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PAGE 157 III. CURRENT RESPONSES “Eight years ago, my brother and I had finished doing some waterfront restoration on our property, to help the local salmon population,” he tells Manure Manager. “The fact that the Tulalip Tribes were doing the same kind of work got us to thinking: What if we could find a way to work together to restore the salmon, and deal with the potential run-off problem at the same time?” Reiner kicked the idea around with local dairy farmers. They liked it, and he decided to approach the Tulalip Tribes. “We had to keep our meetings pretty hush-hush,” Reiner says. “In those days, neither side trusted each other.” As people talked with each other, the distrust eased. Eventually the Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance, Tulalip Tribes, and Northwest Chinook Recovery agreed to establish a biodigester in the area. The suggested site was the former prison dairy known as the Monroe Honor Farm. Operated by the State of Washington from 1929 until 2001, the 277-acre farm is located close to local dairy farms, yet far enough away from subdivisions and other forms of housing that running a biogas facility wouldn’t disturb anyone. Working together, the three member groups of Qualco Energy received $250,000 from the 2003 Agriculture Appropriations bill to fund a feasibility study into the biogas facility. Once it was completed and their concept had been approved, Qualco had the basis to seek funding from the federal Biomass Research and Development program. As a result, a USDA grant amounting to $500,000 was received and used along with more than $2.9 million in acquired loans to fund the biogas project. Lobbying at the state level persuaded the legislature to give the farm to the Qualco Energy out Washington. But even if it doesn’t, the stalemate between traditional opponents has ended. Already, Tulalips and farmers are working on other projects together, including one to identify salmon habitat they can preserve through land purchases and restoration. “We’ve been at loggerheads for too long,” Lucas said. “Who knew manure could bring us together?” FINDING COMMON GROUND: Qualco Biogas Project Brings Together Farmers, Natives while Helping the Salmon James Careless Manure Manager, September/October 2009 Historically, dairy farmers and members of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington’s Tualco Valley have been at loggerheads . The farmers are pushing ahead with herd growth, thus increasing the risk of manure run-off into the Snohomish River. This run-off could seriously hurt the river’s ability to support salmon, an important resource for the Tulalip Tribes. Add local environmentalists, who are trying to preserve the Snohomish and the stage has been set for confrontation. So why are these groups now working together, when they used to be fighting? One word: Biogas. In a creative solution to the potential problem, local farmers belonging to the Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance, Native Americans from the Tulalip Tribe, and a representative from the Northwest Chinook Recovery environmental group have banded together to form Qualco Energy. Qualco is a nonprofit group that runs a biogas electricity generator in the area. Currently, Qualco’s biodigester is handling manure from 1,100 local cows, with capacity for double that, and 450 kilowatt/hours of electricity is being generated by Qualco regularly since it began generating in December 2008. That’s enough to power 300 homes. “Qualco Energy shows what can be done when people come together to solve problems to everyone’s benefit,” says Dale Reiner, Qualco’s president. “It is truly a win-win for everyone affected—including the fish.” When he’s not running Qualco, Reiner is managing his dairy herd on his 300-acre farm. It’s been in the family for three generations, with frontage on the Snohomish River. The Qualco Energy biogas plant is a nonprofit partnership of the Tulalip Tribes, Northwest Chinook Recovery, and the Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance. PAGE 158 ASSERTING NATIVE RESILIENCE: PACIFIC RIM INDIGENOUS NATIONS FACE THE CLIMATE CRISIS Speaking in broader terms, Reiner cites biodigestion as a technological solution that can reconcile the needs of farmers, natives, and environmentalists . “Qualco Energy is about more than dealing with manure constructively, although it is a big step in that direction,” he says. “It is about bringing together conflicting interests in a positive way that really makes a difference. This is why the members of our company— the Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance, the Tulalip Tribes, and Northwest Chinook Recovery—are so committed to this solution, and willing...


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