of town, near the IronHorse subdivision, for public use.

The City was presented with a unique opportunity in 2016 when Brooks Resources deemed property, they controlled in the area unfeasible for development at the time and offered it to the municipality for just the debt owed.

Along with some 160 acres atop the butte owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) it created a scenic recreation opportunity and the ability to protect wetlands and water rights, with work continuing on building out a trail system and future concept plans including a potential visitors’ center.

Current development updates included Meta working on its 12th data center buildings towards completion of its campus complex, which when finished will span some six million square feet – making it the company’s biggest worldwide. Meanwhile, Apple is looking to construct a third data center building, with approvals in place for three more.

Also on the private construction front, the Tom McCall Industrial Park, off Empire Drive, helmed by leading local builder and developer Kevin Spencer, continues its expansion, including a commercial node to provide additional business opportunities. The area forms part of the Prineville Enterprise Zone which offers tax incentives.

In terms of residential trends, Smith referenced plans for what would be the largest ever multi-family project in Prineville by some distance, in the shape of the 328-unit Reserve at Ochoco Creek Apartments proposed by Oregon-based Creations Northwest, LLC. The complex, off US-Hwy 26, would include a mix of traditional and cottage-style units.

In the same vein, another 112 units would come on stream with a proposal known as Ochoco Mill Apartments, which would provide additional workforce and affordable housing opportunities as well as spurring surrounding retail and commercial uses.

Other notable topics included progress with an Aquifer Storage & Recovery (ASR) System stacking water resources underground through an injection process and preserving native groundwater and further efforts towards water service infill for residents within city limits who currently have septic systems.

The data centers locally are also helping fund a feasibility study to assess if an innovative Wastewater Recovery potential plan could be environmentally practical.

Smith said the City of Prineville and Crook County were pursuing ambitious potential plans to build and operate a 20-megawatt biomass power plant facility.

Proponents say the Prineville Renewable Energy Project (PREP) would: reduce the risk of severe wildfires, reinvent jobs in the natural resources/forest products industries, diversify energy supplies, reduce CO2 emissions, and reinvigorate the community and local economy, all while offering a clean, renewable energy source.

Over the past decade, the City of Prineville has gained recognition as a national leader in its innovative approaches to environmental protection and conservation.

With an eye on the future, city leaders are focused on developing a renewable energy facility with significant environmental, community, and economic benefits.

Biomass power is carbon-neutral electricity generated from renewable organic material that would otherwise be left as a fuel hazard. Sustainable forest biomass utilization can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits.

Forest restoration, thinning and fuel hazard reduction activities, which generate biomass for energy use, are known to create more resilient forest stand conditions.

A report authored by Prineville City Engineer Eric Klann said the power plant would directly create 15 permanent, full-time, living wage jobs and indirectly create 100 jobs. In addition, over 200 jobs would be created over the course of construction and the re-invented forest products industry would provide additional employment in Prineville. “Since the 1880s, juniper range has increased tenfold in the Central Oregon area and the species elbows out native sagebrush and grasses and sucks up more than its fair share of water. Research has determined that up to 70 percent of rainfall is intercepted by the juniper canopy and never reaches the ground,” added Klann. “The Prineville Renewable Energy Project would generate biomass for energy use and provide significant benefit to watersheds by improving the quantity of water available and enhancing ecosystems with improved soil and water quality.

“These improvements would be made by employing sustainable forestry practices, such as thinning and forest restoration. These efforts would also help to protect key watersheds from catastrophic damage, which ensures that sustainable quantities of high-quality water for both domestic and agricultural uses continue to flow.”

Next steps involve exploring public-private partnerships, with the City seeking customers interested in purchase agreements for the power which would be created, and legislative action that supports market electric rates/schedules that accurately value the biomass baseload, renewable attributes.

About Prineville/Crook County EDCO:
Prineville/Crook County EDCO is a nonprofit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders. Its mission is to create a diversified local economy and a strong base of middle-class jobs in Crook County. With a focus on helping companies MOVE, START, and GROW, the local Prineville/Crook County economic development program was initiated in 2007, with a director dedicated specifically to the success of Crook County businesses. The goal is to help attract and create new traded-sector jobs and capital investment through marketing and business recruitment; retain and expand existing businesses; and foster new business formation through entrepreneurial efforts. Additionally, EDCO works to improve the region’s business climate and set the table for a successful economy in Central Oregon through strategic projects. Maintaining adequate acreage of industrial land, building an ecosystem of work ready talent, advocating for transportation and aviation projects, and aiding with state designations that increase chances of additional funding for companies and infrastructure are just a few examples of ways it works to improve the Central Oregon economy.


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