Forest thinning produces lots of wood nobody wants. SRP has a plan for it

Published: Wednesday, July 12, 2023 - 8:39am

Arizona’s wildfire managers have struggled to keep up with thinning small diameter trees on the forest floor in recent years.

Salt River Project will join with a number of metro Phoenix cities to help reduce the fuel load.

A lot of Arizona’s forests have too many small trees, which make great kindling but are hard to sell on the open market.

The buildup has led to bigger wildfires. That can devastate watersheds, which have natural breaks that help prevent post-fire flooding.

So SRP will take what foresters remove in thinning projects and send it to a Snowflake power plant, where it will be converted to bioenergy.

Elvy Barton, a spokeswoman for SRP, says that five Valley cities will invest in the project, which will be key to its success. Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe have signed on.

"They see the value that those restoration treatments have in terms of protecting their water supplies and also their water infrastructure," Barton said. "And they also understand the linkage between having a healthy forest product industry that helps support all of the restoration projects that need to occur over the next 20 years."

The utility would like to thin half a million acres of overgrown forests by 2035.

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