HERMISTON - The Wanapa Energy Center soon could have a sixth partner.
The Williams company of Tulsa, Okla., may need financial help from another energy development company in order to move forward with its plans to develop a proposed 1,230 megawatt natural gas-fired electrical generating plant on the banks of the Columbia River.
The estimated $600 million plant could serve a million homes and is slated to be built on land owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Other players in the project include the city of Hermiston and the Port of Umatilla, which are providing water to the project, and Eugene Water and Electric Board, which will provide energy marketing and development expertise.
The Williams company had planned to develop the Wanapa project on its own. But since the Enron scandal, Williams says it has had to restructure the way it historically (for the past 100 years) has done business.
In order to comply with new Enron-driven federal regulations and still stay competitive, Williams has bought and sold assets to shore up its bottom line and to show a visible cash flow and asset-based operations.
To cut costs further, the company also has laid off employees and closed offices, said Williams spokeswoman Paula Hall-Collins.
Two key players in the Wanapa project, David Fife and John Williams, are now former Williams executives, though they still are planning to remain consultants on the Wanapa project, Collins said.
The changes at Williams have been rough and stressful, and how they will affect the Wanapa project still is unknown.
Collins did say Williams still would like to remain a partner in the Wanapa project. Wanapa is the only energy development project still on Williams' plate this year.
But in order to remain a player, Williams now needs a partner to help with costs.
"There is a possibility that there could be another developer in the project," Collins said. "We never intended to do the construction. Williams is not a construction company," Collins said. The new partner will be more than a construction company, it also will help with financing, she said.
The name of the new partner could be Diamond Generating Corp. of Los Angeles, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp. Diamond, whose name has been mentioned among partners connected to the Wanapa project, completed another natural gas-fired generating plant in Alabama in March.
Nothing is set in stone on who the new partner will be, or if Williams will be able to stay in the project financially, Collins said. Construction for the plant is not scheduled to take place until 2005 or 2006.
Meanwhile, environmental studies of the Wanaket wildlife area, where the plant would be located, are still taking place. Tribal and independent biologists are looking at bird and reptile habitats along the river.
Additional studies and issues raised by the proposed plant are expected to be addressed Wednesday. A meeting with the key players on the project is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. until noon at the Hermiston Community Center, on South Highway 395.
The meeting is being hosted by the Port of Umatilla and the public is invited to attend. Any aspect of the plant, from jobs to taxes, animal, water and air concerns will be discussed in an open forum, said Kim Puzey, director of the port.
For more information on the meeting, call Puzey at 922-3224.
Reporter Carie L. Call can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-304 after hours) or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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