Natural gas means opportunity for Quincy

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EPHRATA — With the closure of Alcoa in Wenatchee about two years ago, Quincy suddenly finds itself with a huge surplus of natural gas.

And industries have begun to notice.

“It’s a good problem to have,” said Patrick Boss, the director of business development and public affairs for the Port of Quincy.

Boss told Grant County Commissioners on Tuesday that the gas capacity — which comes from a spur off a major natural gas pipeline extending through Yakima into Wenatchee — amounts to roughly 10,000 therms, or nearly 1 million cubic feet, of natural gas every day.

Boss said the spur extends as far east as the new Quincy High School site on Road 11 Northwest, also known as M Street Northeast and, for the block or two it fronts the new high school, Jackrabbit Way, and is part of the 3,900-mile Northwest Pipeline system operated by Oklahoma-based Williams, one of the largest natural gas pipeline companies in the United States.

However, the real benefit to having natural gas capacity in Quincy is the ability to attract industrial customers, especially to the city’s west side. That natural gas capacity is the main reason food processors like Lamb Weston are in Quincy, Boss said.

“We’re in the game for manufacturing, which we weren’t before,” Boss told commissioners.

In fact, Boss said a company that makes a special kind of very strong ceramic pipe as an alternative to steel looked at a 52-acre site in Quincy for a new production facility before deciding to locate in Tacoma.

“My guess is they’ll be back, because they didn’t need the acreage (in Quincy),” he said. “Those are the kinds of companies that have started knocking on our door.”

Boss said that while development in Quincy has been “in fits and starts,” the port and the city want to work with the county to plan for future development, especially if the city’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) needs to be adjusted to accommodate for new industrial and residential building.

Urban Growth Areas were created by the Growth Management Act, passed in 1990 and designed to curtail urban sprawl and require comprehensive city and county plans. Because of the act, it is very difficult to get farmland re-zoned for residential or industrial use.

Recently, several Quincy area landowners have petitioned the county to re-zone agricultural land for other use, and have had their petitions rejected.

Damien Hooper, director of development services for Grant County, said it is possible to re-zone farmland, it’s just very difficult.

“There was no justification for the removal from the ag zone,” he told commissioners. “They have to justify it.”

Hooper said both the port and the city could work together on a “buildable land study” to make the case for rezoning some nearby farmland and expanding the Quincy UGA.

“It’s a heavy lift and would cost a lot of money,” he said.

“The cost benefit for developers and the city if definitely in their favor,” said Commissioner Tom Taylor.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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