MONROE – A new biogas plant on Tulalip tribal property is creating more than energy; it’s also generating revenue for future salmon restoration projects.

Qualco Energy, a nonprofit formed by the Tulalip Tribes, the Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance and Northwest Chinook Recovery, has a contract with Puget Sound Energy to sell the power generated by methane gas produced by cow manure. Qualco’s biodigester has been operating since December, consistently producing 450 kilowatt hours of energy – enough to power about 300 homes.

“We got involved because we wanted to get some of the nutrients and bacteria out of the water,” said Daryl Williams, Tulalip environmental liaison and executive director of the tribe’s Quil Ceda Power company. “When we start to bring in money, it will help pay for some of the habitat restoration projects we have planned.”

The Tualco Valley, where the Snoqualmie and Skykomish rivers join to form the Snohomish River, is home to thousands of acres of farmland. Waste from dairy farms has been blamed for increased levels of fecal coliform and a decline in the water quality of nearby rivers.

Qualco’s biogas plant converts dairy farm manure into methane gas, which fuels a generator to produce electricity. The leftover liquids go back to the farms to be used as fertilizer, and the biosolids are composted on site to be sold to local soil companies.

So far, 1,000 cows from the Werkhoven Dairy Farm are providing the manure, but additional farmers are expected to sign on.

Not only does the process keep dairy farm waste out of the rivers, but it also improves air quality by reducing the greenhouse gases released by methane. And byproducts from chicken farms and cheesemakers are feeding the biodigester instead of winding up in county sewers.

“Cheese whey makes the digester more efficient,” Williams said. “Cheese whey and manure work well together for increasing the release of methane.”

For more information, contact: Daryl Williams, environmental liaison, Tulalip Tribes, at 360-716-4632 or darylwilliams@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov; Kari Neumeyer, information officer, NWIFC, at 360-424-8226 or kneumeyer@nwifc.org