US congressional spending bill includes $700,000 for two Craig projects |

US congressional spending bill includes $700,000 for two Craig projects

U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet have helped secure $129.3 million in funding for 94 projects across the state in congressionally directed spending, including $700,000 for two projects in Moffat County. 

In the spring, local municipalities and nonprofit agencies made requests for local projects to be considered for the 2023 fiscal year congressional spending bill and asked Colorado’s elected officials to move the requests forward for consideration. 

Through the process, two projects from Craig were chosen that could help support economic growth for local businesses and explore a future for the Craig power plant as a repurposed clean energy research and development facility. 

“Coloradans know best what their communities need,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “These projects are examples of how everyone wins when Washington listens to the needs of the people we serve.”

The Craig Chamber of Commerce was awarded $500,000 for a Community Kitchen Small Business incubator, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association was awarded $200,000 for a Craig Energy Center Feasibility study.

Timelines for the projects are not yet certain and will depend on when the federal funding is received. 

Tri-State’s Craig Station power plant plans to sunset its three generation stacks in 2025, 2028, and 2030.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

Energy center study

In April, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the owner of the Craig power station, filed a direct spending request with U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Bennet and Hickenlooper for a feasibility study of a proposed “Craig Energy Center.” 

Tri-State requested $200,000 in the 2023 federal funding bill to put toward the estimated $250,000 feasibility study, which aims to determine the potential for the Craig Station and supporting infrastructure to be repurposed as the Craig Energy Center. 

According to a statement from Tri-State, the proposed center could be a test and demonstration center for green technologies and low-emission sources, including hydrogen generation and use. 

The vision for the Craig Energy Center is to support the local coal community by creating new green energy jobs and job training throughout Moffat County.

“The county could greatly benefit from the establishment of Craig Energy Center, due to its risk of significant labor market disruptions and future disadvantages, as the Craig Station is scheduled to shut down,” Tri-State representative Mark Stutz said. 

The Craig Station is an approximately 1,200-megawatt, three-unit electric generation power plant in Moffat County that is scheduled to be retired in phases between 2025 and 2029.

The hope is that the continued use of existing plant infrastructure could allow for training and retention of skilled employees, require little upskilling after the coal-fired plant is decommissioned and potentially allow for the hiring of new specialized employees. 

Tri-State representatives said the feasibility study could create a roadmap for a coal-to-clean energy research and development center, and also define a related budget. By examining the budget and operational requirements needed to transform Craig Station into a clean energy center, the study could help Tri-State better understand the opportunities and challenges in transitioning away from coal. 

The feasibility study also has the potential to establish a national reference point for other green energy production, as Craig Station could support communities across multiple states after a recent memorandum of understanding was reached between Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming to establish a Western Inter-State Hydrogen hub. 

This more comprehensive, $8 billion U.S. Department of Energy effort would become a center for the production of hydrogen, through green energy sources.

The 775 Yampa Building in Craig which houses the Craig Chamber of Commerce, the Senior Center, and several local programs and artists.
Amber Delay O’Connor/Craig Press

Community Kitchen Small Business Incubator 

Jennifer Holloway, director of the Craig Chamber, explained that the chamber submitted a request seeking support for their work at 775 Yampa Ave. by investing directly into the building, which was recently put on the National Historic Registry. 

The project includes funding to build a commercial kitchen and add a lift, which will make the building more accessible. Both projects will improve the building to support more events and incubation for local businesses. 

“I was super excited to get the call from Sen. Hickenlooper and Sen. Bennet’s office saying that the funding was approved for the project,” Holloway said. 

A commercial kitchen has always been in the vision for the Yampa Building, and it will provide a space where local cottage businesses can prepare their products for sale. It will also open the event space to catering and allow the senior center or local nonprofits to host cooking classes and other wellness and nutrition programs. 

Adding the lift will create accessibility to the second floor, which is used as an incubation space for arts organizations and local artists. 

Jenison Construction is handling the remodeling work for turning the partial kitchen on the northeast side of the building into the commercial kitchen and installing the lift. 

Holloway said that once these improvements are complete, the Yampa Building will be where the chamber wants it, aside from ongoing maintenance and additional insulation.

The chamber is working with the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado to create a contribution fund so that individuals can make contributions to continue preserving the historic building. 

“The chamber is very dedicated to keeping this building open and making it less of a burden on the city of Craig as possible,” Holloway said. 

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